It’s hard not to fall in love with New Zealand. A popular travel destination for solo explorers and adventurous troupes alike, the country knows how to charm its visitors with the right amount of friendliness. Obviously, a bit of planning will make your trip so much easier. We’re here to ensure you don’t commit any cultural gaffes or logistical mix-ups – just follow these 10 life-saving tips to truly embrace the Kiwi experience.
Emergencies and general safety
Compared to many places in the world, New Zealand is incredibly safe. But that doesn’t mean the general rules don’t apply: always lock up your valuables, avoid walking alone at night and, whenever possible, make sure to learn about which places are best left unexplored.
Local i-Sites: a tourist’s saviour
Every single town or city will have its own i-Site. As you can probably guess by the name, this is where you’ll find maps, brochures, and essential details about the location you’re passing through. Intercity buses usually stop right next to these venues, and you can book your next ticket or tour right upon arrival. If you’re driving and you need some extra travel information or advice, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the local branch yourself.
Plan according to the seasons
Maybe avoid the spring months. That’s the time when the weather is at its windiest and most unstable. If you do find yourself visiting in the chillier months, make sure to invest in a good windproof jacket – because those arctic gusts can really cut right through you.
Book accommodation well in advance
Remember, New Zealand is a very popular tourist destination. As such, you can usually expect accommodation to be booked out during the high season. Whether you’re visiting Waiheke Island in summer or chilling out at an eco-resort destination in winter, you need to reserve your room ASAP.
If you’re trying to minimize costs, backpacking hostels tend to be a lot cheaper than your standard hotels. Couchsurfing is also an option in some of the main tourist areas, like Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. Airbnb in New Zealand is a bit of a mixed bag – while there are plenty of rentals available, they can get as expensive as a hotel room.
Remember to budget accordingly
Take a look at how the New Zealand Dollar is faring compared to your home currency. Even if yours is the stronger tender, it’s likely that prices are going to be much higher than you’re used to – that’s the downside of being isolated from the rest of the world. Needless to say, whether you’re wanting to buy a keepsake souvenir or deciding where to grab a bite to eat, you need to watch those funds.
If you’re trying to save money on food, choose your dining experiences sparingly, and opt for making your own meals. Zomato will give you an idea of how much you’ll spend at a typical café, bar or restaurant. New Zealand’s cheapest supermarket chain is Pak’nSave, though Countdown and New World often do specials too.
Some more tips for drivers
Take note of travel times – in a country where winding roads are the norm, your distances will vary greatly. Also, get plenty of rest before departing, and take extra care on those unfamiliar highways.
Also, a quick reminder that Kiwis drive on the left. If you’re used to driving on the opposite side, definitely spend some time brushing up on those road rules and regulations. Seriously, it’s not uncommon for tourist car crashes to make local headlines – it pays to be extra cautious.
Hikers: Plan for all weather conditions
Trails like the Tongariro Crossing are notorious for packing all four seasons into a single day. This will also be true for alpine locations, and native bush. Pack for all types of weather, making sure to bring plenty of water and food, and don’t forget to bring a first aid kit, just in case. If you’re a novice hiker, opt for a guided tour. It will be safer, and will save the risk of braving those volatile conditions solo.
Tipping is the exception, not the rule
You don’t really tip waiters in New Zealand unless you’ve received exceptional service. Even then, it’s more of a courtesy gesture than an unspoken norm. How much to tip is at your discretion – though 10% tends to be a safe enough number. You can also round up your taxi fare, but tipping in any industry outside of hospitality is unheard of.
Bikers: Stay away from the open road
This is as much a legal matter as it is a safety concern. Cyclists aren’t allowed on the motorways, and it’s generally not recommended to bike along the busiest roads. Also, remember that wearing a helmet is mandatory and, just like drivers, you need to verse yourself on local traffic rules.
Bartering is a no-no
Don’t try to low-ball on retail prices – you’ll fail miserably. New Zealand is not a country of bartering, period. Prices are marked as is and you’ll seldom find room for negotiation – unless, you know, you’re buying a car or a house, but presumably that’s not going to be the case.