New Zealand Travel Guide

New Zealand, also known in the native Maori language as Aotearoa, is a temperate to sub-tropical island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. A former British colony, it has a population mainly of European descent, with a sizeable indigenous Maori minority and smaller minorities of various Polynesian and other groups.

A modern but sparsely populated country, it boasts natural beauty and a wide range of outdoor and adventure activities.

Islands
New Zealand consists of the two main islands, North and South, and a number of smaller ones:

North Island - warm, with scenery ranging from sandy beaches, through rolling farmland and forests to active volcanic peaks with bubbling mud pools
South Island - spectacular mountains and fjords, large beech forests, beautiful beaches, large glaciers
Stewart Island - heavily forested, a wilderness paradise for trampers with wonderful bird song and the only place to a see a sun-bathing (feathered) kiwi on Masons Beach!
Chatham Islands
Sub-Antarctic Islands - very difficult to get to unless you're on a scientific expedition or deep sea fishing vessel Cities
It's the country that's magnificent in New Zealand and we only list nine of the most prominent settlements. Here they are from north to south:

North Island:

Auckland - "The City of Sails" - largest and most populated conurbation, with over a million in the metropolitan area, making it the largest in Polynesia by far
Hamilton - 128km south of Auckland, capital of the Waikato, home to the Chiefs (super 14 rugby) and the Magic ( ANZ cup netball). Leafy. Recently voted the world's fourteenth least cycle-friendly city (above Mexico City but below Jakarta).
Tauranga - known for its great weather, sun and beach Tauranga is a great holiday spot.
Rotorua - famous for Maori culture, geysers, hot pools and that funny "rotten egg" (sulphur dioxide) smell
Wellington - the national capital, also known as "The Windy City" - Parliament and the Beehive and the wonderful, free Te Papa museum
South Island:

Nelson - safe and friendly, with New Zealand's highest sunshine hours. Nelson is the geographic centre of the country and surrounded by THREE stunning national parks, vineyards and orchards
Christchurch - The Garden City and the Air Gateway to Antarctica
Queenstown - adrenalin and adventure capital of the world, where you can skydive, bungy jump, jet-boat, thrill yourself to your hearts content
Dunedin - the Edinburgh of the South, proud of its Scots heritage, chocolate factory, Southern Albatross colony and its wonderful tramping tracks within a short drive from the CBD
Invercargill - the southernmost city and one of the very few places to see a living Tuatara
Other destinations
Taranaki - Mountain to Sea! The stand alone near perfect cone of the majestic Mount Taranaki guards over this province of rugged black sand coast line with world class surf beaches.
Taupo - Very popular tourist destination, largest Lake in the Southern Hemisphere & Worlds mecca for the Safest & Cheapest Skydiving!!
Havelock North - a great base for exploring the Hawkes Bay wineries, and home to Te Mata peak
Hokianga - wild, beautiful, bi-cultural
Elsthorpe - in Hawkes Bay is a beautiful country settlement
Feilding - voted New Zealand's most beautiful town 12 times in a row
Opiki - potato capital of New Zealand
Blenheim - Grape vines to the horizon with sauvignon blanc to die for
Kaikoura - great for whale watching.
Southern Alps - stretching the length of the South Island
Aoraki/Mount Cook - New Zealand's highest mountain
Omarama - World famous gliding destination
Milford Sound and Fiordland
Understand
New Zealand has been called God's own country and the "Paradise of the Pacific" since the early 1800s. Travellers generally agree New Zealand deserves this description.

A common mistake is not allowing sufficient time to travel New Zealand. Many travellers spending nearly all of their holiday time in Australia, then wishing that they had spent an equal or longer time in this variegated archipelago.

Relax and allow at least three or four weeks for each island!

Lonely Planet named New Zealand the world's top travel destination for the second year running (2003/2004), and it was voted best long-haul travel destination in the 2004 Guardian and Observer’s People’s Choice award. It has won the award in three out of the past four years. At the 2005 Condé Nast Traveller Awards, readers voted New Zealand as the best holiday destination in the world. New Zealand is also known by the Maori name of Aotearoa, which is usually translated as "(Land of the) long white cloud".

Get in
Arrivals are by plane or occasionally by boat (typically cruise ships through Auckland).

By plane
There are international airports at Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown. The main gateways are Auckland and Christchurch, with Auckland servicing more than 20 destinations and a dozen airlines, and direct connections from Christchurch to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Singapore, and Tokyo.

Due to its large Polynesian and Melanesian expatriate communities, New Zealand has extensive direct flight options to South Pacific nations such as Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

Passports, Visas and documentation
All visitors who are not citizens of New Zealand need a passport to enter. Australian passport holders may enter New Zealand without a visa and stay as long as they wish without restrictions (including on employment). British passport holders can be granted a visa-free Visitor's Permit for up to six months on arrival. Citizens of a large number of other countries can be granted a visa-free visitor's entry for up to three months on arrival, check the list of Visa Free Countries. All these waivers, including the one for Australians, can be refused. In particular, potential visitors with criminal records or who have been refused entry to or deported from any country should check with New Zealand immigration about whether they need to apply for a visa.

Visitors from countries not in the visa-free list or those wishing to stay longer than the maximum visa-free period for their nationality, will need to apply for an appropriate visa. Check the Immigration New Zealand web page for details.

Quarantine
Because the economy is based on agriculture, importing even small quantities of most food, as well as unprocessed animal or plant materials is tightly controlled. These restrictions are designed to limit the spread of animal and plant diseases and pests. New Zealand has some very strong biosecurity laws, which are taken very seriously by enforcement officials at border control. In addition, importation or possession of most recreational drugs, including cannabis, is illegal and results in instant arrest. If found guilty, you would be subject to a range of penalties from; hefty fines for minor offences to lengthy imprisonment for larger offences, after which you would be deported and prohibited from re-entering.

At ports of entry, both the Agriculture and Customs Services may inspect passenger baggage and confiscate and fine heavily for any prohibited items (even including the New Zealand grown apple you were finishing off from on the plane). There are air-side amnesty bins available to cater for accidental importation. Items that must be declared include: any kind of food; any plant material; any animals, animal material or biological specimens; dirty or soiled sports gear, footwear, and used camping gear and anything that may have been in contact with soil, been used on a farm or has been used with animals. If travelling with golf clubs and shoes, make sure you clean them before your trip. It is also a good idea to remove spikes from your golf shoes. Expect random inspections by sniffer-dogs (drug, explosive and food) - you may need to have your luggage inspected if you have had food in it recently that the dogs can smell.

Commercially-packaged or processed food is usually allowed through by the Agricultural services. If you are unsure it is best to declare any questionable items as the immigration officers will be able to tell you if it needs to be cleaned or disposed of before entry. Instant fines of NZD200 can be issued at the pleasure of border control staff per item if prohibited and not declared. Some items may allowable (such as wooden souvenirs) but be taken for sterilisation or fumigation before being released to you. You are charged a nominal fee for these processes before they are released to you.

If not declared, or the quarantine section of the arrival card is not correctly completed, an instant fine of at least $200 is often freely applied. If you have difficulty with the arrival card, most airline staff are able to assist you, there are also officials at the major airports air-side who can assist. More serious breaches may result in a fine (up to $100,000) or a prison term (up to five years). Either declare items as required or dump them in the amnesty bins before you reach customs.

Get around
By air

Domestic flights in New Zealand are quite reasonably priced, and are often cheaper than driving or taking the train, especially if crossing between the North and South Islands is required.

Most airlines operate an electronic ticket system. You can book on-line via the Internet (cheapest), or by telephone or through a travel agent (more expensive). Pay using a credit card and just turn up on the day (with the card and photographic ID to prove who you are) and fly. However, you should also bring a copy of your itinerary to serve as proof of your planned departure for the purposes of securing a travel visa.

Check-in times are usually 30 minutes prior to flight departure. Cabin baggage and personal scanning are routinely conducted for services from the major airports that have jet landings.

Air New Zealand. Has the most extensive domestic network, serving most cities over 20,000 people, with jet services between main centres and smaller aircraft elsewhere. Free baggage allowance is 20 kg, with 5 kg carry-on.
Qantas. Operated by Jetconnect and flies on the main trunk and principal tourist routes (Auckland–Rotorua–Wellington–Christchurch–Queenstown)
Pacific Blue, [www.flypacificblue.co.nz]. Have recently launched in New Zealand, offering a few internal routes but perhaps more importantly breaking the duopoly and driving down prices through competition.
Only Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington airports have timetabled public transport in the form of buses. Regional airports generally have only on-demand shuttle services and taxis.

By land
For responsible eco-conscious travel, the transport you choose while you move around and explore New Zealand will be of interest to you.

Landcare Research, New Zealand's foremost environmental research organisation, has conducted independent research into carbon footprints and found that using modern coach transport will create up to a 90% lower carbon footprint than driving yourself in a modern 2.0 litre motor vehicle. (Note: This is unlikely to apply to older coaches.)

Of course, using a bicycle is even better!

Bike
You can bring your own bike, as well as hire a bike in some of the larger cities. You must wear a helmet while riding, otherwise you may be fined. When hiring a bike you should be supplied with a helmet. Also remember to ride on the left.

Riding bikes in New Zealand can be fun, but be aware of (tourist) buses and trucks on main highways as overtaking distances can be slim. You should also be prepared for the large distances between towns and cities and the generally windy weather. While some areas of New Zealand are flat, most tourists cycling in New Zealand will find that they need to be able to cope with long periods of cycling up hills, especially in the Coromandel.

Being a temperate coastal climate, the weather is changeable and it is recommended that cyclists have all options covered. It is often said that in New Zealand you can get four seasons in one day, particularly in the high country (or Middle Earth as it is known to those who are familiar with the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies). Due to ozone depletion above NZ and Australia, burn times in the summer are often shorter relative to elsewhere in the world, and a factor 15 or greater sunscreen is essential to avoid the discomfort (and danger) of sunburn.

Flying with your bike can be expensive and problematic with limiting weight restrictions and many cyclist choose to get a bike on their arrival to New Zealand. This offers the additional benefit of not being stuck with a bike when you take on other activities, such as walking, and saves the tricky job of repacking for flights. Christchurch has the largest number of guided and self-guided tour operators and there are a number of bike rental companies based there also.

Bus
Buses are a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to get around New Zealand. Most roads in New Zealand are quite narrow and winding, and travelling a long distance in a bus can be a safe and relaxing way to travel.

InterCity Coachlines. New Zealand’s national coach company, with services connecting over 600 destinations nationwide. InterCity Group has voluntarily adopted European Emission standards across its fleet of modern coaches to operate InterCity Coachlines, Newmans Coach Lines and also operates a modern fleet of vessels and coaches to operate Kings Dolphin Cruises & Eco Tours in the Bay of Islands . In May 2007 InterCity Group singed up to Landcare Research's carboNZero programme which has a core focus on working to reduce harmful emissions at source. They have used a range of activities to reduce their carbon emissions by up to 50% over the 5 years. edit

Naked Bus Bookings on the website:provides daily point-to-point services with very low prices. You may be able to find $1 advance tickets on their website. Their services cover the country with daily buses. Naked Bus is the cheapest option for travellers who plan ahead - even if you book at the last minute their prices are often cheaper than other operators.
Newmans Coaches. This sister company of Intercity Coach provides tourist point-to-point travel and daily sightseeing tours to all major tourist destinations in both North and South Islands including the Bay of Islands, Waitomo Caves, Rotorua, Mt Cook, Milford Sound and the West coast Glaciers of Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers.
Flexi-Pass - InterCity/Newmans also offer a pass, Flexi-Pass. Flexi-Pass is sold in blocks of time, just like a prepaid phone card, and enables the holder to travel anywhere on the company’s network. Passes start at 15hrs, which is enough to travel from Auckland to Wellington in the North Island. Flexi-Pass hours can also be used to travel on the Interislander ferry and on Kings Dolphin Cruises & Eco Tours to Cape Brett and the famous "Hole in the Rock". BUT: The flexipass is not as flexible as they make you believe. You can make your bookings online, but neither change or cancel them online and there is no free phone number to call. The lowest flexipass tariff is about the same as the regular discounted individual tickets from Intercity/Newmans. It is difficult to establish how many hours you need or what you have already used and unused hours are forfeited. In many cases it may be cheaper to look at the point to point fares of other bus companies.
In the South Island there are a number of small bus companies like Atomic Shuttles who operate a no-frills shuttle service.
Backpacker buses - "KiwiExperience Backpacker Bus", Stray Travel Bus and "The Magic Bus"offer bus trips around New Zealand where you can get on and off as you please.
Flying Kiwi Adventure Tours. New Zealand’s original adventure tour company, with a range of New Zealand Tour Options ranging from 3 - 27 days and covering both islands. The trips are outdoor focussed with food, transport, accommodation and even boogie boards included. There are options to hop and off, bikes available to hire, and free hikes everyday, in addition to a range of optional activities such as dolphin swimming, whale watching and more. Offers a number of tour discounts and specials on their site.

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1 Response
  1. Te Manuiti Says:

    Hey, nakedbus is definitely the cheapest way to get around New Zealand! I've booked many tickets, and it has always been much cheaper than Intercity