About New Zealand:
The New Zealand archipelago is located about 900 miles southeast of Australia’s eastern shores. Together, the North Island (Te Ika-a-Maui) and South Island (Te Waipounamu) are about the size of Colorado. The nation’s rolling green hills and pastures host one of the densest populations of sheep in the world, about 40 million. However, dairy, wine and tourism have recently outpaced wool as major industries. New Zealand boasts plentiful agricultural and marine resources, thanks to its arable lands, subtropical rainforests, pristine lakes and rivers, thermal springs and endless coast.
The country’s unwavering alliance with Australia began during World War I when the nations formed the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC. New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy overseen by the British Crown. Its capital, Wellington, is on the North Island.
The official language of New Zealand is English. Maori is the language of its indigenous people.
While knowledge of the Maori language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases to use during your walking tour. The effort seldom goes unappreciated and by trying some greetings and salutations with a smile, your interactions are likely to grow into rewarding exchanges. See this site for a short tutorial. Country Walkers also recommends a phrase book or two in our Reading Guide that you’ll receive after you reserve.
Life in New Zealand
Shopping and banking hours: Shops and stores are generally open 6 or 7 days a week between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Smaller shops are closed on Sunday, although shopping malls are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday and also remain open till 9:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Banks are open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Meal times: Breakfast is served at hotels from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. In restaurants, lunch is between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., and dinner is usually served from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Tipping: Tipping in New Zealand is not obligatory, even in restaurants and bars. However, tipping for exceptional service or kindness is at the discretion of the visitor.
New Zealand public holidays: New Zealand public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events may affect your travel planning. For details, visit the tourist board’s website.
The Maori: The Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, who arrived on the islands from eastern Polynesia around the year 1300. Their unique language and culture developed from living for several centuries in isolation from other Polynesian groups. The arrival of Europeans as early as the 17th century brought great change to the Maori. Now, approximately 600,000 people identify themselves as Maori. A good overview of Maori culture is available here.
New Zealand’s British ancestry has clearly influenced its cuisine. Food tends to be simple and hearty, with an emphasis on local meats, seafood, and vegetables.
Lamb, venison, and beef are farmed throughout New Zealand and are common entrees. Fresh vegetables and fruits are abundant. New Zealand is also renowned for its dairy products–its milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are excellent. With its generous Pacific Rim coastline, fresh seafood includes mussels, oysters, crayfish (lobsters), tuna, hake, and squid.
New Zealand has a thriving wine industry; many wineries have established international reputations. New Zealand’s wine industry has its origins among Croatian immigrants in the outskirts of Auckland and has grown since the 1970s into a major export for the country. Wine is produced on both the North and South islands in 10 major areas. With its unique combination of soil, climate, and water, main varieties from more than 500 winemakers include sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, cabernet, chardonnay, and pinot gris. Information about wine styles and individual wineries is available at the official New Zealand wine website. Beer is also part of the country’s heritage, and local craft breweries (as well as larger breweries) produce many varieties of lager and amber beers.
The seasons in New Zealand are opposite those in North America: spring is September through November, summer is December through February, and autumn is March through May. With a temperate climate, seasonal variations are noticeable, but are most extreme in the mountains where the peaks remain snow-capped year-round. November is a late spring month, with gardens and wildflowers in bloom and bright clear days; daytime temperatures are in the mid-60s (F), and nights are cool (lows around mid-40s). December through February is high summer, with average daytime temperatures in the 70s during the day and the 50s at night. The weather is warm and dry with very low humidity. In March, it begins to cool down, but remains sunny, with daytime temperatures in the 60s, and nights in the high 40s to low 50s. Due to the rainforest climate of the West Coast, wet weather in this area is possible during all seasons.
U.S. citizens: Passports are required. Visas are not required for stays of 90 days or less; however, you must show proof of onward travel (your return airline ticket). For more information, see travel.state.gov.
New Zealand uses the New Zealand dollar (NZD). The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 1 NZD. Exchange rates can vary greatly month to month, so we recommend you visit oanda.com for the latest.
Contact your bank or your credit-card company for details on fees and card use when travelling, and to inform them of your travel destination and dates so they do not freeze your accounts when they see charges appear from a foreign country.
We recommend having a variety of payment options readily available to help you start your trip: ATM card(s), credit card(s) and some U.S. dollars to exchange.
Since you will likely need NZDs to pay for your taxi to the hotel or for any unforeseen situations, it is a good idea to change some money or withdraw some local currency immediately upon your arrival at the airport.
No immunizations are required to enter New Zealand. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.
Electricity: Alternating current of 230V and 50Hz is used in New Zealand. Outlets accept a flat three-pin plug. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see electricaloutlet.org. If you are bringing your own hair dryer or other electrical device, you will need a travel converter, available at most hardware, travel, or consumer electronic stores. For laptops or an electronic device with a dual voltage switch, you will only need the adapter plug, not the converter.
Phone: New Zealand’s country code is “+64.” Cell phone coverage throughout New Zealand is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post.
Internet: Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages; however, all of the hotels used on our tours do not necessarily provide it, or they provide it at an additional cost. Details regarding Wi-Fi availability in each hotel are available in the Itinerary Overview that you’ll receive once you’ve reserved.
New Zealand is 17 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. For more information on worldwide time zones, see: worldtimezone.com.
A wealth of travel information is available at newzealand.com.
Most international flights arrive at Auckland Airport (AKL) on the North Island of New Zealand: aucklandairport.co.nz. An extensive domestic flight network connects Auckland with all New Zealand cities and major towns.
International Airports in New Zealand
- Auckland Airport
- Christchurch International Airport
- Dunedin International Airport
- Hamilton – Hamilton International Airport
- Queenstown – Queenstown Airport
- Rotorua International Airport
- Wellington International Airport
Because of New Zealand’s geography and landscapes, its rail network is not extensive, but it is incredibly scenic. More information about routes and passes is available here.
Other local transportation
In addition to rail and airlines, New Zealand has many long-distance bus companies that may provide more economical travel than air or rail; information about companies and routes is available here. Renting a car is also a popular way to travel here, but bear in mind that driving is on the left-hand side of the road.