These essential New Zealand travel tips will guide you on the best places to visit, interesting foods to try, the best time to visit, and so much more!
New Zealand Travel Tips: Everything You Need to Know
How long did you travel in New Zealand?
I’ve been to New Zealand three times in the past 6 years. My first trip there was for 2 weeks in 2005, when my mom and I geeked out on a “Lord of the Rings” tour of the country. I fell in love with New Zealand on that trip, and decided to study abroad there for about 5 months in 2008.
I lived in Wellington during that time, and traveled extensively all over the country. Then, just in May of this year, I went back for another 2 weeks on a semi-sponsored trip I won by participating in the Blog4NZ campaign.
Budget tips for New Zealand?
New Zealand can be a pricey place if you let it be. There’s a lot to do — but all those fun activities come with a sometimes-hefty price. My budget tips would include:
1. Keep an eye on flight deals. Air New Zealand often offers great fare sales during certain months of the year, or at the last minute. Also, don’t be afraid to check prices on one of Air NZ’s international or domestic sites. Often you can find great “grab-a-seat” deals, especially on short domestic flights.
2. Rent a campervan if you can. It’s a popular way to travel around the country. Not only will it mean you can go where you want whenever you want, but it also doubles as your accommodation.
3. If you don’t want to go the campervan route, consider a bus pass through a company like Stray or Magic Bus. Or, look out for deals with bus companies like NakedBus, which often offers $1 fares on many of its routes.
4. Stay in hostels. New Zealand and Australia have great hostel networks, and most are clean, traveler-friendly, and full of character.
5. Know what websites to watch. For example, if you know you want to do some adventure activities in Queenstown, keep an eye on BookMe.co.nz, which puts up discounted tickets to everything from Milford Sound cruises to jetboat rides to spa retreats each day.
Favorite places or favorite experiences in New Zealand?
This is like asking me to choose a favorite child, or name my favorite flavor of ice cream! But, if I have to pick a favorite place in NZ, it has to be the capital city of Wellington. Welly is one of my favorite cities in the world. Despite its fickle weather and it being grossly overlooked by many travelers, Wellington holds a very special place in my heart. I got to know it well in the 5 months that I lived there, and I can’t think of a more perfect city: compact, quirky, and right on the water.
As for my favorite NZ experience, I can’t possibly pick just one. Maybe it would be bungy jumping. Or hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier. Or taking a scenic flight over the Southern Alps between Milford Sound and Queenstown on a perfectly clear day…
What is the food like in New Zealand?
New Zealand food isn’t all that different from any other Western cuisine — though it does have its specialties. For example:
1. Lamb/mutton. New Zealand is known for its sheep-to-human ratio being astronomically high (there are roughly 10 sheep to every human in the country), so it’s not surprising that you can find both lamb and mutton on most menus there (including the one at Subway!)
2. Marmite/Vegemite. While Vegemite is more of an Aussie thing, they eat it — and Marmite — here in New Zealand, too. Try it on your morning toast.
3. Pavlova. A sugary, meringue dessert that was born right here in New Zealand.
4. Hokey Pokey ice cream. Another NZ original dessert.
5. Fergburger. If you end up in Queenstown, a gigantic sandwich from Fergburger is a must!
I actually wrote a post on this topic if you want more suggestions: Top Things to Eat and Drink in New Zealand
Dos and don’ts regarding customs in New Zealand?
Not really. Though, if you visit any native Maori marae (sacred meeting places), you are not supposed to wear your shoes inside.
Favorite place to stay in New Zealand?
Barnacles Seaside Inn in Paraparaumu! This little hostel is on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, and is an old building full of character. What really made this my favorite place, though, were the couple who run it — Aorangi and Bill. They made me feel like family after just one afternoon there.
Must-do activities or must-see sites in New Zealand?
Far too many to count! My top 10 suggestions would be:
1. Driving on 90 Mile Beach in Northland, making sure to stop for some sand boarding at the Te Paki Sand Dunes.
2. Seeing a live rugby game, as it’s New Zealand’s national sport.
3. Going zorbing in Rotorua.
4. Seeing a Maori haka (dance) show.
5. Taking a stroll through Te Papa Tongarewa — the National Museum of NZ — in Wellington. It’s free!
6. Swimming with rare Hector’s Dolphins in the French-infused town of Akaroa.
7. The TranzAlpine train journey between Christchurch and Greymouth.
8. Hiking on a glacier on New Zealand’s breathtaking West Coast.
9. Bungy jumping (preferably in Queenstown).
10. Visiting either Milford Sound or Doubtful Sound.
Safety tips, warnings or things to be aware of in New Zealand?
One warning: You will probably fall in love with New Zealand and never want to leave.
But, seriously, one of my biggest travel tips for New Zealand is to be careful when driving — especially if you aren’t used to driving on the left-hand side of the road. Also, New Zealand roads are often narrow and twisty, with very few safety barriers. Not the greatest combination…
Best and cheapest times to visit New Zealand?
The “best” time to visit depends on who you’re asking. High season is in the summer (December-February), when the weather is warm. But this is often the most expensive time to travel in New Zealand. It’s also popular to visit in the winter (June-August) for snow sports in the Southern Alps. Queenstown is packed with skiers/snowboarders this time of year.
The cheapest times to go are during the shoulder seasons — like April/May or September/October. Towns are quieter, and prices are usually cheaper during these months, but the weather may not always be ideal. However, I’d personally much prefer these slower-paced times of year!
So far, my favorite months to travel in NZ have been May and October.
Packing tips for New Zealand?
Good walking/hiking shoes for New Zealand’s amazing trails. A windproof/waterproof jacket, especially for Wellington. Clothes that can be layered for New Zealand’s ever-changing climate. A good camera to capture the awe-inspiring beauty that lies around every corner. And, of course, a sense of adventure!