Kia ora! That’s how the natives of New Zealand say hello. A country with two main islands, North and South, between the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea, New Zealand is dubbed as the ‘Shaky Isles’ and that’s because the country experiences an average of 365 earthquakes a year which means everyday! But not to worry. Although New Zealand is located in the ring of fire, the country remains afloat and a living island.
The local Maori people from the eastern Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean call the country Aotearoa or ‘Land of the Long White Cloud.’ New Zealand leads the olympics with its famous rugby team, the All Blacks, composed of black-colored players and a basketball team called the Tall Blacks, and you guessed it right – all tall black people.
The country with a square area of 268,680 square kilometers or 103,736 square miles has a growing population of 4,315,800 and they use New Zealand dollars for their currency. The official languages are English and Maori.
The natives, the Maori people, have face and body tattoos called ta moko. They are like a passport showing their family ties. In the old days, these tattoos were made using chisels but the natives have now adapted the modern way of making tattoos using modern equipment. The natives wear a Maori necklace charm, a tiki that is carved out of a rock called greenstone.
Sheep is the main livestock of New Zealand although cattle is also abundant in the country. As a matter of fact there are 12 sheep for every person in this country! Kiwi is endemic in New Zealand and there are five species of this non-flying bird: the great spotted kiwi, the little spotted kiwi, the rowi, the tokoeka and the North Island brown kiwi. Just as the kiwi bird is abundant in this country, so is the fruit.
Old geysers can be found near Rotorua. Geysers are hotsprings in which water intermittently boils, sending a tall column of water and steam into the air. Here, the inside of Earth is trying to burst out. At Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley for example, mud boils and water spurts out of the ground, high into the air.
On the other hand if you’re a sports enthusiast, you can try bungee-diving or jumping off a bridge tied to a rubber band which is a popular sport among tourists. As a matter of fact, people in Vanuatu have been ‘land diving’ for centuries. Another popular sport is on the roll where a giant clear ball carries a person inside as it rolls down a hill.
Visitor visas and passports – New Zealand accepts tourist visas but your your passport must be valid for at least one month after departure from New Zealand.
Customs and Quarantine Requirements – You may visit the Ministry for Primary Industries (Biosecurity/ Quarantine) website to view the list of food, plant and animal items that are allowed in New Zealand. In the meantime, please refer to the Customs New Zealand website for the list of other prohibited items. Take note that there are specific cleaning requirements for fishing equipment.
Peak Season – Peak season runs from October through to April. There is less need to book in advance during the off-peak season except in ski resort towns such as Queenstown and Wanaka. You can choose from a number of guides and packages that are available.
Driving in New Zealand
An updated driver’s license from your home country is accepted in New Zealand for 12 months. You must carry with you your driver’s license at all times while you’re driving.
New Zealand has a sunny weather and moderate rainfall. Mild temperature is expected in many parts of the country that lies near the coast. Spring is from September to November; Summer from December to February; Autumn from March to May and finally Winter from June to August.
Things to Do
Sports and adventure – With its magnificent landscapes and coastline, exploring New Zealand tops the list for many. This is the ideal place to go cycling and walking the trails from north to south or you can also try kayaking, sailing or diving.
For adventure activities and extreme sports, try bungee jumping, rafting, jet boating, sky diving and zip lining. They’re sure to give you an adrenaline rush.
Food and wine lovers – New Zealand offers award-winning wineries, bustling farmer’s markets that would whet your appetite and exciting events to look forward to. How about New Zealand’s seafood which is one of the best in the world?
Movie Buffs – The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogy movies had their location shootings here which showcased New Zealand’s dramatic scenery. The Weta Studios and Hobbiton Movie Set offer tourists the chance to see the film locations and participate in their activities.
New Zealand is not to be missed in your vacation list. The beautiful hot pools, cultural attractions and art galleries will definitely make you wish to extend your stay longer.
Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city. Nature lovers should head west to enjoy the Waitakere Ranges and rugged black-sand beaches. Visit natural wonders like the Karekare Falls, and Lion Rock at Piha Beach. So pack a picnic, take surfing lessons or just hike through the native bush in the surrounding hills.
Auckland to Wellington on the other hand brings you to the real middle-earth. Auckland is otherwise known as the “City of Sails” because of its harbours, beaches and islands. You can catch a ferry to one of the islands offshore from the city.
Waiheke in the meantime is known for its vineyards, sandy white beaches and quirky galleries while Rangitoto is a dormant volcano with safe walking tracks. Traveling to many islands would take a 40-minutes ferry ride from downtown.
Queenstown to Christchurch via Mount Cook- Where mountain landscapes in every direction can be viewed on this itinerary.
Board and Lodging
If you plan to stay at any part of New Zealand, you can choose from a variety of board and lodging accommodations that would fit your budget, number of companions, purpose of visit, length of stay and taste. You can choose to stay in an apartment, hostels, bed and breakfast, boutique and lodge, farmstays, holiday homes, holiday parks and campgrounds, homestays, hotels, luxury accommodations, and motels. Here we will give you a rundown of what to expect in each lodging:
If you wish to extend your stay at any part of New Zealand for a much longer period, apartments are the best option for you. Moreover, you will save more in the long run. Apartments are fully-furnished very much like your own home. Hence, you can buy your own food or grocery which is way much cheaper and you can cook your own meals. You can even invite visitors to drop by over a cup of tea or coffee or have a party. Then you can do your own laundry and feel an exclusive space for you and your family/friends.
Many apartments in New Zealand are similar in price to high end hotel suites with daily or regular services. Some even have amenities like access to gymnasiums and swimming pools.
For backpackers on a budget, hostels are the perfect option if you wish to meet like-minded people to share an adventure with. Hostels provide an ideal environment for backpackers where each can share his own story of adventure and network with like-minded people.
There are hostels in all major cities and towns in New Zealand. The best part of staying at a budget-friendly hostel is that after a long and tiring day of adventure, you will find yourself comfortably settled in a bunk or double bed. It may not be the ideal sleeping quarters but at least you are certain that it’s far much better than sleeping outside.
Bed and Breakfast
How about meeting new friends who would welcome you for a bed and breakfast? You will meet an eclectic mix of personalities that accommodate bed and breakfast to travellers. You can stay at their homes overnight for bed and breakfast. A good way to start and end the day is to make new friends by spending the night with the host and her family and have a cup of coffee, eggs, and bacon with them.
Boutique and Lodge
What about a little romance of spending the night among the vineyards? The Boutique and Lodge is the perfect choice that offers a unique place to stay combined with friendly Kiwi hospitality. This place offers unique facilities encompassing historic estates, vineyard cottages or boutique guest houses. Try something different. Why not wake up viewing the splendors of nature from the spectacular alpine vista to the scenic freshwater lake?
Would you like to spend the day harvestng kiwi fruits and bird-watching kiwi birds? Then make reservations at farmstays.
Farmstays have the ambiance of a farm. Here you will wake up to the smell of a hearty farmstead breakfast. You may also help on the farm and spend time feeding the calves, mending a fence, rounding up the sheep. Like the Bed and Breakfast, you will share the home with your hosts in a farmstead setting.
Like the apartment, holiday home accommodation is another fantastic option if you’re with a group or want privacy for yourselves and self-catering facilities.
Until now, holiday home is still practiced in New Zealand. In the North Island, the locals call holiday home ‘bach’ (pronounced ‘batch’); while in the South Island it’s ‘crib’.
Renting a privately-owned holiday home will certainly teach you self-sufficiency. Choose from a variety of holiday homes ranging from simple cottages by the sea to luxurious lodges in the mountains. New Zealand offers the most idyllic locations for holiday homes. It’s the perfect place to breathe in fresh air and be one with nature.
Holiday Parks and Campgrounds
Remember the good old days of camping by the fire, cooking marshmallows? How would you like to build tents and stay at a cabin, self-contained motel or backpacker’s lodge? Shut yourself for a while from technology and learn to live with the bare necessities of life.
Holiday parks and campgrounds are not really primitive in the true sense of the word. They just let you enjoy nature at its best and enjoying the camaraderie of friends and family in the absence of technology. For once, it allows you to commune with nature but you need not live in the dark ages where there is no electricity. You may also opt to use the kitchen if you do not wish to build your own fire or stay at the cabin if you do not wish to sleep in a tent.
Holiday parks are also equipped with play areas, heated swimming pools, trampolines and barbecues. They also have a dining area and a comfortable TV lounge.
Homestay accommodation in a New Zealand home is always comfortable, with friendly hosts who are happy to introduce you to friends and other locals.
Homestays are an excellent choice if it’s your first visit to New Zealand and you want a little of the comforts of home, with the added benefits of hosts to help with information on what to see and how to get around.
You share all domestic facilities with the family, including the bathroom/s, and you eat meals together too, often including dinner. Homestay hosts are naturally genial characters and your stay with them will be enjoyably social.
Budget Friendly Hotels
Hotels in New Zealand are everywhere and they come in all shapes and sizes. Of course budget hotels offer smaller sizes while luxury hotels have more spacious rooms. And of course budget hotels are often self-service while some expensive hotels in New Zealand offer you red carpet treatment or deluxe service.
You may book at international hotel chains such as Westin, Accor, Hilton, Hyatt, Rydges and InterContinental which are generally located in the major cities such as Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and in key holiday destinations, such as Rotorua, Queenstown and Nelson. These places offer both budget-friendly and luxury accommodations in the same hotel. Otherwise, there are hotels that are exclusively budget-friendly or luxury.
In the meantime, if you’re on the road and looking for a quick stay without any special amenities like gym or pool, head for the nearest motel. Motels are generally cheap and it’s a quick and easy solution for travelers with no place to stay. Although it maybe cheap, motels in New Zealand offer parking space and you can extend your stay there but it’s just a room you’ll be renting.
Should you wish to taste delectable cuisine and be treated like a king or queen, New Zealand also offers luxury accommodations that’s near the remote beach front villa, the alpine lodge or back country retreat; experience the finest of the hospitality and pristine beauty of the landscape: the alpines, the odyssey, the food and wine.