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New Zealand Travel Information

Telling the Time
New Zealand is one of the first places in the world to see the new day, 12 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). In summer New Zealand uses ‘daylight saving’, with clocks put forward one hour to GMT+13. Daylight saving begins on the last Sunday in September and ends on the first Sunday of the following April, when clocks are put back to GMT+12.

The Spoken Word
English is the common and everyday language of New Zealand. New Zealand is a multi-cultural society and you may hear many other languages spoken, including Maori, which is also an official language of New Zealand.

When is the best time to visit New Zealand
New Zealand is an extremely popular summer destination, both for overseas and domestic visitors. Tourism New Zealand strongly recommends you book at least your first two nights accommodation during the months of January, February and March to avoid disappointment. It’s a good idea to make contact with the local i-SITE visitor centre in the region you are travelling to, and discuss with them whether late bookings will be available.

Summer and winter temperatures vary by only about 10ºC over most of the country, making New Zealand an ideal holiday destination all year round. New Zealand has four quite distinct seasons – Spring (Sept-Nov), Summer (Dec-Feb), Autumn/Fall (Mar-May) and Winter (June-Aug). In summer there’s plenty of sunshine, and activities in and around the water include rafting, snorkelling, diving and kayaking. You’ll find snow on the mountains in winter and excellent skiing. Away from the mountains, New Zealand winters are mild and temperatures generally do not fall below freezing.

What’s the climate like?
New Zealand’s seasons are the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere. This means that the warmest months are December, January and February, while the coldest are in June, July and August. Don’t let cold months put you off – winters tend to be short and generally fairly mild.

That said, on any given day the weather and temperature can change unexpectedly and sometimes dramatically. You should be prepared for that, particularly if you are going hiking or doing other outdoor activities.

What clothes should I take?
Dress is informal and relaxed on most occasions. Smart casual clothes are acceptable at most restaurants and night-spots. Men are generally not expected to wear suits and ties, except in a few of the top formal bars and restaurants in major cities.

In summer a jacket and sweater should be included in your luggage should the weather turn cooler or you visit higher altitudes. You can expect some rain, so also include a light rainproof jacket or coat. If visiting between May and September, pack warm winter garments and layer your clothing.

Do I need a passport or visa to enter New Zealand?
All visitors to New Zealand must carry a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the date you intend to leave the country.

Most visitors who intend to stay for less than three months do not require a visa. If you want to stay longer than three months, or your country of origin does not have a visa waiver agreement with New Zealand, then you will need to apply for a Visitor’s Visa.

Read our Passports and Visas section carefully, and if you need more information look at the Immigration New Zealand website or the New Zealand Embassy website.

Can I use my credit cards/ATM cards in New Zealand?
All major international credit cards can be used in New Zealand and Travellers Cheques are accepted at hotels, banks and some stores. If your credit card is encoded with a PIN number you will be able to withdraw cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs) situated at banks and shopping centres throughout the country. If possible only withdraw small amounts of cash at a time and always shield your PIN number.
Credit cards with “Smart Card” technology
Smart cards are payment cards that carry an embedded microchip allowing them to store encrypted, confidential information, and carry multiple applications from different industries alongside debit, credit, or prepaid payment applications. Please note these cards, which often have no magnetic strip, are not accepted everywhere in New Zealand. You may experience problems using these cards, and we therefore recommend you contact you card provider for further information before arriving in New Zealand.

Are there any poisonous animals in New Zealand?
New Zealand has no snakes or dangerous wild animals, making it safe for visitors to enjoy outdoor activities.

Is it safe to drink the water in New Zealand?
New Zealand cities and towns have excellent water supplies and in all cases tap water is fresh and safe to drink. Water from rivers and lakes should be boiled, chemically treated or filtered before drinking to avoid stomach upsets.

What is the voltage of electricity supply in New Zealand? Do I need to take a converter?
Electricity is supplied throughout New Zealand at 230/240 volts (50 hertz), although most hotels and motels provide 110 volt AC sockets (rated at 20 watts) for electric razors only. For all other equipment, an adapter/converter is necessary, unless the item has a multi-voltage option. Please note that power outlets only accept flat three or two-pin plugs, depending on whether an earth connection is fitted.

What rental car agencies are in New Zealand?
The main international companies such as Avis, Hertz and Budget operate in New Zealand. There are also local rental companies.

Where are the international airports located in New Zealand?
New Zealand’s international airports are at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Some flights from Australia also land at Hamilton, Palmerston North, Queenstown and Dunedin. You’ll find more information about New Zealand airports in the Getting to and Around New Zealand section.

When is the best time to go trekking/hiking in New Zealand?
Tracks such as the Abel Tasman, Heaphy and Queen Charlotte Sounds Walkway located at the top of the South Island can be walked all year round. However, those tracks at higher altitudes such as the world famous Milford Track, Kepler and Routeburn are closed in the winter due to snow. You must book to walk the Milford and Routeburn tracks, which are open between October and April.

Should I go on a guided walk or an independent walk?
If you like hot showers and other home comforts, you should book a guided walk. But if you don’t mind ‘roughing it a bit’ then try independent walking, carrying your own pack and staying in basic huts or tents. If you wish to walk the popular Routeburn and Milford Tracks, you will need to book through the Department of Conservation’s Great Walks Booking Office. Email greatwalksbooking@doc.govt.nz for further information or fax +64 3 2498 515.

What types of accommodation are available in New Zealand?
New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation options from top-class hotels, exclusive lodges, motels, guest houses, and farm or homestays to holiday parks and backpacker hostels. You might also like the freedom to discover New Zealand at your own pace in a campervan. Two, four or six berth vans are available to rent, offering all the comforts of home including a shower, refrigerator and microwave. See our Accommodation section for more information.

Do I need to pre-book accommodation and transport?
It’s a good idea to book at least your first two nights of accommodation in advance, especially during the busy summer period in New Zealand – from December to February. Booking transport in advance is also recommended, especially in summer. Visit the local Visitor Information Centre to book further travel.

What is a ‘Farmstay’?
Farm and homestays are an ideal way to get to meet local people and experience a slice of New Zealand rural life. Depending on the kind of farm, you may get the chance to share home cooked meals with your hosts and join in with milking cows, shearing sheep, lambing, kiwifruit harvesting or whatever else is happening on the farm.

Which international hotel chains operate in New Zealand?
A wide range of international hotel brands operate in New Zealand including;

Accor Group – (Ibis, Mecure Grand, Mecure, Novotel and Sofitel)
Choice – (Comfort Inns and Quality Inns)
Grand Chancellor
InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn
Millennium, Copthorne and Kingsgate
Stamford Plaza

Where is the capital of New Zealand?
Wellington is the political, banking and financial centre for New Zealand. The Parliament building known as the ‘Beehive’ is one of the city’s top attractions. The National Archives, National Library and Old Government Buildings (the second largest wooden building in the world) are located nearby and are open to casual visitors free of charge.

What is a ‘Kiwi’?
The kiwi, New Zealand’s national emblem, is a flightless bird with hair-like feathers and a long, slender bill which it uses to pull worms and insects out of the ground. Found only in New Zealand, it is active at night in the wilderness areas of the country. Be sure to visit one of the many kiwi houses where you can watch them under special ‘nocturnal’ lighting.

New Zealanders often refer to themselves as Kiwis, and the term is also used as a short form for the famous kiwifruit. On the stock exchange, the New Zealand Dollar is also referred to as ‘the kiwi’.

What kind of night-life is available in New Zealand?
Lively DJ and band scenes, particularly in the larger cities, have given New Zealand’s night life a renewed vibrancy. You will find a variety of night-clubs, cabarets, pubs, concerts and live performances to choose from, and there are also four casinos, in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown.

What types of activities are available for children?
If you are thinking about visiting with your family, you can be confident that New Zealand has a wide range of activities to keep your children happy.

New Zealand’s parks and large areas of unspoilt wilderness are ideal places to expand your children’s appreciation of wildlife and the outdoors. Horse riding, snow activities, whale watching, fruit picking and wildlife centres and zoos are just some of the choices available.

If you are visiting the larger centres, you will find a range of themed attractions including Rainbow’s End (Auckland), Splash Planet (Hastings), Marine Land (Napier) and the International Antarctic Centre (Christchurch). Te Papa, New Zealand’s interactive national museum, has a range of activities for the whole family to enjoy, including Story Place, a haven for small children.

Most family restaurants have childrens’ menus and high chairs. Many cafes also have high chairs, and a toy basket to amuse babies and toddlers is becoming increasingly common in both cafes and shops. Most public gardens have well equipped play areas for young children, as do many holiday parks. Adventure playlands such as Chipmunks or Lollipop’s Playland are always popular with the very young — these can be found in most main centres.

When are School Holidays in New Zealand?
The most up to date details for School Holidays in New Zealand can be found at www.moe.govt.nz.

Health Services
Public and private health facilities have a high standard of treatment and care. Larger hotels and motels often have a local doctor on call; otherwise, doctors and other medical services are listed in the front of the telephone directory.

Accident Compensation and Personal InsuranceV
isitors are covered by the Government-run scheme for personal injury by accident. Claims may be lodged with the Accident Compensation and Rehabilitation Insurance Corporation (ACC) irrespective of fault. Some medical/hospital expenses and physical disability compensation are covered, but not loss of earnings outside New Zealand. Actions for damages may not be brought, and personal travel insurance should therefore cover accidents. Medical services are not free. Accident care is subsidised. ACC does not cover any medical treatment relating to illness.

Pharmaceuticals and Medicines
Available from chemists during normal shopping hours. Most cities have urgent dispensaries open outside these hours, listed in the front of the telephone book under Hospitals. Chemists also sell cosmetics and insect and sun protections. A certificate for Customs is advised if visitors plan to bring pharmaceuticals into the country. Many drugs sold over the counter in other countries are often not available without a prescription.

Provisions for Travellers with Special Needs
It is best to check availability prior to arrival, or to contact the Disability Resource Centre (phone number at the end of this section), which will have a list of the accessible facilities and services at your destination. Some major carriers have excellent provision for people with disabilities, but all prefer advance notice of your access needs so they may prepare in advance.

If you are a tourist from outside of New Zealand and propose to acquire and use a car for your stay, Mobility Parking Permits are available from branches of New Zealand CCS, which are in all the main centres. Addresses are on their website www.ccs.org.nz. These permits also allow parking in other time-limited parking areas for an extra period that varies with each local parking authority. These concessions do not apply in privately owned parking facilities.

Under New Zealand law, guide and hearing dogs may accompany you anywhere there is public access. Tourists from the UK, Australia, Sweden, Singapore, Ireland, Hawaii and Norway do not have quarantine restrictions on service dogs. Animals from other countries must complete up to six months preparation in the country of origin before arriving in New Zealand.