What is New Zealand best known for? Stunning scenery and changeable weather, to name a few. We asked our fellow Nomads what tips they would give to first-time travelers going to Aotearoa.
The strength of the sun in New Zealand may surprise you, especially at high altitudes and on the North Island, so always wear sun block even if it's a cloudy day.
While New Zealand is in the deep southern hemisphere, Auckland is on the 36th parallel south of the equator. So when thinking about the sun and weather, think of cities on the 36th parallel north of the equator – places you're probably more familiar with, such as Malaga in Spain, Tunis the Tunisian capital, and San Luis Obispo in California.
Nobody tells you about the sand flies. These pesky insects will swarm on you in the summer, especially on the South Island on the west coast in places like Milford and Doubtful Sound. Make sure to bring plenty of strong bug spray, or purchase some before you leave civilization to head out back-country camping and hiking.
It's a good idea to layer up in the evenings, cover your arms and legs, put socks on, and spray everywhere else with insect repellant. Do not underestimate these tiny pests.
Remember to look right before crossing the street. In big cities like Auckland, there are often reminders on the curb telling tourists that traffic is coming from the opposite direction to what they're probably used to. But, in case the sign isn't there to save you, always look to your right.
There are many one-way bridges on the South Island of New Zealand, which can be very confronting for travelers who've just hired a car and are still getting used to driving on the left-hand side of the road. As you leave the one-way bridge, remember to stick to the left-hand side if there's no on-coming traffic.
Bonus tip: Always respect the speed limits. The New Zealand police don't take speeding lightly, so you can get a fine even if you're just a few kilometers over the limit.
The emergency telephone number in New Zealand is 111. Plus, it's free to call, so if you have an emergency and need a quick response from the Police, Fire Service, Ambulance or Search and Rescue, dial 111.
When it comes to Wi-Fi connectivity, you're probably out of luck in remote areas. But, when you're in the major cities, like Auckland, Queenstown, Wellington, and Christchurch, you'll find plenty of cafes offering free Wi-Fi to customers, as well as accommodation with Wi-Fi in the bundle.
If you want to get a SIM card when you arrive in New Zealand, check out the phone stores at the airport to see the best deals and find an option that's right for you. Look out for Spark, 2degrees, and Vodafone.
Given New Zealand's sub-tropical climate, it's no surprise that New Zealanders like to spend so much of their leisure time in the water. However, water can conceal hazards. We recommend that you visit the Water Safety New Zealand website for advice on how to stay safe on New Zealand's beaches and waterways.
There are some pretty rugged mountain roads too. Always check road conditions before you head out on a lengthy road-trip – espeically during winter months, when high passes to ski fields or Milford Sound can freeze over. In these conditions it's best to bring tire chains with you to fit onto the wheels when the signs say so.
It's also not uncommon for landslides or rock-falls to cause road closures. On the road from Glenorchy to Queenstown there are a few tricky narrow passes where large rocks are often in the way.
Always drive carefully, and never drive if you're tired. Besides, pulling over on the side of the road to rest in New Zealand often means you'll be treated to some pretty incredible scenery.
If you're there when an All Blacks game is on, you've got to get yourself a ticket to see the almighty New Zealand team do the 'Haka'. This tribal tradition is well-known around the world, but it's much better in real life than on a 2D screen.
Be sure to wear proper hiking attire (boots and waterproof layers, not flip-flops and jeans) and bring adequate water and snacks, even if you're only going on a short hike.
What makes New Zealand's day walks different is how quickly conditions can change. Setting off on a sunny morning, sunblock is only the first thing to consider. Within hours the wind might have picked up or there could be freezing horizontal rain, and you might get stuck with no shelter. Casual walks on mountains in Europe might make people believe they are prepared, but this is a completely different place.
New Zealand is all about recycling – people can even get fines if they don't recycle properly. If you want to try picking for New Zealand's famous green-lipped mussels, be aware that there are limits on how many you can harvest. Most beaches you'll see signs with details on what you can and can’t do, but be sure to check the New Zealand Fishing and Aquaculture site to find out about current biotoxin warnings.
Bring camping gear and download CamperMate from the App Store for cheap accommodation alternatives in the outdoors.
Check out the Department of Conservation's website before you go – it's got plenty of practical information to help you find an adventure right near you. The site lists hundreds of options, and there are plenty of locally-owned campgrounds with tent sides or camper van hook-ups. Don't miss out on sleeping under the stars!
The locals will be glad you learned some of their history and culture before visiting. Plus, who doesn't love showing off their new lanugage skills?
Kia Ora: Welcome
Aotearoa: Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand
Marae: Maori religious and meeting place
Pakeha: New Zealander of non-Māori descent, usually European
Kauri: Large Native Tree
Haka: Tribal dance
Exploring mountains, forest, and coast, these bike trails offer something for all levels and feature the very best of New Zealand’s natural beauty.
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