Heading to New Zealand for the first time? Great, it’s such a fantastic country to visit!
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to New Zealand a few different times in the last couple of years, mostly with work, but every time I do get to make the trip I’m always looking for new and interesting places to explore. There are so many of hidden gems all over New Zealand, it would be impossible to make a dent in all that it has to offer in a quick trip there.
Over these last couple of years, I’ve picked up plenty of tips, both from locals and my own experience, that I thought I would compile into a simple guide for people travelling to New Zealand for the first time, or at least the first time in a few years.
Both Auckland and Queenstown airports (I’m sure the others do as well but I’ve never flown into them directly) have Spark and Vodafone stores where you can pick up a travel sim for with a decent amount of data and free local calls and texts for just $49(NZD). I tend to pick up the $99(NZD) travel sim pack when I travel there, they give you more data and more included calls as I tend to need to use a lot of data in my travels.
From my experience, there is no real difference between Spark or Vodafone in the cities. However, if you are planning on visiting more regional areas Spark has much better coverage in those areas.
Wi-Fi connectivity is also sporadic. Cities and tourist hubs like Auckland, Rotorua and Queenstown it’ll be easier to find, but in between its highly unlikely to find. Even some hotels don’t offer Wi-Fi and if they do the internet can be horrendous slow. It’s probably the only real downfall of New Zealand, so if you are very dependant on requiring an internet connection like I am (for work), make sure you pick up a travel sim.
New Zealand is a great place to explore and while there are a couple of bus services to get you between cities (no intercity trains though) and main attractions, the best way to really explore the country properly is to have a car. Especially all the stunning landscapes.
All the big name rental companies have a presence in New Zealand, but they tend to be quite expensive. I’ve found that you can save a lot of money by going with a rental car company that tends to use slightly older cars like Go Rental and Rent-A-Dent. I’ve used both in the past and never had any issues.
The cheaper rental companies don’t tend to have a presence at the airports, but you can easily book cars with them online. Both Go Rental and Rent-A-Dent include airport pickups are part of their service, so it’s not a huge inconvenience.
One other thing to keep in mind is that fuel (both petrol and diesel) is quite expensive in New Zealand and service stations can be few and far between in some of the more regional areas.
Again having a car makes life a lot easier to get around New Zeland. Mass transit has been a bit of an afterthought in the small country and while the infrastructure like motorways and trains are being built up around Auckland, the rest of the country still has a lot to do in that department. That said they do have a really good network of bus services.
However, it’s having a car and driving around New Zealand that is the best way to explore the country. Literally, the entire countryside is a stunningly picturesque landscape that’ll you’ll want to keep stopping to photograph and the roads are a lot of fun to drive, even at the signposted speed limits.
Something to keep in mind is that navigation can be a little tricky so it’ll be handy to use a service like Google Maps to save you from getting too lost. I’ve found what I thought would have been major roads, from looking at maps and route numbers turned out to be small single lane tracks and as a result, I’ve missed turn offs and alike.
Money – Credit Cards/Cash
New Zealand uses the New Zealand Dollar, and while using credit cards and features like paypass/tap and go is not an issue in big cities and tourist hubs like Auckland and Queenstown, it’s highly recommended that you carry cash when travelling through some of the smaller towns.
More than a couple of times I’ve been caught out just stopping to get some lunch or dinner, in what I thought would have been a decent sized town to find out most of the stores and restaurants only accept cash. Then I’d have to go and search for an ATM, which can also be difficult to find.
So it’s a good idea to have a bit of New Zealand cash on you at all times.
Immigration and Customs
Much like Australia, New Zealand takes its customs and immigration process very seriously. I’ve been called out by customs officials for wearing brand new boots that looked like hiking boots just in case they were dirty. They are very protective of their local flora and fauna, and understandably so, so make sure that your shoes are clean and you pack any food, animal or wood items when you are making the trip to New Zealand.
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