New Zealand – Know Before You Go

By March 14, 2017New Zealand

Four seasons in one day

The weather can change rapidly in NZ and its common to experience all 4 seasons on any given day. Be prepared – carry an umbrella, wear layers that can be taken off or added back on. Temperatures can drop rapidly overnight, especially in the colder months. Best to remove all food and drink from vehicles when parking for the night. If you leave a bottle of water out it may freeze and the expanding water will break the bottle – leaving you with a fun mess to clean in the morning. On the other hand, the sun is especially strong so always wear sunscreen even if it’s a cloudy day.

Travel times

Don’t be fooled by NZ’s size. NZ has the 9th largest coastline in the world. Tourists can struggle to see all the sights – pace yourself, consider limiting short trips to just one Island. If you do go travelling around the country, be aware parts of NZ are very remote and you can drive for many hours without seeing a petrol station or grocery store, so fill up when you can.


A great way to get around the country is by driving, some parts of NZ aren’t easily accessible via public transport. If you do plan on driving, you may need to arrange an international driving permit in your home country before hiring a vehicle, check this with your hire company. In NZ, cars drive on the left side of the road, definitely something to keep in mind when approaching roundabouts if you home country is the opposite. Keep this in mind when crossing the road, remember to look right before crossing the road. There are a few road signs that you should familiarise yourself with also, such as the ‘one-lane bridge’ sign which can be difficult to understand if you are not prepared. Watch out for black-ice on the roads and remember to rest when tired as there are some long drives between stops. If you wake to find temperatures have dropped so low overnight that you need to remove the ice from your windscreen – don’t pour boiling water on the glass as it will crack. Try lukewarm water and turn the heater on to defrost…and wait. Be aware, petrol prices in NZ are HIGH compared to Australian prices, you will need to budget more than you expect.

Making payment

Always carry cash in NZD when travelling, this can easily be picked up from the airport before you leave your home country. Many cafes and shops in small towns are only equipped with cash and EFTPOS facilities, most international credit cards will not be compatible and you don’t want to be caught out. EFTPOS is everywhere in NZ, but is incompatible with most overseas debit and credit card pin systems. ATM machines/Hole-in-the-walls will accept most international credit cards if you do find yourself low on cash. When making payment in a restaurant, tipping is not mandatory and you are not being rude if you simply pay the amount stated on the bill.


NZ custom officers take violations very seriously, think carefully before checking ‘nothing to declare’. Have you been hiking? Be sure to clean your hiking boots before boarding your flight as there can be a hefty fine for dirty boots and custom agents will enforce it. Same goes if you picked up and any souvenirs made from organic materials such as wood carving, don’t let customs catch you not declaring this.

Creepy crawlies

Bring repellent, and not natural products, but something with DEET! It’s not the mosquitos your trying to avoid but the tiny, relentless sand-flies!


Unlike Australia, the only thing in NZ that can kill you, is you. No crocodiles, sea snakes, tiny killer jellyfish, electric eels, snakes, spiders, sharks, or any of the other Australia wildlife that you need to be wary of. In NZ you’re more likely to run into trouble with the weather than the wildlife.


Don’t expect fast, reliable internet everywhere you go. There are many locations where you may find the speed and connection infuriatingly slow or just not connect at all. Tip – if you find a good connection, utilise it and get as much work done as you can.


There is no shortage of great coffee, and its available EVERYWHERE. Drink up and feel good.

Drink wine

If you think the coffees good, just wait until you try the wine. NZ is renowned for great Sauvignon-Blanc but just wait until you try the Pinot Noir – you can’t miss it, they have it growing everywhere and its very high quality.


Although it may be easy to forget, NZ is not actually part of Australia and you will need a passport to fly there. If you’re flying in or out of Christchurch or Queenstown, its highly likely you’ll experience turbulence. If you’re a nervous flyer, prepare yourself. Air New Zealand have some great prices and flying times if you’re travelling from Australia. Many international carriers fly to NZ including Qantas, Virgin, Australia, Jetstar, China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Cathay Pacific. While there are 7 international airports in NZ some only accept flights via Australia, check flight availability before planning too far.

Emergency numbers

The emergency number in NZ is 111 and is free to call.


While English is the predominant language spoken in NZ, there are two official languages. Maori is the second official language of NZ and isn’t spoken anywhere else in the world. Locals will appreciate your effort to learn some of the Maori language:

  • Kia ora – Hello/Welcome
  • Kei te pehea koe? – How’s it going?
  • Kei te pai – Good
  • Ka kite ano – Until I see you again (Bye)

It’s not just the Maori language that is different, the local slang can also be a bit confusing to travellers:

  • Togs – Swimwear
  • Jandals – Flip flops/thongs
  • Thongs – Not flip flops
  • Dairy – Convenience store
  • Chur – Thank you, e.g. ‘Chur bro’