General Information There are many online sources of general information about New Zealand, as well as guidebooks. This doesn't pretend to be either, just some insights from us.
It changes fast and sometimes as much as 20 degrees in a day. The main cause of tourism accidents in New Zealand is weather, often in relation to inexperienced and even experienced hikers. We recommend professional guides in the back country.
Jan/Feb/Mar - summer. Hot. 15C to 35+C
Apr/May/June - autumn/fall. Changeable. 5C to 20C
July/Aug/Sep - winter. Cold. -5C to 20C
Oct/Nov/Dec - spring. Changeable. 10C to 25C
Given changing climates which are a modern reality, these are a guide only. Traditionally, summer in New Zealand always started in December, and some years, that's true. Those cold temperatures tend to be in the mountains and early in the morning.
Dress is informal and relaxed on most occasions. Smart casual clothes are acceptable at most restaurants and nightspots. Men are generally not expected to wear ties. In summer a light jacket or sweater should be included in your luggage should the weather turn cooler or you visit the high country. You can expect some rain, so include a light waterproof jacket or coat. Pack warm winter clothing if visiting between May and September. Layer your clothing. In New Zealand, especially in the back country, we usually have a base micro layer such as Icebreaker, a mid layer, and a windproof layer. You usually start the day wearing everything and finish the day with your lightest top on.
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.
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. 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 generally accepted anywhere in New Zealand that has credit card facilities.
New Zealand Electricity and Communication
New Zealand's electricity supply runs at 230/240 volts, and we use angled two or three pin plugs (the same as Australia).
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.
Check with your phone company before leaving home about international mobile roam facilities available in New Zealand. Alternatively you can hire/buy mobile phones or SIM cards in New Zealand. We at Ahipara can help arrange this for you. Note that signal is not available in all rural areas. If constant coverage is a necessity we can provide satellite phones.
What should you know before driving in New Zealand?
If you're used to driving in the city, you should take care when driving on New Zealand's open country roads. We have a good motorway system but weather extremes, the terrain and narrow secondary roads and bridges require drivers to be very vigilant - especially with the growing number of novice overseas drivers.
Important road rules
Always drive on the left-hand-side of the road.
Always keep on or below the legal speed limits indicated on road signs. The maximum speed on any open road is 100km/h. The maximum speed in urban areas is 50km/h. Adjust your speed as conditions demand.
When traffic lights are red you must stop. When traffic lights are amber you must stop unless you are so close to the intersection it is unsafe to do so.
Do not pass other cars where there are double yellow lines - these indicate that it's too dangerous to overtake.
Drivers and passengers must wear seat belts or child restraints at all times, in both front and rear seats.
Do not drink and drive. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in New Zealand and strictly enforced by police, with severe penalties for offenders.
Signposting follows standard international symbols and all distances are in kilometres (km).
Internet and WiFi access in New Zealand
Staying connected to the internet throughout your travels is easy with a little bit of planning when you first arrive.
Chances are that you’re arriving in New Zealand with a mobile phone, tablet or laptop – or a mixture of all three. If you’re looking to stay connected to the internet everywhere you go, it’s recommended that you purchase a plan from one of New Zealand’s main networks. Free WiFi hotspots are generally found in main cities only and can be sporadic throughout the rest of the country. Purchasing a plan from a network will allow you to have access to a mix of data, calling and texting throughout your trip to suit your communication and connection needs.
New Zealand Time Zones
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 time 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.
Tipping and Service Charges
Tipping in New Zealand is not obligatory - even in restaurants and bars. However, tipping for good service or kindness is at the discretion of the visitor. Hotels and restaurants in New Zealand do not add service charges to their bills.
Car Hire and Drivers Licence
An English language driver’s licence is required when hiring a car in New Zealand. A foreign language driver’s licence must be accompanied with an accredited translation of the licence.
Airport Check-in and Baggage
For international flights check in is 3 hours prior to departure. For domestic flights we recommend one hour prior to departure – the airline requires a minimum of 30 minutes but please note that Jet Star Airlines will not accept any late passengers.
On domestic flights you are allowed one 23kg bag per person – please note bags must not weigh more than 23kg. If your domestic airline tickets are linked with your international tickets, your international baggage allowance is permissible. Note that some of our airports and planes are small so excessive baggage can cause questions at check-in.
Goods and Services Tax
All goods and services are subject to a 15 percent Goods and Services Tax (GST) included in the displayed price. Visitors cannot claim this tax back, however when a supplier ships a major purchase to a visitor's home address the GST will not be charged.
Accidents and Health Insurance
With a little care and common sense, your visit to New Zealand should be accident free. If you are injured here, you may need the help of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) - New Zealand's accident compensation scheme.
In New Zealand, you cannot sue anyone for compensatory damages if you are injured. Instead ACC helps pay for your care - and that means paying towards the cost of your treatment and helping in your recovery while you remain in New Zealand. You still need to purchase your own travel and medical insurance because ACC does not cover everything:
ACC only covers treatment and rehabilitation in New Zealand, and usually you must pay part of the cost yourself.
ACC does not pay any additional costs resulting from an accident, for example delayed or curtailed travel costs, travel home, treatment at home and loss of income in your home country.
We strongly advise you to arrange your own health insurance. New Zealand's public and private medical/hospital facilities provide a high standard of treatment and service, but it is important to note these services are not free to visitors, except as a result of an accident.
Medication and vaccinations
Visitors bringing in a quantity of medication are advised to carry a doctor's certificate to avoid possible problems with New Zealand Customs. Doctor's prescriptions are needed to obtain certain drugs in New Zealand.
No vaccinations are required to enter New Zealand