For the tourist, New Zealand is the gift that keeps on giving.
Famous for its natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and friendly people, it is a popular destination for travellers from all over the world. Most of whom come to explore its stunning scenery, world-class wineries, thrilling adventure activities, and unique cultural experiences.
From its rugged mountains and pristine beaches to its vibrant cities and rich cultural heritage, there is something for everyone to see and do in New Zealand. Which means there is a lot to organise as well!
This might seem like a daunting prospect for some, especially first-time visitors. But if you are planning a trip to Aotearoa, there are some things you should bear in mind to make the process easier.
In this article, we'll share our top tips for travelling to New Zealand, so you can make the most of your trip and have an unforgettable experience.
Whether you're into amazing scenery, mad keen on bungee jumping, want to immerse yourself in Maori culture or are just wanting a relaxing time away, these tips will help you have the time of your life in the land of the Long White Cloud.
1. Plan your itinerary carefully
Although New Zealand is a small country, it is jam-packed with sites, attractions and notable places to visit.
For this reason, it is essential to plan your itinerary carefully. Start by researching and prioritising the places you want to visit and the activities you want to do at them.
Then, create a rough itinerary that covers the highlights of each region you would like to visit. The takeaway here is that less is more. So, you should not try to cram too much into your itinerary, as you'll end up rushing from place to place and won't have time to fully appreciate the beauty of the country.
2. Rent a car or campervan
One of the best ways to explore New Zealand is by road. The country has an excellent network of highways and scenic routes that offer stunning views of the landscape.
Renting a car or a campervan with a company like Go Rentals is a great way to have the freedom to explore the country at your own pace. It also enables you to more easily reach some of its remote and off-the-beaten-path locations.
3. Be prepared for the weather
In case you weren't aware, New Zealand's climate is highly variable and can change rapidly from one place to another. Indeed, the country has a maritime climate, which means that it can be rainy and windy anywhere at any time of the year!
Therefore, it's important to be prepared for the weather when travelling to New Zealand, especially if you are intending to visit its winter wonderlands.
With this in mind, you should pack clothes that can be layered and are suitable for a range of temperatures, from cool and damp to hot and sunny. Make sure you bring a waterproof jacket, comfortable shoes for hiking, and a warm hat and gloves for the colder months too.
4. Respect the culture
New Zealand has a rich and unique culture that is influenced by its Maori heritage and European settlers.
Like when visiting anywhere in the world, it is essential to respect the culture and traditions of the country when travelling in New Zealand.
For this reason, you would be well advised to learn about the customs and beliefs of the Maori people and take the time to visit some of the historic sites and museums that showcase their culture.
Make sure you are respectful when visiting Marae (Maori meeting places) and follow the correct protocol for visitors. It's also important to respect the natural environment as well.
5. Try the local cuisine and wine
New Zealand has a vibrant food culture that is hugely influenced by its location and diverse population.
Overall, the country is known for being a foodie's paradise, with fresh seafood, high-quality beef and lamb, and unique fruits and vegetables being the backbone of its many culinary delights.
Make sure to try some of the local cuisines when travelling in New Zealand, such as fish and chips, pavlova, Hāngī (food cooked under ground), and hokey pokey ice cream. It is also worth visiting local farmers' markets and food festivals to sample some of the country's best produce whenever you can.
If you are into wine, you are also spoilt for choice, as New Zealand is one of the world's leading makers of it. Some of its most prestigious wineries include the Palliser Estate in Martinborough, Rippon Vineyard in Central Otago, Neudorf Vineyard in Nelson and Kim Crawford Wines, Marlborough and Hawke's Bay. All of which have some incredible cellar doors you can visit.
6. Take advantage of the outdoor activities
New Zealand is known as the adventure capital of the world, for good reason.
Wherever you go on the North or South Island, you will find countless opportunities to engage in a host of adrenaline-pumping activities like bungee jumping, skydiving, jet boating, ziplining, heli-skiing, white water rafting and caving, to name just a few.
There are also lots of places you can go hiking, geocaching, orienteering, kayaking, canoeing and skiing on several different slopes.
If you are game enough, this is one of the best ways to experience New Zealand.
7. Respect the wildlife
New Zealand is home to a diverse range of wildlife, some of which is found nowhere else in the world.
The country is probably most famous for its flightless birds, which include the kiwi and the kakapo, as well as its marine population of seals, dolphins, and whales.
When travelling in New Zealand, it's important to respect the wildlife and to follow the country's conservation policies. Never disturb or feed the animals, and keep a safe distance from them.
If you're specifically interested in wildlife viewing, several eco-tourism operators offer responsible and sustainable tours around the country.
8. Stay in local accommodation
When travelling in New Zealand, consider staying in local accommodation, such as a bed and breakfast or a farm stay. These types of accommodations offer a unique and authentic experience and allow you to connect with the locals and learn more about the country's culture and way of life.
If you're travelling on a budget, consider staying in a hostel or a camping ground. New Zealand has a well-developed backpacker culture, and there are plenty of much more affordable accommodation options available than you would otherwise pay for in a hotel.
9. Learn some basic phrases in Maori
Maori is one of the official languages of New Zealand, and it's an important part of the country's culture and identity.
To gain favour with the locals, it's a good idea to learn some basic phrases in Maori to show respect for their culture and to better connect with them.
Some useful phrases to learn include 'Kia ora' (Hello), 'Ka kite ano' (See you again), Aroha mai (Sorry) and 'Haere mai' (Welcome).
10. Take your time
Finally, one of the best tips for travelling in New Zealand is to take your time.
The country has a relaxed and laid-back vibe, and rushing from place to place will only detract from the experience.
For this reason, you should take the time to appreciate the natural beauty of the country, meet the locals, and immerse yourself in its culture. Put simply, New Zealand is a place to slow down, unwind, and enjoy life.
So when in Rome - or rather Auckland, Queenstown, Napier or Hawke's Bay - you should do the same.
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