Updated: May 29th, 2020 | Originally Posted: Jan 12, 2016
New Zealand regularly tops the list as one of the world’s must-visit destinations for its sweeping landscapes, adrenalin activities, and wilderness experiences. So if you’re thinking of heading to the “Land of the long white cloud,” here are ten things you should know before you go.
Pack For All Weather And Dress In Layers
New Zealand is known for having four seasons in one day. The temperature in the North and South Islands can vary greatly, and depending on what time of year you go, it can get very cold. Casual clothes that you can layer is a must. It’s frequently hot in the sun and cold in the shade, so you’ll want to have flexibility in your outfit throughout the day. Bring good shoes as there is a lot of walking, hiking, and outdoor activity opportunities. The rain is frequent, especially close to South Island glaciers and Fiordland National Park, so pack a rain jacket. See post on When to Visit New Zealand for more information on the weather. The dress code is informal on most occasions, and smart casual is accepted even at most New Zealand luxury lodges.
Slip, Slop, Slap!
With less ozone and pollution to block the sun’s harmful UV rays, your exposure to sunburn is far greater in New Zealand than in the United States. New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of skin cancer. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit, but it means you need to “slip, slop, slap.” Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat!
You Must Have Proper Documentation to Travel to New Zealand
Starting in late 2019, all United States citizens must have a NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) before traveling to New Zealand. An NZeTA request costs NZD 9 on the government app, or NZD 12 if completed online. Make sure you complete it on the official app or government website as there are scam websites charging $100 to get the visa. To apply, you must prove your identity by entering your passport info. Your passport must be valid for at least three months after you plan to leave New Zealand. You must also meet good character requirements to travel to New Zealand. If you have a criminal conviction and you are concerned you may not be approved for the ETA, it is a good idea to apply before making any non-refundable travel purchases.
Only Tip For Exceptional Service
It is not customary and not required to tip while visiting New Zealand; however, for exceptional service, a tip is always appreciated. Coach drivers and guides receive for touring (not transfers) around NZ 5 per person per day. However. Private drivers should be tipped around NZ 10-20 total. The same applies to touring with a Driver/Guide, with tips for excellent service being anywhere from NZ 40-100 depending on the level of service. Small group touring should be only tipped for excellent service – around NZ 20 per person. Tips should not be given for average or below average service/driving or commentary
On national holidays it is customary for restaurants and cafes to charge an additional service fee of around 10-15%.
Show Respect Towards The Maori Culture
Participating in a Maori cultural expierence should be at the top of your “must-do” list. Maori is the official second language of New Zealand. You should never enter a marae (traditional Maori meeting space) without permission, always remove your shoes, and do not bring in food or drinks. At the end of the welcoming ceremony, you will traditionally be greeted with a hongi—the touching of both nose and forehead, which signifies you are now at one with the tribe. There are many significant cultural experience opportunities throughout New Zealand.
Clean Your Shoes Before You Arrive
New Zealand has strict biosecurity laws to ensure invasive species are not introduced that could have drastic impacts on the country’s agricultural and natural environments. If your shoes are dirty, you may be stopped at the airport for fear that they carry invasive species. You must declare any food, plants or animal products on arrival at customs, as well as any camping gear, muddy boots, golf clubs or bicycles which may (unknowingly) be carrying alien species. If you’re not sure, it’s best to declare it as hefty fines can be imposed for failing to do so.
You’re Visiting Middle Earth
New Zealand provided the spectacular setting for the filming of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and there are around 150 sites across the country where you can relieve your wildest Tolkien dreams on either guided or self-guided tours. The movies are believed to have pumped around $200 million into New Zealand’s economy, proving so important that a Minister for the Lord of the Rings was appointed to manage the whole affair. One of the most famous attractions is Hobbiton, which is about 2.5 hours from Auckland, and set on a real, family-run sheep farm. There you can visit the Hobbit holes and take the two-hour guided tour. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing, known as the best day hike in the world, was used as Frodo and Sam’s journey into the land of Sauron. No matter where you are in New Zealand, you’re never too far from a Lord Of The Rings filming location!
The Wilderness Immersion Experiences Are Unlimited
Around one-third of New Zealand is a protected national park, and being immersed in wild, breathtaking landscapes is what visiting New Zealand is all about. From trekking the famed Milford and Routeburn tracks to cruising its magnificent fjords and getting up close to creaking glaciers, the value of the natural environment (both economically and intrinsically) has been well and truly harnessed in New Zealand.
There Is No Better Place To Get Your Adrenalin Pumping
Since opening the world’s first bungee jumping operation in the 1980s, New Zealand has affirmed its place as the home of adrenaline-fueled activities. From sky-diving to white water rafting and zorbing to gorge swings, there is no shortage of opportunity to let your heart skip a few beats and scream at the top of your lungs.