|The main network of roads throughout New Zealand consists mainly of two-way highways. As you drive out of the main cities and leave the multi-lane motorways there is often no medium barrier between opposing traffic so extra care must be taken while driving to pay attention to the road (especially when there is stunning scenery to look at). There are many picnic stops you can pull over to that have been strategically located at scenic viewpoints.
Important Driving Information:
New Zealanders drive on the left hand side of the road.
The maximum speed limit on the open road is 100 kilometres/hour (62 miles /hour), which is heavily enforced.
All passengers, including the driver, must wear seatbelts. Infants under 5yrs old must use an approved child/baby car seat (this is required by law and your car rental company will assist you with these should you have children of that age group).
When a traffic light is red you must stop: a note for American and Canadian visitors - you cannot turn left at an intersection when a light is red, you must completely stop and only go when the light is green. You may need to allow more time than you think to travel distances because the hilly terrain and windy roads make the journey longer.
Many rural roads have gravel verges that require slower driving and extra care to avoid accidents.
In winter and early spring some roads, especially around the mountainous regions, may be closed due to snow and ice. Listen to the local radio stations for reports on these.
International Driving Licences and Permits
You can legally drive for up to 12 months in New Zealand if you have either a current driver's licence from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP).
You must carry your licence or permit with you all at all times when driving otherwise you could be fined. You will only be able to drive the same types of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country.
Make sure your driver's licence is current and in English (if not in English you should bring an English translation with you, or obtain an IDP). All documents must be originals, no photocopies will be accepted.
For further information about driving in New Zealand visit www.ltsa.govt.nz/travellers/index.html.
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| Places to see
New Zealand is blessed with a wide range of truly stunning scenery. And one of the great things about the country is that you can be at a beautiful inland lake surrounded by mountainous regions and within a few hours be at glorious beach. In 1951 James A. Michener wrote in Return to Paradise that "New Zealand is probably the most beautiful place on earth" with "natural beauty difficult to believe". The beauty is still here in majestic proportions, but since the 50's New Zealand has also grown up and is technically advanced and innovative. On your journey you may enjoy discovering and indulging in some of NZ's internationally acclaimed cuisine, wine, art and fashion.
| North Island
Auckland: known as the "City of Sails" to locals for its abundant marinas and yachting devotees out on the water. Auckland is New Zealand's largest city located at the northern end of the North Island. There are many day trips close to Auckland where you can go to variety of attractions, beaches and walks or you can stay in the city and enjoy the sight-seeing, cafes and bars.
North of Auckland: in about four hours you can drive up to the Bay of Islands and then up to Cape Reinga the top of the North Island. Along the way are historic kauri forests, long unspoiled beaches and places to relax, enjoy the sun, food, sights and the distinctive way of life.
Throughout the North Island are treasures such as lakes, forests, beaches of sparkling black sand and rugged terrain, beaches of white sand and silky sand dunes, the Waitomo Caves that alight with thousands of glow worms, Rotorua with it's natural hot springs to soak in and mud pools to admire, Lake Taupo and surrounding rivers for bountiful fishing plus much more.
Wellington: the capital city of New Zealand and located at the southern end of the North Island. The city is known in the country for its culture of arts and cafes. If you are taking your car across on the ferry, Wellington is the city you will depart from.
| South Island
Christchurch: as one of the main cities in the South Island, Christchurch appears to be particularly English with historic buildings such as the cathedral surrounded by a large public square right in the middle of the city. Day trips from Christchurch can include trips to the surrounding mountains for skiing in winter, or adventure sports such as parachuting, mountain biking or just a nice walk to admire the surrounding beauty.
Queenstown: a popular resort town in summer and winter, Queenstown is surrounded in picturesque lakes and hills and offers close access to some of the best ski fields in the country. It will take approximately five hours to drive from Christchurch to Queenstown but you will be rewarded with great scenery during the journey.
Dunedin: heading further south you will arrive in Dunedin on the east cost. A green-belted city built in Victorian and Edwardian style with slate and tin-roofed houses, chimneys, spires and churches. You'll find a hearty welcome to this peaceful and tranquil city.
Inbetween the cities, the South Island offers scenery different to that of the North Island, with gigantic mountainous ranges, stunning glaciers, planes full of vineyards and fields ripe for harvest and rugged coastlines rich with delicious seafood and friendly non-edible creatures like dolphins and whales that you can visit.
To help you plan your journey why not check out the great range of travel guides, books and maps. Click here Fetch Travel Books.
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| Travelling between the North and the South Islands
To travel between the North and South Islands, unless you choose to fly, you need to depart via ferry from Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island, depending on which direction you are heading. The crossing on the ferries take you through stunning scenery as you sail through the Marlborough Sounds from Picton and usually takes about three hours or, you can take the fast ferry that crosses in about one and a half hours. Check with your rental car company as you may need to either: take your car across the Cook Strait on the ferry, exchange it either side, or you may have the choice to do either.
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There are four distinct seasons in New Zealand where, depending on the area you visit, you can enjoy the extremes of sunny cloudless days in summer, the beauty of gold and red leaves in autumn, abundant snow and fresh crisp air in winter or gorgeous spring flowers and blossoms in full bloom.
Summer months are from December to February
Autumn from March to May
Winter from July to August (these are the coldest months)
Spring from September to November (Spring can still be quite cold though at times)
A note about the weather: if you are planning to enjoy the stunning flora and scenery by trekking in the native forests and bushland, remember to take changes of warm clothing, hats, water and extra food. If you're going to be enjoying summer and the great outdoors, protect yourself from the sun with a hat and high factor sunscreen as the sun rays are very harsh in this part of the world.
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| Costs & Budgeting
Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 12.5% is added to many goods and services. Tax will either be inclusive in the price (as with most retail goods) or, as required by law, a price will be stated and either have alongside it "+GST" or a general written statement will appear such as "Prices are exclusive of GST".
Don't forget to save a small slice of your travel budget for when you leave New Zealand - there is a departure tax of $NZ25.
Food in New Zealand is generally of a very high standard, fresh and flavoursome. There are a variety of cafes, restaurants, fast food outlets, and food halls to choose from to suit your budget and mood with international foods as well as local and traditional foods available to delight your tastebuds. Because of the geography of the country, having the sea so close to many areas, seafood is particularly fresh and abundant. And to make your meal even more enjoyable, why not work your way through a wine tasting while eating your lunch at a local winery?
To get a pre-taste of kiwi food and wine check out the range of fantastic New Zealand cookbooks and wine guides by clicking here Fetch Travel Books. Typical meal prices (per person):
Low cost: NZ$5-15
It is not mandatory to tip in New Zealand but it is becoming more common. New Zealanders often tip around 5-10% of the bill in a restaurant or café if the service has been good. This practice is more common for evening meals and less common for breakfast or lunch unless in a high-class hotel.What to wear
The standard of dress is often informal with smart casual clothes being acceptable in most restaurants. If stepping out for the night to a club, be aware that in main cities, some bars or clubs expect men in particular to wear a higher standard of clothes and smart, closed in shoes.
New Zealand has a wonderful reputation as being a friendly, hospitable and welcoming country, all of which is true. However, unfortunately like all countries there do exist people who are not that way inclined so you do need to take as much care in New Zealand as you would in any other country for your own personal safety and that of your possessions. Keep cars locked at all times, keep valuables out of sight and don't walk alone, all general common sense rules apply in this beautiful country too.
Whether you plan to bring your tent and stay in a camping ground, or try out a presidential-like suite at the Hilton there is something for you. Be sure to get the place that you want to stay by booking ahead as holidays are a great kiwi tradition and the best places are booked up fast.
Types of accommodation in New Zealand
Double-check the facilities available at your choice of accommodation. Usually most will include:
Motor Camps / Camping Sites / Bunk Rooms / Youth Hostels / Backpacker Lodges:
Whether you have your own tent, motor home or just a sleeping bag for the bunkroom you can make use of the communal kitchen, laundry, and bathrooms with showers. Most have recreational facilities such as playgrounds, TV and games rooms.
Home or Farmstay / Bed & Breakfast / Guest Houses / Lodges:
A nice cosy way to experience the comforts of home but in a kiwi style is through hosted accommodation. Venues will vary with some rooms having their own bathroom or sharing, breakfast may or may not be included and dinner can often be arranged at an additional cost. Farmstays offer the option of experiencing life on the farm and some sporting lodges provide guides for fishing or hunting expeditions.
Apartments / Motels / Motor Lodges:
Typically "self-catering" including a small kitchen, a telephone, TV and separate bathroom with apartments usually providing a small laundry area as well.
Hotels / Luxury Lodges / Motor Inns/ Lodges with restaurants and bars: A wide range of hotels and lodges of world-class standard are available from mid range to luxury accommodation to suit your budget and needs. Just a small note that some taverns or pubs are called "Hotels" but do not offer accommodation, however, some taverns and pubs do offer clean, delightful rooms.
To help plan your stay, take a look at the range of accommodation directories and guides that are handy to have with you on your travels by clicking here Fetch Travel Books.
Typical daily accommodation rates:
Low cost: NZ$10-30
Look out for the Qualmark Accommodation Rating System Qualmark™. It is supported by the New Zealand Automobile Association and Tourism New Zealand as the offical mark of quality ranking for accommodation. Independent, professionally trained assessors review each location on an annual basis. The property is then given a ranking as follows: [* = a star]
* Acceptable. The venue meets the industry's minimum standards and provides basic, clean, comfortable and hospitable accommodation.
** Good. Provides a greater range of services and facilities than a * rating.
*** Very Good. Provides a good range of services and facilities.
**** Excellent. Provides a high standard of services and facilities.
***** Exceptional. The best available in New Zealand.
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| Public Holidays
Public Holidays are popular breaks in New Zealand. Depending on where you are staying you could find that either your quiet get-away could become surrounded by an influx of holidaymakers or the buzzing populated areas can become deserted as people head away for a retreat. In some areas, all shops and attractions are open (opening hours may be either restricted or extended depending on the venue), or there may just be a few shops such as a petrol station or small food shop open. Check a few days in advance about the area you will be staying in to ensure you are not caught short of supplies. 1 Jan New Year's Day
6 Feb Waitangi Day
Mar/Apr Easter (dates change each year to include a Friday and a Monday)
25 Apr Anzac Day
1st Mon in June Queen's Birthday
4th Mon in Oct Labour Day
25 Dec Christmas Day
26 Dec Boxing Day
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| Time Zone
There is one time zone throughout the country and New Zealand is truly one of the first countries in the world to see the sunrise each day. NZ time is 2 - 2.5 hours in advance of Australian time depending on the state you are from, 12 hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and 17-20 hours in advance of USA depending on which state you are from.
Time change: from late October until the end of the first week of March New Zealand takes part in what is called "Daylight Savings" whereby the clock is advanced one hour to provide more daylight time throughout summer.
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| All about New Zealand
If you are looking for more information about New Zealand you can find further details about everything from history and culture to nature, arts, entertainment, driving tours, visitor information, holiday jobs and much more by clicking here:
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