So you are all set—booked your tickets for a vacation in New Zealand and eager go around: or you’ve at least decided “New Zealand” is going to be your next destination.
New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries I have been to so far. A real middle earth (here comes the LOTR fan!) in front of you. Name anything which you won’t find there, beautiful beaches, snow capped mountains, glaciers, unique turquoise lakes, lush green hills, volcanoes, geothermal parks, unlimited adventure sports…and list goes on.
I want to highlight 15 things we experienced during our trip to New Zealand:
- You can either fly into Auckland in the North Island or Christchurch in the South Island. Auckland is the biggest urbanized city in the north island with a population of 1.4M, which is one third of the population of the country. Further south, Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s three largest metropolises It was hit by a major earthquake in 2011 and is still struggling to rebuild all these years later.
- During immigration: make sure to declare all food items, soiled clothes and shoes or any other items which might contain insects
- If you are coming via a red eye flight and arriving early in the morning, Auckland airport has good shower facility free of cost, just outside the international arrivals gate
- Instead of renting an expensive GPS from car rental company, go for a local sim card with good coverage. We bought a Vodafone number which comes with an international calling minutes and 3GB of data.
- If you are planning to rent a car and drive across the islands, the best place to start is usually in the South Island – most visitors fly into Auckland and then drive through the North Island and leave their rental car in the South Island. Rental car companies are stuck with many their vehicles in the South where there are not as many people renting them
- Download offline maps of the places you are planning to visit. This will help you to navigate when you are out of mobile network or you wish to save mobile data
- Many goods and services are expensive in New Zealand, it includes grocery, ready-to-eat stuff, snacks etc. It may be because of its isolation and small population size. Dairy products are available in wide variety and they are generally of good quality. Always look for Countdown stores for good quality, variety and reasonable prices of the products
- The best time in summer is typically February/March. The best skiing season is August. We traveled in November, which was a type of moderate season with pleasant sun and slightly cold in nights
- As per locals, school holidays are from late December to the end of January, plus there are a few more breaks throughout the year. Prices may be higher during these times
- Tekapo and Wanaka are everybody’s favorite, so book them in much advance. Accommodation in these places is usually full during tourist season and you might end up checking-in into some hotel with bad reviews and ratings
- There are some great train routes for day trips, the Trans Alpine through the southern Alps, or the Coastal Pacific from Christchurch to Picton. For longer duration there is also the Northern Explorer (Auckland-Wellington).
- If you’re going during winter, the skiing and snowboarding is world class, while in summer the hiking is beautiful
- Queenstown – is the most gorgeous town of New Zealand and is known as the adventure capital of the world, river rafting, bungee jumping, skydiving, parasailing and mountain biking what else you need. Lot of such adventure sport companies are available in downtown. Enter with your best negotiating skills and come out with the good deals
- Fjordland on the south western side of the island is one of the most beautiful places in the world, where glaciers extend down to the sea, nestled among spectacular native rainforests. Cruise to Milford sound is a must, again book it online to avoid long queues. Early morning tours are a bit cheaper compared to others later in the day
- New Zealanders are gentle, honest, soft spoken and helpful people, if you’re not sure about food, route etc, never hesitate to ask for feedback from locals