Travelling to New Zealand.. things you should know

If you're planning on travelling to New Zealand this article covers key points, including getting to and from, when & where to visit and more.

When to visit New Zealand: The best time to visit New Zealand, can depend on what your purpose is, New Zealand is a beautiful place to visit at any time! The warmer months are September through to April, with the warmest time being December – March so if its beach you are looking for this is the time to visit. This is also the busiest time with higher tariffs in the lodges and hotels, and availability at a premium, with the key destinations of Queenstown, Bay of Islands, Nelson, Rotorua and Wanaka being more difficult to book unless planned in advance. It is worth considering a visit in the shoulder season, its quieter and less expensive, September/October or April/May. If a skiing holiday is what you are looking for then June/July/August/September is the best time to visit. The ski fields are open during this time in the central north island, Queenstown, Christchurch and Wanaka. The average temperatures during summer range from  approximately 20 - 30ºC, and in winter 10 - 15ºC. Whatever the weather there is always something to do in New Zealand; hiking, wine tasting, scenic heli flights, jet boats, mountain biking, horse riding, golf and much more. If your interests are more specialized such as hunting and fishing then it’s best to talk to us about options.

Flying to and around New Zealand: Getting to New Zealand is easy and most major airlines offer flights to New Zealand. Direct flights are now available from USA, China, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Chile. Most international fights arrive in Auckland, on the North Island and Christchurch & Queenstown also receive a smaller number of international flights. Flight times from North America are around 12 hours, Europe 24 hours and South East Asia 11 hours. It’s easy to book your international flight on line using a major carrier such as Air New Zealand, Air China, Cathay Pacific, United, Air Canada and many more. Once in New Zealand the Luxury Adventures team can take care of your land arrangements, accommodation, activities, hire car or transfers and domestic flights.

Flying internally in New Zealand is much easier than in a lot of other countries, the flying distances are short; Auckland to wellington 1 hour, Auckland to Christchurch 1 hour 20, and Queenstown 1 hour 50 minutes (the longest flight in New Zealand). The airports are small and friendly with simple check in procedures, and rental car desks or transfers available close by. The current luggage allowance on domestic flights is 23 kg for checked baggage and 7 kg for hand luggage, you might want to check your international flight allowances to see if it differs to avoid paying extra baggage allowances.

Many people visiting New Zealand tag on a pacific island, something to bear in mind with this is that traveling from New Zealand to Tahiti for example takes around 5 hours, and you cross the international date line in doing so and loose a day, flights tend to leave Auckland around 9 or 10:00 am and arrive in Papeete in the afternoon or evening before you leave, almost always resulting in requiring a night here before traveling onto Bora Bora, Moorea or one of the other Islands. Auckland to Fiji is a shorter 3 hour flight, and we are on the same time zone.

Visa requirements: Many visitors do not require a visa for the purpose of a vacation, if your home country is on the visa waiver list then you can stay for a period of 3 months. The full visa waiver list can be found on the New Zealand immigration web site along with more detailed information on how to obtain a visa should your home country not be on this list.

Driving in New Zealand: To drive in New Zealand you will need to hold a current driver licence, and carry this with you at all times. The licence must be written in English, or have an approved translation or international driving permit. We drive on the left hand side of the road, and most rental cars will be automatic. Outside of the major cities the roads are relatively quiet, but can be windy and narrow, you should always drive to the conditions, and allow plenty of time to reach your destination. The rules and regulations of our New Zealand roads can be found here, Driving in New Zealand.

Some people prefer to have private transfers, more information on self drive vs transfers, can be found on our earlier Self drive or transfers blog.

Navigating around the country is relatively easy, and we can arrange a GPS unit with your hire car. Outside of the major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch the roads are quiet. Luxury Adventures always provide directions in our itineraries between airports and accommodation, and to and from meeting points for your activities.

Distances between some of the key destinations are:

North Island
Auckland to Rotorua 3.5 hours
Auckland to Taupo 4 hours
Auckland to Waitomo 3 hours
Taupo to Hawkes Bay 2 hours
Auckland to Wellington 9 hours
Auckland to Paihia (Bay of Islands) 3.45 hours

South Island
Christchurch to Franz Josef glacier 5.5 hours
Kaikoura to Christchurch 2.15 hours
Nelson to Christchurch 5.15 hours
Franz Josef to Wanaka 3.5 hours
Franz Josef to Queenstown 5 hours
Queenstown to Milford 4.25 hours
Christchurch to Queenstown 6.15 hours

One of the most requested self drive routes is the West Coast of the South Island, or the Glacier Highway as it’s known. The closest airports to the region are Hokitika or Queenstown. The total distance between Queenstown and Hokitka via vehicle is 543 km or around a 7 hour drive. We recommend doing this drive over a period of 3 days with stops at Hokitika, Franz Josef or Fox Glacier and Wanaka. It’s a beautiful drive along state highway 6, with views of mountains and oceans. For most people the main purpose of the drive is to visit the glaciers, however currently the glaciers are not accessible from the townships of Franz or Fox by foot. The only way to access and hike the glaciers is on a guided trip, which includes a short helicopter ride onto the glacier and a 2 hour guided walk. These trips are weather dependent and the weather on the West Coast can be very changeable, and for that reason we recommend a minimum of one night in the area.

Deciding on your budget: There is not one simple answer to this, there are so many factors to take into consideration. Luxury Adventures work in the luxury end of the market with handpicked accommodation ranging from $350 - to over $3,000 per night, other factors to consider are if you want to self drive or have private transfers, the level and type of experiences you want, private tours, small groups or self-guided. It's best to discuss your personal requirements with one of the Luxury Adventures team to ensure we tailor make an itinerary that perfectly suits your needs and budget. You can also read more detailed information about luxury travel budgets in our “What’s your travel budget” blog.

It pays to plan.. Most visitors have a limited time to visit New Zealand, often 2 – 3 weeks to try and see and do as much as is possible. This is where planning an itinerary is important, there are many considerations, time of year, budget, time constraints, logistics etc. Some people have definite ideas on what they want to include, be it a destination or an experience, whilst others need more guidance, in all events having an agent on the ground is a definite advantage. Local up to date knowledge on accommodation, logistics and new and exciting experiences is key to making sure your trip is ideal based on your requirements and runs without hitches. With only a couple of weeks to see and do as much as is possible, we recommend the key destinations such as Queenstown, Rotorua, Taupo, Bay of Islands, Abel Tasman, Fiordland and Hawkes Bay to name the most popular ones. There are also many hidden jewels such as Stewart Island at the very bottom of the South Island with great bush and beach walks, and a slower pace of life - “A real Kiwi” experience. The Coromandel Peninsula is a favourite destination for Kiwis to holiday with fantastic beaches - visit Cathedral Cove, film location for Narnia, New Chums beach, a hidden away and rarely explored beach which has been voted one of the world best beaches. A scenic drive around the Karikari peninsula, Northland is a true paradise with white sand and clear blue waters. Within a 45 drive from Auckland there are the stunning remote west coast beaches with black sand and rolling surf. Karekare beach of The Piano film fame, Piha home to surfers and Murawai with its gannet colony. This is also home to fantastic walks with The Hillary Trail - 77 km of trails in native forest. Or Great Barrier Island, a paradise just 30 mins from downtown auckland via helicopter, rarely frequented by international visitors.

Apart from the well known New Zealand great walks, there are other excellent lesser known walks all over New Zealand which can be easily explored and hiked, the same applies to mountain bike tracks, with some of the best around Rotorua, there are also great tracks in close proximity to Auckland, Queenstown, and Christchurch. New Zealand is a great destination for cyclists, with trails accessible from most major cities such as the Otago Rail Trail, Nelsons Great Taste Trial, Queen Charlotte Track, Mountains to see and many more. For the keen fishermen New Zealand offers world class fishing with great lake and river fishing in both the North and South Islands, game fishing in the warmer northern waters and tremendous salter water sport fishing all around the country. For the more adventurous the adventure tourism in New Zealand is second to none, bungy jumping, shark cage dives, zip lining, jet boats, mountain biking and more… to summarise New Zealand has something to offer everyone, at any time of the year, the key is to plan your time wisely to ensure you get the best out of your trip, contact one of our team to make a start.

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