Planning a vacation to New Zealand? This section has important and practical travel information and FAQ's that we recommend reading before you depart.
Do I need a visa to visit New Zealand?
Nope! If you’re a United States citizen, there is no visa requirement to enter the country if you are staying less than three months on your vacation. You’ll just need to be carrying a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond your intended departure date. Not a US citizen? See if New Zealand allows you to enter the country visa-free here. If you’re thinking about staying longer on a Working Holiday Visa and are between ages 18-30 years old, find more info here.
How long does it take to get to New Zealand?
Non-stop 12 hour flights depart Los Angeles every evening and arrive Auckland early in the morning. Return flights depart NZ in the evening as well, so both ways are convenient for getting a good night’s sleep. Non-stop flights are also available from San Francisco and Vancouver several times a week. Air New Zealand will commence non-stop service from Houston in December 2015. Find out more about getting to New Zealand.
Is it easy to get to?
From the West Coast, it’s actually easier and quicker to fly to New Zealand than it is to go to Ireland or Italy. Flights to Europe often connect so the journey takes longer. Yes, from the East Coast it's an extra flight, but trust us, getting to NZ is worth it! Fun Fact: New Zealand is two hours closer than Australia. Surprised?
But I thought it was 24 hours away?
Because you've crossed the International Date Line, it will be two days later. But you gain that time back on your return. If you leave Los Angeles Friday night, you arrive Auckland Sunday morning. On your return, if you leave NZ on Sunday night, you’ll arrive back to the west coast the same Sunday afternoon. (Time travel is cool, right?)
What’s the time change?
NZ is ahead of Pacific Standard Time by 19-21 hours, depending on the time of year (day light savings). But it’s much easier to think of NZ as being 3 to 5 hours behind – and one day ahead. Sounds confusing but the math is easier!
I’m used to flying to Europe. Will this flight be harder?
The timing of the non-stop flights is perfect. Since flights leave at night and arrive NZ in the morning, your flight stays with your sleep schedule. Less jet lag = happy travels. Get on board around 9pm, have some dinner, watch a movie with a glass of NZ wine, and wake up in Auckland around 7am.
Where in the world is New Zealand located?
In the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Australia. It’s made up of two main islands – the North Island and South Island – separated by a body of water called the Cook Strait, and a third, smaller island - Stewart Island at the very bottom of the country. There are also hundreds of smaller offshore islands. Learn more about New Zealand's destinations here.
What’s the difference between the North and South Islands?
The North Island is home to the majority of New Zealand’s 4.4 million people and is known for its beaches, islands, volcanoes, geothermal areas, and Maori culture. The South Island is famous for its dramatic landscapes, wildlife, glaciers, alpine lakes and fiords.
How do I get around the country?
Thanks to the compactness of the country, driving through New Zealand is a popular vacation option. The themed highways and well-planned touring routes are infused with loads of scenic highlights, attractions and local must-do activities. Before renting a car, familiarise yourself with driving in New Zealand.
Not comfortable driving on the other side of the road? No worries! InterCity is New Zealand’s most comprehensive national bus network and is a great option to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery while someone else does the driving. They have 130 daily services through the country to more than 600 towns, cities and communities.
There are also lots of tour companies available if you don’t want to do any planning at all.
If you’re short on time, flying between cities is quick and easy, not to mention the amazing views you get of mountain peaks and gorgeous lakes while you’re in the air. There are two domestic carriers: Air New Zealand and JetStar. No flight within New Zealand is more than 2 hours long so you never have far to go. Learn more about our domestic airports here.
I don’t know much about NZ, where do I start?
Think about how much time you have to spend, if you want to go to both the North and South Islands, and what types of experiences you’re looking for. Most activities are open year round. Have a look at our recommended Must-Do activities and get inspired.
How much time do I need?
New Zealand may look small on the world map, but you could spend months exploring our diverse country. Whether you have only a few days on a short stopover, have 10 days, or on an extended vacation, we have lots of itinerary ideas for you.
What type of experiences will I have?
The possibilities for things to do are endless! Outdoor adventures in spectacular scenery from jet boating, kayaking and glacier hiking, to surfing, golfing, and helicopter rides with champagne-picnic landings in the Southern Alps. Stunning and diverse hiking and cycling trails stretch through the entire country, as do vineyards and wine tours. If you like wildlife, we have amazing whale watching, swimming with dolphins and Kiwi bird spotting. New Zealand also has geothermal experiences – view shooting geysers or soak in natural thermal hot pools. Add to that getting to know the local Maori people and culture, and warm Kiwi hospitality – you’ve got yourself a pretty amazing vacation!
When is the best time to visit and what’s the weather like?
Located in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand's seasons are the opposite of North America. Summer (peak season) is December to February. Winter is June to August (when you get all those stunning snow-capped mountains!) Spring (September-November) and Autumn (March-May) are fantastic times to go because of less crowds and stunning foliage. New Zealand is really great all year round.
Is New Zealand safe?
Yes, it’s a very safe place to travel with a relatively low crime rate, few endemic diseases and a great healthcare system. However, you should take the same care with your personal safety and your possessions as you would in any other country, or at home. In an emergency dial 111. Learn more about health and safety in New Zealand here. Fun fact: Did you know that New Zealand has NO dangerous animals? Going for a hike and scared of snakes, spiders and bears? You won’t see those here!
Are there visitor centers in New Zealand with people who can help me plan my trip?
Yes! i-SITE is New Zealand’s official visitor information network with over 80 i-SITEs nationwide. Every person who works at an i-SITE is a local travel expert for their home town. They will help you find quality activities, attractions, accommodations, transport and more – not only in your current town but for your next stop in New Zealand too. This ensures you will experience the latest and greatest the town has to offer wherever you are.
How do I get between the North and South Island?
You can either fly or take a ferry. There are two ferry companies that take you across the Cook Straight between Wellington (bottom of the North Island) and Picton (top of the South Island): The Interislander and the Bluebridge. The ferry ride is only three hours and is very scenic – you go through the stunning Marlborough Sounds.