How to get to New Zealand

Planning a trip to New Zealand and looking for the best way to get here? Here's everything you need to know about flying to New Zealand.

Planning a trip to New Zealand and looking for the best way to get here?  Here's everything you need to know about flying to New Zealand from the USA, Australia, UK, Canada and Europe, plus a few handy 'Travel Tips for Hikers' from Andrew at New Zealand Trails.

You’re most likely familiar with the age-old adage ‘good things come in small packages', this rings particularly true when talking about New Zealand. Our little country may be small but it sure is something special, with stunning landscapes, world-class hiking trails, a moderate climate, great food and wine and a real friendly bunch of locals to wrap it all up in one perfect package. Part of this magic is our isolation, we're tucked away in our own corner of the South Pacific - far from the madding crowd indeed but getting here is easier than you think.

New Zealand - closer than you think!

I was talking on the phone to someone on the west coast of the USA recently and he asked me how long it takes to fly to New Zealand, and was surprised by the answer.  For a lot of people, New Zealand has the feeling of being on the other end of the world, about as far away as you can get from anywhere, but it’s actually a lot easier to get here than you think!   We’re just one flight away from many places around the world (and we’re not just talking about Australia).

If you're thinking of making the trip, relax in the knowledge that many before you have made it and are so glad they did!  One thing a lot of travellers I meet say, even after they've returned home, is that this really was a 'Trip of a Lifetime' and worth it in every way.

Getting to New Zealand from the UK & Europe - Following the footsteps of Tasman & Cook

If you’re heading our way from the UK or Europe your trip may be a bit longer than one sleep, after all you're following in the footsteps of the early European explorers who set off to discover the 'Great Southern Land'.  The great news is you can add in an exotic stopover on your way and experience a whole new destination to boot. Flights to New Zealand from the UK and Europe go through either Asia or North America – with both options taking around the same amount of time. Have some fun choosing your stopover and pick someplace you've been and loved or somewhere you've always wanted to go.
Popular options include Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, L.A, San Francisco and Vancouver.  One thing you'll want to remember is that Singapore is the only place (other than Australia) from which you can fly directly into the South Island. All other flights arrive in Auckland with easy connections through to the South Island.

Travel Tip for Hikers - Allow a couple of days to get over jet lag:
If you're coming all this way from the UK or Europe for some hiking, like a lot of people on our 'World Heritage Walking Tour', I always recommend a couple of free days when you arrive to let you adjust to the time difference before you head off on your adventures.  No matter how many long haul flights you've been on before, it will take some time for your body to get used to New Zealand time.

Getting to New Zealand from the USA and Canada - One sleep and you're here!

Air New Zealand operates direct flights to New Zealand from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver – with all of these hubs offering easy one-stop connections from many other parts of North America including Florida, Colorado and the East Coast. From December 2015, the airline will also begin a direct flight to New Zealand from Houston, which will make it a breeze to fly here from all over the South, East Coast and Midwest.  The flight time from Los Angeles or San Francisco to Auckland is around 13 hours, it's a non stop flight leaving in the evening which means it's dinner, a movie, one night's sleep and you wake up to your first sunrise in New Zealand!

All flights into New Zealand from North America arrive into Auckland, our largest city and main international gateway airport.  From here there are lots of flights to over 20 domestic destinations within both the North and South Island, including Christchurch, Queenstown, Rotorua and Wellington to name a few. Remember New Zealand is pretty small, so domestic flights don't take long, for example, it's only 1 hour 20 minutes from Auckland to Christchurch.

Of course, other great airlines fly to New Zealand too including Hawaiian and Qantas and just the other day I saw some news about a major US airline considering new flights from the West Coast to New Zealand too, which is great news for travellers.   My advice is to take a look around at all your options and book early to lock in a great deal.

A couple of questions we always get asked:

What's the time difference between North America and New Zealand?
It depends where you are.  On the West Coast there is just 3 or 4 hours difference, depending on the time of year.  Time wise, New Zealand is behind North America, but one day ahead date wise, so when it's 2pm on Monday in LA, it's 11am on Tuesday in New Zealand during the NZ summer. The further east you go, the time difference increases, for example, if you're on the East Coast the time difference is 6 or 7 hours.  When you travel to New Zealand from North America, you will take a little while to adjust to the time diffence, but it's not as hard as when you travel to Europe.

What about the dateline, how can I get back before I leave?
Because we're on the other side of the dateline, it can be a bit confusing when you look at your flight times.  If you leave on a Friday night from North America, you'll arrive into New Zealand on Sunday morning, you've 'lost' that middle day!  But don't worry, you'll get it back.  If you leave New Zealand on a Saturday evening you'll get back into North America on Saturday afternoon, the same day on the calendar!  Confused?  Don't worry, when you join one of our trips we'll make sure you know what's going on.

Getting to New Zealand from Australia - Crossing 'the ditch'

Now for our 'Aussie' cousins you have plenty of options to get to New Zealand, with multiple flights on offer from different airlines every day from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne – and Air New Zealand also flies direct from Adelaide, the Gold Coast and Perth.  Flight times from the East Coast of Australia to either Auckland or Christchurch are from 3 to 3.5 hours, add 2 to 3 more hours to this for flights from Adelaide and Perth.  All up, a pretty easy day's travelling from home to a hiker's paradise like the South Island of New Zealand.

One great thing about flying from Australia is that you've got a bit more choice in destinations.  Pretty much all northern hemisphere flights fly into Auckland, but if you're coming from the East Coast you can fly straight into Christchurch or even Queenstown at certain times of the year.  If you’re planning on hiking in this part of the country then it’s well worth flying directly to either Christchurch (where you can begin our tour) or Queenstown.  Aside from Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Qantas, Emirates and Virgin also offer regular trans Tasman flights.

Travel Tips for Hikers - Make it easier on yourself by travelling light, here are a few tips from a pro:

  • If you like to use hiking poles, pick up some when you arrive, these aren't the easiest things to carry on board or fit in your luggage.  If you're joining us on our 'World Heritage Walking Tour' then you don't have to worry about this at all, we've got plenty of hiking poles for everyone.
  • Wear your hiking boots on the plane to save space and weight in your luggage.  I learned this trick when I was travelling to Europe to guide, those hiking boots took up a lot of space in my check in luggage, so what I did is wear them on board and carry a small pair of disposable slippers to wear during the flight.  I didn't win any fashion awards that's for sure but it was much easier!
  • Take your quick dry hiking pants in your carry on luggage to change into on the flight.  This kind of light fabric is perfect for wearing on board, you'll be much more comfortable in something like this than heavy pants or jeans.

Which is the best airline to fly to New Zealand on?

While there are many different airlines that fly to New Zealand, our favourite is Air New Zealand. There's just something about that 'Kiwi' welcome which means that your New Zealand experience begins the moment you step on board.  They do things a little bit differently too, do a search for 'Air New Zealand Safety Videos' to see what I mean!  Check out the one with Bear Grylls on the Routeburn Track - we walk right on that very spot on Day 7 of our 'World Heritage Walking Tour'.  You'll love the friendly crew and it will be a great chance to dip your toe into all things New Zealand - including some great food and wine and even some off beat 'Kiwi' comedy on the in flight entertainment.

The main thing, however, is that it’s never been quicker or easier to come to New Zealand for your hiking 'Trip of a Lifetime'. So what are you waiting for?

Thanks for reading and I hope you find this information useful!  I talk to lots of hikers planning their New Zealand travel pretty much every day, and questions about flights come up all the time from people coming over to join our 'World Heritage Walking Tour'.  People tell us they love getting out into the best of New Zealand’s famous landscapes, on the best walks in the country and iconic activities included in the trip.  Then after all the fresh air relax in comfortable 4-star accommodation and savour delicious New Zealand food and wine in hand picked restaurants each evening.  Small friendly groups led by expert Kiwi guides just add to the fun.  See all about our ‘World Heritage Walking Tour' here.

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