Ten New Zealand Travel Tips

Traveling in New Zealand is pretty easy all in all for Americans. A
fast Kiwi accent can be a challenge but we caught on fast enough.
Still, there were a few things we had to learn the hard way once we got
here. We’ve heard some of the exact same things come up from other
travelers, especially Americans.

Here is our Top Ten to speed up your learning curve:

  1. Expand Your Lodging
    Options
  2. Confirm Your Reservations
  3. Study the Traffic
    Rules
  4. Adjust Your Driving
    Time Expectations
  5. Exploit Domestic
    Flights
  6. Investigate Your Bus
    Passes
  7. Respect the Weather
  8. Adapt to the Wildlife
  9. Reconsider the
    Environment
  10. Practice Proper Etiquette

1. Expand
Your Lodging Options

Holiday homes, homestays and backpackers are often excellent
alternatives to B&B’s.

  • For two or more people staying anywhere two nights or more,
    you can often find a bach
    (short for bachelor) or holiday home
     
    where you have full amenities and complete independence for similar
    prices to B&B’s. They do take some effort to arrange,
    though.
    Check such sites as http://www.holidayhomes.co.nz/
    or http://www.holidayhouses.co.nz/.
  • Homestays are
    often like B&B’s with fewer guests.
  • Backpacker
    hostels

    are not just for YHA members. The NZ version is a unique type of budget
    lodging that can vary from the standard youth hostel to a low budget
    B&B.  We have even found small backpackers with rooms
    for $60
    night that compare favorably to $150/night B&B’s.

2. Confirm Your
Reservations

i site (image)

Personal contact makes things happen.

  • In the US, it’s often easier to use online booking, but
    here you are better
    off visiting or calling directly and talking to someone. Visiting an iSite and
    letting the staff call for you counts. In fact, iSites outshine tourist
    bureaus in most other countries giving excellent, free personal travel
    planning help.
  • Plane, ferry and bus ticketing are a positive exception- we
    have had very easy and trustworthy online booking.
  • Confirm anything booked over one week ahead. You can
    prevent all
    manner of headache by contacting a day ahead to reconfirm, but Telecom
    rates are very expensive, so if you have a mobile phone and they
    provide a mobile contact (all 021 and 027 numbers), try texting. If
    using phone booths, get a calling card (widely available in corner
    shops and internet cafes) but ask about payphone surcharges.

3. Study the
Traffic Rules

Although NZ will let you drive with a US license, you still need to
learn to walk
and drive carefully
.

  • Cars on the wrong side of the road aren’t the
    half of it.
    Outside signals, pedestrians do not have right of way except in zebra
    marked crossings. This means that at an intersection without a signal
    or zebra, cars don’t check for pedestrians, at all. In zebra
    crossings, though, people will step out without even looking and cars
    will be irritated if you hesitate.
  • sign (image)

  • Driving, the single weirdest driving rule is the extreme to
    which
    they take the “right of way” concept. This means
    you always
    give way to the right, even if you are slowing to turn left and an
    oncoming car is turning right across traffic into that street. (In the
    US, if you are making a left turn across traffic you give way to all
    oncoming cars, even right turners. Here, that would be making a right
    across traffic, and you still give way to cars going straight, but cars
    turning left must give way to you.) Expect to get honked at for
    forgetting this. Right of way does work well in roundabouts, though.

4. Adjust Your
Driving Time Expectations

The roads are almost all small, country roads, even if they appear on a
map to be a main highway.

  • Americans used to estimating driving times at 60mph need to
    rethink things a bit.  Here, using 50kph (that’s
    30mph) is often a
    much more accurate
    guideline
    . That makes every trip effectively about
    twice as long you would think.
  • Driving here is hard work and you will be more tired after
    4
    hours than after 8 hours of cruising a US highway. Even a passenger
    expecting a nap will instead get a stomach muscle workout just trying
    to stay upright.

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