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:
- Expand Your Lodging
- Confirm Your Reservations
- Study the Traffic
- Adjust Your Driving
- Exploit Domestic
- Investigate Your Bus
- Respect the Weather
- Adapt to the Wildlife
- Reconsider the
- Practice Proper Etiquette
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,
Check such sites as http://www.holidayhomes.co.nz/
- Homestays are
often like B&B’s with fewer guests.
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
night that compare favorably to $150/night B&B’s.
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
- 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
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.
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.
- Driving, the single weirdest driving rule is the extreme to
they take the “right of way” concept. This means
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.
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
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.