The ridiculously beautiful New Zealand is home to 4 million people over its two main islands, the North and the South.
It is best known for being the adventure capital where every activity is geared towards getting you outdoors. From hiking, biking, sky-diving, bungy jumping, Skiing, Surfing and much more, there is something for everyone.
There are a few things to note about this wonderful country which we would like to share with you in the hope that it will make your trip as smooth and special as possible.
♦ Customs. These guys take things very seriously so be prepared before you go. Food is an issue to take into New Zealand so declare anything you have with you and make sure that it is completely unopened as they will check it.
Any camping, bikes, hiking gear (especially boots) need to be completely clean. Our bikes and boots were checked and its very lucky that they were spotless as its a $400 fine minimum!
♦ Its remote. In comparison to Australia, New Zealand may look like a spec of dust but do not be deceived. Its has the 9th largest coastline in the world and it can take a lifetime to get from one town to the next. Bare this in mind for long journeys – Make sure your car tank is full to the brim before leaving any town.
♦ Weather. The phrase, ‘four seasons in one day’ is often used to describe New Zealand’s weather which changes frequently due to its maritime climate. Be prepared for the weather to suddenly change – Keep waterproofs on you. Also be sure to keep check on your itinerary as some trips may be cancelled due to bad weather – especially flights and boat trips.
♦ Accomodation. In a hostel, dorm room are usually around $20-$35 NZD whereas privates are about $50 NZD and doubles start around $70. If you are looking for something a little more private check out holiday park non-powered cabins, we have stayed in double rooms for $40 in some places. Hotels are where it gets a little pricier and average at about $90 per night.
If you are thinking of camping – The sites usually charge around $15 per night. However New Zealand is big on Freedom Camping (camping for free). You can either scope the DOC website or we’d recommend downloading the New Zealand WikiCamp app. It costs about $3 but it will save you accomodation for the entirety of your trip as there are free camps everywhere. Thanks to this app we have found ourselves in some amazing spots which we would never of seen before.
♦ Transport. Firstly, if you decide to drive you will need to know the following – New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road, you must wear a seatbelt, obviously not drink and drive and you will need a current and valid drivers licence. If your licence is not English then you may need to get a international driving permit.
Thinking of buying a car or a camper? We would recommend checking out the ‘Backpacker Cars New Zealand’ Facebook page or taking a look on Trademe. Having car insurance is not a requirement however it is strongly recommended. We insured both us us in a 2L BMW for $4o per month with Youi – its worth the peace of mind!
Hitch hiking is very common in New Zealand and is the most cost affective way to get around. We have done it a couple of times and picked people up too with no issues. New Zealand in general is a pretty safe place to hitch and its legal. If you leave enough space for a car to see you and stick your thumb out you will not be waiting long for a ride. However, as with all things it can be dangerous so if you have any concerns or fears, just don’t do it.
If you are looking for a hop-on/ hop-off bus pass then the Kiwi Experience is probably going to be a backpackers best option. The bus drivers on these coaches will help you book accomodation and tours all along your route and often you will get great discounts.
♦ Internet. The internet in New Zealand is not great – Its slow and expensive so be prepared for this before your arrival. If your in need of some wi-fi get yourself to a McDonalds or a Library where they offer it for free.
♦ Sandflies. These are small, relentless and are found anywhere where there is flowing water and native bush which, is more or less the whole coast line of New Zealand. We have found that the worst place for them is the West Coast of the South Island. Be sure to bring some DEET repellant and a good after bite cream with you.
Now that you know all the, ‘need to know before you go’ bits… we hope you have a wonderful, stress-free trip. And if there is anything we’ve missed, we would love to hear from you – Just drop a comment below.