New Zealand

New Zealand

New Zealand’s Maori name is both romantic and apt – Aotearoa, meaning ‘land of the long white cloud’ brings to mind unspoilt landscapes and immense natural beauty, and with its beautiful extremes of rainforests and reefs, glaciers and volcanoes, you won’t be disappointed.

Located in the middle of South Pacific, to the south-east of Australia, New Zealand is made up of two long thin islands, with a land area not much larger than California, but has a surprising amount to offer. It is culturally fascinating, as home to a large population of Maori‘s, with plenty of opportunities to get a glimpse of their traditional way of life. It is also a very active country, both the people and the land itself, with more crazy and original extreme sports for you to try than any other country has ever dreamed up, and equally amazing geothermal sites. It is also has the world’s largest person to sheep ratio, and as a result, is home to a ‘world famous’ Sheep Shearing Festival – unarguably a unique country!

In no other country of this size can you scuba dive in one the top sites in the world, walk on glaciers, fly down stream on a jet-boat, taste world-class wines and spend Christmas on the beach. New Zealand is all about being the best – the highest, the fastest, the lowest, the longest, meaning that even the shortest visit will be a journey of discovery and you’d have to be quite a cynic to find nothing here to impress you.

NZ Landscape by jacksonkuo Flickr Creative Commons

Cash

The national currency is the New Zealand Dollar, NZ$, conversion rates are roughly as follows:
£1 = NZ$2
US$1 =NZ$1.1
1 Euro = NZ$1.6

Check with your local exchange bureau or the International Currency Converter for up to date conversion rates.

It is easy and comparatively cheap to travel, eat and stay in New Zealand, and thanks to the abundance of affordable and high quality hostels and campsites, it is possible to survive on US$40 a day. The biggest expenses you are likely to encounter are the many activities and tours that the country has to offer, e.g. skiing, bungee jumping, winery tours etc

People

The population of New Zealand is 12% Maori and 88% of European origin, (known as Pakeha). The country has a very small population, just 3.8million, with over a third in the biggest city, Auckland, which also has the highest concentration of Polynesian settlers.

Travel

Getting around here is generally easy, affordable and efficient, with buses being the most popular option. There are frequent services, covering a wide range of routes all over the country. There are two or three main service providers, and for the few routes that they don’t cover, there are minibus services, which can often be booked through the local tourist information office.
Internal flights can be quite cheap, and are good for long hops from end to end of the country, as this can take a long time overland. There are also a small number of trains, covering limited but very scenic routes, and the cost is little different from the bus. There are regular ferries that cross the gap between the North and South Islands, Wellington to Picton, taking you through the beautiful Marlborough Sounds. The ferry meets up with bus connections at both ends, but you’ll probably need a taxi to the station if you want to travel on by train.

Food

You’ll find that the cuisine here is much like that that found in America and the UK, and fast food is prolific and cheap. National specialities include a wide range of fresh seafood, and venison, while lamb and mutton are particularly common due to New Zealand’s infamously large population of sheep.

Language

English is the national language, though the more unusual colloquialisms might lead you to believe otherwise. There are also a small number of Maori speakers, most of them living on the North Island, but numbers are increasing with the heightened interest in Maori culture. Many place names are Maori, and with a little practice aren’t hard to get your tongue around, the least obvious pronunciation is ‘Wh’ which is said as ‘F’, while ‘u’ is always pronounced ‘oo’.

Climate

The weather and temperatures vary dramatically from one end of New Zealand to the other, due to the length of the country. Contrary to some thinking, New Zealand has a lot cooler and milder climate than Australia as it is situated much further south of the Equator. The northern tip of theNorth Island is sub-tropical, while the southern end of the south is much cooler and very wet – resulting in the area known as the Fjordlands.

A line of mountains form the ‘backbone’ of country, providing snowfields and glaciers, and much lower temperature, and also causing considerably more rain on the west coast than the east in the South Island.
The country’s busiest tourist season is November through to April, but temperatures are still comfortable either side, and the attractions will be less crowded, if coming in peak season (Christmas and New Year) it’s best to book well ahead. Mid-year is also ski-season for areas in the south island, and can be just as busy as the peak summer months.

Dress

Clothes and styles are the same as all other western countries, and thanks to the mild climate, you can dress completely as you would at home, but you just won’t fit in without your ‘jandals’ (sandals/flip flops) and ‘togs’ (swimsuit). If you’re planning to hike, (or tramp as the locals call it) make sure you bring appropriate cold and wet weather equipment and strong walking boots. If you’re coming from England, you’ll find that the outdoor equipment here is of a high quality and cheaper than in the UK, and there is a very good selection.

Visas

Almost all visitors can get a six month tourist visa on arrival, as long as they have a passport valid for three months past their planned departure from the country and proof that they have enough money to support themselves for their stay. If you want to work while you’re there you’ll have to apply in advance, work permits are for one year, will only be given to an individual once, and are in short supply. They are also generally only given to under 26’s, and allow you to stay in any one job for just three months at the most.

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