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Visiting New Zealand | A Brief Guide

New Zealand has a reputation for being one of the safest countries in the world to visit. Although most visitors find this to be true, you’ll still want to keep certain things in mind on your upcoming visit to New Zealand. Here we’re going to share some of our top tips for visiting this country which we recommend you keep in mind at all times when traveling around New Zealand.

What Languages are Spoken in New Zealand?

There are three official languages in New Zealand: English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language. You’ll find that government departments often have bilingual names, and bilingual signs are commonly seen throughout the country. Most people will speak to you in English when you are traveling the country, but you’ll find that people often refer to New Zealand itself by its Maori name, Aotearoa.

Weather in New Zealand

As far as the altitude of New Zealand, the mean height between the two islands is 483 m. The North Island’s average height is 298 m, whereas the South Island comes in much lower at 627 m. The climate between the two areas varies greatly, and you’ll find that throughout New Zealand, you experience multiple weather changes in just one day. The winter is between June and August, where you’ll find it to be much colder. Summer stretches from December to February, but you can still expect rain and wind during this season. Make sure you always pack a rain jacket at any time of the year, as well as a sweater and pair of pants. The far north has subtropical weather in the summer, but the South Island can drop to -10°C (14°F) in winter.

Summer is incredibly popular in New Zealand, and if you are visiting during the peak tourist season, you’ll want to book well in advance of your visit as accommodation is quite limited. There are plenty of great events taking place throughout the year, such as the Queenstown winter festival and the Chinese New Year celebration in Auckland and Christchurch.

Key Things to Keep in Mind When Visiting New Zealand

The legal to purchase and consume alcohol in New Zealand is 18, and you’ll have to show a passport, New Zealand driver’s license, or an HNZ photo ID card to make this purchase. It’s illegal to supply alcohol to minors, and there are alcohol bans in place in certain parts of the country where you can’t carry open alcohol around outdoors. The possession and use of drugs are strictly prohibited in New Zealand, including cannabis. Gun control is also strictly enforced, and only those with a license or permit can use firearms.

Transportation Options in New Zealand

One of the great things about New Zealand in comparison to other tourist destinations is that it’s much quieter for driving and traveling around the country. There are intercity buses between almost anywhere you would want to visit, and to get between the two islands, you’ll take the ferry from Wellington to Picton. Hiring a car is recommended for anyone who wants to travel off the beaten track or who loves a road trip. Make sure you check with the company you are hiring a car from about their policies for driving between the two islands. One thing to keep in mind here is the travel distance and time, as it can take longer than you might expect to go a certain distance due to the winding roads.

The speed limit for most open roads is 100 kilometers an hour, but the winding roads make it difficult to maintain this speed. They drive on the left-hand side in New Zealand, so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with this if you usually drive on the right. Sadly, tourist accidents are quite common, so make sure you take the time to learn the rules and regulations of the road first.

Cultural Considerations in New Zealand

If you are interacting with the Maori in New Zealand, it’s important to be very respectful of their culture and heritage. Try to learn a few phrases in advance of your trip, which will make your arrival and interactions more respectful of their culture. When it comes to tipping in New Zealand, this is only done for exceptional service, and 10% would be considered a normal tip. There are strict rules in New Zealand in regards to bringing food into the country. You’ll need to declare any food items in your suitcase, including fruits, nuts, and plants. You also must clean any dirty clothing or shoes before you enter the country and declare them to customs to minimize the spread of disease between countries.

Safety in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the safest countries to travel around, but there are a few things to keep in mind. The great news is that there aren’t any snakes, large predatory animals, or many poisonous insects here, with the one exception being the Katipo spider. When you are choosing where to stay and go in New Zealand, look for the silver fern Qualmark logo, which is the seal of approval for the country. It shows that somewhere meets the standards for sustainability, business ethics, and safety.

Compared to most other destinations, it’s one of the safest countries for solo travelers. However, make sure you avoid walking alone at night and always lock away your valuables in hotel rooms. There are few places to avoid visiting, but make sure you research hikes and adventures before setting off to ensure you are safe. Each town or city has an i-SITE, which shares maps and brochures about the local area. You’ll find the intercity buses stop right here, so you can book your next ticket or tour when you arrive. If you do find yourself in an emergency situation, dial 111 for the ambulance, fire, or police services. You’ll be asked which service you require and for details about your emergency.

New Zealand is a wonderful part of the world for visitors of all ages to explore. Although it’s a very safe country, just keep basic safety measures in mind at all times to ensure you have a great time on your next visit.

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