New Zealand travel guide
About New Zealand
Widely held to be one of the most breathtaking countries on the planet, New Zealand is a phenomenal travel destination. The rugged mountains and remote valleys that thrust the destination into the world’s spotlight through The Lord of the Rings trilogy tell only part of the story – you’ll also find beaches, fjords, lakes and gorgeous swathes of forest, not to mention age-old Maori culture, forward-looking cities and, famously, a world-class array of outdoor activities. Not only does it pack a punch as hard as an All Black tackle, but it’s also incredibly easy to travel around. What’s not to love?
Split into two main landmasses – the North and South Islands –New Zealand is a deceptively diverse and complicated destination that rewards both first-time and repeat visitors. The North Island is less visually dramatic than its southern counterpart, but it is home to around two thirds of the country’s inhabitants. The majority of the major urban centres are here, including the capital, Wellington, and the increasingly dynamic city of Auckland. But nature is still a major player, thanks to volcanoes, thermal regions and the magnificent Bay of Islands.
The South Island is home to far fewer people, but boasts the country’s most spectacular scenery. Empty beaches, soaring mountain ranges, glaciers, fjords, wide-open expanses – they’re all here. Outdoor enthusiasts can take their pick from tramping (hiking), cycling, climbing, white-water rafting, caving, zorbing, sky-diving, bungee jumping and more. Christchurch, a city bouncing back with extraordinary creativity from earthquake damage, is also here.
New Zealand has also developed into one of the cleanest and greenest countries in the world. There are 14 national parks throughout the country and almost a quarter of New Zealand is protected land. What else? There’s wildlife, wine and a cultural resurgence that’s seeing local films, literature and art gaining more and more attention.
A blend of Maori and European culture, coupled with breathtaking landscapes, provides New Zealand with a truly unique character.
270,534 sq km (104,454 sq miles).
4,565,185 (UN estimate 2016).
16.4 per sq km.
Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy since 2016.
Prime Minister Bill English since 2016.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs have three angled flat pins. Most hotels provide 110-volt AC sockets (rated at 20 watts) for electric razors only.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Crime levels are generally low, but street crime occurs in major towns and cities. Thefts from unattended vehicles, especially hire cars and camper vans in major tourist areas (the Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua and Queenstown) have increased. There has also been an increase in the number of thefts from hotel rooms in some tourist areas. Don’t leave possessions in unattended vehicles even if out of sight in a locked boot. Don’t leave valuables in hotel rooms. Use the hotel safe if possible. Keep passports, travellers’ cheques, credit cards, etc separate.
There have been a number of tragic accidents involving British visitors, including during extreme sports activities. If you are taking part in extreme sports check that the company is well established in the industry and that your insurance covers you. If you are visiting remote areas, check with local tourist authorities for advice before setting out. Make sure you register your details with a visitor information centre or leave details with family or friends. Weather conditions can quickly become treacherous in some areas. Keep yourself informed of regional weather forecasts.
You can use a UK driving licence to drive in New Zealand for up to a maximum of 12 months.
Although road conditions are generally good in New Zealand, it takes a while to get used to local driving conditions. Even the main highways can be narrow, winding and hilly. Read a copy of the Road Code – the official guide to traffic rules and traffic safety – before driving. Car rental companies should provide you with information about Whats Different About Driving in New Zealand.
In 2013 there were 254 road deaths in New Zealand (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 5.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2013.
You should take out private motor vehicle insurance. Accident victims don’t have a legal right to sue a third party in the event of an accident in New Zealand. Instead the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) helps pay for your care if you’re injured as a result of an accident. However, the ACC only covers the cost of treatment in New Zealand and delayed travel or loss of income in a third country isn’t covered. You should therefore make sure you have adequate travel and accident insurance.
Helmet laws are in force in the Cook Islands. Anyone using a bicycle, motorcycle or scooter must wear an approved helmet at all times.