Travel Tips

1. Getting to New Zealand

We would definitely recommend making a stopover on the way to New Zealand, if you have the time. Depending on where you want to stop, there are several airlines that fly to New Zealand.

Most airlines fly to New Zealand via Asia. We would recommend flying from Germany with Lufthansa or Singapore Airlines to Singapore, and then with Air New Zealand or Singapore Airlines on to New Zealand. A slightly cheaper alternative is to fly with Malaysian Airlines via Kuala Lumpur. I lived for several years in both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (“K.L”) and would be happy to advise you on some great options for stopovers in these cities. See also section 2 – Stopovers.

Alternatively, if you feel the urge to explore other cities in Asia or the Middle East (such as Bangkok, Hong-Kong, Seoul or Dubai) there are other airlines (such as Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific and Emirates) that also offer reasonable connections to New Zealand from Europe.

If you are interested in a Pacific Island stopover as part of your trip, you can fly with Air New Zealand via Los Angeles or San Francisco, and then stop in one of the beautiful Pacific islands (Raratonga, Fiji or the Cook Islands) on the way to New Zealand.

Most international flights to New Zealand arrive in Auckland.

2. Stopovers

Stopovers in Asia

KL3

Some people are put off by the long flying time to New Zealand. My recommendation would be to see the travel as an opportunity to experience the exotic allure of Asia on the way to the Pacific! Malaysian Airlines (flying through Kuala Lumpur) and Singapore Airlines / Lufthansa / Air New Zealand (flying through Singapore) both offer great connections from Germany to New Zealand, and the opportunity to stop off in K.L or Singapore for a day or two (or longer!) on the way. I have lived for years in both cities, and can give you lots of insider tips as to things to see and do in these fascinating Asian melting pots.

Both these cities have cheap and modern public transport, making it easy to get around if you have the energy to explore a little. I’d advise you to do your exploring in the morning or evenings though, when it’s cooler! To avoid the muggy heat of the middle of the day, I would highly recommend booking a hotel with a great swimming pool. Most good hotels also have poolside bars and restaurants, so if you feel you just need to relax after the flight, you can spend the day swimming, soaking in the sun, reading a book, and ordering Satay or Pad Thai (and even a Singapore Sling) to be delivered to you at the pool. My idea of heaven! Many hotels also have fabulous spa possibilities as well, so you could even pre-book a post-flight massage as an extra treat!

Singapore is a beautiful, clean, busy modern city, with fabulous dining and shopping opportunities. There are many things to do and see in a day or two stopover, such as taking an early morning or evening boat trip down the Singapore River or visiting the famed Singapore Zoo (the night safari is fabulous!) Little India and Chinatown also come into their own in the evening, providing glimpses into the fascinating cultures that make up the melting pot that is Singapore! There are also great eating options there as well.

SingaporeSkyline

Kuala Lumpur is less modern than Singapore, but crammed with fascinating mosques and temples, fabulous (and cheap!) food, and gives the traveller more of a glimpse into the real side of Asia. Taxis are cheap, as are many good hotels.

In both these cities, a day or two sitting by the pool, soaking in the warmth and humidity, and dipping into the city when you feel the urge, can be an exotic interlude as well as a chance to break up the travel.

PoolsideHands

Stopovers in the Pacific

An alternative to flying through Asia is to fly from Europe to Los Angeles, and then on to one of the pacific islands. Fiji, the Cook Islands, Rarotonga – these beautiful islands in the South Sea really look like as perfect as they do in their postcards!! If you want some warm relaxing days on beautiful white sand beaches, floating in crystal clear waters, and surrounded by warm hospitable locals, then this could be the perfect stopover on the way to New Zealand.

Fiji2

3. When to go

If you are flexible about when you travel to New Zealand, we would recommend going in late February or March or April. The weather is usually warm and sunny, the sea is still warm, and prices are much cheaper than if you travel during the high season (December to February).

The summer months in New Zealand (December to February) are the warmest months, but also the busiest. New Zealand children have long school holidays during this time (usually from just before Christmas until the end of January) and many New Zealanders use this time to holiday themselves. As a result, accomodation and car rental prices are more expensive during this time. Flights from Europe to New Zealand in this period are also more expensive than at other times of the year.  If you do visit New Zealand during the summer months, you will no doubt see the beautiful New Zealand Christmas flower, the Pohutakawa, blooming on trees along the coast.

Pohutakawa1

We have also traveled to New Zealand during the European summer holidays, and were pleasantly surprised at how warm and lovely it was. Winter in New Zealand (particularly in the North Island) is much milder than winter in Europe.  There is also great snow skiing in the South Island during this time (May to August) and lots of other activities to enjoy and things to see throughout New Zealand that are just as accessible in the winter.  And of course the accommodation costs and car rentals are much lower at this time of year.

There are also several festivals throughout the year that can provide an extra insight into local life and culture, and which can also be a consideration as to when to plan your trip. See Section 7 – Events and Festivals.

4. What to take

As set out in the Crowded House song, “4 Seasons in One Day”, it is best to be prepared for all seasons, no matter what time of the year you are travelling in New Zealand. Summer can be unexpectedly cold, and winter can be beautifully warm.

We would recommend packing clothes which you can wear in layers, and to pack a fleece jacket and a rain jacket, even if you are travelling in summer. If you are planning on doing any of the wild and wonderful walks in New Zealand, you will need a good pair of hiking boots. We would also recommend a hat or cap, to avoid sunburn.

Depending on how long you will be staying in New Zealand, you can also pack lightly by leaving toiletries (such as shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and sunscreen) at home, and buying them in a supermarket when you arrive in New Zealand. The common European brands like Nivea and Wella are available everywhere. Depending on the season you are travelling, it would also be a good idea to buy sandfly repellant when you arrive in New Zealand, as there can be real problems with sandflies around lakes and rivers and along the coastal regions.

If you are planning on renting a car while you are in New Zealand, you will also need an International driver’s license (or an English language license).

And of course don’t forget a good camera! There will be hundreds of amazing photo opportunities waiting for you!!

You should also be aware that because New Zealand relies heavily on its worldwide trade in agricultural products, it has a very strict policy about what you are allowed to bring into the country, so as to avoid pests and diseases being introduced into New Zealand. When you arrive in New Zealand, you will be asked at immigration to declare any “risk” items you may be carrying, including fruit, vegetables, animal products (such as honey), and camping equipment. If you fail to declare something which is later found by customs, you will have to pay an on-the-spot fine of $400 NZ dollars. Declare anything you think may be a problem, and a customs official will look at it, and return it to you if it is considered safe, or can be treated. (You might want to think about cleaning your hiking boots before you come to New Zealand, as the immigration department will want to check them when you arrive in New Zealand. If your boots are dirty, they will get cleaned and disinfected for free, but it may cost you some time at immigration.)

5. Exploring New Zealand

New Zealand has a good bus network, as well as some fabulous train trips, but we think the best way to see New Zealand is to rent a car or a campervan and explore at your own pace. Driving gives you the flexibility of stopping whenever you see something you like the look of (which I promise will happen often!) as well as discovering little out of the way places on the way.

39979QT00: Backpacker tourists and van above Hooper's Inlet on fine morning. Independent travellers. Otago Peninsula, Dunedin City Dist., NZ

One thing to remember though is that New Zealand doesn’t have many big motorways. Most of the time you will be driving on a single-lane road, with limited opportunities to overtake. So, it will usually take you longer to get somewhere in New Zealand than it would take to travel the same distance in Germany. Make sure you don’t end up being stuck in the car for long hours each day, by underestimating the time it takes to get somewhere!!

PureDrivingPleasureL571

6. Travelling with children

If you are flying to New Zealand with children, we would highly recommend flying at night if possible, and making only one stop on the way to New Zealand. If you make more than one stop, or have several day flights, the trip can become much longer than it needs to be! We usually stop in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur on the way, and let the kids have a day or two in a good hotel swimming pool, to wear them out so that they sleep through the next leg of the journey.  (And we get to sit by the pool and relax as well! Perfect for the whole family!)

KidsSwimming

Travelling with children once you get to New Zealand is easy. There are playgrounds everywhere, and plenty of beaches and parks for children to run around in and use up some energy. Even in the winter, the weather is relatively mild compared to European winters, and there is usually plenty of opportunity for the children to be outside. My kids even swim in the sea (admittedly in the North Island!) during the New Zealand winter.

There are also indoor playgrounds and heated swimming pools that can entertain the kids in the winter or if the weather does turn bad. Most restaurants are child-friendly, and as well as having high-chairs, will often have a child’s menu (or at least let you order a smaller-sized meal at a lower price). Most of the big museums have fabulous exhibitions focused on children, and also have cafes where you can all relax and stock up some energy in between exhibits!

7. Events and Festivals

FEBRUARY

February 6 – Waitangi Day (Waitangi)
On 6 February 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Maori and the British Crown. It is a public holiday in New Zealand, and in Waitangi (in the Bay of Islands) there are always special concerts and activities taking place to commemorate the day.

Marlborough Wine Festival (Brancott Vineyard, Marlborough)
This Festival usually takes place in early February, and is New Zealand’s original and longest-running wine festival. Visitors to the Festival have the opportunity to taste wine from around 50 world-class Marlborough wineries, as well as sample delicious cuisine and be entertained by live music throughout the day. Visitors particularly interested in wine also have the opportunity to attend a wine tutorial offered by the region’s leading winemakers and viticulturists.

Devonport Wine & Food Festival
This Festival takes place in picturesque Devonport, which can be reached by ferry from down-town Auckland. With over 20 New Zealand and international wineries, a wide variety of scrumptious cuisine, and of course live music to help wash it all down, this is a more relaxed version of the Marlborough Festival, and an essential part of the Auckland summer experience.

MARCH

Pasifika Festival (Western Springs Park, Auckland)
With around 140,000 Maori and large communities of Tongans, Fijians, Samoans, Cook Islanders and other South Pacific Islanders, Auckland has the largest Polynesian community in the world. This festival showcases the vibrant cultures of 11 Pacific Island nations.

APRIL

National Jazz Festival (Tauranga)
Every Easter, Tauranga hosts the National Jazz Festival, which is the longest running Jazz Festival in the southern hemisphere. There are inevitably lots of great jazz artists, as well as plenty of kiwi food and wine to accompany the music.

JUNE

Matariki (Northland)
Once a year, a cluster of tiny stars (the Pleiades), rises on the north-east horizon. These stars are known as Matariki to the Maori, and signals the start of the Māori New Year. Traditionally, it was a time for remembering the dead, and celebrating new life. These days, heaven-bound kites, hot-air balloons and fireworks help mark the occasion.

JULY

Queenstown Winter Festival (Queenstown)
This Festival to celebrate the arrival of winter is a ten day extravaganza involving around 45,000 participants, with street parties and parades, fireworks, jazz, international and local acts, a Mardi Gras, a masquerade ball and lots of activities on the mountain as well.

SEPTEMBER

World of Wearable Art Award Show (Wellington)
A two-week show featuring incredible hand-crafted garments, “where the human body is a canvas, where fashion, art and theatre collide, where nothing is normal, and everything is extraordinary” (www.worldofwearableart.com/about)

Auckland On Water Boat Show (Auckland Viaduct Harbour)
Held in Auckland’s magnificent Viaduct Harbour over four days, this is New Zealand’s largest boat show. The Show covers sailing, fishing, powerboats, paddle-boarding, water sports and pleasure cruising. The Viaduct Harbour becomes a giant floating boat showroom and the surrounding wharf is packed with all shapes and sizes of powerboats, yachts and personal watercraft.

DECEMBER

Pohutakawa Festival (Coromandel)
This festival celebrates the beginning of summer, and the flowering of New Zealand’s native Pohutakawa trees. The Pohutakawa’s stunning crimson blossoms can be seen at their best in the Coromandel at this time of year, and at the same time you can indulge yourself at the local markets, picnics, golf tournaments, live music, kite-flying, cruises, snorkeling, surfing and skate-boarding competitions that all take place as part of the Festival.

Rhythm & Vines
Wine, music and song in sunny east-coast Gisborne on New Year’s Eve. Top DJs, hip-hop acts, bands and singer-songwriters are all part of this annual New Year’s celebration.

 

8. General Travel Information

  • Banks & Cash-withdrawal – Accessing cash is easy throughout New Zealand. ATM’s (“Automatic Teller Machines”) are widely available in most towns. An international ATM card or credit card will work in New Zealand to withdraw cash from an ATM, as long as you have a 4-digit PIN encoded in the card. It is also worth checking with your bank in Germany to find out if they have a partnership with a bank in New Zealand. For example, clients of Deutsche Bank can withdraw cash from Westpac ATM’s in New Zealand without paying any withdrawal fees.
  • Driving – Vehicles in New Zealand drive on the left-hand side of the road, as they do in Britain, Australia and Japan. There are also very few multi-lane highways or motorways in New Zealand. As a result, it will usually take longer to travel a certain distance than in other countries, such as Germany. Make sure you don’t end up being stuck in the car for long hours each day, by underestimating the time it takes to get somewhere!!
  • Emergency Number – 111 is the number in New Zealand for police, fire or ambulance services.
  • Internet access – Free WiFi hotspots can be found in the larger cities in New Zealand, as well as in public libraries and i-SITE Visitor Information Centres. Some cafes and restaurants also provide a free WiFi service when you purchase food or drink. Many hotels and lodges will also have internet access available for their guests. However, small towns and rural regions have limited internet options, and if it is important to you to stay connected while you are travelling, we would recommend purchasing a plan from one of New Zealand’s main telecommunication networks (Vodafone, 2degrees or Telecom) for the duration of your visit. We can help you organise this.
  • Mobile phones – New Zealand has analogue and GSM digital networks. International mobile roaming is available with some providers. It is also easy to purchase a pre-paid SIM card with a New Zealand telephone number (and local rates) to use while traveling in New Zealand.
  • Passports & Visas – Passports must be valid for at least three months after the date you intend to leave New Zealand. Visas are not required for most visitors staying less than three months. For longer stays, a Visitor Visa may be required. For more information and to check requirements, visit the New Zealand Immigration Service website (www.immigration.govt.nz)
  • Tipping – Tipping is only necessary if you want to show appreciation for a hig level of service. Staff in New Zealand do not depend on tips for income.
  • Water – Tap water is fresh and safe to drink throughout New Zealand. Water from rivers or lakes needs to be boiled or treated before drinking.

9. Travel Insurance

We highly recommend having comprehensive travel and medical insurance in place for your holiday. You will have to make sure that you are appropriately covered against cancellation fees in case medical reasons preventing you from travelling. In addition you need to make sure that you have adequate medical cover in place in case you need medical assistance during your holiday.

At Koru Pacific Travel we accept credit card payments. Most major credit cards will include travel insurance if the card is used for payment of your trip. You should however check with your card issuer to make sure, and to find out the terms of such coverage.

10. Booking in Advance

New Zealand’s peak holiday season runs from November through to March. During this time accommodation and activities can become booked out. If you are planning to visit New Zealand during this time period, it is highly advisable to book accommodation, car rental, ferry travel and popular tourist activities as far in advance as possible.

Skiing is also popular in New Zealand, and the ski season generally runs from late May to mid-October, depending on the weather. If you’re planning to go skiing during your holiday, again, book accommodation as early as possible.

If you plan to do any of New Zealand’s Great Walks you should also book this as soon as you can. New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk, the Milford Track, is often booked out a year in advance, especially during the summer.

Mt Roy Track

11. Helpful websites