Travel Tips

Some interesting, personal tips when traveling around in New Zealand.



The most important rule about walking in New Zealand is please leave the gates as you find them, i.e. close them as soon as you’ve walked through them, or leave them open if the landowner has left them that way.


At the West-Coast (also known as 'Wet-Coast'), make sure you wear insect repellent against the sandflies, as they can give nasty bites, which will bug you for days.


You might have booked a scenic flight, boat trip,… which are weather dependent. The weather is very unpredictable! Try to have a bad weather replacement activity in case the trip gets cancelled. And try to have at least 2 days at those locations, so you might be able to do the trip the next day…
We had 4 out of 7 excursions cancelled because of the weather.

›Guide "Lord of The Rings Location Guidebook"

Available at AmazonIf you're a fan of the Lord of The Rings movie trilogy, you will love Lord of The Rings Location Guidebook (-$NZ25), the definitive guidebook on all locations used in the movies. Author Ian Brodie is a devoted Tolkien fan, director of the NZ Fighter Pilots Museum in Wanaka, and an established and successful aviation writer. It is lavishly illustrated with photographs of the locations, stunning movie stills provided by New Line Cinema, cast and crew contributions, interesting URLs, and even GPS locations (!). Not only LOTR locations, but also where the cast and crew went for dinner, shopping, ... This is where we got the tip for the Belgian brasserie 'Leuven' in Wellington. Else we would probably never have known.
More info on the publishers' website.

›Internet connection

If you drag your laptop with you, get a SNAP dial-up internet connection from a local PC store. For 20 NZ$ you get 28 days access through nationwide 'freephone' numbers. Some hotels might charge you a connection fee though. If you’re staying in B&B you might not always have a phoneline in the room to use, as we experienced.
But remember, you're on a holiday! Don't spend too much time on the pc!

›Mobile Phone

If you have a GSM mobile phone, you can use it in NZ too. For local calls (like confirming your excursion bookings, etc...), you could buy a prepay connection pack from Telecom NZ or Vodaphone. A Vodaphone starter pack (with your own number) is NZ$ 35, pre-loaded with (a miserable) $5. You can add a $20 pre-pay recharge to get around. You could use roaming with your current home account, but that would be ridiculously expensive (I guess).

›About driving

I guess you already know about the fact they drive left in NZ. But one thing worth mentioning is one of their 'give way' rules, which is quite unique for NZ apparently (they don't do it in Australia, nor Hong Kong, Singapore. Don't know about UK.) In simple terms, it is the following: " At intersections, give way 'yield' to all traffic crossing or approaching from the right." If you want to turn left, but the car from the other direction also wants to turn to his right (the same road you want to turn into), you have to give way 'yield' to him, because he is approaching from your right. I was at an intersection where I wanted to turn right, waiting for the other cars to pass, but the other one stopped and flashed his lights. I though 'friendly people here, stopping for me'. But now I guess, they must have tought 'bloody tourist'. I hate to think about the times I didn't give way to the other traffic.
For Americans and Canadian visitors: "You cannot turn left when the stop light at an intersection is red."
(source: Land Transport Safety Authority)

›Driving Guide "Driving Scenic New Zealand"

Driving Scenic New Zealand by Dave Chowdhury (-$NZ30) combines a driving guidebook and road atlas. A total of 52 colour maps covering most of New Zealand's best scenic driving routes, each of which is accompanied by an interesting guide to the touring highlights covered on the map: what to do and see when you are on the road, scenic spots, nature walks, where to eat and drink, distances and times, where the toilets are, and where to buy petrol. It's a helpful guide, but sometimes the information was pretty basic. We would like to read some more info on some of the highlights. We bought it in Franz Jozef, but you can get it in advance at the publishers' website.

›New Zealand Tourist Radio

Whenever you encounter a blue road sign indicating that you are within a broadcast area of New Zealand's tourist information FM radio,you can get English broadcasts of local accommodation, services, and activities, as well as cultural and historical information, 24 hours a day, on 88.2 FM. There are even transmissions of the same information in Japanese (at 100.8 FM) and in German (at 100.4 FM).

›GPS navigation

Some rental cars may provide a GPS, a nice feature, but remember the shortest route often isn't the fastest route, as this Australian couple can tell you when they traveled from Chirstchurch to Nelson Normally a 3 hour trip, turning into a 10 hour offroad journey.

›Radio Channel

In between the big cities, it's continuously searching for a decent radio channel. But in the vicinity of the big cities Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch we listened to Channel Z.
›Auckland: FM 93.8
›Wellington: FM 91.7 & 94.7
›Christchurch: FM 99.3
You might want to bring some tapes or cd's (if your rental car has a cd player...) for on the road.

›And finally

Don’t rush through NZ, take your time! Better to spend one holiday on the south island, and another holiday on the north island, than rushing through both, as we did.
We drove about 4600 km in 17 days, and missed out on a lot of things along the way.

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Jean-Jacques Halans ©2003-2005