A New Zealand holiday experience is like no other. Its spectacular beauty is unique as is the huge range of fun and varied activities on offer.
You'll find a variety of awesome landscapes in New Zealand, all within easy reach of each other. Spectacular glaciers, picturesque fiords, rugged mountains, vast plains, rolling hillsides, subtropical forest, volcanic plateau, miles of coastline with gorgeous sandy beaches - it’s all there. No wonder New Zealand is becoming so popular as a location for movies.
Important part of the country’s uniqueness are doubtlessly its traditional fauna and flora, as since New Zealand drifted away from the super-continent, unique species of plants and animals have evolved, leaving a land full of interesting creatures. Its high rainfall and many sunshine hours give the country a lush and diverse flora - with 80% of flora being native.
New Zealand has also a rich and fascinating history, reflecting its unique mix of Maori and European culture. Maori were the first to arrive in New Zealand, journeying in canoes from Hawaiki about 1,000 years ago. A Dutchman, Abel Tasman, was the first European to sight the country but it was the British who made New Zealand part of their empire. You'll find amazing Maori historic sites and taonga (treasures) - as well as beautiful colonial-era buildings - dotted throughout the country. A walk around any New Zealand city today shows what a culturally diverse and fascinating country it has become.
Today, of the 4.4 million New Zealanders (informally known as Kiwis), approximately 69% are of European descent, 14.6% are indigenous Maori, 9.2% Asian and 6.9% non-Maori Pacific Islanders.
Geographically, over three-quarters of the population live in the North Island, with one-third of the total population living in Auckland. The other main cities of Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton are where the majority of the remaining Kiwis dwell.
As members of a unique and multicultural society, many Kiwis have wholeheartedly embraced urban living, café culture and an appreciation for new culinary tastes, fashion and the arts. Kiwis are as likely to visit an Asian restaurant or modern art gallery as they are to attend a local rugby game. Whilst the lure of urban dwelling has ingrained itself on many, there is a sizeable rural population and farming is a major export earner. While the traditional exports of wool, meat and dairy products are still very strong, new products, including Cervena (New Zealand venison), flowers, fruit, biotechnology and wine are now also contributing greatly to its exports.
New Zealand has a temperate climate with moderately high rainfall and many hours of sunshine.
While the far north has subtropical weather during summer, and inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as -10°C (14°F) in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures.
The average New Zealand temperature decreases as you travel south. January and February are the warmest months, and July is the coldest month of the year. In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20-30ºC (70-90°F) and in winter between 10-15ºC (50-60°F).
Time zones in New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the first places in the world to see the new day, 12 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
In Summer, New Zealand uses 'Daylight Saving', with clocks put forward one hour to GMT +13. Daylight saving begins on the last Sunday in September and ends on the first Sunday of the following April, when clocks are put back to GMT+12.
New Zealand's unit of currency is the dollar (NZ$). All major credit cards can be used in New Zealand, with Visa and MasterCard accepted most widely, followed by American Express and Diners Club. Coins have values of 10, 20 and 50 cents, $1 and $2. Notes have values of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.
Foreign currency can easily be exchanged at banks, some hotels and Bureau de Change kiosks, which are found at international airports and most city centres.
Having the right passport and visa organised is the key to a trouble free entry into New Zealand. When you arrive in New Zealand, you’ll need to be carrying a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond your intended departure date. Many people will qualify for visa-free entry, but depending on your country of origin, some will need to apply for a visa before they travel.
Driving in New Zealand
If you're used to driving in the city, you should take care when driving on New Zealand's open country roads. There is a good motorway system in place but weather extremes, the terrain and narrow secondary roads and bridges require drivers to be very vigilant.
You can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months if you have either a current driver's licence from your home country or an International Driving Permit (IDP). After 12 months you are required to convert to a New Zealand licence. This applies to each visit to New Zealand.
In New Zealand all drivers, including visitors from other countries, must carry their licence or permit at all times when driving. You will only be able to drive the same types of vehicles you are licensed to drive in your home country. The common legal age to rent a car in New Zealand is 21 years.