Auckland is the largest metropolitan area in New Zealand, with a population of over one million. It is in the northern half of the North Island, on a narrow isthmus of land that joins the Northland peninsula to the rest of the North Island.
This article only deals with Auckland City itself. In November 2010, four formerly separate cities were amalgamated. These four were Manukau in the south, Waitakere in the west, North Shore in the north and Auckland City itself, on and around the isthmus. These other cities, rural areas, small towns and the islands of the Hauraki Gulf can be found in the Auckland Region article.
Auckland is a modern cosmopolitan city with a population of 1.4 million people - roughly one third of New Zealand's entire population reside in Auckland.
The city and suburbs have developed within the same time frame and similar urban patterns as California (Los Angeles and Auckland have shared urban planning designs and are sister cities). Today the city and suburbs sprawl over a large urban area, hemmed to the east and west by two large harbours (Waitemata and Manukau) and ocean (Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea) beyond.
Many suburbs were once separate towns and offer examples of early European settlement (Devonport, Mission Bay, Parnell Village, Ponsonby and Howick are historic suburban centres that remain well preserved and contain good examples of Victorian, Edwardian, Deco and Bungalow residential styles).
An extensive tram system was removed in the 1960s and motorway systems have since been implemented, although recent efforts to return two areas to trams for tourism purposes (in the CBD Wynyard Quarter and at Western Springs linking the Zoo and Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)) have been successful.
Because of its large geographic sprawl (and urban design focus on motorway systems) public transport can be frustrating and is not cheap by international comparisons - however - most destinations within 5 km of the CBD and of appeal to visitors are served by frequent bus, train and ferry services from the Britomart transport centre (located in the downtown area of the CBD). An information desk operates at the ferry building and from inside the street level entrance to the train station with information for all public transport options across the city.
Regular ferry services depart the ferry building; with historic Devonport just 15 min away - the view of the city and islands of the harbour make this a highly recommended trip. Further away with plenty of good beaches, boutique accommodation, wineries and olive groves is Waiheke Island (45 min). Also worth a visit by ferry is Rangitoto (the large volcanic island that flanks the eastern horizon) - take good walking shoes, food and water to walk to the top - it can be very hot in summer - a bus service operates on some days for those that dont want to walk (enquire at the Britomart or ferry building information centre before setting out - and don't miss the last ferry back to the city as there is no accommodation on Rangitoto).
Popular areas on good bus routes include Ponsonby, Newmarket, Parnell, Mission Bay, Takapuna. A tourist explorer bus also completes a regular circuit of popular tourist sites. For travel to more distant suburban locations a car is recommended - many car hire firms have set up business in Auckland and rental rates are reasonable especially if renting for longer periods of time. Be aware that parking in Auckland can be complicated - make sure you read and understand parking control signs ( local government enforces parking fines and has no hesitation to have your vehicle towed). Be aware also of bus lanes (zones marked out on the road where only buses are permitted at certain times). These zones are also signposted but it can be easy to miss seeing them if concentrating on traffic. Fines are large and the authority administering is not tolerant.
The Auckland area was first settled by a confluence of Māori people of different tribes more than 700 years ago. From 1600 to 1750 the Tāmaki tribes terraced the volcanic cones, building pā(settlements behind protective palisades). Across the isthmus they developed 2,000 hectares of kūmara (sweet potato) gardens. These earthworks are easily seen on Mt Eden - a volcanic hill easily accessible from the CBD.
European settlement began in the early 1800s. The settlement resembled a shanty town in parts and ran along the gully in what is now Queen Street - alongside a creek (now under the road). The original shoreline remained until port reclamation and road development obscured it (although the original sea cliff can still be seen in Shortland St, Fanshawe St and along The Strand in Parnell). The port is the biggest in New Zealand and continues to grow but continued harbour filling is controversial.
In 1840 the city became the capital of New Zealand for 25 years and migration from Europe and Australia began in earnest. The University of Auckland celebrates 130 years in 2013 since it was founded in 1883 and historic buildings and fortifications can be seen on campus.The War Memorial Museum (which houses a good collection of early Māori and European settlement on the ground floor and top floor respectively) was built in 1929 and the eight lane Harbour Bridge (linking the North Shore to the rest of the city) was completed in 1959 (and carries some 170,000 vehicles per day).
Dominating the midtown skyline of the CBD is the Sky Tower - an observation, restaurant and telecommunications tower completed in 1997. It is 328 m (1,076 ft) tall, as measured from ground level to the top of the mast, making it the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere.
Auckland is often known as the "City of Sails" for the large number of yachts that grace the Waitemata Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf. It could also be known as the "City of Extinct Volcanoes". Much of its natural character comes from the fact that it is built on the Auckland Volcanic Field which consists of about 48 volcanoes. All of the volcanoes are individually extinct but the volcanic field as a whole is not.
Auckland is the largest city in Polynesia. For some Polynesian island nations there are more expatriates living in Auckland than in their homeland. Auckland's rich Pacific cultural mix is celebrated at festivals and sporting matches.
Auckland often rates well in international quality-of-life polls, consistently rating in the top five. Culturally, the city is an interesting mix. As Europeans only settled in New Zealand less than 200 years ago, an immigrant culture is prominent - many migrants from the British Isles and their immediate offspring populate the city. The city has attracted a sizeable population of Asians and Pacific Islanders in recent years and in some areas Asian migrants represent 50% of the enrolled voting population. Along with changing demographics and decentralisation of commerce to suburban nodes, the central city has witnessed significant residential influx over the last decade. Education facilities and related services, many aimed primarily at Asian students, now represent a significant portion of commercial and residential building use in the CBD.
The indigenous peoples of New Zealand are the Māori, a large portion of whom have emigrated from their tribal villages in the last 60 years to cities such as Auckland. Representing about 11% of the city, most of these Māori are fully integrated into the urban culture and many are estranged from their tribal roots. Intermarriage rates have been substantial, so rather than appearing only as a prominently distinct ethnicity, an entire spectrum from European white to Māori has emerged. Like many indigenous peoples, the Māori suffered historical injustice/genocide at the hands of the colonizing British, though since the 1960s a revival of the Māori culture and language has emerged with New Zealand now celebrating the distinctness of its native inhabitants. Though most Māori speak far better English than Te Reo Māori, New Zealand added native Māori as an official language in 1987; however, English is overwhelmingly dominant.
Many think that central Auckland does not have enough green space. Instead of parks having been planned as centre pieces of the city from inception, as most other British Empire cities were, Auckland parks were after-thoughts, located on marginal land, as if no one ever expected Auckland to grow beyond being a port town. Meyer's Park (previously a shanty town, bought for the city by the Meyers family) is tucked out of the way in a gully. Albert Park is difficult to access but well worth a visit and adjacent to the University of Auckland main campus and historic buildings. Further up, Grafton Bridge crosses an historic cemetery where it is an easy walk to the Botanical Garden and Domain - although not actually in the CBD proper.
Even though if you live in the CBD, you still need a car since the best shopping is in the suburbs. To get there driving a car is recommended as public transport is not efficient, since it doesn't really work and is not properly integrated. Yet very few city apartments have car spaces!
Auckland is situated in a temperate climate zone and, as such, does not experience hot or cold extremes at any time of year. The summer months are from December through to March. The sun is very strong during this time and it is advisable to use sunscreen and cover exposed skin from prolonged exposure.
April to June brings cooler temperatures and rain toward the end of June which persists through winter until September and October.
Westerly airstreams predominate throughout the year and it is not unusual to experience weather systems that affected Sydney and Melbourne just a few days before - nor is it unusual to see occasional high altitude haze from summer wildfires in Australia; making for spectacular sunsets.
Humid and moist conditions are usual in all seasons. There is no monsoon but tropical cyclones spin down from the Pacific Islands a couple of times a year bringing damaging winds and heavy rain. Rainfall is never far away especially outside the summer months - outdoor activities should be planned with an alternative inside option in case it rains at any time of year. Localised tornadoes occur infrequently in summer months (they have always occurred but only recently been reported as the areas where they occur have only been developed within the last decade).
Summer brings settled dry weather systems most years from early January - but being a maritime environment with no continental land mass it is not unusual to have wet summers also. Winter brings chilly temperatures and overnight frosts to sheltered suburban areas. Snow flurries are a once in a generation event.
Best time for beach swimming is between late December to May.
Auckland International Airport (IATA: AKL) - New Zealand's largest airport and one of three international gateways. It's been voted top airport in the Asia Pacific region for the fifth year in a row and been awarded top prize for best staff service in the region for the second year running. Auckland was 12th best overall airport in the world and second globally for airports that handle 10 to 20 million passengers a year in the 2013 SKYTRAX World Airport Awards.
Auckland is well connected by frequent non-stop services to the rest of the world.
# Destinations requiring transit lounge layover but not requiring a change of aircraft
## Seasonal schedule
Freeinternet Wi-fi for one hour is provided throughout the airport.
A special area is provided for assembling bikes that have been crated for air transport: ask one of the security guards.
International check in desks are located on the ground floor. Arriving passengers come into the ground floor at west end of the terminal.
The food court and shops on the first floor in the departures area before security provides comfortable seating and electricity sockets to recharge devices. Tired passengers can get a bit of snooze time - or for a better rest there is a modern hotel located within the parking zone - five min walk from the terminal.
A well positioned public viewing area and seating area is up the escalator beside the first level food court. A small games arcade and children's play area is also located there.
A news stand, information booth and a coffee shop is located in the arrivals area - nearby escalators will take you to the first level if you want the food court.
ATMs, currency exchange booths and Duty Free and souvenir shops are on both sides of security.
Lockers are available in the terminal for $15 per day.
If you have time between flights:
A free shuttle bus loops between the International and Domestic terminals every 20 min. It's a 5 min ride. Otherwise, a paved uncovered walking path is well signposted - follow the blue line painted on the pavement for guidance. The path is level and suitable to take luggage trolleys between the terminals.
The airport's located 25 km to the south of central Auckland and 15 km west of Manukau's centre, in the south of the greater conurbation on the shore of the Manukau Harbour.
Transport from the airport to central Auckland and suburbs includes bus, shuttle van and taxis. Parking is plentiful for private motor vehicles and car hire firms are located in the area. If driving, orientate yourself with a map first - and remember NZ drives on the left (passenger side always at the curb or road edge unless on multiple lane roads).
Airbus Express - (24 hours) - Weekdays: every 10 min 07:00-19:00, Weekends: every 15 min 06:00-19:00, Evenings: every 20 min 19:00-23:59, late night: every 30 min (00:01-06:00).
From/to Downtown Auckland (next to the Ferry Building) via Queen Street. Alternating Dominion Road or Mt Eden Road - Domestic & International terminals.
Journey time 40 minutes.
One Way: Adult $16 / Child $6
Return: Adult $28 / Child $12 (A child is under 15 years old)
Tickets can be purchased from Airbus Ticket Kiosks (located at the Airport), direct from an Airbus Driver (cash only), or on-line.
For central Auckland bus 380 departs every 30 min daily 05:08-23:38 from both the Domestic and International terminals and takes about 20 min and $3.40 to Papatoetoe Train Station from where suburban trains connect to Britomart station in another 33 min (if the schedules meet up) and $5.60. The bus departs from the same stop that the Airbus uses.
For Manukau City Centre retail and travel hub; check with the driver and stay on the the 380 bus.
Day passes (Discovery Pass - see Getting Around section) cannot be purchased on the 380 bus but can be used if already purchased on another public transport service prior to boarding.
Shuttles will pick up/drop you to the door of your destination - which can be an efficient and quick option if you are the only passenger - less so if you are the first or last of six passengers to be picked up/dropped off. Rates are set by zone and do not vary much between drivers/companies. It is usual for a driver to wait for other passengers going vaguely the same way as you. There are regulations as to how long a driver can wait after the first passenger arrives at the van. If you turn up and other passengers are already loaded but going to another part of the city, the driver will direct you to the next shuttle in line.
Approximate prices for one person in a shuttle to various destinations:
Taxi fares may be $50-100 from the airport to a city location, about the same as it costs to hire a car per day. Taxis are metered and wait in a rank outside terminals. A cheaper option might be to negotiate a flat fare (if you are familiar with fares and think you can cut a deal). Otherwise, it is possible to call one of the many taxi companies and enquire how much they will charge to take you to your destination - then have the cheapest pick you up from the Drop Zone immediately outside the terminal. Doors into the International Terminal are numbered. For clarity, advise the driver which door you will wait outside of.
Many car hire firms operate within close proximity to the airport or nearby suburbs and have free shuttles from airport terminals. Best deals are often when booking in advance of arrival. If you arrive on a public holiday and expect to pick up a car without a booking, you could be out of luck or asked to pay grossly inflated rates.
The InterCity Sky City Coach Terminal (located at 102 Hobson St, behind Sky City Plaza) is the main hub for national carriers InterCity Coachlines and GreatSights New Zealand. Regional Northland operator Northliner also departs from this location. Facilities include an InterCity Coachlines ticketing office, free wifi, cafe and luggage lockers.
The Overlander train runs from central Wellington to Britomart Transport Centre at the north end of Queen St in central Auckland. The 681 km (423 mi) journey takes about 12 h. The trip runs much of the length of the North Island with stopping-off opportunity at Tongariro National Park. In a single day you will pass every kind of scenery: coastline, volcanoes and mountains, green farm pastures and dense New Zealand bush from $119.
There are a variety of ways to get around including bus, train, ferry, taxi, shuttle and hiring your own car. You can use the MAXX website to find ways to get round Auckland using public transport. MAXX also has a text messaging service which can be used to find out the time of the next bus, ferry or train or to find the quickest way to get to your destination using public transport.
Auckland is a very car-dependent city and for most tourists used to extensive public transport systems, frustrations can mount. It may be more prudent to hire a car if you wish to do a lot of cross city travel, particularly if you plan on leaving to see the nearby natural beauty, though roads frequently become heavily congested and driving standards can be poor. New Zealand law allows you to drive for up to a year if you have a licence in your home country or an International Driving Licence.
The Britomart Transport Centre on the corner of Queen Street and Customs Street is the main information centre for public transportation in Auckland. You will be able to find free bus, train or ferry schedules in this centre. Timetables are also downloadable from the MAXX website.
The Auckland Discovery Pass provides a good value day pass for unlimited bus and train travel across the city and on ferry services to Devonport. The pass can be purchased on buses at train stations and the ferry building for $16. The pass does not cover travel on the Airporter bus.
Another option is the Explorer Bus sightseeing tour which runs regularly around an inner city loop to main attractions, and which you can hop on and off as you please.
Bus is the most-used method of public transport in Auckland, making over 55 million passenger trips a year. The network can work for you with a bit of planning (decide first where you want to go then consult with the MAXX website or downtown information centre at Britomart).
For a fun way to see the city, why not buy a day pass and hop on and off buses (and trains and ferry) all day?
Be aware that generally the further your destination the longer it will take to get there (and back) - some exceptions (such as Hibiscus Coast) where express (Flyer) buses operate during peak commuter times making use of exclusive arterial and motorway lanes.
It's usual to hail (wave) as the bus you want approaches so the bus driver will know (bus stops can be used by a number of routes - these sometimes have displays showing the times the next bus is expected).
Most bus drivers will let you know where to get off - ask when you get on the bus - otherwise, ask a fellow passenger or consult your smartphone map GPS location and ring the bell when you approach your destination.
Buses usually depart on time but often face traffic delays en route. Frequency of services in the CBD and inner city suburbs usually mean little waiting until the next bus arrives.
Bus services operate every day from early in the morning. Higher frequency services operate during commuter times. Last buses are around 11pm except for [Night Buses] ten routes that depart the CBD to distant suburbs and points in between in the early hours of Friday and Saturday night.
Most bus routes of importance to the traveller will terminate/originate in the CBD.
The Link bus operates three loop routes around the CBD and inner city suburbs and pass many areas of interest - the Link bus will always end up back at the place you started so you can never get lost - stay on the bus and see it all for one low flat fare or combine with the Discovery Pass to hop on and off where you like.
If you want to explore Auckland's more distant suburbs, it's possible to take a service from the CBD to a hub where information and further connections are available. Hubs are located in larger suburban centres - retail malls, entertainment facilities and (depending on destination) beaches are never far away.
The bigger hubs are (buses only unless otherwise indicated):
There are several bus operators serving different routes. The largest operator, NZ Bus, operates services under several brands.
Brands operated by NZ Bus includes: City Link, Go West, Inner Link, Metro Link, North Star, Outer Link and Waka Pacific.
Paper tickets for single trips are charged based on the amount of stages travelled. When purchasing a paper ticket you will need to tell the driver how many stages you wish to travel. If you are not sure, tell the driver your destination and the driver will tell you how much it costs. Or use Auckland Transport's on-line journey planner to calculate the cost of your journey in advance. Some services, such as the Airbus Express, City Link and Inner Link, have a fixed price regardless of how far you travel.
Day passes can be purchased on-board the bus Generally bus companies have their own day pass products which are only valid on their services. Some passes, such as NZ Bus's Busabout pass, have additional restrictions, such as validity for travel only after the morning peak on week days. These passes are usually reasonably priced since there are restrictions on their use.
However most bus companies also offer the Discovery Day Pass which is valid for travel around much of the Auckland region on most public bus, trains and ferries except Airbus Express buses. The trade-off is that this pass is the most expensive day pass option. Unless you know which companies you will travel on, it is often best to get the Discovery Day Pass unless you get a better deal by paying for each trip individually.
For travel on the North Shore there is a Northern Pass. Birkenhead, North Star and Ritchies offer day or week passes which covers all travel on any bus operator within the North Shore. It is also possible to buy a pass which includes travel to/from the city. You can buy day passes on buses operating North Shore routes and at busway stations on the North Shore.
No day passes can be purchased on the Airbus Express and they do not accept any day passes for travel on their services.
Currently each bus operator has their own ticketing system. These independent systems are being progressively being replaced by an integrated ticketing system called HOP during mid-late 2013. Some operators have an existing smart card system for prepaid travel and/or monthly passes which will continue to operate until the change-over to HOP. It is advised to only buy smart cards when you are certain you know which operator(s) you will encounter on your travels. For short term visitors it is usually cheaper and less hassle to use paper tickets and/or day passes.
Snapper smart cards
Snapper cards can be used to pay for trips on buses operated by NZ Bus. Confusingly, Auckland has its own smart card called the HOP card, of which there are two versions. The original HOP cards are actually Snapper cards with HOP branding which can only be used on services that accept Snapper cards. The newer HOP cards can only be used on services that accept the newer non-Snapper HOP cards. To put it simply, any card with the Snapper logo (including older HOP cards with a small Snapper logo on the back) can be used on NZ Bus services. This excludes newer HOP cards with the Auckland Transport (AT) logo on the front which are not Snapper cards.
When boarding the bus you need to to 'tag' on by touching your card against a Snapper card reader at the front of the bus. Make sure to hold your card flat and still against the reader until you see a green circle appear on the reader. Then when you leave the bus you 'tag' off by, again, touching your card against any of the Snapper card readers on the bus. The card reader will automatically calculate the correct fare for your journey, based on where you tagged on and tagged off, and deduct the amount from the prepaid balance on your card. Snapper cards can also be used on NZ Bus services in Wellington so if you intend to travel to Wellington it would be worthwhile to keep your card for use in Wellington.
Other smart cards
Urban Express is currently the only bus operator to have joined the HOP integrated ticketing scheme. Auckland Transport (AT) branded HOP cards can be used on their services, as well as rail and ferry services. Other bus companies will follow suit during mid-late 2013.
Other bus companies offer smart cards and/or paper passes which can only be used on their own services. These companies currently include Airporter, Birkenhead, Howick and Eastern and Ritchies. Birkenhead currently operates a paper-based system until they change-over to HOP. The other operators have their own smart card systems. When all operators have switched over to HOP, only the newer HOP cards, with Auckland Transport (AT) branding, will be accepted on all public transport services.
Travel by train is a good option if you are near a train station and you intend to travel on weekdays. While the train service has had a bad history due to under-investment, it has been improving in recent years due to increased investment in train carriages, increased number of services (especially on weekdays) and the upgrading of many of the train stations. Currently all services are operated by diesel trains, however electric trains will be introduced from 2014.
There are five lines in the Auckland train network:-
Service reliability on the Onehunga and Manukau lines are generally good with approximately 90-95% of trains running to schedule. On the Eastern, Southern and Western lines only approximately 70-80% of services run to schedule. However it is worth noting that during peak times, these lines provide a good option for travel due to the much more frequent services being operated on those lines.
The road network experiences severe congestion at rush hour. The geography of Auckland constrains the network to a limited number of routes. Auckland has a comprehensive road networks for a city its size, but lack of investment in public transport means the city is largely dependent on private cars.
It is often easier and cheaper to hire a car instead of using taxis, simply because the city is so large and spread out.
Auckland city is well covered by the main global car rental companies, such as Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty & Europcar. All car rental companies offer competitive pricing for economy class vehicles and unlimited mileage options. Local car rental companies like Apex & Jucy may also offer competitive pricing.
The three main motorway systems running through Auckland are the Northern Motorway (from Orewa to the Central Motorway Junction (CMJ) a.k.a. Spaghetti Junction), the Southern Motorway (from the CMJ past Bombay Hills, where it merges to the Waikato Expressway), and the Northwestern Motorway (from Auckland Port through CMJ to Westgate). These motorways clog up during the morning rush in the CBD-bound direction, and the same thing happens in the opposite direction during the evening rush. The Harbour Bridge has a method of mitigating this traffic load - it changes the lane system from 4-4 to 5-3 favouring the side which has the heavier traffic load, so be careful when crossing the bridge during different times, some lanes might not be there at some times!
Some motorway on-ramps have traffic lights operating in busy periods - they allow one car to proceed every three seconds to ease the merging onto the motorway. Cameras are operating to catch red-light runners.
The museum displays collections of significant importance and offers scenic views of the Waitemata Harbour and islands of the Hauraki Gulf from a prominant position in Auckland Domain.
It was constructed in the 1920s as a war memorial to those that fought and died in theatres of war. The cenotaph located on the grounds below the steps leading up to the museum entrance is the focal point for annual ANZAC day rememberance services. The top floor records names in stone as well as sombering tombs and lists of war events and their locations.
The museum contains excellent exhibitions of Māori and other Polynesian peoples' arts and crafts and daily Māori cultural performances (ground floor) as well as geography of the Auckland region. There is a planetarium and a recreated old town street representatve of Auckland in early days of European settlement (top floor).
The historically important winter gardens are nearby and well worth the short walk from the Museum to see impressive flower bed displays, tropical plants and statues (free).
Auckland Domain is Aucklands oldest park and also hosts weekend sports events.
Auckland is surrounded by nature and much of it is free to enjoy. For days when rain sets in there are plenty of indoor recreation options.
From fashion districts to flea markets, department stores to malls and retail parks - shopping is as much a recreational activity for Aucklanders as watching for the latest sale (discount promotion) is a sport - big retailers are only too happy to oblige - widely advertised sales and offers are announced daily. Competition keeps prices reasonable - although supermarket (food) prices are expensive when compared with some countries in Europe.
Credit cards and cash
ATMs for cash withdrawals are plentiful in high pedestrian areas and at malls.
Most retail shops and supermarkets accept credit cards and EFTPOS (an electronic card similar to a credit card linking directly to your (NZ) cash account). At markets and smaller shops/food outlets pay with cash or EFTPOS. Some larger retailers and supermarkets allow cash back when paying with EFTPOS (i.e. amount deducted from your account is the sum of the goods purchased plus the amount you wish to take from the retailer in cash).
Bank branches prominently display current exchange rates and many have an exclusive currency window. There are also exchange booth operators in tourist areas. Some tourist or souvenir shops might exchange foreign money for purchases (usually at inferior rates) - otherwise, presenting anything other than $NZ will get you a blank stare.
Haggling and bargaining
Haggling or bargaining on marked prices is not customary in NZ - there are exceptions on higher priced goods if you need to save a few dollars (whiteware, electronics and motor vehicles for instance). Simply ask the retailer if there is a discount for cash when you are pricing items... this may get an on the spot reduction (usually a split of the % that would otherwise go to the credit card or finance company). Retailers are not permitted to add to a marked price if you wish to pay with finance or credit card.
New Zealanders are a bit shy to haggle over small items - try asking for a discount if buying more than one of something at a market...
A 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST) is applied to all goods and services sold in New Zealand - including (controversially) food items incl bread, milk, fruit and vegetables, and books. It's not a perfect world - petrol is already heavily taxed before the 15% GST is added - effectively a tax on a tax.
Prices on display include GST. Unless otherwise stated you should not be charged extra at the checkout (although the till receipt may document the sales tax component of the total amount).
Sales Tax Refund: the bright side (for international visitors) is New Zealand has a tax refund arrangement on goods purchased (over a certain value) and taken from the country when the visitor leaves.
How the process works:
Duty Free" shops
Another privilege of being an international visitor is that you may purchase goods on arrival and departure at Duty Free shops - without paying another tax known as Duty. These are the shops you pass by on the way to immigration - or the very large up market duty free department store DFS Galleria in Customs Street West (downtown CBD).
Duty free prices are generally better than buying at full New Zealand (or Australia) retail (i.e. with tax included) but in recent years international competitiveness on electronics and tobacco items seem to have slipped... much better prices are available at the beginning/end of a long haul flight to Asia or Middle East. Cosmetics are another item you might want to check the price of internationally - you might find that jar of moisturiser is cheaper at Bangkok or Heathrow. You can often buy New Zealand beer and wine on sale cheaper at Auckland supermarkets.
Also, make sure you dont exceed your duty free allowance - and be aware of the allowance of your destination if leaving New Zealand. Duty may be requested if you taking more than you are allowed to.
You will need to present your airline ticket or boarding pass to get duty free prices.
The downtown area of the CBD has a number of souvenir shops for a range of budgets. Check around the lower Queen Street and lower Albert Street area. Also inside the Downtown shopping centre and DFS Galleria on the corner of lower Albert Street and Customs Street West.
Hobson Street (at the top end) has a couple of large shops also stocking honey and health products.
Auckland Museum has a well stocked shops as does the Zoo. The airport has souvenir items both before and after immigration.
The High Street/Vulcan Lane/O'Connell Street area is the Fashion centre of Auckland Central and has local designer stores as well as international brands. Look out for womenswear in Ruby, Moochi, Ricochet, Karen Walker and Agatha Paris French Fashion Jewellery as well as many other international brands.
For menswear, visit Little Brother, Crane Brothers, and World Man. For New Zealand and international brands in both mens and womenswear, see Workshop, Brave, Browns and Fabric, along with Ashley Ardrey for shoes.
Made on Customs St West (parallel to Quay St, near to the Britomart transport centre). Recently, some of New Zealand's notable designers moved their flagship stores into this new Britomart precinct, including Zambesi, World and Kate Sylvester.
Womenswear in Zambesi, Karen Walker, World, Cybele, Sera Lily, Miss Crabb, Hepburn, Jaimie stocking local and international brands (Vivienne Westwood), IsaKelle, and various other stores, including Sybella for shoes.
Karangahape Road (K' Rd)
Cultural stores such as Third Eye (Indian), Buana Satu (Polynesian), vintage stores like Fast and Loose and Vixen (St Kevin's Arcade), designer stores like Girl and Vicky Sudarath (both St Kevin's Arcade) and Adrian Hailwood. Across the road from St Kevin's, find Illicit and Miss Illicit. Tattoos from Dermographic, also in Ponsonby.
Branches of the many stores listed above, as well as a few others. Nuffield St is home to Lucy Boshier (a local designer), Trelise Cooper Kids (upscale kids clothing from the New Zealand designer), and Superette (predominantly Australian designers). Look to Teed St for Drop Dead Gorgeous - offering brands such as Stella McCartney, Chloe and 3.1 Phillip Lim and Muse offering international labels such as Diane von Furstenburg, James Perse, and Rebecca Tayl stenbeck&morse stocks directional New Zealand & Australian labels such as Jimmy D, Cybele, Deborah Sweeney and Josh Goot.
Malls offer an ambient environment with good retail options and typically have a food court and cinema multiplex within the facility, if not nearby. Specialst as well as large New Zealand department stores (Warehouse, Farmers, K'Mart), along with large supermarket chains, add scale - many families and teens make malls a destination after school, on late nights and on weekends.
Auckland has one CBD mall and a number of suburban malls. Here is a selecton:
Suburban malls can be reached by bus and in some cases by train, however, a car is often the most convenient and efficient way of crossing the urban sprawl - and mall car parks are plentiful (and free). Late night shopping hours are usual on at least one night of the week.
Large urban retail zones in typically newer suburbs upwards of 15km from the CBD. Big box/large format stores and outlets. You drive within these areas if doing serious shopping - bring a car or buy one in the area.
Here is a selection of suburbs where you will find them:
Auckland has a vast selection of eating choices reflecting a diverse ethnic mix with budget, mid and high end markets well catered for.
There are some good cheap food courts (food halls) offering a variety of usually Asian foods usually priced around $10.
Try next to the Queens' Arcade at the bottom of Queen St (slightly hidden entrance), or the Metro award winning Food Alley at 9 Albert St.
Very good value and good quality non-Asian choices are available at The Stables located in Elliott Street. Also on Elliott Street is a good quality food court of predominantly Asian food Atrium on Elliott.
The Ponsonby International Food Court has the cheapest eats in this somewhat pricey neighbourhood with the Mexican stall a standout among the Asian stalls.
There is also a popular food court at 184 Karangahape Rd (with a mini buffet) and at the nearby Chinese supermarket at the bottom of Mercury Lane.
Also on "Karangahape Road' is Hare Krishna Food For Life (286 Karangahape Rd) with $5 vegetarian morsels.
Suburban malls are a good choice for good quality food at reasonable prices (see the Malls section). 277 Broadway (Newmarket) is the closest mall to the CBD.
For kosher food, the Auckland Jewish Community Centre, which includes the Auckland Hebrew Congregation, has a kosher shop located on Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD (right next door to the Duxton Hotel) and is open every day except Mondays, Saturdays and Jewish festivals. It includes a large range of kosher products.
Bed & breakfast
Auckland is generally a fairly safe place to visit.
However, be careful in these areas: Karangahape Rd (K Rd): A large number of pubs and clubs and cafes are located here, but care should be taken late at night and you should avoid being alone or intoxicated during very late hours on Friday and Saturday night. Taxis frequent the area at these times and should be used if you are not confident or familiar with the city. Taxi fares are set by meter and shouldn't cost more than $15 within the CBD.
Queen Street: During the day, this is a respectable shopping area, and after dark, there are usually still a large number of pedestrians and traffic until the early hours of the morning so the area it is relatively safe. On Friday and Saturday nights, there are typically many heavily intoxicated people wandering up and down the street. Some may seem intimidating, but they are usually more interested in getting to their next drinking destination than anything else. An increasing number of homeless people sleep around this area, but they are unlikely to bother you except a plea for loose change.
Fort Street: Once the centre of Auckland's red light district. Fort Street is now considered backpackers street with 3 major backpackers' hostels calling it home. During the day you can drink at one of Fort Streets many cafes and dance the night away in one of Fort Streets many bars.
High Street/Vulcan Lane: During the day, this is an elegant and upmarket shopping area. At night, it gets quieter, but on weekends, there will be a large young crowd at the various bars and clubs along the street, and is usually quite safe. Police regularly patrol this street on weekends for disorderly drunk youths.
Viaduct Harbour: Many bars are located here, and care should be taken late at night as intoxication levels rise.
Theft from parked motor vehicles is not uncommon - ensure your vehicle is locked when parked and do not leave valuable items in view - better still, do not leave anything of value inside your vehicle.
The emergency number for police, ambulance or fire service is 111, free from any phone.
There are many internet cafes around the CBD area with prices ranging from $1 per half an hour to $5 per hour, however free internet is available from the public library (limited 100MB per IP address per day).Furthermore there are also free wifi internet in the skycity foodcourts. There are 40 HotSpots that offer WiFi connectivity, most notably Esquires cafe (inside Skycity Queen Street, Middle Queen Street, Lower Queen Street, Nelson Street), Starbucks (Victoria Street, K' Road, Lower Queen Street) and various other cafes around Auckland.
See the New Zealand article for information about mobile phone and associated data networks.
Go wine tasting on Waiheke Island. Waiheke is home to some fantastic wines and has some of the best beaches in the area. Can get crowded during the weekends, but very quiet during the week. It seems a world away from Auckland, but is only 35 minutes by ferry.