A former British colony, the majority of the population is of European descent, with a sizeable indigenous Maori minority and smaller minorities of various Polynesian and other groups.
A modern but sparsely populated country, it boasts natural beauty and a wide range of outdoor and adventure activities.
New Zealand consists of the two main North and South islands and a number of smaller ones:
New Zealand follows general Commonwealth useage in only describing conurbations that are the seat of a bishop as "cities".
It's the country that's magnificent in New Zealand and we only list nine of the most prominent settlements. Here they are from north to south:
New Zealand was named god's own country and 'paradise of the pacific' as far back as the early 1800s and travellers generally agree it deserves that description.
A common mistake is to allow insufficient time for a visit. (Since it's a long and expensive way to go for most people, many folks end up spending all their time in Australia and then wishing that they had spent an equal or longer time in this very variegated archipelago).
Relax and allow at least three or four weeks for each island!
Lonely Planet named New Zealand the world's top travel destination for the second year running (2003/2004), and it was voted best long-haul travel destination in the 2004 Guardian and Observer’s People’s Choice award. It has won the award in three out of the past four years. At the 2005 Condé Nast Traveller Awards, readers voted New Zealand as the best holiday destination in the world. New Zealand is also known by the Maori name of Aotearoa, which is usually translated as "(Land of the) long white cloud".
New Zealand consists of two main islands and many smaller ones in the South Pacific Ocean approximately 2000 km southeast of Australia. With a population of four million in a country about the size of the United Kingdom, many areas are sparsely settled.
Auckland, the largest city (about 1.25 million), is the largest city in Polynesia.
Settlement and history
New Zealand was the last significant land mass to be inhabited by humans, both in terms of indigenous settlement and European domination. This, combined with geological youth and geographical isolation, has led to the development of a young, vigorous nation with a well-travelled, well-educated expatriate population of 1,000,000. (1 in 4 born New Zealanders and 1 in 3 between ages 22 and 48 have left their place of Birth for more favorable locations). It also has some spectacular scenery, flora and fauna.
The Polynesian Maori reached New Zealand in about 800 AD. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, in 1642, was the first European to see New Zealand, and his mapped coastline appeared on Dutch maps as "Nieuw Zeeland" from as early as 1645. British naval Captain James Cook rediscovered, circumnavigated and mapped the islands in 1769. A few people (mostly sealers, whalers, traders and missionaries) settled during the next 80 years and the islands were administered by the British colony in New South Wales.
In 1840, with the assistance of missionaries, the Maori agreed to accept British sovereignty over the islands through the Treaty of Waitangi. More intensive settlement began that same year. A series of land wars between 1843 and 1872, coupled with political maneuvering and the spread of European diseases, broke Maori resistance to land settlement, but left lasting grievances. In recent years the government has sought to address longstanding Maori grievances, and this is a complicated process. In 2005, the Maori Party was formed, in part in response to the Government's law on the Foreshore and Seabed but also to promote an independent Maori perspective at a political level.
The British colony of New Zealand became a dominion in 1907. It was offered complete independence under the 1931 Statute of Westminster, although it did not adopt this until 1947. However the Constitution of Australia permits New Zealand to join as another Australian state. New Zealand supported the United Kingdom militarily in the Boer War of 1899–1902, as well as both World Wars. It also participated in wars in Malaya, Korea and Viet Nam under various military alliances, most notably the ANZUS treaty with Australia and the United States.
New Zealand's elite has strongly opposed the testing and use of nuclear weapons. Nuclear armed warship visits meant that the Parliament enacted anti-nuclear legislation in the mid-1980s. This led to the abandonment of New Zealand's commitment to the ANZUS defence alliance. The New Zealand military continues be limited in capacity to take roles in UN- peacekeeping operations worldwide as often as its budget can bear.
New Zealand Standard Time is 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). New Zealand utilises daylight saving in summer. From 30 September 2007, daylight saving hours will be changed to extend the period to 27 weeks. It commences at 2am on the last Sunday in September (clocks go forward an hour) and ends at 2am on the first Sunday in April (clocks go back an hour) of the following year. During daylight savings time New Zealand is 13 hours ahead of GMT. The Chatham Islands have their own time zone, 45 minutes ahead of the rest of New Zealand.
The "national sports" in New Zealand are rugby union and netball in winter, and cricket in summer. The Super 14 season runs from February to May, and the National Provincial Championship runs later in the year. The national team, the All Blacks, generally play matches at home during June through to September, mainly in the Tri Nations.
New Zealand has a temperate climate in the south island and sub-tropical climate in the North Island and the nature of the terrain, the prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts. Temperatures sometimes exceed 30°C and fall below 0°C only in the elevated inland regions. Generally speaking, rainfall and humidity is higher in the west than the east of the country due to the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges and the prevailing westerly/north westerly winds.
Part situated in the "Roaring Forties", unsheltered areas of the country can get a bit breezy, especially in the centre, through Cook Strait and around Wellington. The winds seem to be stronger around the equinoxes. In the winter, southerly gales can be severe but they also bring snow to the ski-fields and are usually followed by calm clear days.
New Zealand is one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to forecast the weather. Although the weather is changeable, there is certainly more sunshine and warm temperate temperatures to enjoy in summer. It is not uncommon, especially on the South Island, to experience four seasons in one day.
The weather is mostly influenced by fast moving weather systems in the strong westerly winds (often referred to as the ‘roaring forties’) that predominate over southern parts of the country and seas to the south. There tends to be a seven day cycle associated with these westerlies as a cold front sweeps over the country associated with a couple of days rain, somewhere over the country. Often though these westerlies are disrupted by large high pressure systems (good!) or by storm systems (not so good!).
During the summer and early autumn months (from about December to April), the westerlies tend to move south giving more settled weather. Always be prepared for a change though. Also, during this time, random weather systems from the tropics can make their presence felt, mainly over the North Island, with a period of warm wet windy weather.
Winter weather (May to August) tends to be more changeable. Cold fronts often bring a period of rain to western areas followed by a cold wind from the south bringing snow to the mountains and sometimes to near sea level over eastern parts of the South Island. When the weather turns cold and wet in the east, to the west of the mountains it will be fantastic. At this time of the year it is not uncommon for high pressure systems (and clear skies) to park over the whole country for long periods bringing crisp frosty nights and mornings followed by cool sunny days.
In spring, from August to November, the westerly winds (on average) are at their strongest – these are called the equinoctial westerlies. It tends to rain more in western areas at this time (especially in the South Island), while in the east, warm dry winds can give great cycling weather. Once again though, a cold front and its accompanying south winds can give you a taste of winter at any stage.
Arrivals are by plane or occasionally by boat (typically cruise ships through Auckland).
There are international airports at Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown. The main gateways are Auckland and Christchurch, with Auckland servicing more than 20 destinations and a dozen airlines, and direct connections from Christchurch to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Singapore, and Tokyo. All the smaller international airports service flights to Australia or the Pacific Islands only and are limited to B737 or similar size aircraft.
Due to its large third world expatriate population and Polynesian and Melanesian communities, New Zealand has more extensive direct flight options to South Pacific nations such as Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and the Cook Islands than most other countries except big brother Australia.
Visas and documentation
All visitors who are not citizens of New Zealand need a passport to enter. Australian passport holders may enter New Zealand without a visa and stay as long as they wish without restrictions (including on employment). British passport holders can be granted a visa-free Visitor's Permit for up to six months on arrival. Citizens of a large number of other countries can be granted a visa-free visitor's entry for up to three months on arrival, check the list of Visa Free Countries. All these waivers, including the one for Australians, can be refused. In particular, potential visitors with criminal records or who have been refused entry to or deported from any country should check with New Zealand immigration about whether they need to apply for a visa.
Visitors from countries not in the visa-free list or those wishing to stay longer than the maximum visa-free period for their nationality, will need to apply for an appropriate visa. Check the Immigration New Zealand web page for details.
Because the economy is based on agriculture, importing even small quantities of most food, as well as unprocessed animal or plant materials is tightly controlled. These restrictions are designed to limit the spread of animal and plant diseases and pests. New Zealand has some very strong biosecurity laws, which are taken seriously by enforcement officials and as a game sport at border control. In addition, importation or possession of most recreational drugs, including cannabis, is illegal.
At ports of entry, both the Agriculture and Customs Services will inspect passenger baggage and confiscate and fine heavily for any prohibited items (like the New Zealand grown apple you were finishing off from on the plane). Items that must be declared include: any kind of food; any plant material; any animals, animal material or biological specimens; dirty or soiled sports gear, footwear, and used camping gear and anything that may have been in contact with soil, been used on a farm or has been used with animals. If travelling with golf clubs and shoes, make sure you clean them before your trip. It is also a good idea to remove spikes from your golf shoes.
Commercially-packaged food is usually allowed through Customs. If you are unsure it is best to declare any questionable items as the immigration officers will be able to tell you if it needs to be cleaned or disposed of before entry. Instant fines of many hundreds of dollars can be issued at the pleasure of border control staff if prohibited items are not declared. Some items may be taken for sterilisation or fumigation before being released to you.
If not declared or the quarantine section of the arrival card is not correctly completed, an instant fine of at least $200 may be freely applied. More serious breaches may result in a fine (up to $100,000) or a prison term (up to five years). Either declare items as required or dump them in the amnesty bins before you reach customs.
Domestic flights in New Zealand are quite reasonably priced, and are often cheaper than driving or taking the train, especially if crossing between the North and South Islands is required.
Most airlines operate an electronic ticket system. You can book on-line via the internet (cheapest), or by telephone or through a travel agent (more expensive). Pay using a credit card and just turn up on the day (with the card and photographic ID to prove who you are) and fly. However, you should also bring a copy of your itinerary to serve as proof of your planned departure for the purposes of securing a travel visa.
Check-in times are usually 30 minutes prior to flight departure. Cabin baggage and personal scanning are routinely conducted for services from the major airports that have jet landings.
Only Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington airports have timetabled public transport in the form of buses. Regional airports generally have only on-demand shuttle services and taxis.
If you're interested in your carbon footprint, the transport you choose while you move around and explore New Zealand will be of interest to you.
Landcare Research, , New Zealand's foremost environmental research organisation, has conducted independent research into carbon footprints and found that using modern coach transport will create up to a 90% lower carbon footprint than driving yourself in a modern 2.0 litre motor vehicle. (Note: This is unlikely to apply to older coaches.)
Of course, using a bicycle is even better!
You can bring your own bike, as well as hire a bike in some of the larger cities. You must wear a helmet while riding, otherwise you may be fined. When hiring a bike you should be supplied with a helmet. Also remember to ride on the left.
Riding bikes in New Zealand can be fun, but be aware of (tourist) buses and trucks on main highways as overtaking distances can be slim. You should also be prepared for the large distances between towns and cities and the generally windy weather. While some areas of New Zealand are flat, most tourists cycling in New Zealand will find that they need to be able to cope with long periods of cycling up hills, especially in the Coromandel.
Being a temperate coastal climate, the weather is changeable and it is recommended that cyclists have all options covered. It is often said that in New Zealand you can get four seasons in one day, particularly in the high country (or Middle Earth as it is known to those who are familiar with the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies). Due to ozone depletion above NZ and Australia, burn times in the summer are often shorter relative to elsewhere in the world, and a factor 15 or greater sunscreen is essential to avoid the discomfort (and danger) of sunburn.
Flying with your bike can be expensive and problematic with limiting weight restrictions and many cyclist choose to get a bike on their arrival to New Zealand. This offers the additional benefit of not being stuck with a bike when you take on other activities, such as walking, and saves the tricky job of repacking for flights. Christchurch has the largest number of guided and self-guided tour operators and there are a number of bike rental companies based there also.
Buses are a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to get around New Zealand. Most roads in New Zealand are quite narrow and winding, and travelling a long distance in a bus can be a safe and relaxing way to travel.
See also: Renting a motorhome in New Zealand
See also: Driving in New Zealand
Driving around both the main islands by car is generally not a problem. You can reach almost anywhere you might need to in a two-wheel-drive car or even a small camper van. You do not need four-wheel drive to reach the best places. The volume of traffic is normally low and drivers are usually fairly courteous. Within the cities, traffic density is higher and some confusion may set in, given that many drivers are used to the open roads.
Car rental firms range from the familiar multi-national big brands through to small local car rental firms. The advantage of the big name rental firms is they can be found throughout New Zealand and offer the biggest and newest range of rental vehicles. The disadvantage is that generally they are the most expensive. Occasionally rental firms offer free rental in the direction from south to north due to the majority of tourists travelling in the opposite direction, creating a deficit of cars in the north.
At the other end of the scale are the small local operators who typically have older rental cars. Whilst you may not end up driving this year's latest model the advantage is that the smaller car rental firms can be substantially cheaper, so leaving you more money to spend on the many exciting attractions New Zealand offers. Between these extremes you will find a wide range of NZ car rental firms catering to different needs and budgets.
If you want to have a low cost holiday greater than about 2 weeks in New Zealand, and you would prefer to have your own transport then the best solution is to buy your own car/van. Upon arriving in the country, you would purchase a low cost vehicle which you sell just before leaving. Note that if you use this method travel across Cook Straight can be expensive, if you are going super-low budget (purchasing a car for say NZ$500 or less) it would be wiser to buy and sell a car in each island separately. In addition to the usual ways to look for a car (newspapers, accommodation noticeboards etc) New Zealand's biggest online auction website Trademe has many listings.
The following things need to be checked in order to safely purchase a vehicle in New Zealand:
Car insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand but at least third party insurance is recommended. Diesel vehicles have additional requirements, as diesel is significantly cheaper than petrol but there are additional charges based on distance travelled.
Self drive holidays are a great way to travel around New Zealand as they offer independence, flexibility and opportunities to interact with the locals. A number of companies offer inclusive self drive holidays with rental car & accommodation, pre-set itineraries or customised to suit your interests.
South Pacific Travellers World New Zealand  Professionally planned self drive holidays allowing you to travel at your own pace in the vehicle of your choice - rental car, 4 wheel drive or motorhome - with comfortable driving times and time for sightseeing and photo stops en route.
New Zealand is the motorbike rider's dream country! Motorcycle rentals of many makes are available throughout New Zealand.
Hitchhiking around New Zealand is generally possible on most inter-city and major rural roads. It is illegal to hitchhike on motorways and illegal for motorists to stop there to pick you up. Try to get out of the middle of town, especially where public transport operates. Wear your pack and look like you're touring the country rather than just being a local looking for a lift. You have as much chance of being picked up by another tourist as a local, particularly in tourist areas. Alternatives for travellers include organising shared rides through hostels, or using an online ridesharing resource like Hitch New Zealand.
Inter-city rail passenger services are operated by Tranz Scenic, but have become increasingly limited due to the dysfunctional services, and the focus is now on popular tourist trains and very high cost ticket tours, in particular:
Trains run at low speed, sometimes dropping to 50 km/h in the summer due to the narrow gauge and lack of track maintenance following privatisation in the 1980s. Most New Zealanders prefer to drive or fly, as train fares are comparatively expensive.
To get your car between the North and South Islands you will need to take a ferry across Cook Strait. There are several sailings daily between Wellington and Picton. But be prepared for a delay or a change in sailings if the weather is stormy.
Harbour ferries, for commuters, operate in Auckland and Wellington. A number of communities are served by boat, rather than road, while charter boats are available for expeditions in several places. There are regular sightseeing cruises in several tourist destinations, particularly in the Southern Lakes and Fiordland area.
For thrills, there is the New Zealand-designed jet boat. You can even travel on the very rivers that inspired this craft.
Outdoor and adventure activities include:
There is more, but we are exhausted just thinking about it.
English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages of New Zealand. English is universal, and is written with Commonwealth ("British") spelling.
New Zealand English is one of the major varieties of English and is different enough from other forms to justify the publication of the Oxford New Zealand English dictionary. A (seldom-used) expression for New Zealand English is Newzild.
Word usage may also differ occasionally, in potentially embarrassing ways for the traveller. Several words that Americans may consider offensive, or have euphemisms for, are considered acceptable usage. For example: A New Zealand bathroom refers to a room containing a bath while the other facilities that an American might refer to as a bathroom or washroom are known as a toilet. The American habit of "bleeping" swear words from broadcasts is considered quaint and rarely done in local programming. The New Zealand broadcasting media are unusually tolerant of swear words when used in context.
The New Zealand accent is somewhat nasalised with flattened vowel sounds and vowel shifting. New Zealanders consider their accent to be markedly different from the Australian one and are often mildly offended when mistaken for or confused with Australians. New Zealand terminology and slang are also different from Australian usage. Americans find New Zealand accents easy to understand, so do Australians and British. Some European dialects find it slightly harder and Asians may find it rather hard to understand, New Zealanders are quite happy however to repeat what they just said if necessary.
Maori is actively spoken by a minority of both Maori and language learners. Maori is available as a language to study in, instead of English, at many educational institutes. The Maori language is spoken by some, but not all, Maori and a few non-Maori, especially in the far north and east of the North Island. Many place names are in Maori and for the traveller some knowledge of Maori pronunciation is very useful.
New Zealand Sign language was given status in 2005 as an official language of the country.
See also: Maori phrasebook
Generally, New Zealand English expressions follows British English. However, New Zealand English has also borrowed much from Maori and there are a number of other phrases that are not commonly encountered elsewhere or may confuse the visitor.
Maori words and expressions
The New Zealand dollar is used in New Zealand. A few traders do accept foreign currency, particularly in tourist destinations. As of April 2007 the conversion from US dollars to NZ dollars was approximately 1USD=1.35NZD.
New Zealanders are amongst the highest users of electronic banking services in the world. Automatic teller machines (ATMs), locally known as 'the hole in the wall', are available in just about every town, even those without a bank. Most shops have Eftpos (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point Of Sale) terminals for debit and credit cards, so most purchases can be made electronically. Credit cards are not accepted by some merchants with Eftpos, especially smaller food retailers such as dairies, takeaways and cafes that do not serve alcohol. Also smaller retailers may often set a minimum purchase of around $10 when obtaining cash, if they agree to provide cash. Banks offer a wide range of telephone and internet banking services. If you are going to be in New Zealand for a while it may be convenient to open a New Zealand bank account and set up a local debit card, to avoid carrying a lot of cash around.
Because of strong advertising laws, the displayed price is normally the purchase price for most goods sold in New Zealand. The principle The price stated is the price you pay is strongly ingrained in New Zealand culture.
Most retailers will not negotiate on price, though some have a formal policy of matching (or beating) the competition and will match or even discount their prices for you if you can find a better price for the exact same product elsewhere. However, this seems to be changing as there are stories about people finding appliance and electronics stores very willing to negotiate on price in order to get business, especially if you're looking at high-end items or have a shopping list of multiple high-priced items. Some places you have to ask for a discount (they will gladly take full price if you are willing to hand it over), while others have salespeople that offer discounts on pricey goods as soon as they approach you.
Taxes and fees
Unless it says otherwise the price includes GST (Goods and Services Tax, or sales tax) of 12.5%. Some shops, especially in tourist destinations, will ship purchases overseas, as export goods which are not subject to GST. Ask about this service before making your purchase. Goods purchased and taken with you will be subject to GST.
On public holidays, some establishments such as cafes may charge a holiday surcharge in the region of 15%, supposedly to cover the cost of employing staff who are working on the holiday. This is a recent development because current holiday legislation requires workers who work on public holidays to be paid for the time they work and be given a paid public holiday as well. The legality of this charge is questionable and should be challenged if not advertised openly or notified at the time of placing an order.
In lodgings, restaurants and bars the prices charged include the services provided and tips are not expected, though the practice is known of in some establishments that cater for tourists. However, do not be surprised if you receive bemused looks in some situations. Also do not be offended if your tip is initially refused or questioned, as most New Zealanders rarely encounter tipping, except from tourists. New Zealanders' unfamiliarity with tipping makes many of them very ill-at-ease with it when travelling in countries where it is practised. It is viewed very negatively by New Zealanders as an alien vulgarity, being made to 'pay twice', or as a form of bribery. Staff in some establishments may risk their job in accepting a tip. In the major cities, tipping tends to be embraced by workers, especially over the summer when students wait tables for part-time work, but a source of annoyance to older kiwis. Tipjars may be placed on counters, but these are for loose change and you are not expected to place coins in them. It is common practice and polite to donate your spare change from the meal to what ever charity has a collection jar on the counter, and this acts as the standard substitute for tipping.
New Zealand has a wide range of eating places, from fast food outlets to stylish restaurants. Many petrol stations have a convenience store with sandwiches or food such as pies that can be microwaved on-site. Fast food chains include KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Pizza Hut and Subway. There are also many independent, owner-operated takeaways outlets selling one or more of burgers, pizzas, fried chicken, Chinese or other Asian fast food or fish and chips. At least a burger bar and/or fish and chip shop can be found in almost any small town or block of suburban shops. The humble fish and chip shop is the archetypical New Zealand fast food outlet. The menu consists of battered fish portions deep fried in oil (or fat) together with chunky cut potato chips (fries but not the McDonald's Shoestrings) as well as a range of other meats, seafood, pineapple rings and even chocolate bars, all wrapped in newsprint paper—today it is unprinted but traditionally it was yesterday's newspaper, until someone decided it was unhealthy. A good meal can often be had for under $5, a bad one for the same price.
New Zealand's cultural majority (ethnic British) does not have a definitive and recognisably distinct cuisine that differs markedly from the traditional British (or North American) cuisine. However there are a number of small differences
The Maori also have a distinctive cuisine…
New Zealanders have a reputation for enjoying their beer. Although there are now only three major breweries, there are many regional brands, each with their own distinctive taste and staunch supporters. Watch out for brewery owned pubs, the competition's beer is not sold there.
More recently, the wine industry has developed into a significant export industry. Many vineyards now offer winery tours, wine tasting and sales from the vineyard.
Take care when and where you indulge in public. New Zealand has recently introduced liquor ban areas that means alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed or even carried in some streets, such as city centres and popular beaches, at certain times of the day or night. Police can instruct you to empty bottles and arrest you if you do not comply.
Coffeehouses are a notable daytime socialisation venue in many of the larger cities and tourist destinations. The cafe culture is notable in downtown Wellington, where many office workers have their tea breaks now, following the demise of the office cafeteria during the restructuring of the public service in the 1980s and 1990s.
In cafes, there is often more than one milk jug which is colour coded; dark blue is normal, light blue is lite and green is super trim.
Bottled water — both flavoured and unflavoured — is available in most shops. Not that there is anything wrong with the tap water, it is just that some town supplies are drawn from river water and chlorinated. If you do not want to pour your money down the drain, fill your own water bottle from the tap, unless you find it is too heavily chlorinated for your taste. Tap water in New Zealand is regarded as some of the cleanest in the world, it is safe to drink from in all cities, most come from artesian wells or freshwater reservoirs - however, some are from rivers which can be chlorinated to be made safe but do not taste very nice. The water in Auckland comes from the end of the Waikato river, a long river that comes from freshwater sources in Taupo, but by the time it reaches Auckland the water quality is no better than that of the Thames in London or the Hudson in New York. Tap water in places such as Christchurch and Hastings is not chlorinated at all as it is drawn from the pure artesian aquifers of the Canterbury and Heretaunga plains (the same places the bottled water and other beverages comes from).
L & P or Lemon & Paeroa is "world famous in New Zealand". It is a sweet carbonated lemonade style drink sold in a brown plastic bottle with a yellow label because they used to sell it in brown glass ones (like beer bottles) before they switched to plastic. Generally one for the kids or parties (it mixes quite well with whiskey), though the big bottle in Paeroa itself is a hit with the tourists.
New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation.
International quality hotels can be found in the major cities. And New Zealanders seem to have perfected the art of the top-end homestay. Hosted luxury lodges are the top-end equivalent of the bed-and-breakfast market and New Zealand has upwards of 40 internationally recognised lodges. Per capita, that's probably the highest in the world. They tend to be situated away from cities, though some are right in the heart of the major centres, and can be difficult to get to. At the very top-end, helicopter transfers and private jets help the luxury traveller move between the lodges they've chosen for their visit.
Motels of a variety of standards from luxury to just adequate can be found on the approaches to most towns.
There is a wide range of backpackers accommodation around the country, including a network of Youth Hostels that are members of the Youth Hostels Association (62 in 2004).
Bed and Breakfasts are popular with visiting Brits and Swiss as well as homestays, farmstays and similar lodgings — some of which are in the most unlikely places.
For uniquely New Zealand accommodation, there are Maori homestays and tourist-catering marae stays and New Zealanders are also registered on hospitality exchange sites, such as CouchSurfing.
There are a number of commercial camping grounds around the country, as well as camping sites within all of the national parks. One way that many tourists travel around New Zealand is in a self-contained campervan, a motorised caravan or large minibus, that can be driven by anyone who holds an ordinary car driver's license.
If you are travelling into the backcountry, the Department of Conservation has many backcountry huts that can be used under a permit system.
Free camping is also available in many places. Unless there is a "no camping" sign it is common to find a tent or hammock pitched for the night in many picnic areas or in a grove of trees off the road. Cycle tourists especially will rarely need to pay for camping, only for showers and laundry. Multi-day camping in these areas is often frowned upon, and in conservation areas camping outside designated areas may attract a fine.
New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world after the UK to develop a dense WWOOF  network. WWOOF is a world wide network where travellers ("WWOOFers") stay as volunteers on farms and receive food and accommodation in exchange for half a days help (usually 4 - 6 hours) for each night they stay. The Nelson Tasman region  in the South Island is particularly rich in WWoOFing possibilities...
For many years, New Zealand schools and universities have educated foreign students from the countries of Southeast Asia and education has now become a major source of export earnings for the country. In recent years English language schools have been established for students from the region, particularly South Korea and China, but also many other countries.
Education in New Zealand is compulsory from age 6 to 16 years, though almost all children begin attending school at age 5 and often stay at school for 13 years, until 17 or 18 years old. Primary schooling is from Year 1-6 (formerly J1 - Standard 4), intermediate schooling is Year 7 and 8 (formerly forms one and two), while secondary schooling is from Year 9-13 (formerly forms 3 to 7). In some primary and secondary schools one or both of the intermediate years may be combined with either the primary or secondary years. There are also Middle Schools which cover the intermediate years and the first two years of secondary, but these are rare.
Secondary schools are also called high schools (generally Years 9-13) and colleges (generally Years 7-13). A college does not refer to universities in New Zealand unlike in some other countries, though some specialised single-subject tertiary training-centres may also be called colleges.
Primary, intermediate and secondary compulsory schooling is free for citizens and permanent residents, although some nominal fees are generally charged to cover consumable materials. Tertiary education is state assisted, with part of the tuition costs funded by the state. International students will need to pay for their education; in some cases this includes a national profit margin.
The Ministry of Education has established a Code of Practice that New Zealand educational institutions enrolling international students need to abide by. This Code of Practice includes minimum standards for the 'PC 'pastoral care of international students. Primary school students, or those age 10 or under, need to either live with a parent or else board in a school hostel. Additionally, older students, who are under age 18, may live in homestays, temporary accommodation or with designated caregivers. Where the institution arranges accommodation for students older than age 18 the code of practice applies to their accommodation situations also.
New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and refugees can receive financial assistance through loans and allowances, to pay the tuition fees and to attend tertiary education at Universities, Polytechnics, Whananga (Maori operated universities/polytechnics) and Private Training Providers. Overseas students will need to pay the full tuition fees and their own living costs while studying at a New Zealand institution.
Overseas students need to have a student visa and a reasonable level of cash to spend in order to undertake a course of study at a New Zealand based educational institution. Visas are generally valid for the duration of the course of study and only while the student is attending the course of study. New Zealand educational institutions will inform the appropriate immigration authorities if a student ceases to attend their enrolled courses, who may then suspend or cancel that student's visa. Educational institutions often also exchange this enrollment and attendance data electronically with other government agencies responsible for providing student assistance.
To work in New Zealand you need to be a citizen or current permanent resident of either New Zealand or Australia, or else have a work permit or appropriate visa. If you are intending to work in New Zealand you should obtain a work permit along with any tourist visas you might apply for.
You will also need to have a New Zealand bank account, as most employers pay using electronic banking rather than in cash; an Inland Revenue Tax Number, as witholding tax or income tax will be deducted from your wages by your employer; and a tax declaration form, as tax will be deducted at the no declaration rate of 45% unless you have a tax code. More information about New Zealand's tax system, including appropriate forms, can be obtained from Inland Revenue.
The process of applying for an IRD number is between 8-10 working days. You will need to fill in the IRD number application form, and provide a photocopy of a passport or New Zealand birth certificate. It is possible to apply for the IRD number, then call the department around a week later to request the number by phone, however this will depend on the workload of the processing centres at the time. Calling the IRD requires several forms of ID, it is ideal to be able to provide your passport number and full address when requested.
New Zealand operates a simplified tax system that tends to collect more tax than people need to pay because employers pay their worker's tax when they pay their workers. The obligation is then on the worker to claim overpaid tax back, rather than declaring their income and paying any extra tax. Be careful though, if you choose to work in New Zealand and you stay more than 183 days in any 12-month period, your worldwide income could be taxed. New Zealand has double taxation agreements with several countries to stop tax being paid twice. A safe rule of thumb is to pay all tax demands and Not seek claims for redress on any matter.
Being a foreigner means that your New Zealand income is subject to local income tax at the fullest levels. Although many people believe that they can collect all their tax back when they leave the country, this is not true. It may be the case that filing an income tax return may result in a small refund if only working for part of the year, however this is not likely the case. Tax in all its forms in New Zealand amounts to around half of a workers income.
New Zealand is currently (2007) experiencing a period of full employment as it experiences a higher than average migration churn when compared to other OECD countries. Therefore many positions can not be filled and a number of employers are having difficulties finding workers, particularly short term workers and businesses often cite this as a restriction on further growth. A good starting point for interested job-seekers is: http://www.newkiwis.co.nz/
Seasonal work such as fruit picking and other agricultural work is sometimes available for tourists such as backpackers formally but always available illegally. More information about legal seasonal fruit picking work can be found at Pick NZ.
New Zealand has a number of reciprocal Working Holiday Schemes, which allow people between 18 and 30 to travel and work in New Zealand for up to one year and vice versa. At present young citizens of a number of countries from Europe, South America, North America and Asia can apply. These schemes are enormously popular and in many instances participants can apply to stay in New Zealand longer once they have completed their one year stay. Information on all the various schemes and application details can be found at: http://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/work/workingholiday/
If you are wanting to stay in New Zealand long term, you should apply well ahead of time, New Zealand operates a points system for assessing applicants.
Refugee applications should be made before arrival since NZ has a formal refugee induction programme.
Those who turn up in a New Zealand airport arrival lounge without papers, claiming refugee status, may find themselves put on a return flight to their country of origin or in jail awaiting the outcome of legal proceedings.
Volunteering on a conservation project is a great way to get to meet locals and see the island, National Parks and nature reserves of New Zealand. You can volunteer for a day for for weeks at a time. Talk to the local Department of Conservation office about volunteering opportunities.
The emergency telephone number in New Zealand is 111. Ambulance, Fire and Police can be contacted through this service. Full instructions are on the inside front cover of every telephone book. It often is answered in the first 30 seconds after calling.
Crime and security
While difficult to make international comparisons, the level of crime in New Zealand is similar to many other western countries. Dishonesty offences, such as theft, are by far the most frequent type of crime. Travellers should take simple, sensible precautions such as putting valuables away out of sight or in a secure place and locking doors or vehicles, even in remote locations, as much of this crime is opportunistic in nature.
Violent crime is generally associated with alcohol or illicit drug consumption. Rowdy bars or drunken crowds in city centres are best avoided, especially late at night and in the early morning. New Zealanders can be somewhat lacking in a sense of humour when their country or their sporting teams are mocked by loud or drinking tourists.
There is in addition a disturbing trend for tourists to be targetted in random violent and/or sexual crimes. In recent times the northern half of the North Island has been worst affected. The chance of falling victim to such misfortune is still very low.
The police, a national force, are generally polite and helpful. Being caught drinking and driving will result in an arrest, conviction and discharge. Police regularly conduct blitzes, often setting up screening checkpoints all around an area, including motorways.
Fixed and mobile speed cameras as well as hand held and car speed detectors are used frequently. Police have no official discretion for speeding offences and will write tickets for all vehicles caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 km/h. Police have recently upgraded their pursuit training, following a number of deaths of both offenders and innocent third parties during vehicle pursuits.
In New Zealand, armed police are unusual and usually rate a mention in the media. Although all police officers are trained to handle firearms, these are normally only openly carried when the situation requires such weapons, such as an armed offender. Traditionally, New Zealand police only carry batons and offender control (pepper) spray - Tasers are currently being trialled in Wellington and Auckland. However, first response patrols will generally have recourse to firearms locked in their vehicle.
Severe weather is by far the most common natural hazard encountered in New Zealand. Although New Zealand is not subject to the direct hit of tropical cyclones as such (though coastal areas often experience the tail end of them), stormy weather systems from both the tropics and the polar regions can sweep across New Zealand at various times of the year. There is generally a seven to ten day cycle of a few days of wet or stormy weather followed by calmer and drier days as weather systems move across the country. The phrase four seasons in one day (also a famous Kiwi song) is a good description of New Zealand weather, which has a reputation for both changeability and unpredictability. Weather forecasts are generally reliable for overall trends and severe weather warnings should be heeded when broadcast. However both the timing and intensity of any weather events should be assessed from your own location. Simply looking out the window is probably good enough to allow you yourself to predict what the weather will be like for at least the next 15 minutes or so, according to one eminent New Zealand meterologist, though knowing that Northerlies are warm, Southerlies are cold, westerlies are rainy but warm and easterlies are humid (these vary slightly from place to place) you can predict for yourself quite accurately.
Other natural hazards you may encounter, though far more rarely, are:
New Zealand has a VERY high level of ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer, around 40% more intense than you will find in the Mediterranean during the summer. Sunglasses and sunscreen are highly recommended, especially if you are of European descent.
Visiting the doctor will cost about NZ$50 and may vary between practices and localities. The New Zealand public hospital system is free of charge to Australian, British and New Zealand citizens but will charge other nationals for treatment received. An exception to this is in the case of any accident (domestic, street, motor, gliding, etc) when the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) will pick up the tab. Travel insurance is highly recommended.
New Zealand has high and equitable standards of professional health care comparable with Sweden or Australia. Tap water is drinkable but precautions should be taken against Giardia when tramping.
Maori cultural experiences are popular tourist attractions enjoyed by many, but as with any two cultures encountering one another, there is room for misunderstanding. Some tourists have found themselves more confronted than they expected by ceremonial challenges and welcomes. These are serious occasions, and chatter and laughing during rituals is not recommended People have been attacked by their entertainers to date for appearing to not treat it with the highest sacredness. You'd best have jokes and laughs later. There will be plenty of time to relax later when the hangi is lifted.
Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders are generally on good terms, but from time to time there have been frayed relationships between the two. Enter discussion about this with politeness and caution, or, of course, not at all.
Remember also, that New Zealand is still a very young nation by many standards and its identity is still being formulated. Commenting that New Zealand is subservient to the United Kingdom is sometimes admired and other times despised, and although New Zealand coinage is adorned with British royal figures New Zealand is an independent member of the Commonwealth and saying that New Zealand is almost identical can be offensive to some.
Relationship with Australia
While Australia and New Zealand have close foreign policy ties, considerable inter-immigration, and cultures that overlap, saying New Zealanders are basically Australians will not gain you any New Zealander friends (or Aussie ones). Although Australians and New Zealanders may seem the same to you they do not consider themselves similar at all. It is pretty much the same relationship as with Canadians and people from the United States. Some Australians may joke about New Zealand being another state of Australia, but that does not make it one. In many ways Australia and New Zealand have a similar outlook towards the other, with the same cliched jokes being made, Australians tend to be a little less insecure and relaxed treating abuse as less serious and fun. (A common, if uncouth joke oft made by Australians is that Kiwis enjoy intimate relations with livestock. New Zealanders have been known to parrot the same joke back about Australians).
Sir Robert Muldoon, National Prime Minister from 1975-1984, is famous for saying, when responding to a question about the movement of New Zealanders to Australia "New Zealanders moving to Australia have the effect of raising the IQ on both sides of the Tasman." Helen Clark the current Prime Minister resolves the issue with a free-er immigration policy to disadvantaged and developing nations.
Despite the jokes about New Zealand, many Australians have a genuine affection for the 'little brother' country. This can be traced back to the participation in two world wars Gallipoli, Timor, Solomon Islands, etc. In recent times there has been an increasing divide in politics between NZ and Australia.
Internet access is available in cyber cafes.
Many public libraries have public Internet access. Generally there is a charge. Hourly rates are usually in the range of $4 to $8, with a few cheaper or dearer than that. Some (Such as the Christchurch City Library network) offer free access to some sites, usually ones of interest (such as Google, BBC and CNN) and those in the .nz namespace.
New Zealand has a well developed and ubiquitous telephone system. However public phones are relatively rare since Telecom went to the expense and trouble of removing them to prevent competitors using them, except in major transport facilities and other high pedestrian volume areas such as shopping centres. Most public phones accept obscure proprietary prepaid cards, some also accept credit cards and a very few accept Money.
Mobile telephone coverage is effectively national in near urban areas although the mountainous terrain means that outside the urban areas, and especially away from the main highway system, coverage does have dead patches. (Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain.) Mobile telephone users (only) can call *555 to report Non-emergency Traffic Safety incidents, such as a breakdown, road hazard or non-injury car crash, to the Police. There is one CDMA network (run by Telecom New Zealand) and one GSM network (run by Vodafone), so most phones should work. Airports and shopping malls will have stores from both companies available for negotiating and getting information about their networks.
The country code is 64. New Zealand telephone numbers can be looked up online at http://www.whitepages.co.nz/. The emergency telephone number from all telephones is 111 (you may need to use a prefix to get an outside line from business systems, usually 1) and a voice request for Police, Fire or Ambulance to be switched to the requested service. (Other common international emergency numbers like 112, 911 and 999 may also work, but do not rely on it)
New Zealand has five nationwide free-to-air television channels, as well as some regional stations and several networks with sub-national coverage. Cable television is not well developed but Sky provide the equivalent using direct broadcast satellite technology. Most hotels and motels have the national channels, some Sky channels and whatever else is broadcast in the local area. Most New Zealand televisions are equipped to handle Teletext which provides news, weather, sport, etc. in text format. The main page is page 100. Page 431, for example, is Auckland Airport arrivals and departures. Page 801 provides a caption text service for some TV programs which allows hearing impaired people to read subtitles.
New Zealand has a large number of radio stations, on both AM and FM, with at least one local station and a number of nationwide network stations broadcast in each major city or town.
Wi-Fi access: You can purchase vouchers for Wi-Fi access from many Starbucks cafes around NZ (plus other places).