My husband and I recently traveled to New Zealand for our honeymoon and it was nothing short of incredible. They say a good trip changes you and this one certainly changed us. More on that in this post. Prior to the best trip ever, there was the most research ever. Below are 10 things I learned through that research that proved very helpful on our trip and I hope they help you too!
1. Apply for the New Zealand ETA
If you don't do anything else to plan for your trip, you must get an ETA! You will not be allowed to travel into New Zealand without an approved ETA. You can apply online or through their app. The via costs $35 NZD per person. Visit the NZ Immigration website here to learn more about this visa including exemptions. Once you apply and get approved, be sure to keep you approval email readily available to show the ticket agent when you check in for your flight.
2. If you are traveling as a tourist, be sure to have your return flight booked. At the airport when you depart for New Zealand, you will be asked to provide details about your return flight out of New Zealand if you are visiting as a tourist. They will not let you board your plane without this information! It seems like this might be a no-brainer that your return flight would be booked if you are heading there on vacation, but make sure you have this information readily available when you are at the airport.
3. Clean your hiking boots
New Zealand takes pride in keeping their home protected from outside ecosystems. Because of that, they are very careful to examine things such as hiking boots when you go through customs. If you plan to bring hiking boots to New Zealand (which you should because the hiking is incredible), be sure to clean them thoroughly before your trip!
4. Get a local SIM card
When we were researching whether or not to get a local SIM card, I came across a few articles that recommended one if you are planning to stay in New Zealand for at least a month. We were there for about 2 weeks, but even in that short time, we found it SO helpful to have local cell connectivity. When you first land in New Zealand, there will be SIM card companies (Vodafone and Spark are the most common). The booths here (as opposed to the ones past customs) tend to be cheaper! The packages offered were per month so we bought a 1-month plan for each of us through Spark for about NZD $50 per person. It gave us call, text, and 5 GB of data. We were easily able to track how much data we had used so that we didn't go over. We also still utilized free wifi as much as possible and mainly relied on these plans in situations where we had no other option.
5. The emergency number is 111
This is a quick one, but it is something I am also cognizant to learn when I travel to new countries. Hopefully you never have to use it, but on the off chance you do, you'll be glad that you learned it ahead of time and don't have to worry about finding the number in the heat of an emergency.
6. Internet/cell reception is sparse
Internet and cell reception is sparse throughout New Zealand, especially if you are on the South Island. I would highly recommend renting a car with GPS and also downloading a map of your area ahead of time. Google Maps will let you download the entire country's map to your phone so I did this as a backup in case we were in a situation where we had no other option. Thankfully, our car had great GPS and we never needed to use the downloaded maps, but it was great peace of mind knowing they were there.
7. Your health insurance and car insurance may not cover you overseas
This was a big one for me. With all the driving you do on a trip to New Zealand (more on that below), I wanted to be sure we were covered if anything should happen. Our car insurance did not cover us overseas, so we opted for the insurance when we rented our campervan and car. We also planned on doing all kinds of fun adventures on this trip and - being the worry wart I sometimes am - I wanted to make sure we would be covered should anything happen on one of those many adventures. Thankfully our health insurance covered us and were kind enough to provide me with all the documentation and contact information we would need should we needed to make a claim.
8. Weather is unpredictable
If you have done any research at all about traveling to New Zealand, you have probably seen that the weather is very unpredictable, especially on the South Island. It could be sunny and warm and then an hour later be rainy and freezing. Pack layers! We spent our entire trip on the South Island and were there in March. I started most days with 3-4 layers and eventually ended up in just one in the heat of the afternoon, but I was so thankful for those extra layers.
9. Driving time could be longer than the map says
You will be doing lots of driving in New Zealand. There is SO much to see and truthfully some of the most amazing things we saw were by happenstance while driving from one destination to another. On the South Island, you will mainly encounter 2-lane roads. It is very mountainous and windy so the drive time is typically a bit longer than your GPS says. Allow for extra time for these reasons, but also leave time to stop an explore on the way! There is no shortage of views, tracks (aka hiking trails), and beautiful scenery anywhere you turn in New Zealand.
10. Plan to rent a car
I may be beating a dead horse, but the scenery in New Zealand is endless and you will absolutely want to explore this on your time. There are bus tours and trains available throughout parts of New Zealand, but if you really want to immerse yourself in the culture and see as much as possible, your own car is the way to go. We spent about half our trip in a campervan (more on that experience here) and then rented a car from Enterprise for the other half. When we went to pick up the car, we realized we had over-payed. If you can, rent from ezi car rental. ezi is local to New Zealand and their prices beat ours for a better vehicle.
Bonus Tip: Beware of the sandflies
Sandflies are everywhere in New Zealand and they are relentless. I have to admit - they took me as their victim. Before we left for our trip, I read advice urging to use baby oil or a sandfly repellent (which you can pick up at any local grocery store when you arrive) as a deterrent, but I didn't listen. I figured "I'll mostly be wearing long pants and long sleeves, I'll be fine." I wasn't. They got my ankles and I quickly learned my lesson.
Until next time!