Questions About New Zealand
Odyssey Traveller specialises in crafting unforgettable experiences for mature-aged travellers, providing adventure and educational programs to small groups since 1983. Odyssey has built up a reasonable knowledge bank to answer questions about New Zealand that travellers are likely to ask, as they make their plans to tour independently, or with us as part of a small group tour. We hope that this list of frequently asked questions and the answers we provide will help you with planning your next holiday.
If you’d like to learn more, do join Odyssey Traveller’s tour of New Zealand or North Island tour, designed for the mature-aged and senior travellers. Please do not hesitate call or send an email if you have more questions about New Zealand or our other tours.
Where is New Zealand?
New Zealand (Maori name: Aotearoa) is an island country with a total land area of 268,000 square kilometres (103,500 sq mi) in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most southernmost countries in the world, about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) east of Australia across the Tasman Sea and 1,000 kilometres (600 mi) south of the Pacific islands of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga. The country has to main islands: the North Island (Te Ika-a-Māui) and the South Island (Te Waipounamu), and about 600 smaller islands.
What languages do they speak in New Zealand?
The country has three official languages: English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language. While English is being in very dominant, many cities, towns, landmarks, etc have Maori names. Greeting others by saying ‘Kia Ora’ (which also means thank you depending on the context) is very common as well.
Is New Zealand safe to travel?
Generally speaking, New Zealand is safe to travel in, though always exercise common sense while travelling. Before you leave, you should always check the latest government advice on travelling. For Australian citizen, visit the Smart Traveller website.
Do you need a visa for New Zealand?
It depends on the passport you’re travelling on. You can always check the latest requirements on the New Zealand immigration website. In general, for visiting for less than 3 months on a holiday, Australian citizens do not need a visa, while others nationals need to obtain an NZeTA online (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) before they can enter the country.
What is the currency in New Zealand?
The currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar. One dollar is divided into 100 cents. There are ten denominations—five coins and five banknotes—with the smallest being the 10-cent coin. The New Zealand dollar was introduced in 1967 and been in use ever since. Between 1933 and 1967, the country used the New Zealand pound, where one pound was divided into 20 shillings and one shilling was divided into 12 pence, unnecessarily overcomplicating every day life.
What is New Zealand famous for?
There is no simple answer to this question, but we tried to gather a few things:
- Kiwi: no, not the fruit, which is also grown in New Zealand (they call it kiwifruit). The flightless, nocturnal birds with long beaks, a symbol of the country. They are very unique, and New Zealanders are very proud of them!
- All Blacks and the haka: even if you are not that into rugby, chances are high you came across videos of grown men doing their terrifying Maori war dance before each of their match in an all black jersey. That’s the All Blacks for you, the national rugby team of New Zealand with an astonishing win rate of around 80%.
- Lord of the Rings: Both the original trilogy and the Hobbit movies were filmed in New Zealand across both islands. In fact, it’s very hard to pass any landmarks without being reminded it was at least in one of the movies. Since 2002, fans can visit Hobbiton, located on the North Island, which played the Shire in the movies, and in 2012 the permanent restructured Hobbit Holes and the Green Dragon were opened to the public – attracting thousands of visitors.
- Manuka honey: the Manuka tree only grows in New Zealand, and the honey made from its flowers is extensively researched, as scientists found it has unique antibacterial and bioactive healing qualities
- Wine: the country has several distinct wine regions, Central Otago being the home of the world’s most southerly vineyards. Each region has their different characteristics and the trademark types are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and more.
- Sheep: it is legendary how sheep outnumber New Zealanders providing basis for many jokes. While the ratio reduced from 22 for every person in 1982 to 6/person by 2019, this is still a large number and you’ll come across them everywhere as you drive along the country.
What is New Zealand’s cuisine like?
Historically the cuisine of New Zealand has been influenced by the Maori culture and British cuisine. In general, the cuisine relies on local ingredients which have a seasonal variety.
Hangi is a Maori cooking method where meat and vegetables are slow cooked in an underground oven. It is fairly time consuming to prepare meals that way, so nowadays it’s saved for special occasions. The best place to experience a meal is one of the Maori cultural experiences in Rotorua.
It is no wonder that with more than 14 000 kilometres of coastline, seafood is an important part of the local cuisine. From green-lipped mussels, to whitebait fritters, to oysters and fish & chips usually made from snapper, terakihi and hoki, you will never be short of options.
Roast lamb is another top choice, usually served with rosemary and seasonal vegetables across the country.
Kiwis have a special relationship with burgers. In ‘kiwi burgers’ you’ll find beetroot and fried egg by default. Most visitors either find this weird or genius, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Last but not least, New Zealanders are always in for a good pie. Especially all versions of mince pie. Eat-in or take away, you’ll come across them anywhere on both islands.
What is transportation like in New Zealand?
The easiest way to get around in New Zealand is having/renting your own car, especially if you plan on visiting rural areas. The reason being, New Zealand has plenty of open space and low population density, which makes it impractical to operate extensive public transport services. Thus, intercity rail travel options are very limited, mostly operating between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Greymouth only. However, if you have the time and want to see the country, you could catch a bus pretty much anywhere. The bus schedules are adjusted to connect with ferry services between the North and the South Island. If you’re short on time, flying between the major cities is your best option.
What is the best time to visit New Zealand?
The answer once again depends on your preferences. If you are all about outdoor activities (which New Zealand is world-famous for), such as kayaking, hiking and cycling, you should visit between late spring and early autumn (November – March). But also be prepared that summer (December – February) is the peak season of tourism, both for international travellers and New Zealanders themselves, so you need to plan and book well in advance if you don’t want to miss out on anything! If you want to enjoy the colourful scenery of the landscape, visit in autumn. If you want to experience some Southern Hemisphere skiing, visit during the winter, as ski fields tend to open in June. In short, there is no bad time to visit this amazing country!
Where should I travel in New Zealand?
Everywhere! But here are some key cities and landscapes from North to South:
Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand. This is where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, and this is where according to Maori legends spirits depart on their journey home to Hawaiki, making it a popular day tour destination with visitors.
Bay of Islands enjoys some of the best weather all year around in New Zealand. Visit the historic site where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, hike in kauri forests, go dolphin watching, ride through the famous Hole in the Rock, or take a ferry to Russel, the first permanent European settlement in the country.
Auckland is the most populous city of the country with amazing multicultural vibes. You can visit the Sky Tower, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the New Zealand Maritime Museum and more, or set out on a day trip to Piha with its world-famous black sand beach, to Waiheke Island or Rangitoto Island.
The Coromandel is one of the most popular holiday destinations in New Zealand, thanks to its amazing beaches. Some must-see you’ll find in this area: the Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.
Lake Taupo is the largest freshwater lake in the southern hemisphere, created by one of the largest volcanic eruptions ever. You can sail the lake to see the Maori carvings or take on one of the best day hikes of New Zealand in the Tongariro National Park: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand since 1865 and not to be missed. Visit the national museum, Te Papa, majestically standing on Wellington’s waterfront offering insightful permanent and temporary exhibitions on New Zealand’s history and culture. Hike up to Mt. Victoria around sunset for an amazing overview of the city. Lord of the Rings fans must not miss the Weta Cave for behind-the-scenes insights and life-size models from the movies.
On the South Island you can hike or kayak in the Abel Tasman National Park, be amazed by the power of nature at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and explore the breathtaking views of the Franz Josef Glacier while based in the lovely little town of Franz Josef. Mt Cook (Maori name: Aoraki), the highest mountain of New Zealand is not far away, and you can take majestic pictures of it for example from the coast of Lake Matheson, which is a mirror lake reflecting Mt Cook and Mt Tasman.
Travelling further south on the rugged west coast, stop to admire the scenery of Lake Wanaka and use Wanaka as a gateway to Mount Aspiring National Park. Spend days at picturesque Queenstown with The Remarkables in the background, go on amazing hikes or just enjoy the scenery of Lake Wakatipu on a cruise.
Te Anau is the perfect base to explore the Fjordland National Park, and it is the starting point for the Kepler multi-day hike. The highlight of the Fjordland National Park is Milford Sound where you can see soaring peaks and towering waterfalls during a scenic cruise.
Invercargill is the southernmost city of New Zealand with booming sheep and dairy farming business. On the other side of the South Island, Christchurch is the largest city of this island, making a slow recovery after the back to back earthquakes in 2011, while Kaikoura is the hotspot for whale and dolphin watching with the beautiful Seaward Kaikoura Range in the background.
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