What shouldn't you wear to New Zealand

New Zealand travel tips: how to plan your road trip

Raise the curtain for one of our very favorite travel destinations. Although New Zealand is on the other side of the world, we've been there twice. On our very first trip to New Zealand in 2013, we fell head over heels in love with this beautiful country - so much that it was clear: We will be back.

And so did we. In 2018 we have ours second road trip through New Zealand made. And once again we noticed: We are happy in New Zealand. We are fascinated by the endless expanse of this land. So much so that we could even imagine emigrating to New Zealand - if, yes, if it weren't so incredibly far away from Europe.

This blog article is our whole personal travel guide for a road trip through New Zealand. We'll tell you what to look out for when planning and reveal all of our travel tips.


1. Preparation: Before your trip to New Zealand

What to expect in New Zealand

Rugged coasts, endless expanses, rugged mountain ranges, sparkling blue lakes. In New Zealand it is clearly stated Focus on nature. And it is really spectacular. New Zealand is one of those countries that has managed to inspire us every day.

New Zealand is made up of two islands: The North and South Island. While over 3 million people live on the smaller North Island, the larger South Island has just 1 million inhabitants. A curious detail: there are more than 30 (!) Million sheep for every 4 million inhabitants.

New Zealand is very sparsely populated. This is especially noticeable on the South Island. Often one is out and about for hours in lonely stretches of land. Hardly any residents, no gas stations, and even two-way traffic is rare. And yes: here and there a feeling of loneliness sets in in New Zealand. As travelers, that didn't bother us at all - on the contrary!

Because once you've had enough of lonely nature, there is still that urban side of New Zealand: There is a lot going on in the big city of Auckland and in the capital Wellington.

Travel time: how much time should I plan for New Zealand?

One answer that you will probably not be satisfied with: as much time as possible! New Zealand is incredibly diverse. Even if you are in New Zealand for three months, you will still find new destinations.

We were ourselves one month each in New Zealand. That may sound like a lot - but it isn't. On both road trips, we had to be careful with our time in order to see as much as possible. Most of the time we spent about 2 nights in one place before we left.

You also have to keep in mind that the eternally long flights take up a lot of time. In addition, the time difference to Austria and Germany is an incredible 12 hours. If you are prone to Jet lag are (as we are), then you should take that into account as well.

We talked to many, many travelers along the way: From one Travel time From just 10 days (they're crazy!) to half a year or more, everything was there. Most, however, settle in somewhere between 3 and 5 weeks of travel.

In our opinion, you can see a lot in a month and definitely explore the highlights in New Zealand. With less than 3 weeks we would choose one of the two islands instead of you (our choice would be the South Island).

Climate: The best time of year for a New Zealand road trip

“In New Zealand you can experience all four seasons in one day.” How many times had we heard this sentence before we traveled to New Zealand for the first time. And we can confirm: The weather in New Zealand is very changeable: one day it rains and you freeze, the next you sit in the sun with a T-shirt.

The New Zealand summer

From December to January It's summer in New Zealand. This is also the time when the Kiwis take their summer holidays. The weather is mostly mild across the country. It rains comparatively little and during these months you usually enjoy the most hours of sunshine.

But summer is not always summer: Yes, there are midsummer days when the thermometer climbs to 30 degrees Celsius. But there are also rainy days when the temperature barely reaches 10 degrees. The further south you travel, the rougher the climate becomes.

What we mean by that: Even if you travel to New Zealand in the summer, you have no guarantee of good weather. This is something you definitely need to be prepared for when planning a trip to New Zealand.

The New Zealand summer is also Main travel season. The prices for rental cars and campers are multiplying (no joke) and in general there is a lot of activity in the accommodations and on the campsites. But: Don't let yourself be persuaded that everything will be booked out everywhere. We were both in January / February in New Zealand (during the absolute high season) and still spontaneously found mostly great accommodation.

The New Zealand winter

Compared to summer, winter is a less popular travel time. Hence are much, much less tourists on road. If you love cool temperatures or winter sports, the New Zealand winter (June to August) is probably the best time to visit.

Winter is that wettest season.However: it doesn't get so cold everywhere that snow falls - on the contrary. In many parts of the country the weather is relatively mild even in winter. In Auckland, for example, there is an average maximum temperature of 14 degrees Celsius in winter. As in summer, the further south you travel, the cooler it usually gets.

Many popular Hiking in New Zealand lead through alpine terrain. While it “only” gets fresh in the mountains in summer, you have to be prepared for snow and ice in winter. Especially on the South Island, you have to expect that one or the other road will be closed in winter. And: Camping is of course less comfortable in winter.

The transition times

Because many want to avoid the high season, spring and autumn are also popular travel times. The weather is then of course more unstable than in summer. But especially in the autumn (especially in the months of March to April) you can still experience beautiful late summer days. During the day in autumn it usually has an average of between 17 and 21 degrees Celsius.

The big advantage of the transition times is that there are fewer tourists and the prices (especially for campers) are much lower than in the overpriced high season.

New Zealand travel guide: our tips

We admit it: We get weak with printed travel guides. Although we always get a lot of information about a travel destination on other blogs (and also appreciate these insider tips), we can never start a trip without a travel guide.

So far we have Bought three different New Zealand travel guides and tested and would like to tell you about our experiences below.

Stefan Loose Travel Guide New Zealand

Our very first New Zealand travel guide was that of Stefan Loose. The travel guide comes from a German publisher and is therefore written in German.

The very clear distinguishing feature of the Loose travel guide is (besides the eye-catching color) the fact that it is very detailed and is very well researched. This travel guide is over 900 pages thick and accordingly it is a little heavier than others.

We can highly recommend the Stefan Loose travel guide for New Zealand. For us it offers the best price-performance ratio.

You can buy the travel guide here: Stefan Loose Travel Guide New Zealand

Lonely Planet New Zealand

Something more compact and therefore also lighter is the classic Lonely Planet travel guide. On our last trip to New Zealand we used the English edition of this travel guide.

With the Lonely Planet, you are definitely more likely to move towards the “Classic, tourist” paths (which isn't necessarily bad). We felt that the Lonely Planet was the number 1 travel guide among tourists.

You can buy the travel guide in English here: Lonely Planet Travel Guide New Zealand
You can buy the travel guide in German here: Lonely Planet New Zealand travel guide

Lonely Planet Best of New Zealand

Same brand, different concept: as the name suggests, this book is about them Highlights in New Zealand. These are really well described and there are always cool ones Insider tips. We like the graphic design of this travel guide much better than that of the classic Lonely Planet travel guide.

However: The focus is on the highlights and the rest is left out completely. Tekapo and Mount Cook, for example, are not mentioned at all. So we can only recommend this travel guide to a limited extent - for example, if you really only travel through New Zealand for a short time or are looking for a second travel guide.

You can buy the travel guide here: Lonely Planet Best of New Zealand

2. Transport in New Zealand

Car or camper?

You can also travel by public bus or even hitchhike, but we definitely recommend one for New Zealand Own vehicle, to be flexible. Perhaps the most important question is: would you prefer to drive a car and sleep in accommodations on your road trip or is a camper the right choice for you?

With the rental car through New Zealand

We ourselves have done our road trips through New Zealand both times with a rented vehicle. Both times we thought back and forth for a long time whether we should choose a camper, but in the end our need for comfort won out.

There are several things to do with a rental car Advantages:First of all, the rental costs are relatively manageable (especially in the high season when the prices for campers shoot through the roof). The fuel costs are also significantly lower for a car than for a campervan or even a large mobile home. You can choose your accommodation every night and thus have the overnight costs pretty much under control: From a bed in a hostel dormitory to a luxury hotel, you have a free choice (in principle at least - in practice, of course, not everything is always available).

The biggest disadvantage it is very clear that you will not be able to enjoy the beautifully located campsites. Sure, you can sleep in the car or get a tent, but the most comfortable camping option is still a large motorhome, or at least a campervan.

With the camper through New Zealand

Camping is extremely popular in New Zealand among travelers of all ages. Whether with a car and tent, a rickety campervan or a luxurious mobile home: everyone seems to be camping.

There is one important thing to consider here: "Freedom Camping" In New Zealand (i.e. wild camping in the wild) is only allowed if your vehicle is "self-contained", i.e. if it has certain features (including a toilet). Only then will you get the familiar blue sticker and may remain free in certain regions. "Freedom Camping" is not always possible everywhere (and the laws are becoming increasingly stringent), so you definitely have to take into account the budget for campsites.

Which rental car company for New Zealand?

For our two trips to New Zealand, we chose Sunny Cars, which we can highly recommend. Sunny Cars does not have its own fleet of its own, but acts as an intermediary. This means that Sunny Cars works on site with many local car rental companies (e.g. Hertz) and picks out the best offer for you.

Our choice fell out two reasons to Sunny Cars: On the one hand, we always found the cheapest offer there. And on the other hand (which is almost even more important) a booking with Sunny Cars automatically means that you will be reimbursed the excess in the event of damage. So if something happens, you will first have to pay the deductible (which is prescribed by the local car rental company), but Sunny Cars will reimburse you for all costs afterwards.

This also means that you do not have to take out additional insurance when you pick up the rental car from the local rental company (e.g. Hertz). Many employees know about it, but we've been offered additional insurance anyway. You can refuse such a booking when booking via Sunny Cars.

Why the thing with the Reimbursement of the excess is so important? We can confirm from experience: a scratch happened faster than you would like it to be. We had parked our car in a parking lot in New Zealand in 2013 when a stranger (we were just shopping) made quite a scratch in our car. The 250 euros deductible that we had to pay to the local car rental company at the time was easily reimbursed by Sunny Cars.

You can search for cheap rental cars here: Sunny Cars

International driving licence

An international driver's license is almost always required to rent. We strongly recommend that you have one made at home. If you don't have one with you, you will find our personal experiences in this blog article on how you can rent a car or campervan even without an international driver's license.

By car on the ferry between North and South Island

If you book your rental car one-way (e.g. with pick-up in Auckland and return in Christchurch), you will get 99% of it. Notto the other island. Instead, you hand it in at the port on one island and receive a new car of the same class on arrival on the other island.

This has both advantages and disadvantages: The big advantage is that you save money. Transporting your own car on the ferry costs around NZD 200. The disadvantage: you have to clear out the entire car (in which you have already made yourself comfortable) and pack everything up. But don't worry: the whole rental process is pretty quick because the employees are very trained.

3. Travel Expenses New Zealand: This is how much money you need

New Zealand is not a cheap travel destination. There are two reasons for this: First of all, there is of course the long and usually quite expensive flight that has to be paid for. And secondly: the price level on site is not exactly low either.

Currency & Paying in New Zealand

The New Zealand currency is that New Zealand dollar (abbreviated NZD or NZ $). The exchange rate varies, when we visited 1 NZD was about 0.60 EUR.

You can use most of them with the German or Austrian Maestro and credit cards ATMs Withdraw money. The limit is usually 400 NZD. (Attention: In Austria you have to deactivate the Geo-Control function at your local bank in advance.)

They are very different Withdrawal fees. For one thing, you often pay a fee to the New Zealand bank. This varies between 0 and 12 NZD per transaction. In order to save money, we usually withdrew the maximum amount. Most of the time, the fee is shown on the display and you can still cancel the transaction in good time (if the fee is around NZD 12).

On the other hand, you pay expenses to your local bank. These charges vary depending on the bank and the card (i.e. Maestro, credit card). Our most important tip: Find out from your bank in advance which fees are charged.

If you're traveling in New Zealand, you'll get over the term pretty quickly EFTPOS stumble. EFTPOS is a domestic New Zealand payment system that can be used to make cashless payments almost anywhere using a card (comparable to the domestic Maestro card).

Therefore, you will quickly notice that in New Zealand (unlike in Germany or Austria) an unusually high amount of card payments is made. The EFTPOS system is only available to those who have an account in New Zealand. As a tourist you have to pay with your credit card. Of course, that doesn't mean that cash payments are not possible. However, the kiwis are fans of card payments.

The important thing is that in New Zealand you shouldn't rely on one means of payment alone. In our opinion, a Maestro card and a credit card are the minimum. It happened several times for us that one of our cards did not work. The limit of our credit card was also reached faster than we had previously expected.

Travel expenses in New Zealand

If we had to compare the prices in New Zealand with another country, we would spontaneously name Germany or Austria. Sure, some things are cheaper in New Zealand and others are more expensive, but all in all the comparison is about right.

How expensive your New Zealand road trip will ultimately be depends heavily on the following factors:

  • The type of transport (bus vs. mobile home)
  • The type of accommodation (hostel dormitory vs. comfortable hotel room)
  • The type of catering (self-catering vs. restaurant visits)
  • And the question of how many “activities” you want to do.

What does New Zealand cost?

  • 500gr yogurt in the supermarket: 4 NZD
  • 1 liter of milk: 3 NZD
  • a glass of wine or a large beer in a pub: 8-10 NZD
  • a beer in the supermarket: from 3-4 NZD
  • Coffee to go: 4.5 NZD
  • Meal in a cheap restaurant: 15 NZD
  • Vodafone SIM card with 8GB data: 86 NZD (if purchased directly at the airport)
  • Helicopter flight over Queenstown: NZD 360 per person
  • Abel Tasman National Park Water Taxi Tour: NZD 80 per person

Our New Zealand travel expenses

First of all: Travel expenses are very individual. So our numbers should only serve as a guide. It is quite possible to stay a lot cheaper in New Zealand and at the same time you can leave a lot more money behind.

The stated travel costs relate to our last New Zealand road trip in January / February 2018. We were traveling with the rental car and mostly stayed in medium-priced motels / apartments.

  • Rental car: 1,338 euros for just under 3.5 weeks (second cheapest car class)
  • Accommodation: on average 95 euros per night (for both of us)
  • Meals: approx. 25 euros per person per day

Fuel charges are added to the transport costs. These vary greatly depending on the vehicle. While we were relatively economical with our car, you quickly have to calculate twice as much for a larger campervan.

Attention: The costs for activities in New Zealand are also not listed - be it the ticket for the visitor platform of the Sky Tower in Auckland, the ride on the gondola in Queenstown or the water taxi in the Abel Tasman National Park. Tours and activities are pretty expensive in New Zealand.

4. Entry into New Zealand

Apply for NZeTA

With a German or Austrian passport you can up to 3 months staying in New Zealand without having to apply for a visa in advance. This option is called Visa waiver.

Important: However, since October 2019 you have to have one for this electronic entry authorization apply for (NZeTA, New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority).

You can get your NZeTA online via the Website or via a corresponding App request. It is best to do this as soon as you have booked the flight, but no later than 72 hours before departure (that is how long it can take for your NZeTA to be approved). Your NZeTA is valid for two years from the date of approval.

The costs for the NZeTA currently (as of January 2020) 9 NZD (via app) or 12 NZD (via website). When you apply, however, you also pay one Tourist tax (IVL) in the amount of 35 NZD.

Here is the link to the official website:Apply for NZeTA

For other visa options (e.g. longer than 3 months, work visa, etc.) we can also highly recommend the official website (Immigration New Zealand). There you can enter the country of your passport and the type of your desired New Zealand stay and you will be spat out all options.

Entry into New Zealand: Customs & Co

You will also receive an on the plane form (Passenger Arrival Card), which you have to fill out and hand in on arrival (having a pen with you is a good idea). The question here is, for example, in which countries you have been before, whether you have hiking shoes / camping equipment or goods that are subject to declaration. You should clean very dirty shoes in advance, because New Zealand is very careful that nothing is imported that could damage the local vegetation.

After you have picked up your luggage from the conveyor belt, you give the form to someone on arrival Border official. He / she will ask you a few questions and, if necessary, you have to show the things. Usually, however, the process goes very quickly.

Attention (from personal experience!): New Zealand is particularly strict with fresh food. On our first trip to New Zealand we mistakenly had an apple in our hand luggage that we did not declare. Oops. After a very arduous 15-minute procedure, we received an official warning. Actually, a fine of an incredible 400 NZD would be provided for this.

5. Highlights & Itinerary

Enough of the dry preparation topics. Now let's get to the most important part: What can you see in New Zealand? And: How do I plan a road trip that will take me to the highlights of the country?

In this context, we highly recommend this blog article from us:

Our New Zealand itinerary

In this article we have summarized our personal highlights for a road trip through New Zealand - including travel times, options for stopovers and accommodation tips. You can travel the route from north to south as well as vice versa.

In short, if you have at least three weeks, you can travel to both North and South Island. If you have less time, we recommend that you concentrate on one island (our choice would be the South Island).

6. Eating & Drinking in New Zealand

To be honest, New Zealand's cuisine isn't exactly what we remember most about this country. Don't get it wrong: You can eat very well (and also very expensive) in New Zealand, but there was just not as much spark between us and the kitchen as in Thailand or India.

The New Zealand cuisine is from international and especially European influences embossed. In addition to burgers and steaks, the classics in New Zealand also include fish & chips and pies, which are traditionally filled with meat.

It will a lot of meat and fish eaten. As Vegetarian unfortunately it is sometimes a bit tedious. You can always find a vegetarian or vegan alternative somehow, but unfortunately the offer is often not very varied. It's easier in larger cities: More and more bars and restaurants are opening up there offering healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Our favorite restaurants Incidentally, on our New Zealand trip were:

Fergburger in Queenstown

An institution par excellence. You almost always have to stand in line in Queenstown for the supposedly best burgers in the country. But it's worth it. Most burgers are made with beef, but there are also two vegetarian options.

Big Fig in Wanaka

A poem! Under the motto “Slow food served fast”, delicious dishes and salads are served in the Big Fig in Wanaka. There are plenty of vegetarian alternatives.

The Corner Store in Dunedin

Really cool, young café in Dunedin with a wonderful breakfast and brunch.

Farmers markets across New Zealand

And not to forget, of course, the numerous "Farmers‘ Markets ", which usually take place on weekends, such as the Otago Farmers Market in Dunedin.

Supermarket & self-catering

Because it was simply too expensive for us to eat out all the time, we kept cooking ourselves. In most motels you either have your own kitchenette or you can use the communal kitchen.

Don't underestimate the cost of this either: Buy some fresh vegetables and cheese in the supermarket and you'll have a bill of NZD 30 or 40. All in all, it will of course be cheaper for you if you take care of yourself.

7. Overnight and lodging in New Zealand

In New Zealand you spoke roughly two overnight stays:

1. In your own vehicle (campervan, mobile home)
2. In an accommodation (hostel, motel, hotel, Airbnb)

If you are traveling by campervan or mobile home, the accommodation costs are lower. But: It is not completely free here either, because fees have to be paid for campsites as well.

Accommodation in New Zealand

We have been to New Zealand twice with the rental car and have mainly in motels or apartments spent the night. When booking, we always made sure that we had as much cooking facilities as possible in the apartment. By the way, many accommodations in New Zealand are still a bit old-fashioned (or getting on in years), but we have always lived very comfortably.

Book in advance or spontaneously?

Although we have always traveled in the high season (January / February), we have our accommodations almost exclusively spontaneous booked, i.e. usually one to a maximum of two days before arrival - often on the same day.

The disadvantage is of course that the really cool accommodations are often already fully booked or the prices can go up. For us personally, however, they predominate Advantages: Only if you book spontaneously can you react to any weather changes or skip certain travel destinations or integrate them into your road trip.

There is no right or wrong. So whether you prefer to book your accommodation before you start your trip or book it spontaneously depends 100 percent on your preferences and your type of travel. Maybe a combination of both variants is also something for you? At Booking.com (here we have almost always booked) it is sometimes possible to cancel free of charge up to a few days before arrival. We often use this booking option when we want to leave a cancellation or rebooking open.

8. Other travel tips for your New Zealand road trip

Health: UV radiation & sand flies

From a health point of view, New Zealand is an extremely safe travel destination. There are no dangerous animals or insects that transmit tropical diseases.

What you have to watch out for is the high one UV radiation. Because of the clear, unpolluted air, the rays of the sun in New Zealand are particularly intense. We therefore recommend that you always apply sunscreen when you leave the house (this is especially true if you are out in the mountains or by the sea at lunchtime). You get sunburned really faster in New Zealand than you'd like.

The New Zealanders are pretty annoying contemporaries Sand flies (or sand flies as they are called locally). Sandflies can be found all over New Zealand, but especially around rivers and stagnant water. They are not dangerous, but the bites itch like hell in some people. Our tip in sand fly areas is to wear long clothes. Mosquito protection may sometimes be necessary (however, we always fled before it got that far).

Travel plug for New Zealand

To connect your devices to electricity in New Zealand, you absolutely need an adapter. The mains voltage is the same (230 volts), but no two-pin plug from Austria or Germany will fit into the three-pin socket in New Zealand. Another tip: For us personally, an adapter would not have been enough because we always charge a lot of devices (cell phone, laptop, cameras). We bought two adapters on site. It is cheaper if you get them at home.

You can find the right adapter here:Travel plug for New Zealand

Internet & phone calls

We got one on our arrival at Christchurch Airport New Zealand sim card bought with 8GB data volume. Sim cards are not exactly cheap in New Zealand: We paid 86 NZD for our 8GB. (Tip: The SIM card is a bit cheaper at the airport itself.) This package also includes unlimited SMS & minutes within New Zealand as well as 200 free SMS and 200 minutes to certain countries (including Germany, but not Austria).

Even if such a SIM card is of course a very expensive investment at first, we would do it again at any time. It's just incredibly practical if you want to search for accommodation or information while on the move. Of course there are also cheaper packages (with 1 GB or 3 GB).

Earthquake in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most earthquake-rich countries in the world. Around 20,000 earthquakes are registered every year - not all of which can of course be felt. For the residents of New Zealand, smaller ones belong Earthquakes to everyday life. But even as a tourist you will come into contact with earthquakes.

We ourselves have always seen at least one earthquake on our two trips to New Zealand. Both times we were in Christchurch - the city in which a particularly high number of earthquakes are registered. There is no question that earthquakes can be a serious threat. In many accommodations you will therefore find emergency plans on the door of the room in case of an emergency. We still recommend that you don't let this drive you crazy. Fortunately, devastating disasters are very, very rare.

9. More New Zealand Articles for Planning Your Trip

You can find our New Zealand articles for each visited place here:

Transparency: This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something via the links, we receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. Cool thing right? We got a discount from Sunny Cars for our rental car in New Zealand - thank you very much! Nothing at all changes in our opinion. We have already booked privately with Sunny Cars several times (i.e. paid full price) and have always had good experiences.

Have you ever been on a road trip through New Zealand? Did you love the country that much too? Or do you have any more tips for us? As always, we look forward to your comment!