Ten tips for visiting New Zealand
New Zealand is a wonderful place, and there are some things that you can do to make your trip cheaper and more enjoyable. Our 10 tips for visiting New Zealand will allow you to see more for less during your travels around the country.
1. Reduce Driving
Most people fly into and out of either Christchurch or Queenstown on the south island. Many people overlook Nelson, Dunedin, Blenheim, and Hokitika airport. You can use one of these airports as your entry or exit point to the south island. This can reduce driving by 4+ hours and save you half a day to a full day. When you account for drive time, add in some buffer. It is not common to be stuck behind campervans for miles, and your trip taking 10% longer than you were anticipating. Driving in New Zealand does not involve highways and can be stressful. The less you drive, the more time you have for doing things.
2. Go the Opposite Direction
Most people that do one-way circuits on the south island fly into Christchurch and fly out of Queenstown. It is often a lot cheaper to rent a car that starts in Queenstown and ends in Christchurch since car rental companies often have too many cars in Queenstown and not enough in Christchurch. Check out some of our New Zealand itineraries for trip ideas.
3. Car Rental or Campervan Relocation
It sometimes is cheaper to have multiple vehicle rental reservations and incorporate relocation rentals into your route. You can often get a two to three-day rentals between many south island airports for free if you go the opposite direction as most people. One common route to incorporate is Queenstown to Christchurch since that route can normally be done in two days without missing anything. Many companies often give 5+ days to travel between the north and south island. This route can fee rushed in five days, but if you are on a budget in the high season, it is a great way to get a cheap campervan rental. Our guide on car rental relocations and campervan relocations has more information.
4. Car Rentals
There are a ton of car rental companies in New Zealand. The worldwide companies can be found at almost every airport, and smaller companies can be found in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Dunedin. Worldwide rental companies like Hertz often only charge a oneway rental fee for rentals that are less than three days. Worldwide rental companies often have newer vehicles and have a higher insurance excess than smaller companies. Make sure that you check for coupons. The rental company that I rent most from is Hitch using a 25% off coupon code (discount25). Make sure that you get the most fuel discount that you can when you fill your tank.
5. Discount Websites
Many attractions in New Zealand offer discounts if you go at a specific time or prepurchase your entry. Our guide to discount websites goes over all of your options. Bookme is the largest discount website in New Zealand. Almost all Milford Sound cruises are listed on discount websites, sometimes with a 50% discount over the list price.
6. Visiting the Milford Sound
Milford Sound is the highlight of many peoples trip to New Zealand. Milford Sound is actually better when it has been raining or is raining. The number of waterfalls is directly related to the amount of rain. If it does not rain for a couple of days, many of the waterfalls can dry up, creating a less interesting boat ride. I recommend doing the morning tour since you avoid a lot of the crowds. You can often get a good discount using Bookme.
7. Understand Prices
If you are coming from the United States, the prices in New Zealand will look expensive. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when looking at prices in New Zealand. First, they normally all include 15% tax. Tipping is not customary in New Zealand, and employees are paid a wage that is not dependent on tipping. This means that the price listed is the total price that you pay. Our guide on the true cost of eating out breaks the actual cost of a restaurant meal into a relatable menu price in the states.
8. Time of Year
One of the most overlooked things, when people schedule a trip to New Zealand, is the amount of daylight in a day. Queenstown in June has less than nine hours of daylight, and in December it has over fifteen hours of daylight. That makes a huge difference in the outdoor activities that you can do. If you are going in the shoulder season, October and November have a lot more daylight than April and May which can make an impact on all the things that you can accomplish on your trip.
9. Book Your Great Walk in Advance
Great Walk bookings open in the middle of June for the following season. The DoC announces the specific days that each walk’s huts open to book in May of each year. The bookings for each walk open on a different day to reduce server load due to the number of people that book as soon as the schedule is released. Make sure that you can do the Great Walks that you want to do by booking when the schedule opens.
10. Recognize There Will be Crowds and Rain
Do not come to New Zealand thinking that you will have the country to yourself. There are tons of places off the beaten path that you will have to yourself, but the main tourist attractions are heavily touristed. Be aware of that and do not let the crowds get to you. The Tongariro Crossing often is back to back people for kilometers, but it is an amazing tramp. New Zealand is incredibly green, but being, so green comes at the cost of rain. Pack a good raincoat and umbrella and do not let New Zealand rain ruin your trip. It is not uncommon for it to rain a part of every day, but the weather in New Zealand changes rapidly, so don’t let a little rain ruin your plans.