Travel in New Zealand: 10 tips for first timers

Travel in New Zealand: 10 tips for your first trip!

If this is not your first time on We12travel, you may have noticed that I have a deep crush on New Zealand. I could easily live there, though we’ve decided not to (long story) but just go back every once in a while. After spending more than five months on the road there during three trips over the past ten years, I think I can give you quite a good idea of what to travel in New Zealand is like. Here are my 10 tips for your first time in New Zealand. Just some things to consider when considering or planning a trip down there.
Note: this blog was first published in August 2016 and has been updated during my most recent trip in February 2018.

1. The Southern Island is the pretty place to be

For nature that is. Most of us come to New Zealand because of the amazing landscapes and I will never forget what was written in the guestbook of the hostel I stayed in Auckland after arrival in my first trip. It said ‘please go to the South Island as soon as you can!’. Of course, we had unfortunately booked a return trip from AKL meaning we had to return up north and leave the South Island behind at some point, which made me ache to go back. The second time I went to New Zealand, I flew out of Christchurch, so your trip definitely ends with a bang of truly stunning nature.

2. You better bring your hiking boots

During my first New Zealand trip I didn’t hike much, the main reason for me to come back to New Zealand a second time was to go hiking. In those six weeks I hiked five of their insanely popular Great Walks and did various amazing day hikes. If you are not into hiking or any outdoor activities, then New Zealand may not be the place for you.
travel in new zealand first time in new zealand


3. They have sandflies

Argh, those friggin’ sandflies. They nearly killed me when I was out hiking and took some of the fun away when staying at the most scenic camping places, unable to leave your tent because otherwise you’d be stung like crazy. They are most common on the South Island and then usually up in the mountains or at mountain lakes. I never really used any bug dope as I found that it didn’t work anyway. Better be prepared for those little buggers!

4. Bring $$$

If you want to travel in New Zealand, realize it’s super expensive! Although I was camping and cooking most meals myself, I still got a scare each time I was at the checkout of a supermarket for example. But it’s not just that, accommodation tends to be rather expensive (and sometimes very poor) as well as fuel and basically anything you can think of. For groceries Pak N Save will be your best bet for cheap groceries but stock up once there because they are only found in few bigger towns. For a really good budget breakdown, visit this post by fellow blogger Lotte who tells you how to travel in NZ as a couple for less than NZD 160/day. Also make sure to book accommodation well ahead as during my last trip I found that everything was booked up most of the time, especially in Queenstown and around it was nearly impossible to find some place affordable to stay.

mount ngauruhoe

5. See Lord of the Rings

I’m not a fan of fantasy movies but I felt that I really needed to see the Lord of the Rings movies before going to travel in New Zealand. You will find references to LOTR all over when you travel in New Zealand, for example in Mata Mata where Hobbiton is and all the way over the South Island. After seeing the movies, I still am not a fan of fantasy yet each time I see them, I am being swept back to those most amazing trips I have made and they keep the memories alive.

6. Rent or buy a vehicle

If you want to see the unknown, then better rent a vehicle. Many travel around with a campervan, I just rent or even buy a simple car. I’ve seen many backpackers being unable to move around to the scenic places just because they were on a bus. The most scenic places are generally far away from everything else so a van or car is definitely your best option!
travel in new zealand in nelson lakes national park

7. Wifi sucks

This is not a happy one, but the wifi in New Zealand really sucks. In general accommodation or campsites will only give you a few MB’s that are generally just about enough to update your Facebook page. If it’s available for free at all it’s pretty slow and I sometimes got ultra frustrated about being unable to upload pics to my Facebook page. If you want to unplug for a while, New Zealand is definitely your place! Alternatively, buy a local simcard for your data, Vodafone got me covered almost everywhere in the country.

8. They drive on the left

But you know what? When participating in the traffic, you will get used to this within a short time. If you’re driving a vehicle, try to get a automatic which makes it much easier and you won’t have to think about the stick. Crossing the street, well, it’s generally quiet on New Zealand roads so that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
travel in new zealand first time in new zealand

9. Some towns are just plain boring

Come to New Zealand for its stunning nature and friendly people, not if you want to be jetsetting in the hippest place on the Southern Hemisphere. Although the major tourist cities such as Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown for example have ample hipster places, you will find the majority of New Zealand towns fairly dull. Nothing wrong with that really as I tend to enjoy quiet places, but if you’ve come to party, you might end up disappointed other than in the big cities.

10. You should do at least one thing that scares the shit out of you

You have come to the world’s most adventurous country so you’d better be adventurous. While there, I went bungy jumping, sky diving, jet boating, kayaking between icebergs, downhill mountain biking and I took a walk on the Skytower in Auckland. And yes, those kind of things still scare me. The adrenaline kick makes it well worth though!
travel in new zealand first time in new zealand

And finally …

Make sure to order your copy of Lonely Planet New Zealand as well as a your New Zealand road map. But most of all … enjoy New Zealand! It’s a beautiful place and I’m sure you will love it!
Those were my trips for your first time travel in New Zealand. I’ve probably forgotten to mention quite a few things but there are plenty of other cool blogs out there to check out. If you visit my New Zealand board on Pinterest you will find a ton of amazing other blogs who have also written extensive travel guides to New Zealand. Also make sure to check out this guide to 56 typical New Zealand slang words.
Anything you’d like to recommend for first timers in New Zealand?
Want to read more about my previous New Zealand adventures? You may also like the following posts:
New Zealand week 3: about weather gods and angels
Hiking on Rangitoto Island – a great day trip from Auckland
Hiking in New Zealand – the best places
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Thanks for sharing!
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