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How to Plan a Trip to New Zealand: Frequently Asked Questions

Updated: September 8, 2022

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Milford Sound, fiord with snow capped Mitre Peak on New Zealand’s South Island

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Embrace the extremes of the natural world in New Zealand and the relaxed ambiance of the North and South Islands with these answers to common travel questions.

From exploring the wilderness of ancient forests, towering mountains, and stoic glaciers to learning about Maori culture, British influence, and local wildlife, New Zealand vacations offer a glimpse into what makes the country tick.

Learn more about the best time to visit, the top things to do, where to go, and more with the following guide.

  1. When is the best time to visit New Zealand?
  2. How many days should I spend in New Zealand?
  3. What are the most popular destinations in New Zealand?
  4. What should I do on my trip to New Zealand?
  5. Should I visit New Zealand’s North Island or South Island?
  6. Can I visit more of the South Pacific from New Zealand?
  7. Does New Zealand have good beaches?
  8. Is New Zealand a good place for hiking?
  9. Where can I see wildlife in New Zealand?
  10. How do I travel around New Zealand?
  11. Is New Zealand a good destination for families?
  12. Is New Zealand suitable for senior travelers?
  13. Is New Zealand suitable for couples or honeymooners?
  14. What food should I try in New Zealand?
  15. Is New Zealand a good place for wine?
  16. Is New Zealand safe to visit?
  17. What language do they speak in New Zealand?
  18. What vaccinations do I need to travel to New Zealand?
  19. Which airports should I plan for?
  20. What currency does New Zealand use?
  21. How can Zicasso help me plan my trip to New Zealand?
  22. Where can I find recommended itineraries for my trip?

When is the best time to visit New Zealand?

The best time to visit New Zealand is between December and February, the Southern Hemisphere’s summer season, when the weather is warm, and there are bright, sunny days for outdoor activities.

Most travelers plan trips for December through February to escape the Northern Hemisphere’s cold winters, so you may have to navigate crowds on the North and South Islands. Fortunately, New Zealand is quieter than neighboring Australia.

Despite summer’s popularity, New Zealand is a year-round destination and other months are great for specific experiences. March and April offer brisk weather for more comfortable hiking, while July and August bring winter weather for excellent skiing, geothermal explorations, and whale watching. September and October mark the end of the snow season, and the countryside is breathtaking at this time.

Learn more: Best Time to Visit New Zealand

How many days should I spend in New Zealand?

We recommend you spend 14 days in New Zealand. There are vibrant cities, Maori villages, seaside resorts, and national parks to explore in the North and South Islands, and two weeks is plenty of time to experience it all.

With this amount of time, you could spend the first half of your vacation in the North Island’s bustling heart of Auckland, at the geothermal wonderlands of Rotorua, or in the shire of Waikato. You can then head for the South Island’s cosmopolitan neighborhoods, among them Christchurch, taste wines in Central Otago, and visit the fiords of Milford Sound.

With fewer days to explore, you can visit the highlights on seven- to 10-day trips. And should you have more time, trips of up to three weeks and beyond are excellent for immersive adventures.

Learn more: 10 Day New Zealand Itineraries2 Week New Zealand Itineraries3 Week New Zealand Itineraries

What are the most popular destinations in New Zealand?

New Zealand is famous for its diversity of destinations, from Fiordland towns to geothermal parks and cosmopolitan cities. Below is a list of the most popular destinations:

  • Queenstown
  • Auckland
  • Rotorua
  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • West Coast
  • Fiordland National Park
  • Napier
  • Kaikoura
  • Bay of Islands
  • Lake Taupo

Which you choose depends on the type of experience you would like to have. Queenstown is an adventure hub and gateway to Lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables mountains, while Auckland is an atmospheric city with a unique history and culture. You can explore our best places to visit in New Zealand to learn more about these destinations.

What should I do on my trip to New Zealand?

From hiking Mount Cook to cruising Fiordland and discovering Maori traditions, there is a diverse list of things to do in New Zealand, depending on your vacation design. Below, we share some top experiences to help you plan a trip of a lifetime:

  • Discover the customs and traditions of the Maoris on tours of villages in far-flung regions
  • Enjoy a combination of globally-influenced dishes and Maori cuisine on culinary tours
  • View unspoiled landscapes on hikes and walking tours across national parks, Fiordland, and coastlines
  • Cross trails weaving through The Remarkables mountain range to viewpoints overlooking the cliffs and emerald lakes
  • Spot unique wildlife on safari experiences revealing kiwis, yellow-eyed penguins, and whales in their natural habitats
  • Tour New Zealand’s urban cityscapes, immersing yourself in the friendly culture and exploring cosmopolitan charm
  • Partake in thrilling outdoor activities, including kayaking, ziplining, jetboating, whitewater rafting, and more
  • Visit the flourishing wine farms to taste the country’s unique varieties and learn about the growing wine-making heritage

The list of things to do in New Zealand does not stop there. You can also explore the Hobbiton film set for The Lord of the Rings, cruise across lakes with lunch onboard, and visit museums tracing Maori heritage. To learn more about the best things to do in New Zealand and where to experience them, explore our top things to do in New Zealand.

Should I visit New Zealand’s North Island or South Island?

If possible, explore both. Each island offers unique experiences, from the vibrant cities and Maori culture of the North Island to the untamed landscapes and Fiordland of the South Island. Exploring both in a single trip lets you experience the best of both worlds.

If you only have time to explore one or wish to minimize transfers during your trip, then your choice comes down to the experiences you prefer. On the North Island, you can visit the vibrant city of Auckland, explore the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua, and experience Maori culture in traditional villages. On the South Island, you can take adventures through Fiordland or trek to viewpoints on Mount Cook.

To browse featured trips showcasing what is possible on each island, visit our New Zealand North Island itineraries and New Zealand South Island itineraries.

Can I visit more of the South Pacific from New Zealand?

The beauty of traveling to the South Pacific is that you can visit multiple countries easily and trips to New Zealand often feature days in Australia or Fiji.

Our Australia & New Zealand tours and Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji vacation packages provide examples of how to visit more of the South Pacific from New Zealand. These sample trips range from brief highlight tours with stops in Melbourne and Uluru in Australia or longer trips that include Fijian islands like Kadavu or Laucala.

Does New Zealand have good beaches?

Stunning beaches are yours to explore on vacations along New Zealand’s coastline. There are long stretches of pearl-white sand, windswept cliffs towering over pebbled shores, and forest-flanked bays to discover on a beach vacation. Below, we share a list of the most popular beaches to visit:

  • Ninety Mile Beach, Northland
  • Piha Beach, Auckland
  • Cathedral Cove, The Coromandel
  • Maunganui Beach, Bay of Plenty
  • Awaroa Beach, Abel Tasman National Park
  • Koekohe Beach, Waitaki
  • Scotts Beach, West Coast
  • Purakaunui Bay, Catlins

Is New Zealand a good place for hiking?

Outdoor activities like hiking feature on most New Zealand tours as the country’s untamed landscapes share some of the best trails in the world. From challenging alpine treks up Mount Cook to casual walks to waterfalls in Abel Tasman National Park, our New Zealand hiking tours can take you to the following trails:

  • Lake Waikaremoana
  • Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • Whanganui Journey
  • Abel Tasman Coast Track
  • Heaphy Track
  • Milford Track
  • Kepler Track
  • Routeburn Track
  • Rakiura Track
  • Paparoa Track

Learn more: Great Walks of New Zealand

Where can I see wildlife in New Zealand?

Wildlife viewing is exceptional in New Zealand as national parks, rural wilderness, and unique environments teem with endemic animals, birds, and marine life. Here are some of the most popular places to see the wildlife of New Zealand and some noteworthy animals to keep your eyes peeled for:

  • Otago Peninsula, yellow-eyed penguins and royal albatross
  • The Catlins, Hector’s dolphin and New Zealand sea lions
  • Bay of Islands, dolphins and whales
  • Kaikoura, humpback and blue whales, and orcas
  • Akaroa, Maui dolphins and white-flippered penguins
  • Otorohanga, kiwis
  • Stewart Island, Stewart Island robin and Stewart Island brown kiwi

Learn more: Things to Do in New Zealand's Mount Cook National Park

How do I travel around New Zealand?

There is a wide variety of transportation options, from private transfers to rental cars, planes, national coaches, hop-on and off buses, trains, boats, and bicycles.

Transportation in New Zealand is reliable and efficient, enabling travelers to navigate the wilderness, transfer from city to city, and enjoy tours comfortably. Planes are the easiest way to travel between the North and South islands, while trains may offer a cinematic alternative. Private transfers are ideal for city tours, while rental cars are excellent for road trips.

Bus tours are also accessible and comfortable, while hiring bicycles is a fantastic option for active travelers exploring the cities or wilderness trails. Finally, you can cruise in yachts or catamarans and take speedboats on coastline tours.

Learn more: The Best Way to Travel Around New Zealand

Is New Zealand a good destination for families?

From landscapes famously featured in epic fantasy films to adventure destinations with thrilling outdoor activities, New Zealand is a beautiful and inspiring place to travel to as a family.

You can explore the Hobbits' homes at The Lord of the Rings Hobbiton film set with your young ones, trek the mountain tracks of Mount Cook with your teens, or marvel at the glowworms clinging to the Waitomo Caves.

New Zealand family itineraries can reveal the cuddly-looking flightless kiwi birds on wildlife trips, showcase the bubbling geysers of Rotorua, and highlight the natural beauty of Matamata. Enjoy the thrill of adventure or time to connect on trips with family at heart.

Learn more: Top Things to Do in New Zealand with Family

Is New Zealand suitable for senior travelers?

New Zealand is a welcoming country, with intrepid senior travel or relaxing vacations cornerstones of the tourism industry. Seniors of all ages adore opportunities to explore New Zealand’s outdoors and cities on private tours with knowledgeable guides.

You can hike or cycle through New Zealand’s national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, be they the snowy slopes of Mount Cook or the Fiordland of Queenstown. You can cruise to Waiheke Island's beaches, wander Wellington's waterfront promenade, or learn Maori customs at traditional villages.

Our New Zealand tours for seniors offer vacation ideas for every type of traveler and senior travel style, from active wildlife trips to beach vacations.

Is New Zealand suitable for couples or honeymooners?

Couples adore the seclusion and privacy of New Zealand vacations, the cinematic backdrops of alpine mountains and icy fiords, and picturesque coastlines with glamorous resorts.

You can embrace your time together on luxury New Zealand tours, sharing moments on private shores with fine wines or experiencing the romance of New Zealand honeymoon packages, with sailing, hiking, and hot-air balloon rides showcasing the outdoors.

You can also design New Zealand tours for couples for any occasion, taking your time to enjoy the simple pleasures of Maori culture on the North Island or cruising past the sea-drowned valleys of the Marlborough Sounds.

Learn more: Most Romantic Things to Do in New Zealand for CouplesMost Romantic Places in New Zealand for Couples

What food should I try in New Zealand?

New Zealand’s culinary culture is influenced by global cuisine, while Maori dishes are popular on tours of villages and outlying areas. Gourmet restaurants and family-run eateries offer travelers exquisite renditions of international cuisine and Maori meals, respectively. The following list highlights some of the best foods to try on your trip:

  • Hāngi, the Maori method of cooking meat and vegetables over hot rocks buried beneath the ground
  • New Zealand fish and chips
  • Meat and vegetable pies
  • Green-lipped mussels
  • Mānuka honey, from bees that pollinate the mānuka tree
  • New Zealand pavlova, baked meringue with whipped cream and berries
  • Pāua, sea snails
  • Whitebait fritters
  • Maori fried bread
  • Kumara fries, sweet potato fries

Is New Zealand a good place for wine?

Best known for its Marlborough sauvignon blancs, New Zealand is an excellent place for wine, with white and red varieties increasing in popularity worldwide. There are more than seven exceptional wine-growing regions between the North and South islands to consider visiting during your vacation. Below, we highlight some of the most notable wine regions:

  • Marlborough
  • Central Otago
  • Nelson
  • Hawke’s Bay
  • Waikato
  • Waiheke Island
  • Wairarapa

Our New Zealand wine tours focus on showcasing the best of New Zealand wines, taking you to estates in both islands to explore light pinot noirs, full-bodied syrahs, and fruity sauvignon blancs.

Is New Zealand safe to visit?

New Zealand is a very safe destination. Regarded as one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world and with low crime rates, you can feel confident about your security when exploring the country.

Petty crime, like bag-snatching, is possible in busy public areas. However, occurrences among tourists are very rare. Public transportation is also very safe and reliable. With low natural disaster risks and an incredibly safe environment for solo and senior travelers, New Zealand remains one of the best destinations to visit with safety in mind.

What language do they speak in New Zealand?

The official languages of New Zealand are Māori and New Zealand Sign Language, though the main national language spoken by most locals is English.

You will have absolutely no problem communicating with locals at accommodations and during tours. You may hear villagers speaking Māori if you visit ethnic settlements, though your guide will be able to translate for you and teach you several Māori words and phrases. You may also notice that New Zealanders use local slang when speaking English. Below, we list some of the most common slang terms:

  • Dairy, corner store
  • Jandals, flip-flops
  • Stoked, happy about something
  • Togs, swimsuit
  • Knackered, exhausted
  • Tramping, hiking
  • Sweet as, great or excellent
  • Bach, holiday home
  • Stubbie, beer

What vaccinations do I need to travel to New Zealand?

Vaccinations are not mandatory to enter New Zealand, but you can review a list of those that are recommended in CDC New Zealand Vaccination Information.

Depending on where you go, you may wish to speak with your travel nurse or doctor, as they can provide you with further information or recommendations.

Which airports should I plan for?

For most travelers, the most convenient airport for international arrivals and departures is Auckland (AKL), followed by Christchurch’s International Airport (CHC). Below, we share a list of the main airports to consider for international arrivals and departures, as well as domestic travel within New Zealand:

  • Auckland Airport (AKL), Auckland
  • Christchurch Airport (CHC), Christchurch
  • Wellington Airport (WLG), Wellington
  • Queenstown Airport (ZQN), Queenstown
  • Dunedin Airport (DUD), Dunedin

What currency does New Zealand use?

The official currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar ($).

New Zealand does not accept the American dollar, so you must exchange it for foreign currency before your trip. You should always carry cash as it is the most accessible payment method across the country. However, some establishments accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express should you wish to pay electronically. ATMs are widely available across New Zealand’s main tourist cities, including Auckland, Christchurch, and Queenstown.

How can Zicasso help me plan my trip to New Zealand?

You can plan your trip design, secure your accommodations, and book your tours for New Zealand with the help of a Zicasso travel specialist. Inspired by our New Zealand tours and vacations, you can start building an idea of how you would like to experience the South Pacific country.

When you are ready, complete a trip request in which you can share additional details and information, set a rough trip budget, and outline the duration of your vacation. Once submitted, a member of our Travel Care team will be in touch to discuss your vacation ideas in more detail. They use their insight and wealth of experience to match you with a New Zealand travel specialist capable of fulfilling your requests.

Your top New Zealand travel specialist will work with you to create a custom trip or plan for one you have found in our collection. They will handle accommodation and tour bookings on your behalf and be available for the duration of your vacation should you need to contact them with questions, suggestions, or emergencies.

Learn more: How to Plan Your Zicasso Trip in 4 Easy StepsHow to Plan Your Zicasso Trip Budget in 3 Easy Steps

Where can I find recommended itineraries for my trip?

Hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

New Zealand embodies natural wonder, immersing you in the grandeur of geothermal activity, sparkling coves, whitewater rafting adventures, and remarkable hiking excursions included in several of our New Zealand tours and vacations. These sample trips can help you plan your itinerary, with recommendations for where to go and what to do.

As you look forward to your New Zealand trip, you can learn more about the country and find additional information and insights in our New Zealand travel guide.

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