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Frequently asked questions

Visiting New Zealand

This entirely depends on your travel times. Ideally you would do both! Mutually stunning, each island has unique, individual attractions. However, if you have limited time we recommend choosing one island to thoroughly explore as opposed to trying to rush them both. There's always next time!

So to help you decide, take a look at our in depth guide to each island.

 

New Zealand is beautiful in every season - but the best time to come really depends on what you would like to do.

New Zealand in Spring is a great time to visit as the days are beginning to warm up, but the nights are still crisp and cool. Flowers begin to bloom, and lambs are born all across the country, making for a lively and vibrant atmosphere.

If you're headed here in the Summer expect long warm days perfect for swimming, kayaking, biking, and hiking. You’ll get plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors because it doesn't get dark until 10pm.

Have your camera ready if you're visiting in Autumn, because the changing of the leaves is really something. If you’re into hiking, this is the best time to come for you. Slightly cool but not too cold, the trails will be virtually empty and the days (mostly) clear and crisp. The new season brings spectacular colour to every New Zealand region, but a must-see at this time of year is  Arrowtown, where the hillside is burnished with every shade of red and gold.

If skiing is your thing, Winter is the time for you. Think clear sky, 'bluebird', days and powdery snow followed by mulled wine and a crackling fire. If skiing isn't your thing, hiking is still great at this time of year, and many of the trails have natural hot springs to relax in.

More information on: the best time to come to New Zealand.

New Zealand has a wide range of accommodation to suit any budget. There are six distinct styles including: Motels, three star hotels, four star hotels, luxury lodges and five star hotels, bed and breakfasts, and premium bed and breakfasts.

More information on each style of accommodation: A detailed overview of each accommodation style.

 

In New Zealand the cost of things will vary according to the location. In more remote places you should factor in paying a lot more for everyday items such as groceries and petrol. If you have children, tourist attractions usually offer a family rate which will give you the best value for money.

Here is a general cost idea for commonly purchased items.

For dining prices see our Food and Dining Guide.



 

New Zealand food is internationally renowned. A wide range of cuisine and styles are available to suit every budget. Dining out in the larger cities you will have a plethora of options while in the smaller towns you may only have one or two choices.

See our detailed guide to food and dining in New Zealand.

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Driving in New Zealand

You can drive in New Zealand if you have a current and valid overseas licence or driver permit in English, or accompanied by an accurate translation.

The usual minimum age to rent or drive a rental vehicle in New Zealand is 25 however we have a special arrangement with Europcar which allows drivers from 21 years old. They must hold a current valid full licence (not provisional).

Petrol in New Zealand costs around NZ$2.30 per litre (around NZ$10 per US Gallon). The tours listed on our sites and any itineraries we create for you will give you an indication of the fuel cost for your tour based on the specific car selected.

In New Zealand we drive on the left hand side of the road.

New Zealand roads are generally very well maintained and very well signposted. Finding your way outside of large cities is very straightforward and our directions and maps assist you everywhere.

There are very few motorways or large carriageways in New Zealand with most roads being just 2 lane highways. This does mean that getting from A to B takes a little longer than you might be used to (work on an average of 80kph/50mph) but of course the fantastic scenery makes it worthwhile.

Open road speed limits in New Zealand are 100kph and it will be clearly signposted where this limit applies. In urban areas the limit is usually 50kph and again this will be clearly signposted.

Speed cameras are common around New Zealand and can be either mounted at specific locations or within mobile camera units and within police cars. If you speed there is a pretty good chance you will be caught.

Driving in winter in New Zealand is for the most part no different to any other time. Indeed, winter can be a great time to travel with less traffic and clear days. Extra care does need to be taken in the some places where roads can be affected by snow and ice at times.

Take a little more care where there is potential for ice and avoid night time or early morning driving if possible. Icy road conditions are generally signposted, with regularly ice-affected corners permanently signposted and temporary conditions marked.

Some southern regions' roads can be affected by snow. But road conditions will be clearly signposted and, when necessary, roads will be closed. Main highways usually re-open within a few hours of a heavy snowfall after road crews clear them.

In winter you will need to carry snow chains to travel on some roads when they are likely to be affected by snow. These include some popular and recommended routes like the Crown Range road, between Queenstown and Wanaka, and the road to Milford Sound. Snow chains are available to hire when you collect your rental car.

Driving in winter can be very enjoyable. Quiet roads and clear days make for some of the best scenery. Simply adjust your driving to suit the conditions.

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Rental Cars

Our tour packages include:

  • the rental costs for your car for the duration of your tour,
  • airport and ferry terminal fees where applicable,
  • additional driver fees (any number of additional drivers at no extra charge),
  • insurance & GST (New Zealand sales tax).

Tour costs quoted on our site automatically include full collision and damage waiver fees limiting your maximum liability. But we can arrange your tour with the level of insurance cover your prefer.

Note: you may be offered additional insurance to cover windscreens and tyre and other additional costs on collection of your vehicle.

All our tour itineraries are arranged so that you drop one rental car at either Picton or Wellington and collect a replacement car on arrival to the other side. This saves you money as taking a car on the ferry is expensive.

Dropping of you car and picking a new one up after your ferry trip is very easy. Your luggage will be checked on board the ferry in the same way you would for a plane flight.

Most of the rental car fleets operate petrol vehicles for small cars and saloons with the larger SUV/4WD's, people movers and vans running on diesel.

Most of the rental car fleets have automatic gearboxes. Manual cars are available with some fleets but these tend to be the smaller cars only.

Yes all the rental cars we arrange for you include full roadside assistance (breakdown cover). So if the car develops a problem help is just a phone call away. If the car cannot be repaired quickly a replacement vehicle is delivered as soon as possible.

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Weather questions

You can see average maximum temperatures and rainfall on our weather page here. You can check long range forecasts for weather on the New Zealand Metservice Website here.

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Meals and Dining

New Zealand is known for its abundant and fresh cuisine. Described as Pacific Rim, it draws on inspiration from Europe, Asia and Indonesia. Being a small island country food served in restaurants is seasonal and consequently, always fresh. Classic New Zealand dishes include lamb, bluff oysters, salmon, whitebait fritters and pavlova, the national dessert.

Every kind of international cuisine can be found in most places nationwide, although the larger cities have a much wider selection - as you would expect. While you're here be sure to try another kiwi classic,  fish and chips on the beach. For specific dietary requirements, New Zealand caters well to those who are gluten free/vegan/dairy intolerant. Most places have at least two, if not a range of alternative food options. One of the best ways to get a restaurant recommendation is to ask a local or your accommodation host. Often one cafe or restaurant will be more regularly frequented, one might have better coffee or one might have a great atmosphere etc.

 

The cost of a restaurant meal including drinks will vary, but your bill should be roughly $100 and up for a couple, and a little more if you're at a fine dining establishment.

Expect to pay NZ$15 - NZ$35 for a main meal at a local restaurant, and NZ$30+ for mains at fine dining restaurants. A good hearty pub meal will be around NZ$25 for a main course.

Drinks cost between NZ$6 and NZ$12 for a glass of wine (depending on what it is of course) and a beer will cost you NZ$5 and NZ$10.

A bottle of wine will cost anything from NZ$30 upwards in a restaurant or cafe.

New Zealand has a small population of Muslims but also welcomes many Muslim visitors who require Halal meals. This means there are plenty of Halal certified or specialist restaurants in New Zealand.

This comprehensive guide details restaurants and eateries offering Halal food in New Zealand.

 

 

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Interislander ferry crossing

All our tours are arranged so that you drop one rental car at either Picton or Wellington and collect a replacement car on arrival to the other side. This is a very easy process and luggage on board the ferry is checked in the same way you would for a plane flight.
Taking a car on the Interislander ferry is expensive so this saves you the cost.

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Making payments

We accept Visa and MasterCard payments and process them via our secure credit card processing system.

This system is administered entirely by our bank (Bank of New Zealand) and DPS (Direct Payment Solutions).

When completing the booking form the final stage is the payment process. From there just follow the instructions.

When a your payment is made the screen will display a reference number and a receipt will be emailed to you. (And we are notified automatically of all payments.)

 

The balance for your tour is due 45 days prior to the start date or if you have made a reservation inside 45 days it is due upon you receiving a confirmation document for your tour.

Note: the balance due date is displayed on the costs page of your itinerary.

Yes. The payment system we use offers the highest levels of safety and security available.

The system we use is administered entirely by DPS (Direct Payment Solutions) -- a world leader in online payment technology -- and our bank, the Bank of New Zealand. When you click through to the payment system the transaction is completed within a secure (https) page and the information entered is only seen by DPS and our bank.

  

Please contact your trip planner if you have more questions about paying for your New Zealand holiday.

Yes. You can choose to pay for your tour in another currency.

Choose your preferred currency on the payments page and our system will convert your balance into your currency using BNZ (Bank of New Zealand) exchange rates.

Paying in Your Local Currency

For example, selecting to pay us in $US will mean you will be charged that exact $US amount, if your card was issued by a US bank.

Paying in NZ Dollars

If you choose to pay in $NZ using a non-New Zealand credit card, then your credit card company or bank may charge you a currency conversion fee. This can sometimes be around 3% of the transactions. So check with your bank or credit card company first to make sure which is the best option for you.

Note: the cost in currencies other than $NZ may fluctuate with exchange rate changes. We use the NZ$ price as the base cost.

Please contact your trip planner if you have more questions about paying for your New Zealand holiday.

If you don't have a credit card or prefer not to use one then contact us and we can supply all the information you need to make a direct credit to our bank account.

Yes. You can split payments decide how much you wish to pay on the balance of the tour or if you are travelling in a party then making the appropriate payment for your share is easy.

When you get to the Payments page, in the payment process, simply edit the amount in the white box before clicking through to the Payment Processing page.

Yes. You can use as many different credit cards as you wish.

The system processes each card individually and allocates to your account. So splitting costs between fellow travellers is easy.

 

Please contact your trip planner if you have more questions about paying for your New Zealand holiday.

No. We do not charge an additional fee for paying with your credit card.

Paying in New Zealand dollars
Our tours are priced in New Zealand dollars. If you choose to pay with NZ currency your credit card supplier may charge you a currency conversion fee, much like if you went to a bank and purchased foreign currency.

Paying with other currencies
We do give you the option to pay in alternative currency. For example: paying in US dollars using a credit issued in the US should mean there is no currency conversion fee applied by your credit card company.

Currency conversion rates
The currency conversion rates we use are supplied by our bank here in New Zealand.
 

Please contact your trip planner if you have more questions about paying for your New Zealand holiday.

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Making a reservation

At the time of booking we ask for a deposit payment of 10% of the quoted tour cost or NZ$200 per person, whichever is higher.

Occasionally, items such as domestic airfares may also need paying for at the time of the deposit. These are usually paid for immediately after you book; so we collect payment along with your deposit.

The deposit amount will be calculated automatically and displayed on the payment page.

Full payment for your tour is due 45 days prior to the start date or, if you have made a reservation within 45 days, it is due when you receive a confirmation document for your tour.

Note: the balance due date is displayed on the costs page of your itinerary.

Found a suggested New Zealand self drive tour you like? You can simply click the "Get Prices" tab on the tour menu to request a price for your planned dates and book your tour.

Follow the instructions and complete the details requested. The booking process requires a deposit to be made through our secure credit card system (Visa and MasterCard only).

Please contact one of our experienced trip planners if you have any more questions about booking your trip or would like to customise your New Zealand self drive tour itinerary.

Completing our booking form will supply us with the information we need to arrange your time in New Zealand

 

The booking form asks you for the information we need such as names, address, phone number etc. We also ask for your flight details if you have those arranged already (if not you can still book and supply those later).

Requesting Special Requirements

There is a section on the form which allows you to add special requests such as dietary requirements or preferred bedding configurations or anything else you want to let us know.

Deposit Payment

A deposit payment -- 10% of the total itinerary cost or $200 per person, whichever is higher -- is required via our secure credit card system. This is administered by DPS (Direct Payment Solutions) and our bank (Bank of New Zealand) and is extremely safe and secure. Your credit card details are not stored by us.

Please contact your trip planner if you have more questions about information required to complete your booking.

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Cancellations and Changes

You can cancel your tour at any time for any reason however please be aware that cancellations fees may apply.

Our full terms and conditions can be viewed here. We strongly advise that you purchase travel insurance that will cover you for any cancellation or interruption costs.

Consult a local professional travel insurance expert for detailed information on this.

Changing the date of your booked tour is possible. However, bear in mind that changing the date may mean some of your previous arrangements are not possible, or costs may vary to those first quoted.

Your personal travel specialist will of course give you the best advice at the time to help you with your decision.
 

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Travel Insurance

We strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance. There are many factors that could cause you to amend or cancel your trip, so ensuring you have cover for extra costs or cancellation fees is important. This means that any delays or unforeseen costs you may incur should be covered. We recommend purchasing your travel insurance locally to make dealing with any claims on your return easier.

No, the cost of the tour does not include any kind of insurance. We recommend you purchase your travel insurance locally.

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Preparing for your tour

New Zealand is a fairly informal country and very few places insist on strict dress codes. If you’re spending time in one of the big cities then it pays to bring a tidier outfit for an evening out, otherwise comfort and practicality is key when choosing clothing for your visit. Layers are essential - as the weather can change rapidly. Natural fibres that draw moisture away from the skin like cotton and wool are the best for our climate.  

Ensure you pack a rain jacket
A wind and rain proof jacket is important to have when travelling here. As mentioned the weather in New Zealand is changeable, even in the height of summer. If you're heading to Fiordland National Park or the West Coast be prepared for a high chance of rain. These are among some of the wettest places on earth, but that in itself is part of what makes it so special.

Come prepared for water based activities.
Many activities in New Zealand are based around water. On activities such as hikes or glacier walks you will usually be provided with suitable equipment  - but if you're planning on going jet-boating, kayaking or swimming, don't forget to pack the appropriate gear.

Bring sturdy shoes for walking
All of the walking tracks and paths are well marked and well maintained so comfortable walking shoes or sneakers. However, if you're planning to venture into the wilderness or tackle any of New Zealand’s Great Walks, Hiking boots are a good idea.  

Protect yourself from the sun
The UV levels are particularly strong in New Zealand so be sure to bring a hat and at least 50 SPF Sunscreen.
 

Please contact one of our experienced trip planners if you have any more questions about what to wear while you are in New Zealand

Depending on where you are travelling from, it is likely that you will need a transformer. New Zealand operates on 240 volts (50hz), so appliances on other voltages will need a transformer.

Finding the voltage your devices operate on
Most devices state their operating voltage near where the power cord plug. If the voltage isn't clear then you may need to check on the manufacturer's website for more information.

Adaptors for New Zealand power sockets
You will also need an adaptor to suit NZ sockets. These can be purchased at the airport or online if you can't find one in your local stores.  New Zealand sockets are usually three pins, rather than the two pin sockets that you may find in Europe and North America. (See Socket 1 on the useful socket comparison table available here.)

 

Please contact one of our experienced trip planners if you have any more questions about powering electronics while you are in New Zealand

Getting New Zealand Currency before you leave
It is a good idea bring a small amount of New Zealand Currency with you, so you don't need to spend time organising cash at the airport or at the bank on your first day. Your local bank may need to order New Zealand Currency so allow a few days for this in your trip preparation. If you for some reason are not able to get any currency before you come, all major kiosks at the airport should be able to help you.

Exchanging cash as you travel in New Zealand
You won't need a lot of cash at once, as exchanging cash in New Zealand is easy. Just get enough to cover small purchases on your first day, such as a cup of coffee or lunch. When you do need New Zealand Currency, any branch of a major bank including ASB, ANZ, BNZ, Westpac or Kiwibank will have the latest conversion rates, which are consistent throughout the country.

Carrying large amounts of cash while you travel In New Zealand
New Zealand has one of the highest credit card and eftpos usages in the world, so there is no need to carry large amounts of cash. Most retailers including traders at local markets and convenience stores accept electronic payments. This means you will be able to pay for virtually anything with your debit or credit card as you move around - and this is also the safest and most secure way to cover your expenses while you are in New Zealand.

Please contact one of our experienced trip planners if you have any more questions about shopping while you are in New Zealand

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Sunrise and Sunset times

The time varies dramatically across the seasons and from north to south. Click here for a table of sunrise and sunset times.

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Visa requirements

Most visitors to New Zealand do not require a visa to enter for the purpose of a holiday or vacation under or visa waiver program.

You can see if you qualify for this by visiting the New Zealand Immigration website here.

If you do need a visa to visit New Zealand then you should contact the New Zealand consulate in your home country. We can assist with this process by providing a copy of your booked itinerary if required.

Note regarding Travelling via Australia: nearly all visitors to Australia require a visa to enter, even if you only transit. It is the responsibility of the travel agent or airline to advise you of this requirement but please make sure you ask about this if you know you are travelling via Australia.

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School Holidays

Dates may vary by a few days from school to school but most New Zealand schools are on holiday on these dates.

  • 17 December 2016 - 29 January 2017.
  • 14 April 2017 - 30 April 2017
  • 8 July - 23 July 2017
  • 30 September - 15 October 2017
  • 20 December 2017 - 29 January 2018
  • 14 April - 29 April 2018
  • 7 July - 22 July 2018
  • 29 September - 14 October 2018
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Unexpected costs

All our self-drive tours include all accommodation costs, car rental (including insurance*), pre-booked activities and items that are clearly identified in your tour. Your tour is also inclusive of all local government taxes.

Items that are not included in the cost of your tour are:

  • Parking (unless specified)
  • Fuel
  • Meals (unless indicated as included)
  • Gratuities
  • Rental car extras, such as baby seats and additional insurance.

* our tours all include CDW insurance with minimum excess.

See other FAQ's for indications of costs for some of these items.

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Money and Credit Cards

Only New Zealand dollars are legal tender in New Zealand. All our prices include GST.

In the major cities some stores may choose to provide pricing in other currencies but be aware that the final transaction must be in New Zealand dollars.

Please contact your trip planner if you have more questions about paying for your purchases on your New Zealand holiday.

We recommend converting your foreign currency at any branch of our large bank chains. Our five major banks are: ANZ, ASB, Westpac, BNZ and Kiwibank.

There are bank branches in almost every town but not note that most are only open Monday - Friday.

The rate offered by banks does not vary at different locations so changing money at the airport banks is the same rate as changing downtown Auckland.

Yes, credit cards are an accepted form of payment in New Zealand.

Visa and MasterCard providers are widely accepted as payment for almost anything, but American Express and Diners Cards are not accepted in some places so its best to arrange an alternative if you need to.

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Smoking in New Zealand

Smoking is prohibited by law in all cafes, bars, restaurants and other public buildings.

Smoking is also not permitted inside rental cars.

Smoking is not permitted inside hotels or other accommodations.

Some properties are also smoke free in their entire grounds. If this presents a problem to you then please let us know.

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Tipping

Legally, all our hospitality workers are paid a living wage and tipping is not customary or expected in New Zealand.  However, if your food or service was exceptional you may choose to reward someone for a job well done.

Many bars and cafes have a tip jar at the counter, and it is common to put your change in here.

 

 

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Airport information

Auckland International Airport is New Zealands largest and busiest airport. It is the main airport for international arrivals into New Zealand and is located 40 minutes drive from Auckland's central business district.

More information on Auckland airport.

Wellington International Airport is located in the suburb of Seatoon. It services all major international flights into the lower North Island and is a 25 minute drive to the central city

More information on Wellington airport.

Christchurch International Airport is the main airport serving Christchurch City and arrival point for long haul international flights into the South Island. It is located 12 kilometres from Christchurch's central business district – about 30 minutes drive or taxi ride.

More information on Christchurch Airport.

Queenstown Airport is New Zealands fastest growing airport. It has been comprehensively refurbished recently to accommodate evening arrivals and increased international arrivals from Australia. The airport is located in Frankton, Queenstown, a 15 minute drive from Queenstown's town centre.

More information on Queenstown Airport.

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Shopping in New Zealand

No.  Goods or services purchased while you are here in New Zealand are liable for all local taxes,  as mandated by New Zealand law.

However, there are a select few store who have a duty free agreement to sell items without GST applied. Items purchased at these stores are likely to be sent to the airport for collection, or shipped directly to your home overseas. Usually this is only possible on high value items. 

 

Yes. All purchases in New Zealand are covered by Consumer Protection Laws.

For example: If you purchase a camera here in New Zealand that you find to be faulty when you return home, the New Zealand retailer is still responsible to either repair or replace the item according to the terms of the warranty or guarantee.

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Domestic flights

Our preferred airline is Air New Zealand and the airfares we will book for you all have a luggage allowance of 23kg.  However, you are allowed an additional 10kg for sports gear and if you are travelling with children you may also take a pram and a car seat.

Note: additional bags can be carried for a moderate additional fee.

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Disability Permits

If you utilise a disability permit at home, we recommend everyone travelling to New Zealand obtain a visitor’s mobility parking permit.

Mobility parking permits from overseas are not recognised in all regions of New Zealand. So its best to get a local one for when you are here. Mobility Parking New Zealand offers all the information you need on their website.

Complete a visitor's application form (pdf 85Kb) and send it to CCS Disabitilty Action with a scanned copy of your current permit either:

By email

If you will be arriving in the North Island, email the Auckland office.

If you will be arriving in the South Island, email the Christchurch office.

By post

Postal addresses are printed on the application form.

If you want the permit to be posted to your home address, an additional fee will be charged and you need to indicate this when you apply. Please allow at least 4 weeks for processing.

Alternatively, we can post your permit to your accommodation or rental car company in New Zealand (Please supply a reference number). Please allow 10 working days for processing, from when we receive your application form.

In person

If you are already in New Zealand you can take your form to the nearest branch of CCS Disability Action. You will need to show your permit from your home country as evidence of eligibility.

Please note that branches cannot issue permits, however, they can process your application and receive payment.

If you do not have a parking permit in your home country, you can apply for a visitor’s disability permit once you arrive in New Zealand. You will need to visit a New Zealand doctor who will assess whether you are eligible.

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Accident Cover

New Zealand's has a world-class injury scheme called Accident Compensation Cover. This means that in the unlikely scenario you are injured while in New Zealand - you may be entitled to help.

It is important to note that ACC is purely for accidental injury cover.

For example:

 - If you were hiking and you twisted your ankle, your medical care would be covered by ACC.
 - But if you felt sick and wanted to see a doctor, you would not be covered by ACC.

For a more detailed list of what types of injuries you are covered for see here

 

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