New Zealand is packed with glaciers, fjords, farmland, mountains, volcanoes, and long stretches of sandy beaches, making for a spectacular travel destination. If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, here are some travel tips for travelling in New Zealand and advice to make your trip a success.

Landscape of South Island in New Zealand

South Island

When to go

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons in New Zealand are opposite what they are for Canada. Summer, which runs from December to February, is the nicest time to visit as far as weather is concerned, but it’s also the most expensive time and tends to draw a lot of tourists. Autumn, from March to May, is a beautiful time to visit to see the colourful foliage and experience fewer crowds. If you don’t mind crisp temperatures, you can visit from June to August and enjoy cheap rates and virtually no tourists.

What to pack

New Zealand has a varied climate that ranges from semi-arid in South Island to subtropical forests in North Island. It’s not uncommon to experience abrupt weather changes during the day, so it’s important to pack a range of comfortable layers, such as long- and short-sleeved shirts, warm hats, a warm jacket, breathable pants, shorts, rain gear, and sturdy, waterproof shoes. You should also bring a lot of sunscreen, no matter how cold you expect the weather to be, since the sun is strong in New Zealand.

Plan for customs

Customs is really strict in New Zealand. Being an island nation, it’s important for the Department of Conservation to prevent invasive species and diseases from entering the country. As a traveller, you must declare all food in your luggage, most of which you’ll probably have to toss out, and all your outdoor gear must be cleaned and declared. You’ll also have to sanitize your boots at designated sanitizing stations on hiking trails. You can find a full list of prohibited and restricted items on the New Zealand customs website.

Look for the Qualmark symbol

The Qualmark logo, which is a silver fern, is given to the top hotels, tour operators, rental services, and transportation services in New Zealand. This means that the business has met standards for professionalism, ethics, safety, and sustainability. If you’re unsure about which companies to choose, the Qualmark logo should give you some peace of mind that you’re choosing a top-quality business. Approved businesses are listed on the Qualmark site as well, so you can know before you go and plan accordingly.

Ceremony with people in Mitai Maori Village

Mitai Maori Village

Prepare for travel tax

Before entering New Zealand, you have to pay a few fees. The New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) can be paid on the official app or on the website. You also have to pay the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL), which is put toward conservation of New Zealand’s land and nature, as well as the tourism infrastructure. You can pay both on the website, and you need a valid passport, a credit or debit card, and an email address.

Learn the slang

New Zealand people have distinctive slang that can make things confusing if you’re not familiar. Though many phrases are similar to Australian slang, it’s good to learn a few phrases to avoid confusion. Some examples include togs (swimwear), boot (trunk of a car), bach (vacation home), and tramping (hiking). You’ll also wish you knew some basic Maori words, which are commonly used throughout New Zealand. If you don’t get a handle on the slang, New Zealand people will still help you and won’t complain, but knowing some of it will make your trip go smoothly.

Get used to spotty Internet

The Internet service is spotty in New Zealand, even in cafes and hotels that boast “free Internet” that gives you 250 megabytes of data. Even with a hotspot device and a local SIM card, the speeds are unremarkable. While you should still have enough connectivity for Google maps and searches, you may have trouble downloading attachments from emails or streaming videos. It’s best to anticipate the Internet issues and download anything you may need in advance, and take care of any important emails or bills before you leave.

You need a passport to buy alcohol

In New Zealand grocery stores, the policy is to card anyone who looks younger than 40 years old, so expect to get carded. You’ll need a passport to buy alcohol virtually anywhere, since an out-of-country driver’s license doesn’t count as a valid form of ID. To avoid running back and forth to your vehicle, just be sure to keep your passport on you while you’re shopping. On the plus side, wine is really cheap, so you can load up and enjoy for your whole trip.

Spend some time hiking

Hiking is a popular activity in New Zealand. You can find trails all over the country that range in length and difficulty, giving you a chance to enjoy the stunning scenery. The trails are well maintained, so you’re unlikely to get lost, and you can even plan multi-day treks to get lost in nature a bit. Some of the most popular trails are the “Great Walks,” which tour through the country’s most beautiful places. They take several days to complete, so if you’re going to be including them in your itinerary, be sure to leave enough time.

Landscape of Hooker Valley Track in Canterbury

Hooker Valley Track

Bring insect repellent

Like mosquitoes in other areas, sand flies are New Zealand’s pesky biting insects. They’re particularly bad on the South Island, but sand flies can be found throughout New Zealand. You don’t want your trip ruined by sand fly bites, so what to know before you go is to pack a lot of powerful insect repellent and make sure to use it liberally, especially if you’ll be camping and hiking. In evenings, cover your arms and legs, keep your socks on, and cover all exposed skin with repellent.

Plan your trip

New Zealand is filled with spectacular natural scenery and unique experiences. Now that you have all the essential information before visiting New Zealand, you’re ready to plan your trip. Take a look at New Zealand vacations from Expedia to make the most of the experience.