New Zealand is a very civilized, organized, fair, open and outdoorsy country. I can’t imagine anything very bad happening to anyone in New Zealand. The people are friendly, open, helpful, proud of their country and always happy to help visitors find their way or offer advice or information about local sights. New Zealand has some of the cleanest air in the world, and people enjoy being outside in it.
English is the main of the three official languages in Kiwi land. Maori is second, and New Zealand sign language is third. It is spoken, with accents a mix of crisp, clipped, English sounding clear accents, mixed with Aussie accent influence.
New Zealand Dollar (NZD). The rate is around 1.3 USD to 1 NZD (Mar 2018). There are currency exchange places and banks in all towns and cities easily available. All stores and restaurants accept credit and debit cards, and even in markets cards are mostly accepted.
Spring-Summer is from about October-March and is generally warm and quite sunny during cruise ship season, from about 18-26 degrees Celsius. It doesn’t rain too often, but check weather reports on the ship before heading out. Spring and summer the weather is generally lovely.
New Zealand has free Wi-Fi in most cafes, bars and restaurants if you purchase something, as well as in some main streets (but city Wi-Fi isn’t the strongest signal generally). All museums and galleries I went to had free Wi-Fi too. Many of the ports have Wi-Fi in them, but some (like Wellington) charge for using it ($4 for 15 minutes).
New Zealand has some great shopping, especially local products. Merino Wool is a huge popular export, which you can take home in the form of a scarf, hat, gloves, or clothes. Manuka Honey – from New Zealand according to the Kiwis, and from Australia according to the Aussies, is available in every gift shop and is of high quality (and price so shop around or if you’re buying in bulk you can often get a better deal).
New Zealand is pretty easy from a visa standpoint for most nationalities from Europe, North America, South America and Asia. I recommend double-checking online before accepting your ship contract or booking your cruise just in case there are any updates though.
New Zealand food is fresh, tasty and fun, with some Aussie (BBQ) and British (fish and chips, and pies) influence in there. Delicious seafood is abundant everywhere, as is tasty fresh fruits, veggies and fantastic wines. If you get a chance, check out some vineyards and sample the goods at the source. Each region has their specialty of seafood, so always ask what the local in season dish is for the best catch of the day.
New Zealand isn’t the cheapest country to stay in, but also there are many affordable options with cheaper end hotels, and B & Bs in all major cities.
Food and Wine Festivals: December to March (high summer) there are a lot of these in different areas around the country, with the most famous and prized to go to being in February, at the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival. As well as wine, fine local foods make the festivities worth attending even if you’re teetotal.
March – More food. The Wildfoods Festival showcases Kiwi food as well as unusual, not to be found in a restaurant dishes.
July – Queenstown Winter Festival. 10 days where the southern hemisphere shows the northern one how to do winter solstice right.
September – World of Wearable Arts Festival has designers from New Zealand and around the world show off locally made products that you can wear as a statement.
My Favorite & Least Favorite Thing About New Zealand
I love the freshness of New Zealand. Everything is fresh, the seafood, the fruit, the people, the air, and the wine. It is delicious and makes you feel alive and want to get out and about in its countryside to really enjoy it all. Which is what the locals do!
It isn’t actually a negative thing at all, but I guess the fact that New Zealand can feel quite British, from the Englishness of Christchurch to the almost overly Scottish-ness of Dunedin, it makes me feel both very at home, and also oddly homesick being on the entire opposite side of the world, but seeing statues of my country’s bard, and smelling gorse bushes just like at home. It is comforting and confusing at the same time.
Local Customs/Etiquette to be aware of
• New Zealanders are very polite in general, from immigrant or Maori origins; I have found New Zealanders to be one of the most polite nations I have visited. So be polite back! Manners go a long way!
• Also, I have found Kiwis to be one of the friendliest nations I have visited, with a day trip out by myself in Port Chalmers (full story in the Port Chalmers Port Guide), demonstrating this point perfectly, where I had an entire day by myself with new friends who showed me around. Be open to this and enjoy the warmth of the people here.
• Maori customs are very important – to Maori people, and all New Zealanders. The respect for the land, customs, tradition and looking after family, the land and ways of life have rubbed off on all peoples in New Zealand, and it is a wonderful thing. So be respectful of these things too.
• New Zealanders respect rules and order. During a conversation with a Kiwi friend while visiting this time, a politician who had created a scandal from him being rude to a waiter, asking the waiter “did he not know whom he was talking to?” came into the conversation. I asked what happened. My friend told me that the people simple wouldn’t stand for an elected government official to be acting rude and inappropriately in public to a fellow person (and voter), so his career was in effect ended, right there and then as the story broke. I think this sums it up well, Kiwis don’t tolerate bad behavior or people harming the harmony of life there, they want everyone to be respectful and decent. And it seems to be working. I love it.