You like tomahto and I like tomato! We call an Eraser a Rubber – and you grin?
Culturally we may be similar, but a lot can be lost in translation. So its time to take a stand and speak for yourselves….
22 “pearls”, written by and dedicated to North Americans. A string of advice to guide your planning process when contemplating a holiday to New Zealand.
Pearl 1: The most important thing to realise if you are planning to visit New Zealand is that although this is a small country, there is no way to see both the North and South Islands in 10 days without paying for an expensive flight and missing most of what this country offers. I know NZ looks small but it isn’t. There is so much to see, so much diversity. And travel within the country is not how we know it: It is slow and time consuming.
Pearl 2: Read — and then re-read! Something very important to remember is that in New Zealand you are your own judge of what is prudent and safe. You are totally responsible for your own safety. If you go on a boat, plane, or guided walk be sure you feel confident because if you get lost, hurt or crash you do not sue here like in the United States. Same thing applies when you are driving a car. If someone hits you then ACC (accident compensation coverage) takes care of your medical and your insurance covers your car. There is basically a no fault attitude. It is actually a very refreshing way to live, you are not paranoid all the time about a possible law suit at every turn, but you must be intelligent with your decisions.
Pearl 3: If you are walking across the street be warned cars have the right of way! They do not slow down, you have to jump out of the way. Oh, and be very careful when crossing, you must look right then left before crossing.
Pearl 4: Driving in New Zealand is NOTHING like driving in the States. There are the obvious differences, like the steering wheel being on the right and the blinker and windshield wipers reversed. But the real difference comes when you look at a map and say, “look it is only 80 km between Thames and Whitianga, it should take us only 45 minutes to get there.” WRONG! There are few “interstate” highways (called motorways here) in NZ. The rest of the country is one lane each way. That means slowing down to go through the numerous towns, getting stuck behind logging or cattle trucks doing 60km and other unforeseen delays that do not show-up on maps. Do not try and see “one place a day,” it does not work here.
Pearl 5: Cars are smaller here as compared to the States so be forewarned the trunks are small. I recommend taking only one suitcase each and use the soft style of suitcases because the rigid types do not fit into trunks.
Pearl 6: There is a phenomena that occurs ever year in NZ called “silly season” From the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) until three weeks later, most Government workers, doctors, lawyers, bank executives, CEOs, factory workers and production lines stop working! Seriously, the whole country goes on a three week summer holiday. Now, add the influx of international travellers to those popular Kiwi holiday spots and you get a major overload. I am not saying “Do not visit in January,” just plan ahead of time. You need to have your plans complete by the end of October to get the accommodation, rental car and activities you want. Otherwise you will get caught with inferior or very expensive left overs.
Pearl 7: When packing, realize this is a very casual country. Decked-out in clothes from Neiman Marcus here makes you look like a banana tree in an apple orchard. Bring comfortable shoes, jeans, shorts and T-shirts. Maybe one outfit for a dressing night.
Pearl 8: “Layers” = the one thing to remember when packing your clothes. The weather can change from sunny and hot to bitterly cold all within one day. Bring casual clothes that can be layered. T-shirts, sweater shirt, a sweater and be sure to bring one waterproof & wind proof jacket. Whether you are travelling in the summer or winter, you can NEVER predict the weather in this semi tropical South Pacific country.
Pearl 9: Maori, the ‘natives’ of this country, have a Polynesian heritage like the Hawaiians. So, like Hawaii all the names of towns here have too many vowels. At first it is very confusing, but soon it becomes a game to try and pronounce the places.
Pearl 10: Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen. The burn time is usually around 11-14 minutes on a summer day (that is with or without clouds!).
Pearl 11: Two words “Bug Repellent”! If you are going to the beach, sometimes there are sand flies. If you are visiting Fiordland, there are definitely sand flies no matter what time of year!
Pearl 12: Electricity in New Zealand operates at 240V AC (as opposed to 110V here in the US). Not only is the voltage different, but the prongs on electrical appliances (those that you plug into the wall) are also a different shape. You will not be able to use any of your own electrical appliances in New Zealand unless you also use an adapter and a converter plug. In the case of cheaper electrical appliances (i.e., razors, hairdryers) you would probably be best off replacing the item with one purchased in New Zealand. If you plan to take a laptop computer, check with the manufacturer to see if it would be feasible for you to use it in New Zealand. Most new laptops have automatic voltage conversion features, so if your laptop is recently made, you might only need the plug adapter in order to use your laptop abroad. But do check on this before you leave
Pearl 13: Although the rental cars here have radios, in some areas reception is scratchy. You may want to bring some cassette tapes or CDs for music. Most cars will have CD players but check with your rental agency.
Pearl 14: In small towns around New Zealand, the fire departments are volunteer. When there is an emergency, the volunteers are summoned by the air raid siren… do not worry, New Zealand is not being bombed!
Pearl 15: Most pay phones in the country require a pre-paid telephone card (like a credit card). We suggest you purchase one upon arrival at the airport so you have one with you at all times. They are also available from dairies (corner stores) and bookshops.
Pearl 16: All cities and most small towns have a bank and/or ATM. ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) allow you to access your bank accounts through the Star, Star Plus, Cirrus and many other major automated systems. This helps to cut down on the need to bring a lot of cash while travelling. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere too, of course.
Pearl 17: As you prepare to leave the country, be sure that you have $25 per person for the government’s airport departure tax, unless it has been prepaid by your travel agent. You can pay this at the currency exchange booth as long as you have your ticket(s) in hand. Credit cards are accepted for this too.
Pearl 18: There are not a lot of laundromats in New Zealand. All hotels and most motels and B&Bs offer laundry service. It is relatively inexpensive and allows you the opportunity to bring fewer clothes (and have room for more shopping!).
Pearl 19: Tipping – this is NOT customary in New Zealand. It takes a bit of getting used to walking away from a restaurant without leaving a tip…. However, you will learn to enjoy it after a while. HOWEVER! If you feel someone has provided an exceptional service by all means tip him or her! It is so worth the surprised look and appreciative smile. Usually around 10% is an average tip for someone worthy. Tipping is more common in better restaurants but still not the norm.
Pearl 20: A valid driver’s licence from your State or Country is all that is necessary to hire a rental car in New Zealand.
Pearl 21: American citizens do not require a visa to New Zealand.
Pearl 22: A valid driver’s licence from your State or Country is all that is necessary to hire a rental car in New Zealand.
Written by Brent Narbey