How about a little general information about New Zealand so you will understand and be comfortable in your travels here.
Food –New Zealand is superior in fresh veggies and fruits. We stop at stands along the road to get most of ours. New World super markets we feel do the best job. You should go out of your way have venison, fresh fish (blue cod & gro(u)per are the best) but New Zealand is all coastline so the fishing is tops with lobster (crayfish), oysters, mussels and scallops (our favourite) and salmon.
Plenty of opportunity for the best in food and wine here. They are way ahead of most places in the world in both categories. Good food, wine and coffee are what we pursue in our travels.
No tipping in NZ. Unless at a real restaurant all orders will be going to the counter and pay when ordered. Food might be delivered but no waitresses. Most food is in displays on the counter. Fresh made every day! Tea rooms are the food stops along the way in this country. If you like coffee see www.newzealandcoffeeguide.co.nz
Driving times listed are about the average without stops so judge accordingly. You got lots of time in places to take your time in the day to do what you want.
Remember the speeds through town are 50kph and the open road a 100kph. Now in MPH terms that is 30mph and 60mph. To measure the distances on your maps if you multiply the kilometres by 6 you get the mileage - 50X6 = 30 100X6 = 60 just drop the last zero and you can do it rapidly.
The New Zealand dollar is all over the place right now so I haven’t a clue what it will be when you get here. Figure it at a $1US will get you $1.33NZ as of now. It should be somewhere around $1.30-$1.50 anyhow. So you get more for your dollar anyhow here. It seems to be finally dropping now.
For Americans - The language is English but not American as is the spelling of many words such as some you see I have adopted. They have tyres not tires for instance. The people are warm and friendly but quiet. They will stand off a bit until they see where you are coming from. The social life of the Kiwi is in the pubs. When you see a building called a hotel that is their pub place. Tea rooms are like our cafes out in the country areas. Great to stop and grab a bite and a drink. Lots of homemade stuff. The have a lot of hot pies here. Don’t hesitate stopping at the country pubs(hotels) you see along the way if you really want to get to know about Kiwi life. They are very down-to-earth and wonderful to have a beer with. Trouble here is almost unheard of except in the cities. Don’t have any fear of going in a pub here.
Queenstown is expensive and overdone but that’s what it is. Small enough though to not be over powerful when visiting. It’s New Zealand’s party town with people from all over the world having a ball............Join them if you want! The drive to Glenorchy is a must. You will see the true beauty of NZ and be sure to stop at the pub.
The journey itself is a destination. The drive is the most spectacular in the world. The country is so compact you enjoy what is coming around the bend. Have a look at the driving times I schedule when creating a holiday....a couple hours a day and you are in a new environment. Check here for driving the country – www.newzealandtravelguide.net .
Oh yes....clothes. Don’t overdress. Prepare for rain and you will be going into the Rain Forest on a portion of your trip (West Coast). Consider it is six months difference from the northern hemisphere. I may suggest every “tourist” is decked out in Columbia gear looking like they are on an African safari. May I suggest you just be at home casual. Levis and t-shirts are what the locals wear. Good footwear for hiking, rain gear, jackets for warmth when the cold wind blows up from the Antarctic now and again.
Be sure to prepare for our sandflies with giant jaws – Take massive amounts of vitamin B at least two weeks before arriving and it will help. When you get here one of the first things to buy will be repellent. (This has to do mostly with th South Island and in particular with th West Coast…………..
If you are planning for a camper van holiday (highly recommended) make sure you pick a reliable company. Why spoil your entire holiday by making the mistake of getting cheap transportation that fails you…………really important to research ahead of time. I only recommend a very few that I have trusted over the years.
If you are in a camper van they are warm and toasty hooked up to electric at the camps so no problem and air-conditioned for the summer time needs.
Speaking of camper vans/motor homes that are fully contained. Don’t be afraid to use the toilets. Every park has dump station. All rentals have self-contained toilet containers that are easy to empty. Easy to use units.
Easy to hook up to the electric in the parks. They all have electric and water at each
parking site. They expect everyone out by 10am. You can fudge a little as long as you are not using their facilities such as showers that they need to clean. The kitchens have just about anything you need so even though you may cook in your vehicle you may wish to clean up in the kitchens. Make sure you have your own towels and cloths for showers. We also carry a mat to stand on since most don’t have anything. Nice if it happens to be cold.
Top up with water at the holiday parks. Leave your trash at the parks. If you park overnight somewhere outside the parks just be sure you don’t leave a mess. Most rental units have the ability to play CD’s so be sure to bring what you like to listen to.
Another point is try to bring your belongings in soft bags that can pack easy when you unpack for the camper van. It is a real pain to have big bulky hard bags in a small living space. Some of the top companies will store your empty bags until you return the van.
An important travel hint. All the small towns have public toilets usually at one end of the town or the other. New Zealand should get the top points for the cleanest toilets in the world. It is so rare to find one otherwise it is notable and there is also paper every time! Just a point I think is important when traveling.
Many of you will be driving on the left side of the road. Just remember it. We don’t need to lose you on our roads. The roads are usually very, very good and well maintained. You must take care though since almost everywhere the roads are either going up or down an incline and at the same time around curves. Great for sight seeing just be sure to not take your eyes off the road too much.
Lots of one-way bridges but well sign-posted. Thankfully the roads are not crowded except around major cities. In the South Island you can go for hours without seeing another vehicle except perhaps a tractor.
It’s a shame so many people haven’t the opportunity to spend more than a couple of weeks here and try to see it all. It isn’t as easy to drive everywhere in a short time due to the type of driving required…..slow due to the curves and mountains.
Also be aware when you rent a vehicle based upon the lowest price. There are a lot of new vehicle rental companies out there now who have purchased old worn out vehicles from the bigger companies and are passing them off as top quality. Not the case. I have seen several holidays ruined because of going for a cheapo. Remember what I said about the roads here…..not for weak units and the breakdown may be a long way from civilization. If you spent all that money getting here don’t mess up by setting yourself up for a bad time for a few extra dollars saved (but lost).