WHEN TO GO
Climatologically, the best time is the summer (January and February). New Zealand has basically the climate of the United Kingdom, which is in my opinion the main disadvantage. It rains a lot, and in the south it’s cold at almost any time of year.
Summer is high season; is when there are more tourists, and given how on fashion is the country, it can be difficult to find accommodation and even transport if not booked in advance.
So, probably the best time to go is late spring (November) and early autumn (March), when the weather is still peaceful and the country is not so crowded.
HOW TO GET THERE
Citizens of 60 countries do not need visa to enter. The vast majority of tourists arrive through Auckland International Airport, 21 km south of the city. Stay aware that control on arrival was one of the most thorough I have ever been submitted. A policeman completely emptied my backpack and repackaged it under continuous warnings “do not move from your seat, do not talk, do not approach, do not breathe”, etc.
You can go to the international terminal from the domestic terminal in 10 minutes walk or by free shuttle from 5 am to 10:30 pm. At the airport you can take taxi, bus or rental car. For more information see ESSENTIAL INFORMATION IN AUCKLAND.
For more than two travelers, definitely the best option and the most popular is renting a motorhome. In a country where nature is the protagonist, the freedom offered by this vehicle is unbeatable, and also allows to save the accomodation. If traveling alone or with a partner, it can be expensive, but the advantage of being able to move freely remains, or you can opt for a car or 4WD.
- Train: the railway network is limited, there are only trains:
- From Auckland to Wellington, stopping at Hamilton, Tongariro National Park, Ohakune and Palmerson North.
- Picton to Greymouth, via Blenheim, Kaikoura, Christchurch and Arthurs Pass, being the trip from Christchurch to Greymouth the well-known Tranzalpine.
- Bus: bus you can get almost anywhere in this country.
- Bus passes +/- train: This is probably the most recommendable option in terms of public transport. There are many passes, each with a price (depending on length) and itinerary. Almost all have in common that allow one route, once, in one direction, which is a good deal to move around considering the elongated shape of the country and the fact that almost everyone begins its journey in Auckland: everyone starts heading south to Wellington, continues near one coast of the south island and goes back near the other .
- Major transportation companies in New Zealand offer passes, main ones are NZ Rail, Intercity and Naked Bus.
- Besides, there are specialized private companies aimed at backpackers:
- First, most famous and reputable is the Kiwi Experience, most users tend to be young backpackers looking for party, which will be an advantage for some and a disadvantage for others. The company I used, Magic Bus, was absorbed by Kiwi Experience.
- Stray Travel is more focused on the general public.
MONEY AND PRICES
New Zealand is an acceptable country if the currency exchange is in good time. Prices are not cheap as such: a double room in a basic hotel will probably reach NZ$ 100, and a main dish in a restaurant will be around NZ$ 15. However, in 2015 NZ dollar suffered a major devaluation, around 40% against the US dollar and 25% against the euro, so now we find perhaps the best time to travel to this country in the last 5 years.
- As for diseases, New Zealand is probably one of the countries with less risk in the world.
- Do not underestimate the weather, especially in the South Island.
- Safety: similar to the European standard; caution in big cities at night and leave nothing of value in vehicles. Moreover, being a predominantly rural country, the risk is very low.
- There is risk of accidents especially on dirt roads, do not mess with cattle crossing.