writing about traveling new zealand right now is similar to writing about Narnia. A mythical place that only a few have access to. I hope you are reading this from the future where hopping on a plane is a no brainer and traveling to and from New Zealand is something that we all get to do again.
Being a popular destination comes with its perks, so you are probably going to find lots and lots of information about New Zealand... some helpful, and some not so much. Here are the 7 do's and dont's that I wish someone had told me about roadtriping in New Zealand.
1. Do research the best time to visit New Zealand
The best time to visit New Zealand depends on what activities you want to prioritise. If you're planning on exploring nature, visiting national parks and hiking through impressive sites, you might want to aim for January or February.
No matter what time of the year you visit New Zealand, make sure to pack for four seasons. The weather even in the far north is notorious for changing quickly, and there are parts of the country that skip a summer - layers are your best friend here!
2. Don't leave all planning to last minute
Sponteneity in travel is good! Leaving a tiny bit to chance is the best policy with travel. However, traveling around New Zealand you might want to book/ arrange the following in advance:
- National parks - especially multi-day walks sell-out months, sometimes a whole year in advance, if you want to head out and explore make sure to head over to the Department of Conservation website and look at the availability - plan your trip around those dates.
- Campervan or vehicle - if you are visiting during the summer months have a look well in advance!
- Make a list of the things you absolutely want to see and plan the rest in the between - if you are planning a one-two week trip you might not see everything but you can cover lots of ground with adequate preparation.
There is a lot of noise online, if you are planning a trip find bloggers and sources that have traveled around New Zealand extensively. There are lots of articles from travellers that have spent a week here. It's not necessarily bad advice, it's just not the best.
3. Do protect yourself from the sun
The sun here is not a joke. You will burn. It will hurt.
Take extra care when driving as you can easily forget how much exposure you get through the windshield! New Zealand is known for it's beautiful landscapes; however, it also has a very thin ozone layer and it's easy to get a not-so-pleasant sunburn.
4. Don't take rules and laws lightly
Granted, this applies to visiting any place or country. Traveling is an immense priviledge and respecting the laws of any land is a must.
Traveling to New Zealand, you will find that there are strict biosecurity laws, and regulations around how to go around without disturbing the wildlife. New Zealand's unique ecosystem makes it very vulnerable to disturbances and even the most innocous-looking additions may prove catastrophic!
A recent example is the kauri dieback disease that is still not under control and has wiped out whole forests.
5. Do plan for being off-grid
Roadtrips around New Zealand are a dream. You get to see amazing scenery and exploring places with few or no people around. That also means you should be prepared should a dangerous situation arise. If you are going hiking, make sure to let others know your route and expected contact times, or invest in a small GPS device that you can use in an emergency.
On the road, make sure you have all directions stored offline (downloading Google maps of a certain area comes in handy), as there might not be any signal for large portions of your roadtrip especially around the South Island.
6. Don't forget road conditions
To start, get accustomed with driving on the left side of the road. A good tip is to put a big sticker on your dashboard to remind you, ask your roadtrip buddy to keep an eye out, or come up with a little mantra to repeat.
I find that the most likely time to forget or get confused about keeping left is when taking turns in unmarked roads with no other vehicles, so make a mental note to remember it especially when turning.
In general road conditions can change rapidly so make sure to check in advance, and don't be afraid to make stops if you are feeling unsure. New Zealand is very large with very few people so roads tend to be narrow and narly.
7. Do budget ahead of time
New Zealand can be expensive to travel around. There are certain things that cost a lot to import so certain items fluctuate in price. Gas prices are generally between $2-3 New Zealand Dollars per liter, that's approximately $1.5-2.2 USD.
My favorite way to budget during trips is to make a list of all the activities and budget for them first, then calculate how much to expect to spend on food and accommodation. You will find that there are a lot of options but during high season it can be hard to find something when traveling on a strict budget.
Extra tip: Credit cards are not accepted in all stores so always make sure to have a bit of cash when traveling.
Roadtrips are the best way to see New Zealand. Some of the best things to see here take a few hours on the road to reach, and it is without a doubt 100% worth it! For more inspiration on your New Zealand roadtrip don't forget to say hi on withgiota!