What to pack, what you should and shouldn't worry about that you might not have realised, some local lingo and a what to look for when looking for trusted accommodation, a tour or transport provider that will save you time —here’s what you need to know before visiting New Zealand.
Pack for four seasons
We are a country of microclimates. Our land mass isn't huge, yet you can drive from the subtropical Northland forests to the subalpine central plateaux in half a day. No matter where you are, you can expect a combination of weather in any one day. The classic 'four seasons in one day' that the locals will tell you all about. Warm, cold, windy, wet - the key is to pack layers to wear. Your basics are a decent rain jacket (that is actually water proof!), light shirts, a long-sleeve undershirt (like a thermal merino), a warm hat and a sun hat, a warm jacket, a pair of breathable pants, and some comfortable shorts so you can blend in.
Don't worry about poisonous animals or creepy crawlies
Unlike our antipodean cousins across the ditch, we don't have any poisonous snakes (or any snakes for that matter!), any large predatory animals (yup, that means no bears or big cats) and no poisonous insects or spiders - except for the katipo and redback spider, who are shy and non-aggressive by nature, so it would be extremely rare to see one in the bush. We do however, have plenty of cows and sheep that you will see while driving the countryside and bountiful birdlife if you take a walk or go on a hike. The cute little guy above is a harmless bush weta, he is a bit like a pre-historic cricket.
Do worry about the sun
Many people do not realise how dangerous the sun is here. In New Zealand, it delivers some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world. There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, there is less ozone here to block the UV rays that cause sunburn. Secondly, the earth's orbit takes us closer to the sun during the southern summer than during the northern summer and, finally, there is less pollution in the southern-hemisphere to block the UV rays. It is very easy to get sunburnt here, but often people don't wear sunscreen as it doesn't always feel as hot as some tropical or European countries. 50+ sunscreen protection is recommended and a sunhat even on cloudy days, as you can still get burnt.
Be prepared to be unconnected, often
Yes, we are a developed country. No, we still don't have WiFi everywhere or very good cell phone reception outside of the major cities and towns. But you see, that's the beauty of it. Disconnect from the screen and reconnect with nature, new tastes, new cultures, new experiences.
Get ready to meet A LOT of friendly Kiwis
And we're not talking about the flightless bird type. New Zealander's are some of the most friendly and laid-back people in the world. You might be taken aback by it at first, but we say embrace it with open arms. Ask the locals when you get here where their favourite place to eat is, how to get to the bus station or how many hours drive it is to Rotorua. They'll be more than happy to help.
Learn some local lingo
First, the basics. Not lingo but our native Māori language, it's helpful if you can remember the greeting - Kia Ora. For a few more basic phrases, check this out.
To help you keep pace with the local lingo, here's a few real tourist trippers for you:
Togs: Swimwear / bathers
The wops, or wop wops: In the middle of nowhere
Jandals: Flip flops or sandals
Bach: Beach house / holiday home
Tramping: Hiking, trekking, bush walking
Sweet as: Great, no problem
Tiki tour: Going the long way around to view the sights
Don't try and see it all
New Zealand may look small on a map but take our advice and don't try and see every corner during a short two week trip. Two weeks might be just enough time to see just the North Island, or just the South Island at best. Decide what it is you love to do when travelling (adventure, hiking, eating, visiting cities, beaches etc), then make a plan around dedicating a decent amount of time doing these things in a few places. The countryside is beautiful to drive, but you need to decide if you'd rather spend hours on end in a car, or talking to the locals and checking out some of the small towns and regions that make New Zealand such a special place.
When in doubt, look for the Qualmark symbol
The Qualmark logo is a silver fern and is a seal of approval for accommodation providers, tour operators and transportation services across New Zealand. When you see a business display this logo, it means that they have met stringent standards for sustainability, professionalism, business ethics, and safety - so you can place your trust in these businesses.