There’s a reason the sun shines on New Zealand before anywhere else – every new day in New Zeeland is something to cherish! Small, remote and thinly populated, yes, but NZ punches well above its weight with its outlandish scenery, fabulous festivals, superb food and wine, and magical outdoor experiences. Equally impressive is NZ’s potent, mainstream Maori culture. This is a country that recognises and celebrates its indigenous people – the world is a kinder, gentler, more respectful place down here!
New Zealand is a developed and wealthy Pacific nation that ranks high internationally on human development, high standard of life, life expectancy, literacy, public education, peace, prosperity, economic freedom, optimal business environment, lack of corruption, one of the world's most liberal media arenas, protection of civil liberties and political rights. New Zealand is a multicultural society and that’s a commonly used word to describe the infusion of cultures and ethnicities in New Zealand.
It is notable for its geographic isolation. The total land area of New Zealand is 270,000 square kilometers. It is situated about 2,162 km southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and its closest neighbours to the north are New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga.
New Zealand is dominated by two cultural groups: New Zealanders of European descent, and the minority Maori. The population of NZ stands at 4,341,161. There are just over four million New Zealanders, and every single one is either an immigrant or descended from one. In fact, people from over 145 countries now call New Zealand their home. Well over three-quarters of New Zealand’s population live in the North Island and a significant percentage of those live near the largest city of Auckland. The majority of New Zealand's population is of European descent; the indigenous Maori are the largest minority. Asians are a significant minority group, especially in urban areas. Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand. Wellington's central geographical position was the major deciding factor in the transfer of the seat of government from Auckland.
New Zealand offers a huge variety of action-packed and laid back activities, from bungee jumping to skiing, swimming with dolphins, scenic flights and boat cruises. New Zealand is a country of stunning and diverse natural beauty, soaring mountain peaks, lakes, rivers, and active volcanic features. It is an easy and compact place in which to travel with its tremendously friendly, honest and helpful population.
History of New Zealand
New Zealand was the last significant land mass to be inhabited by humans, both in terms of indigenous settlement and European colonization. Apart from being considered one of the most beautiful countries in the world, New Zealand also has the distinction of being one of the youngest. This, combined with geological youth and geographical isolation, has led to the development of a young, vigorous nation with a well-travelled, well-educated expatriate population.
The history of New Zealand dates back at least 700 years to when it was discovered and settled by Polynesians, who developed a distinct Maori culture centered on kinship links and land. The Polynesian Maori reached New Zealand in 800 AD. The Dutch were the first Europeans to discover the two islands, naming them Nieuw Zeeland, after the Dutch province of the same name. Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642 was the first European to see New Zealand, and his mapped coastline appeared on Dutch maps as "Nieuw Zeeland" from as early as 1645. British naval Captain James Cook rediscovered, circumnavigated and mapped the islands in 1769. In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Crown and various Maori chiefs, bringing New Zealand into the British Empire and giving Maori equal rights with British citizens.
New Zealand declared independence from the UK in 1907, although the country remained a part of the British Empire and New Zealanders fought alongside the British in both world wars. Today, New Zealand is an independent nation within the British Commonwealth and still retains strong bonds with Britain. The British Union Jack appears on the country's flag and an image of the Queen can still be seen on some banknotes. People from all over the world visit this remote nation to experience its history and a taste of its unique culture.
Economy of New Zealand
New Zealand has a modern, prosperous, developed economy. The country has a relatively high standard of living, comparable to Southern Europe. Agriculture is the principal economy of New Zealand. The Economy of New Zealand is a market economy which is greatly dependent on international trade, mainly with Australia, the European Union, the United States, China and Japan. It has only small manufacturing and high-tech sectors, being strongly focused on tourism and primary industries like agriculture. Economic free-market reforms of the last decades have removed many barriers to foreign investment, and the World Bank has praised New Zealand as being the most business-friendly country in the world. Historically, New Zealand had a highly protected, regulated and subsidised economy.
The service sector is the largest sector in the economy, followed by manufacturing and construction and the farming/raw materials extraction.
New Zealand cities are small by international standards regarding population, but they do contain all the amenities that cities should have. The positive side to New Zealand cities is the low crime rate that plagues big international cities. By comparison, New Zealand cities are safe and friendly places, yet the night life, restaurants, theatre and art are lively and varied. In addition to this, New Zealand cities are usually located within spectacular natural settings such as the coast, hills and mountains.
The biggest city in New Zealand is Auckland, and the capital city of New Zealand is Wellington, the third biggest city. Both these cities are situated on the more populous North Island. The biggest city in the South Island and second biggest in New Zealand is Christchurch. There are about 600 towns in New Zealand that service New Zealand's rural industry.
New Zealand has a unique and dynamic culture. The culture of its indigenous Māori people affects the language, the arts, and even the accents of all New Zealanders. Their place in the South Pacific and their love of the outdoors, sport, and the arts make New Zealanders and their culture unique in the world. The culture of New Zealand has developed from the nation's distinct demographics, its unique geography and ecology, and Māori and colonial history. New Zealand has for most of its modern history been an isolated bi-cultural society. In recent decades an increasing number of immigrants have changed the demographic spectra. In the larger cities this change has occurred suddenly and dramatically. There has been an increasing awareness of multiculturalism in New Zealand in all areas of society and also in politics.
New Zealand experiences high rainfall, particularly in winter. The East Coast of New Zealand is the driest area, while the West Coast of the South Island has one of the highest annual rainfalls in the world. January and February are the warmest months in New Zealand; July and August are the coolest. New Zealand has a temperate climate in the south island and sub-tropical climate in the North Island and the nature of the terrain, the prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts. Maximum daytime temperatures sometimes exceed 30°C and only fall below 0°C only in the elevated inland regions. Generally speaking, rainfall and humidity is higher in the west than the east of the country due to the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges and the prevailing westerly/north westerly winds.
New Zealand leads the world time wise. 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+12) and 17 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time (PST). Daylight Saving (GMT+13) begins on the first Sunday in October and ends on the first Sunday in April.
Air: Domestic flights in New Zealand are often cheaper than driving or taking the train, especially if crossing between the North and South Islands is required. Airlines operate an electronic ticket system. You can book on-line, by telephone, or through a travel agent. Photographic ID will be needed for travel.
Check-in times are usually at least 30 minutes prior to flight departure. Cabin baggage and personal scanning are routinely conducted for services from the major airports that have jet landings.
Air New Zealand has the most extensive domestic network, serving most cities over 20,000 people, with jet services between main centres and smaller aircraft elsewhere. Free baggage allowance is 1 piece of baggage weighing 25 kg, with 7 kg carry-on.
Major Airports: There are international airports at Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown. The main gateways are Auckland and Christchurch, with Auckland servicing more than 20 destinations and a dozen airlines, and direct connections from Christchurch to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Singapore, and Tokyo.
Trains: Both Auckland and Wellington have commuter rail services. These services are operated by Veolia in Auckland and Tranz Metro in Greater Wellington. Inter-city rail passenger services are operated by Tranz Scenic, but have become increasingly limited due to the dysfunctional services, and the focus is now on popular tourist trains. However the remaining train services pass through spectacular scenery and have a running commentary, panoramic windows and an open-air viewing carriage.
Buses: Buses are a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to get around New Zealand. Most roads in New Zealand are quite narrow and winding, and travelling a long distance in a bus can be a safe and relaxing way to travel. Booking in advance on some lines can get you great bargains.
New Zealand has very strong biosecurity laws. Quarantine procedures mean that strict bio-security regulations are in place at immigration points into the country. The economy is based on agriculture and importing even small quantities of food, as well as unprocessed animal or plant materials is tightly controlled. These restrictions are designed to prevent the introduction of foreign animal and plant diseases and pests. At ports of international entry, both the Agriculture and Customs Services may inspect passenger baggage and confiscate and fine for any prohibited items. There are air-side amnesty bins available to cater for accidental importation. Items that must be declared include: any kind of food; any plant material; any animals, animal material or biological specimens; dirty or soiled sports gear, footwear, and used camping gear and anything that may have been in contact with soil, been used on a farm or has been used with animals. If declared, the owners of dirty items are often required to clean them thoroughly, if not declared fines are often applied. Expect random inspections by sniffer-dogs - you may need to have your luggage inspected if you have had food in it recently that the dogs can smell.
To legally drive in New Zealand then you need to be at least 18 years of age and hold a valid drivers licence from your home country. It's important to note that if you plan on staying and driving in country for over a year then you need to get a New Zealand driver's licence.
Speed and distance in New Zealand are measured in kilometers rather than miles. Do not underestimate the time needed to travel places. The local Automobile Association publishes a travelling time guide that suggests average travelling speeds in the range of 50 to 70 km per hour should be allowed, if travel is to be enjoyed.
Drive on the left-hand side of the road. If you are used to driving on the right, you need to concentrate at all times. Generally speaking, driving in New Zealand is relatively stress-free. The only major problem is the "give way to the right" rule. This means that if you are turning left you have to give way to vehicles turning right into the same lane.
The speed limit on the main highways and motorways is 100 km/h for cars, but only 90 km/h for buses, trucks and vehicles towing trailers.
The official languages New Zealand are English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language, but English is the everyday language most widely spoken. English is universal, and is written with Commonwealth (British) spelling. New Zealand English is one of the major varieties of English and is different enough from other forms to justify the publication of the Oxford New Zealand English dictionary.
The New Zealand accent is somewhat nasalised with flattened vowel sounds and vowel shifting. Americans find New Zealand accents easy to understand, so do Australians and British. Asians may find it rather hard to understand. Not to worry, New Zealanders are quite happy however to repeat what they just said if necessary.
New Zealand offers a wide range of accommodation. International quality hotels can be found in the major cities. And New Zealanders seem to have perfected the art of the top-end homestay. Hosted luxury lodges are the top-end equivalent of the bed-and-breakfast market and New Zealand has upwards of 40 internationally recognised lodges. Per capita, that's probably the highest in the world. They tend to be situated away from cities, though some are right in the heart of the major centres, and can be difficult to get to. At the very top-end, helicopter transfers and private jets help the luxury travellers move between the lodges they've chosen for their visit.
Motels of a variety of standards from luxury to just adequate can be found on the approaches to most towns. There is a wide range of backpacker’s accommodation around the country, including a network of Youth Hostels that are members of the Youth Hostels Association and a network of Nomads Hostels. Bed and Breakfasts are popular with visitors as well as homestays, farmstays and similar lodgings - some of which are in the most unlikely places.
There are a number of commercial camping grounds around the country, as well as camping sites within all of the national parks. One way that many tourists travel around New Zealand is in a self-contained campervan, a motorized caravan or large minibus, which can be driven by anyone who holds an ordinary car driver's licence. If you are travelling into the backcountry, the Department of Conservation has many backcountry huts that can be used under a permit system.
Travelers planning to stay in New Zealand for extended periods of time may find it cost-effective to rent an apartment. A basic one-bedroom or studio apartment in Auckland will range NZ$250-850 per month.
Gratuities are not expected and service charges are not applied to bills. In lodgings, restaurants, and bars the prices charged include the services provided and tips are not expected, though the practice is becoming more common, especially in bars, cafes, and restaurants that cater for tourists. However, do not be surprised or offended if you receive bemused looks or if your tip is initially refused or questioned as tipping is still a relatively new phenomenon and it is also a form of courtesy in New Zealand culture to first decline such a gesture before accepting it.
New Zealand has a reputation as one of the safest destinations in the world; however sensible precautions against petty theft are still advised.
Electrical current is 230 volts; 50Hz. Oblique flat blade plugs are standard.
The New Zealand dollar is the currency of New Zealand. It also circulates in the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, and the Pitcairn Islands. It is sometimes informally known as the "Kiwi dollar". In 1967 decimal currency was introduced to New Zealand, and the first decimal coins commenced circulation on 10th July 1967. New Zealand's currency is the New Zealand dollar. Previous to 1967 New Zealand's currency had been the pounds, shilling and pence system used in the United Kingdom. 1 New Zealand Dollar [NZD] = 33 Indian Rupees [INR] [Interbank Rate].
Taxes and Fees
Unless it says otherwise the price includes GST (Goods and Services Tax, or sales tax) of 12.5%. Some shops, especially in tourist destinations, will ship purchases overseas, as export goods which are not subject to GST. Ask about this service before making your purchase. Goods purchased and taken with you will be subject to GST. You can claim GST back on items to the value of more than $700 at the time of your departure as if you were exporting them. You must have the items and receipts with you. You should allow extra time air-side of the airport to process this transaction.
Calling: The international access code for New Zealand is +64. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code [example 0061 for Australia]. City/area codes are in use, example  9 for Auckland and  4 for the Wellington region. Vodafone offers GSM 900 coverage in and around the main cities and popular holiday areas. Internet cafes are widely available.
Internet: Internet access is available in cyber cafes. Many cyber cafes are not maintained properly, but there are places around that maintain a high level of security when it comes to their systems. If you have your own laptop, many cyber cafes allow wired & wireless access but asking is always accepted. If you require a secure & clean system to access private websites, many cyber cafes do cater for this if it's not standard practice in that cafe. You can purchase vouchers for Wi-Fi access from many Starbucks cafes around NZ and other places. It is becoming more common for Wi-Fi to be provided at hotels and motels using vouchers.
Phone: New Zealand has a well developed telephone system. However public phones are relatively rare since Telecom went to the expense and trouble of removing them to prevent competitors using them, except in major transport facilities and other high pedestrian volume areas such as shopping centres. Mobile telephone coverage is effectively national in near urban areas although the mountainous terrain means that outside the urban areas, and especially away from the main highway system, coverage does have dead patches. Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain. There are currently three major mobile carriers in New Zealand, Vodafone, Telecom, and 2degrees
Mail: The national post office is NZ Post. If you are staying in one place for a while, you can rent a PO Box from them. An alternative is the private firm like Private Box, which additionally can upload scanned images of selected mail so that you can read it remotely via a web browser.
New Zealand observes the following public holidays:
New Years Day: 1 January
Day after New Years Day: 2 January
Waitangi Day: 6 February
Good Friday: 10 April
Easter Monday: 13 April
Anzac Day: 25 April
Queen's Birthday: 1 June
Labour Day: 26 October
Christmas Day: 25 December
Boxing Day: 26 December
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