101 New Zealand travel FAQs: A guide for first-time visitors

New Zealand is a bucket list destination for many but planning a trip to the bottom of the world is a big task.  It’s for this very reason that having access to a great set of top New Zealand travel tips is essential!

As Kiwi born and bred, we’re excited to bring you this conclusive set of New Zealand travel tips – absolutely everything you need to know when booking your trip down to Aotearoa.

Whether you’re visiting the sub-tropical far North, venturing right down to the deep South, or exploring somewhere in between, this guide will help you plan your travels.

It will help you understand what makes New Zealand tick and set you up with all of the information that you need to make informed decisions about your visit to the greatest country on Earth.

And as it’s written by a local with extensive tourism experience, you can rest assured that we’ve thought of practically everything!

The New Zealand flag blowing in the wind.
We’re proud of New Zealand and everything that makes it unique.

You might want to know…

So many questions!

This guide will answer those questions and many, many more.

We’re here to help you organise a once-in-a-lifetime visit to a country that you’ll want to return to time and time again.

Haere mai.  Welcome to our one-stop-shop when it comes to all things kiwi…

Short on time? Read this important information before visiting New Zealand.

The tails of Air NZ's airplanes parked in the airport.
A holiday in New Zealand is unlike anywhere else in the world.

As this is a big post, you may like to use the following table of contents box to skip to specific content. Or grab a cuppa and take your time reading through the whole thing… the choice is yours.

Where is New Zealand?

New Zealand is made up of two main islands (the North Island and South Island), one smaller island (Stewart Island) and a series of much smaller islands spread all around the country.

Located in the South Pacific, New Zealand is part of Oceania/Australasia. 

We’re in the same part of the world as Australia, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

A map of New Zealand as seen with the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea and showing the prominent tourist attractions including mountains and their elevations, various islands, the Sky Tower, Botanic Gardens, Wellington Zoo, and many others

Everything you need to know to plan your NZ adventure

Visa/NZeTA requirements & pre-departure checks

  1. Check the validity of your passport.

    If your country had an embassy or consulate that issues passports, your passport must have 1+ month of validity after the date you plan to leave NZ.

    Other countries need 6+ months, beyond the expected date of departure from NZ.

    If you live in New Zealand permanently, your passport only needs to be valid to get you in.

  2. Before departing, it is essential you understand your entry requirements. If you need to apply for something, do so with plenty of time.

    No NZeTA required: New Zealand citizens/residents and Australian citizens do not typically need to prepare anything ahead of their visit (like a visa, NZeTA or IVL).

    NZeTA required: Many travellers can avoid applying for a visa, instead arranging a New Zealand electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA).

    This includes Australian permanent residents, and travellers from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Singapore (plus many more).

    Apply through the official NZeTA website only – be cautious of third-party sites online trying to sell NZeTAs. In total, it should cost approximately NZD50 per person, including your International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL).

    Visa required: If you are not eligible to travel without a visa or with an NZeTA, you will need to apply for a visa. Allow plenty of time to ensure you meet your visa requirements before travelling.

    Learn more about NZeTAs, the IVL and NZ visa requirements.

  3. Ensure you have travel insurance. Though this is not a legal requirement, in our opinion, it is a must-have when travelling to New Zealand. This will cover you for unexpected delays, accidental loss and medical care, among other things.

  4. Download our travel checklist and check everything off before you depart.

DISCLAIMER: This entry information is provided in an informal way, designed to help you understand the process of travelling to Aotearoa.

In New Zealand, official immigration advice must be provided by a licensed immigration adviser, unless the person/company is exempt.

We suggest you get an overview here and then confirm details with an official source.

United States passport cover with passport stamps.

Getting around NEw Zealand

  1. Most international flights land in Auckland, though some also fly to Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.

    From there, it is possible to get a domestic flight to airports all around New Zealand.

  2. A range of transport options are available in NZ. Many choose to drive themselves in a rental car or campervan, partially because intercity public transport is not as frequent as many other places.

    Rental cars, campervan hire, Intercity buses, hop-on hop-off tourist buses, group tours (like Haka Tours), day tours, and domestic flights are the most common ways to travel.

    Compare each method of transport to decide what is best for you.

  3. If you plan to drive, you can use your normal driver’s licence as long as it was issued in English and is current.

  4. If your driver’s licence is written in a language other than English, you will need to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) before leaving your home country. Apply at your local transport authority.

  5. The minimum age to rent a car in New Zealand is 18, but most companies require drivers to be 25+.

    You must have a full driver’s licence to rent a car in New Zealand. Restricted and learner licences are not allowed.
Tourists looking at view of Aoraki Mount Cook National park and mountains on pit stop next to their campervan.
Campervans are a popular way to travel, though they are welcome the most affordable way to do so.

Driving tips

  1. We drive on the left-hand side of the road in New Zealand.

    If you’re used to driving on the right, you’ll notice the driver and passenger side are reversed here. The driver always sits closest to the centre lane.

  2. Most people are surprised by how easy it is to adjust to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. To make this easier, we suggest driving when others are out and about – that way you can follow their lead.

    Most accidents happen here on the open road when there are no other cars to follow. Be extra cautious when driving outside of cities and remember, as the driver, you should always be close to the centre line.

  3. Speed limits around New Zealand vary. Most urban towns have a limit of 50km/h, with most open-road and highway driving being limited to 100km/h. Some are less, and others allow for speeds of 110km/h.

  4. Fines are issued for going over the speed limit. Your licence can be taken off you if you exceed the speed limit by 40km/h.

  5. There is a tolerance on the speed limit.

    Speed cameras will generally let you go 10km/h above the posted speed limit before issuing a ticket. On long weekends (and around schools), this is reduced to 4km/h above the speed limit.

    There is no official tolerance used by road police, but in our experience, they allow some grace.

    However, the best way to avoid a ticket is to stick to the signposted speed limit.

  6. If driving on a multi-lane road, keep to the left unless passing. This allows faster cars to overtake safety.

  7. If you notice traffic queuing up behind you on the open road, pull to the left when it is safe to do so, to let others pass.

  8. If you’re driving slowly around windy roads, do not speed up on a passing lane. Instead, let others pass you.

  9. The road code varies slightly from country to country. Read this official guide to driving in New Zealand to brush up on our road rules.

  10. Check the Waka Kotahi Journey Planner to see if any roads along your route are temporarily closed.

  11. We have three toll roads in NZ – all are in the North Island. If you travel along one, you will need to make a small payment online following your journey.
A car driving on a road in New Zealand, past a kiwi road sign.
Many choose to drive while in New Zealand.

Preparing for your trip: Planning your route & making bookings

  1. Though some prefer to travel freely without a firm route or advance bookings, we strongly recommend securing bookings in the peak season, around public holidays and near/in the school holidays.

    Regardless of the time of year, we recommend booking activities and accommodations in advance if you want to be sure you won’t miss out.

  2. Use the search feature on this website and browse our map to find travel information, recommendations, reviews and itineraries. We put a lot of effort into helping you plan amazing trips for free.

  3. Download a copy of our ebooks to make planning your route, activities, accommodations and eateries a breeze. These guides will literally shave weeks off your planning time!

  4. Book a private Zoom consultation with me (Sarah, the founder of NZTT). I can help create you a personalised itinerary, designed just for you. I can also answer any questions you have, ensuring you’re ready for your trip.

  5. Sign up for our free email newsletter and get the best of New Zealand sent straight to your inbox.

  6. Ensure you’ve joined our free Facebook group. With over 50,000 members, it’s a wealth of knowledge and sharing! Be inspired by others and ask questions about your upcoming trip.

  7. Secure your activities, tours, rental car and more using your NZTT discounts and save some serious money!

  8. Support our work by booking other activities and accommodation through us. By using our links, we get a small payment at no cost to you or the operator, allowing us to create more content (like this post!).

    If you use Booking.com, GetYourGuide, Viator, Klook, or BookMe, we really appreciate your support.

  9. Read accommodation listings carefully. Hotels and motels come with everything you need for a comfortable stay but some baches (holiday homes) and private accommodations do not include sheets and towels (or may charge extra for them).

    These accommodations can be booked through Airbnb, Bookabach, VRBO and sometimes Booking.com, so keep an eye out.
Open laptop and a woman holding an iphone.

Customs and biosecurity when entering and leaving NZ

  1. You are required to complete an arrival card when you enter New Zealand. It is important that you complete this honestly and openly. If in doubt, declare what you are carrying.

    If you are allowed the items, the customs officer will let you keep them (even if you’ve declared them). It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

  2. As a general rule, fresh food and foods that are likely to carry pests or diseases are not allowed into New Zealand.

    Surprisingly, our border restrictions are not as strict as many people imagine – if you want to bring food that is commercially prepared and packaged, you’ll generally be able to carry it in without issue.

    Read more about what you need to declare and the food items you can/cannot bring in.

  3. Most personal medications are allowed into New Zealand. Be sure to declare what you are carrying (even if you know it’s allowed), transport it in its original packaging and have your prescription handy. It also pays to know the maximum amount you can carry.

    Learn more about bringing medications into NZ before you travel.

  4. Biosecurity is strict when entering New Zealand but not when you go to leave. You can take most things with you when you leave NZ, but need to be aware of the requirements of the next country you plan to enter.
Extreme close-up view of various coloured pills.

Money

  1. We use New Zealand dollars in New Zealand.

  2. Currencies from other countries are not accepted (that includes AUD and USD), but it is possible to exchange foreign currencies at currency exchange stores (found in airports and in larger cities).

  3. Credit/debit cards are widely accepted. It’s only when you’re in a smaller store (like a dairy/convenience store, where credit cards are sometimes not accepted).

  4. Preloaded currency cards are also a popular choice. We recommend Wise thanks to its low fees. Even better, if you load currency when exchange rates are good, you’ll benefit there too. And if you use our code, transfers will be totally free initially!

    Be sure to order your card well before leaving home.

  5. Paywave is commonly used, but there is sometimes an extra fee for doing so. Because some stores don’t accept Paywave, we still suggest carrying a physical card (and not just relying on electronic cards stored on your phone).

  6. You generally won’t be charged a surcharge for using a credit card – smaller stores might though (and this is becoming more common). They have to disclose this before you make your purchase, so you can use a different means of payment if you prefer.

  7. Even if you plan to use your credit/debit card as you travel in NZ, we suggest getting out a few hundred dollars in local currency for those times cards are not accepted. ATM withdrawals are often cheaper than currency converters.

  8. Remember, every time you swipe your overseas card, you’ll likely be charged a currency conversion fee and a bank charge.

    Though credit cards are widely accepted in New Zealand, and they’re very easy to use, it is sometimes cheaper to withdraw the maximum allowed amount in cash from an ATM once you arrive in NZ.

  9. Ensure your credit/debit card has a pin number preloaded before departing (our pins are four digits).

  10. If your card does not have a pin number, you’ll need to sign for purchases. This can be a problem in quieter towns where petrol stations are unmanned (as those machines only accept cards with pin numbers).

    To avoid issues if you don’t have a pin number preloaded (which really only seems to be an issue for some US visitors), we recommend refuelling in larger towns where an attendant is able to check your signature.

    Or, purchase a prepaid Prezzy Card or MTA gift card to use as you travel around.

  11. Tipping is genuinely not required. However, it is becoming more common in large cities when you experience good service. Don’t feel obliged though – the choice is yours.
  12. Our prices include tax. The advertised price is exactly what you’ll pay.
Various New Zealand dollar notes.

Public holidays & school holidays

  1. Public holidays are generally quieter in big cities (like Auckland and Wellington) as locals head away on holiday. This means the roads around the country are often busier than usual.

    Try to travel outside of peak times if you can – get up nice and early, or drive late at night, for example.

  2. The school year is broken into quarters, with school holidays in between. School holidays are a busier (and often more expensive) time to travel right across the country.

    Check the school holiday and public holiday dates before planning your trip – try to avoid them if you can.

  3. Shops sometimes close on public holidays. Most shops will be closed on Christmas Day (25 December), Good Friday, Easter Sunday and ANZAC Day (25 April, until 1.00 pm), including supermarkets and malls.

    Pharmacies, souvenir shops, petrol stations, small grocery shops/dairies, and eateries are generally an exception to this rule – they are allowed to be open year around.

  4. Alcohol cannot be sold on the restricted trading days mentioned above. The one exception to this rule is bars, cafes and restaurants, as long as you purchase a meal with your drink.
Two kids on barefoot pulling a fishing rod cart while their parents follow them.
Public holidays are a popular time for Kiwi families to travel.

When to travel to New Zealand

  1. The best time to travel to NZ depends on what you want to see/do and how many other travellers you want to see on the road. Whatever season you travel in, expect the weather to change quickly due to our geography.

    March, April & May: Autumn/fall generally has settled weather, though temperatures begin to drop. Some trees drop their leaves, turning the countryside a brilliant shade of orange first. Crowds lessen after a busy summer. This can be a great time to travel.

    June, July & August: Winter is our coldest season, but most of the country still has fairly mild weather. Skiing and hot pools are popular holiday activities, and outside of mountain resort towns, tourism is relatively quiet.

    September, October & November: Spring brings warmer weather, though bouts of rain are still to be expected. As the season goes on, expect to see lambs in the fields and beautiful floral displays in gardens.

    December, January & February: Summer is peak season across the country – particularly mid-December until early February when school holidays are in full swing. The weather is generally warm and sunny, though as always, in NZ, it can be changeable, and many people enjoy outdoor activities and camping.
A white caravan crosses a bridge that is surrounded by golden autumn leaves.
Whenever you travel to NZ, you’re in for a treat. Photo: David Wall.

What to pack

  1. Because the weather is so changeable, we recommend packing layers (especially outside of summer). This will allow you to add another thin layer, or remove one as the weather changes throughout the day.

  2. Read our packing list to ensure you don’t leave anything behind.

  3. Be sure to include power converters and adapters if required. Learn more about what you might need and/or purchase a travel adaptor or converter.

  4. Remember, you can purchase practically everything in New Zealand, so don’t panic if you forget something.
Young brother and sister listening attentively to their cheerful parent while holding their luggage on a sidewalk
We recommend travelling light if possible. If you desperately need something, you can get it here.

Mobile Phones & Wifi

  1. Most international service providers provide mobile roaming for mobile phones in New Zealand.

    If you plan on using your normal phone number and provider, you might need to turn global roaming on before leaving home. Check with your phone company first.

  2. If you’re wanting cheaper calls, messages and data in NZ, we suggest getting a local sim. A number of mobile providers sell cheap prepaid or pay-as-you-go plans.

    We recommend Skinny – they use the Spark network (which is one of the more expensive companies), whilst offering some of the best prices. Plus, you won’t be locked into a contract – just stop paying or cancel your plan when you’re done. Get your free Skinny data here!

  3. Many businesses offer complimentary WiFi as you’re travelling around. It’s often pretty slow, but can be helpful if you don’t have data on your mobile.

  4. Practically all accommodation providers also offer free unlimited WiFi for the duration of your stay.
A woman reading her phone for some messages.

Helpful apps to download

  1. Preload the New Zealand map to Google Maps on your phone using the instructions for Apple or Android. This will allow you to navigate without using data.

  2. Gaspy compares the price of petrol at different stations so you can ensure you’re getting the best deal.

  3. If you plan on freedom camping, download CamperMate Australia & NZ and Rankers Camping NZ to find the best places to park up for the night.

  4. Download supermarket apps – New World and Countdown. Both will give you discounts in-store and the Countdown app will also award you vouchers if you spend enough.

  5. If you want to easily split payments when travelling with friends, we recommend Splitwise. It makes this job so easy!

  6. Load TripIt onto your phone to automatically collate all your booking information into an easy-to-follow itinerary.

  7. XE helps you quickly convert between NZD and your home currency.

  8. If you’re an animal lover, be sure to download Merlin Bird ID (and preload the NZ map) to help identify the birds you see in Aotearoa.

  9. Download AllTrails if you enjoy walking/hiking/tramping.
Woman swiping on her mobile phone with fingers during nighttime with various lights blurred on the background.
Female Cell phone close-up hand outdoor message sms e-mail.

Shopping

  1. Shops are generally open from 9 am – 5.30 pm, Monday to Saturday.

  2. Supermarkets and large stores (like Kmart and hardware stores) are often open longer.

  3. Many malls have a late night on Thursday or Friday when they are open until 9 pm.

  4. On Sundays shops in smaller towns are often closed and malls tend to run reduced hours (10 am – 5 pm).

  5. Single-use plastic bags are banned in New Zealand. At the supermarket, most people use reusable shopping bags (which are affordable and available for purchase at the checkout counter) or paper bags (again, purchased in-store).

    Other shops (like clothing and homeware stores) have plastic bags made from a thicker material – there is sometimes a small charge if you would like one of these.

  6. If you smoke or vape, it’s important to know cigarettes and vapes are only available for purchase by people 18 and over.

    Like alcohol (which also requires purchasers to be 18+), a passport is the only form of international ID accepted.
Two women walking down a colourful shopping lane in Hamilton.
Shopping on Lovegrove Lane in Hamilton.

Eating and drinking in nz

  1. Tap water is safe to drink in New Zealand – and it generally tastes great! Grab yourself an insulated drink bottle and refill it as you travel around.

  2. If you ask nicely, cafes will generally refill your water bottle for you if you run short partway through the day. There’s really no need to purchase bottled water.

  3. Supermarkets are the most affordable option for purchasing food. Mini-marts (like Four Square) are also good options in smaller towns. These grocery stores sell precooked meals, chilled salads, cooked chickens and more. Perfect if you’d like an affordable dinner without having to cook.

  4. Where possible, buy snacks and drinks from the supermarket and save dairies, petrol stations and cafes for treats and top-up purchases.

  5. Need a quick meal on the go? We have most of the big US takeaway restaurants including McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino’s and recently even Carl’s Jr., Texas Chicken and Taco Bell.

    We also have some great fish and chip shops, along with Thai, Indian, roasts and a range of cultural cuisines.

  6. Bakeries and lunch bars are found right across the country. These are great places to go for an affordable morning tea, lunch or afternoon tea. While here, be sure to try our world-famous meat pies!

  7. Restaurant bookings are recommended in small towns (like Tekapo) and busy tourist centres (like Queenstown).

  8. Make use of First Table to get 50% off restaurant dining. The only catch? You’ll need to book the first or last table of the service.

    It’s a great way to save money at a wide range of restaurants.

  9. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten/dairy/nut-free meals are pretty easy to find, particularly in larger cities.

    If you’re planning to stock up at the supermarket, you’ll find the bigger stores in bigger cities carry the widest range of specialty ingredients – stock up in places like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

  10. We have some unique and delicious local cuisines including hāngī, fresh seafood, meat pies, Southland cheese rolls, pavlova, lolly cake and so much more. Be sure to try these Kiwi favourites while in NZ.

  11. If you plan to drink or purchase alcohol, you must be 18 years of age or older. People under 18 can only drink alcohol with their parents.

    If you look under 25, you will likely be asked for identification. Carry your passport with you as other forms of international ID are not accepted.

  12. Alcohol sales are limited in New Zealand.

    On-licence venues (like bars and restaurants) and clubs cannot sell alcohol outside of 8 am – 4 am.

    Off-licences (like bottle shops, supermarkets and grocery stores) cannot sell alcohol outside of 7 am – 11 pm.

    Many local councils have stricter rules though, so check in your local area.

  13. Spirits and hard alcohol is not available at the supermarket – expect wines, beers and ciders only there.

    If you’d like spirits or liquors, head to a bottle store, bar, restaurant or club.

  14. Our drink-driving limits are relatively low.

    The alcohol for drivers 20 years and over is 250 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath and the blood alcohol limit is 50 milligrams (mg) per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood.

    This means most people can have a drink and drive safely, but for some, even that will be too much. It is best to be cautious – if you plan on drinking, consider booking an Uber or walking.

    If under 20, the alcohol limit for drivers is zero.
Pizzas, fries, salad, glasses of wine, and many other dishes served on the table while young people eats them for lunch.

Medical care

  1. If you are injured while on holiday in New Zealand, you will be covered by ACC. This means your treatment will be free or subsidised.

  2. ACC does not cover illness, injuries getting to/from New Zealand, injuries in cruise ships or care when you return home.

  3. If you need medical treatment while in New Zealand, you can go to an accident and emergency (A&E) clinic, a general practitioner, or the emergency department in a public hospital.

    ACC may cover some or all of the cost, or you may have to pay for it yourself (it’s then that travel insurance comes in handy).

  4. Pharmacies and chemists are found right around the country. They dispense a range of over-the-counter medications.

  5. Some, like painkillers, can be purchased from supermarkets too.
Woman with medicine, reading drug prescription.

Keeping safe

  1. In an emergency phone 111 for the police, ambulance or fire service. This is a free call on your mobile phone.

    If you need to speak to the police about a non-emergency situation, phone 105.

  2. If heading into the bush, or on a back-country tramp, we suggest hiring a PLB. Or, at the very least, share details of where you intend to be and when you’ll be returning with a trusted loved one.

  3. New Zealand is positioned on the Pacific Ring of Fire. As such, it is more prone to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

    In the unlikely event of a Civil Defense emergency, an emergency mobile alert will be broadcast to all capable phones from cell towers. Follow the instructions provided, and if you are unsure, ask in our Facebook group or call emergency services on 111.

    If it will make you more comfortable, you can also read about how to react in an earthquake, flood, landslide, severe storm, snowstorm, tsunami and volcanic eruption.

    Try not to worry, however. Most New Zealanders will never experience these events. Don’t let the thought of a natural disaster ruin your holiday or stop you from visiting!

  4. Be careful when swimming in New Zealand.

    Only fairly confident swimmers should swim at surf beaches – and always between the flags with lifeguards on duty.

    If you want to swim at an unpatrolled surf beach, ensure you know what a rip current looks like and be sure to avoid them.

  5. If swimming in waterholes or rivers, check the depth and that the area is clear of logs before jumping in. Also check currents in rivers.

  6. The sun in New Zealand is very strong. Use a high SPF sunscreen, wear a hat, and where possible stay out of the sun during the middle of the day and early afternoon in the summertime.

  7. For your comfort, carry insect repellent, particularly when around lakes/rivers and when outside around sundown in the summertime. We recommend Bushman repellent which is available from many pharmacies in NZ.

    The West Coast of the South Island is particularly bad for sandflies, and though they aren’t an issue for most people, their bites are itchy.

    If it’s not too hot, wearing long sleeves and pants helps keep them away.

  8. Though New Zealand is a safe country compared to most, it’s still important to be aware of your personal safety.

    Avoid walking alone at night and be aware of your surroundings. Hitch-hiking is not recommended.

  9. Avoid leaving valuables in your car. If you need to, ensure they are hidden from view.

    Some travellers purchase a dark-coloured sheet to cover the back seat or boot/trunk.
Harbour of Auckland City during a warm sunset. as seen from the bushes.
New Zealand is safe but you should take normal precautions.

Communicating in New Zealand

Te Reo Māori

The Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand; they were here long before New Zealand was settled by Pākehā and their culture and language is seen and heard throughout the country today.

As you travel New Zealand, you may notice place names that look unfamiliar to you and hear words that you don’t recognise – chances are, those will be te reo Māori words.

Did you know? Te = ‘the’. Reo = ‘language’.  So te reo Māori literally means ‘the Māori language‘.

Te reo uses the same letters as English (though some letters aren’t used). 

There are five vowels (the same as in English), which are grouped together with consonants or other vowels.

Vowels have either a long or a short sound.  If you see a line over the top of a letter (known as a macron), that’s your signal to extend the vowel sound.

Te Reo Māori Pronunciation Tips

The five te reo vowels are pronounced differently to the English language.

Each of the vowels are pronounced as follows:

Vowels

Short vowels

A as in aloud
E as in entry
I as in eat
O as in ordinary
U as in to

Long vowels

A as in car
E as in led
I as in peep
O as in pork
U as in loot

Consonants

The Māori consonants are pronounced as you would in English with very few exceptions.

Digraphs

The ‘ng’ digraph is pronounced as it sounds in the English word ‘singer’.

The ‘wh’ digraph originally sounded like the ‘wh’ in ‘whisper’, but in most dialects has evolved to be more like the English ‘f’ sound.

Victoria University Wellington

When reading words aloud, you’ll notice that sounds are grouped together.  This video does an excellent job of explaining how that sounds.

Basic Te Reo Māori Words Worth Learning

The following are words you may hear as you travel around.  You may even like to try speaking some te reo Māori yourself whilst in NZ!

If you’re looking to further up-skill your use of te reo, our list of te reo Māori words and these instructions about how to count in Māori, are great starting points. 

This te reo Māori dictionary is a great help when it comes to translation and pronunciation too.

Pro Tip: In New Zealand it is culturally offensive to sit on a table; this is because of the Māori customs observed here.  To show respect, make sure that you keep your bottom away from any tables.

A shirtless and tattooed native man going nose to nose with a woman tourist as a form of greeting.
A traditional Māori greeting (hongi) at Te Puia. Photo credit: Fraser Clements

Phrases That Are Uniquely Kiwi (and a wee bit Aussie)

Alongside our te reo words, we have a bunch of words and phrases that are distinctively from New Zealand. 

You might hear the following words whilst travelling the country…

aceawesome
all gooddon’t worry
bacha holiday home (pronounced ‘batch’)
blokeman
broa friendly nickname
chockafull
choiceawesome
chilly bineski/cooler box
churthank you
cuppatea or coffee
dairya corner/convenience store
duveta comforter
fizzy drinksoda
gumboots/gummieswellingtons/rubber boots
hungussomeone who eats a lot
jandalsflip flops
jumper/jerseya fleece/sweater
knackeredreally tired
lolliescandy
matea friendly nickname
motorwayhighway
primogreat
she’ll be rightall good/don’t worry
skintbroke
sprogchild
spudpotato
sweet/sweet asgood/no worries
tathank you
togsswimming costume/bathing suit
torchflashlight
trampinghiking
utepickup truck
wop-wopsthe middle of nowhere
yea-nahkind of, but mostly no
Two Kiwi kids fresh from river swimming and having a photo op with one of them wrapping his hand on the younger kid while the trees and river shows in the background.

New Zealand is an incredibly diverse country.

It is culturally rich, absolutely stunning, and best of all, safe for travellers and locals alike.

With friendly locals, a fantastic range of activities (both paid and free) and heaps of adventure, we reckon it’s a must-see part of the world.

Whether you’re planning a short trip or a long one, we hope the New Zealand travel tips in this post help make your job easier. 

If there’s anything else we can help with, please ask in our Facebook group – we’d love to hear from you.

Happy travels, bro!

Other questions travellers frequently ask

Is driving in New Zealand difficult?

Driving in New Zealand is not difficult; we have similar road rules and mannerisms to many other western countries, including Australia, the United States and the UK.  In New Zealand, we drive on the left-hand side of the road at all times and have speed limits that range from 50km/h to 110km/h.  If you are driving slowly on the open road, it is wise to pull over to let faster traffic pass.  When travelling on the motorway (highway), keep to the left unless passing.  Finally, we use roundabouts frequently in New Zealand so it’s worth learning about how to use them safely and efficiently – as a general rule though, you give way to your right.

Is New Zealand expensive?

New Zealand can be an expensive place to visit.  Prices in Aotearoa are generally comparable to European countries like France and Italy.  To keep costs down, you’re able to purchase groceries from supermarkets and drink tap water – it’s just as good as expensive bottled water!

When is the best time to visit New Zealand?

There is no one best time to visit New Zealand but if you want settled weather whilst avoiding crowds, February and March are our favourite months.

Is New Zealand worth the trip?

New Zealand is one of the best places in the world so unsurprisingly, it is definitely with the trip!  It is also a long way from much of the rest of the world though.  When planning a visit to Aotearoa, we suggest allowing enough time to really enjoy your visit – it takes longer to get from A to B than you might expect.

How many days should I spend in New Zealand?

We recommend a minimum of 2 weeks (or 14 days) if you plan on enjoying the highlights of the North and South Island.  To see more than just the highlights, we recommend a total of 4 weeks+; New Zealand really shines when you have the time to sit back, relax and really enjoy it.

However, if you have less time it’s still worth visiting – just limit the number of places you plan to visit.

Is New Zealand dangerous for tourists?

New Zealand is not generally dangerous, for tourists or locals.  We have low levels of violence but still recommend you observe normal caution when walking alone at night or hitchhiking.  Unfortunately, we have comparatively high levels of theft, especially from cars.  To safeguard yourself, be sure to tuck any personal items out of view, or even better, take them with you during the day.

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