New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every corner, with beaches, vineyards, glaciers, snow-capped mountains, raging rivers and vast lakes all jostling for attention.
Add to the mix some cool, laidback cities, a thriving Maori culture and generous, warm-hearted people and you have New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori): a backpackers dream. If you’re travelling through New Zealand anytime soon, you’ll need to read these tips before you go:
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Useful terms include “togs” (swimming costumes), “dairy” (corner shop or convenience store), “chilly bin” (cool box), “tramping” (hiking) and “jandals” (sandals). Oh and you’ll be saying “eh?” at the end of every sentence in no time, eh.
Layers are key, a rain jacket essential, and quick drying clothing a godsend. All that said, UV rays here are harsh, so in the sun wear a hat and a high factor cream.
Do some online research into grassroots schemes where you receive food or accommodation in exchange for hard work (WWOOF, FHiNZ, Help Exchange) or pick up some casual work for pay.
You’ll need to apply for a work visa; those aged 18–30 (or up to 35 for Canadians) can take part in the Working Holiday Scheme (WHS) and live, work and travel anywhere in the country for up to 23 months (if you’re from the UK or Canada – from the USA it’ll only be 12 months).
InterCity/Newmans operate a hop-on-hop-off service and you can get a FlexiPass loaded with hours that, crucially, can be sold to another traveller if you have any left over.
There’s also the cheap, cheerful and never boring backpacker buses (Flying Kiwi Adventure Tours, Haka Tours, Stray and the classic original, Kiwi Experience are recommended).
For the train, invest in a fixed or freedom pass with KiwiRail.
The same goes for organized outdoor activities, which can be booked solid in peak season. If you’ve got limited time, book ahead.
While thrill-seekers are probably aware that bungee jumping from Kawarau Bridge, sky diving over Lake Taupo and whitewater rafting on the Shotover aren’t covered by standard policies, travellers often don’t realise that other “hazardous activities” could include trekking, canoeing and sailing.
Check the small print and compare individual policies carefully – it’s worth printing out the exclusions to keep with you on your trip.
New Zealand’s capital deserves more of your time than a few photographs taken in Hobbiton Woods and the Gardens of Isengard (Welly takes its “Middle-of-Middle-Earth” label very seriously).
Before making the short hop across the Cook Strait to the south island, savour the cultural vibe and the craft beers, food trucks and flat whites on and around Cuba Street. And don’t miss the striking Te Papa: Museum of New Zealand.
Don’t forget you can buy cheap toiletries there and that after a few weeks on the road you’ll find yourself making do with just a bar of soap.
Choosing a tiny one-man tent means you can hop off the bus and hike to backcountry campsites. Travelling light means freedom.
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