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There is something elemental about New Zealand's landscapes, where fire and ice collide

Embark on a journey to the ‘land of the long white cloud’ with its miles of untouched coastline and ancient forests. From geysers and glaciers to fjords, volcanoes and mountains, New Zealand is blessed with an astonishing diversity of scenery.

It is no wonder that the Lord of the Rings was set here - the grandeur of these breathtaking landscapes provides a fitting backdrop to such epic tales. Delve into the magical Waitomo Caves, cruise the crystal waters of the Milford Sound and test your warrior credentials with a Maori haka!

 

Culture and history

The unique and dynamic culture of the indigenous Maori people, their history, language and traditions, are central to New Zealand's identity. They came to the island more than 1,000 years ago, and today make up about 15% of the entire population.

New Zealand (or should we say Middle Earth!) is well known for being used as the epic backdrop for films such as The Lord of the Rings - unsurprising since the film's producer, Peter Jackson, was born here. Other famous New Zealanders include Russell Crowe, although he's probably more at home in Hollywood these days! More than half of all New Zealanders are Christian. Greetings are casual, often consisting of a simple handshake and smile.

New Zealand's first settlers probably arrived from the Polynesian Islands in around 1200AD and their ancestors are now known as Maoris. The first Europeans to arrive were the Dutch in 1642, with the British not putting in an appearance until 1769. This was when Captain Cook made his first of three voyages to the country. The subsequent years saw more arrivals, and many transitory stops by groups of whalers and sealers from New England and beyond.

In 1840 the country became an official British Colony with the signing of the Waitangi Treaty by Maori chiefs. However, this peaceful agreement was not to last and over the years various battles ensued between the European settlers and the Maori. Despite conflict the settlers were economically successful until a crash in the 1880s.

In the 1890s a liberal government came into power and New Zealand became the first country in the world to give votes to women and also introduced an old-age pension. New Zealand backed Britain in the Boer War and also in both World Wars. Rather than having an official date of independence from colonial rule, New Zealand, always somewhat autonomous, became fully independent gradually, through a series of constitutional reforms.

Things to do

Travel the length and breadth of the country on a tour taking in all the highlights of New Zealand. Book a trip exclusively for solo travellers, stop off on a worldwide cruise or combine a trip to New Zealand with a tour of its Antipodean neighbour, Australia.

Explore the Southern Alps by train, visit the boiling mud pools of Rotorua and walk the paths of the glaciers in the South Island's national parks. As well as its natural wonders, New Zealand's cities welcome you too with their unhurried pace and wealth of green spaces. Travel to multicultural Auckland to take in the harbour views from the Sky Tower, or visit hip Wellington with its thriving café and craft beer scene.

North Island

Home to almost three quarters of New Zealand's (rather small) population, North Island has some of the country's most vibrant cities, including Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton. The wine region of Hawke's Bay lies to the east, where many excellent vineyards encircle the city of Napier. Discover Maori culture in Rotorua, as well as the steamy mud pools and geysers of this volcanic land. The peaks and craters of the central Tongariro National Park are a real sight to behold, as is vast Taupo Lake, the largest in New Zealand.

South Island

Home to just a little over a million people, the larger of New Zealand's islands is mostly occupied by national parkland. Here you can travel through the mighty Southern Alps, where the towering Aoraki or Mount Cook rises up amid crystal clear lakes and the sparkling Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. Stunning Fiordland National Park lies to the southwest, where the vast Te Anau Lake stretches out and steep peaks are reflected in the clear waters of Milford and Doubtful Sounds. To the north, the white sandy beaches of Abel Tasman National Park are lapped by turquoise waters and backed by vivid green hills, while just next door you can tour the vineyards of the winegrowing region of Marlborough. You’ll find South Island's largest cities, Christchurch and Dunedin, on the east coast, while just off its southernmost tip is Stewart Island.

Flight time

London to Auckland is approximately 22 hours and 20 minutes.

Currency

Dollar -

The New Zealand dollar (NZ$) is divided into 100 cents. It’s often locally referred to as the ‘kiwi’, since the $1 coin depicts this flightless bird, synonymous with New Zealand.

Passports and visas

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of one month from the date of exit from New Zealand. British passport holders can enter New Zealand as a visitor for up to six months on arrival without a visa.

It’s a good idea to take a photocopy of your passport showing your passport number and photograph. Bring this with you on holiday, but keep it in a separate place from your passport, just in case it gets lost or stolen.

Visit GOV.UK for more advice on passports and visas.

Phrases

Since English is commonly spoken throughout New Zealand, you won’t need to swat up on the local lingo before travelling. However, here are some local acronyms and phrases you may find useful…

Jandals – A pair of rubber sandals

Togs – A bathing or swimsuit

Pommie – Someone from Britain

Tiki tour – Taking someone the scenic route

Wop-wops – In the middle of nowhere

Handle – Large glass of beer

Give it a burl – Try it

Maori phrases:

Hello – Kia ora

Goodbye – E noho rā

Yes – ae

No – kāore

Timezone

New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.

Electricity

Mains voltage is 240 volts AC (50 cycles). Mains sockets have three angles flat pins (Type I plugs that are also used in Australia), so we recommend you bring an adaptor with you.

Language

English -

Although English is the language in everyday use, Maori has equal status as an official language.

Tipping

Tipping in New Zealand is not customary or required. However, for exceptional service a tip in the range of 10% is appreciated.

Climate

The climate in New Zealand is as changeable as the British Isles! All months can be moderately wet but can also enjoy fine bright spells.

It’s sunnier in the north and east, while the higher mountains of South Island have snow all year round. The extreme north of the country is almost subtropical with mild winters and warm, humid summers. In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20 - 30°C and in winter between 10 - 15°C.

Health

Under a reciprocal health agreement, UK nationals who live in the UK and who are on a short-term visit to New Zealand are eligible for immediately necessary healthcare under the health system on the same terms as citizens of New Zealand. You should show your passport when requested.

As health information can change at any time, we’d advise you to consult your GP at least 12 weeks before departure.

Country-specific information and advice on possible health risks is also published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre, and The British Foreign and Commonwealth Travel Advice Unit provides important health and safety information for British nationals travelling abroad.

Population and size

The population of New Zealand is 4,401,916. Although similar in overall size to the UK, New Zealand has a fraction of the population, with just 16 people for every square kilometre, compared to a crowded 253 in the UK. This gives New Zealand its unique sense of space and dramatic, sparse landscapes.

Plus, only 5% of the population here is human, which gives it one of the highest ratios of animals to humans in the world!

New Zealand is 267,710 sq km, just a little bigger than the UK, and comprises North Island, South Island, and hundreds of smaller islands. Located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, its remoteness meant it was one of the last lands to be inhabited.

Smoking

Smoking is prohibited on all public transport and in most enclosed public places except for designated smoking rooms and outdoor areas. Some outdoor spaces (such as balconies opening off public rooms) are also smoke-free.