How to Plan a Trip to New Zealand

One of the most underrated travel destinations, New Zealand is a treat for the senses. From the swooping panoramas of the Southern Alps to the pristine white snowscapes of its many glaciers, the natural wonders of New Zealand were hidden from the world until the hobbits of the Shire brought the surreal beauty of the Middle Earth right into our homes. The fantasy worlds of Shire, Rohan and Mordor have found a home in New Zealand and will welcome you with open hearts to explore the delights of the land under the ‘Land Down Under’.

lake wanaka
So how do you go about exploring a country whose soul resides in its outdoors? A trip to New Zealand is an adventure that has to be lived to be believed. Fortunately, New Zealand is an easy country to get around. You can start with the North Island and make your way down the country, ending your trip at the southern end of the South Island. From its northernmost tip to its southernmost end, New Zealand offers you the whole smorgasbord of experiences that together make for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

So, get ready for a memorable adventure that will make you fall in love with the outdoors. Read on to find out how you can plan the perfect trip to New Zealand.

Which is the best time to visit?

Every travel destination has a specific time of the year that is deemed to be the best time to visit. But there are a few rare destinations that are a delight to visit all around the year, regardless of the weather. Then there is New Zealand which you can cycle through “four seasons in a day”. So, planning your New Zealand trip around the weather is a futile exercise. But knowing the year-round weather conditions will help you plan your holiday based on what you want to be doing. Here’s a quick look at the season-wise weather to help you decide.

Spring (September to November)

The New Zealand spring starts off cool but warms up rapidly as the summer approaches. But the hotel rates remain low until November with the summer season right around the corner.

Summer (December to February)

With temperatures averaging around 25°C, summer is the warmest time of the year. This is also the most popular time to visit New Zealand. You will find New Zealand much busier during this season with high travel and accommodation rates.

Autumn (March to May)

The mellow autumn temperatures range between 6 to 20°C, making autumn a pleasant time to be in New Zealand. The hotel and travel rates go down along with the dwindling tourist population.

Winter (June to August)

A cold winter sees the temperatures range between -3 to 15°C. As the rest of the country settles down for the winter, the ski slopes come alive with the buzz of excitement and adventure. If you don’t mind the cold, you can enjoy some of the best discounts on your travel and accommodation.

Plan your itinerary

Lake Hayes
Perhaps the hardest part of all trips is planning the itinerary, which is doubly difficult in New Zealand. Plan your travel depending on how much time are you planning to spend in the country. Be brutal while making your selection to come up with a travel plan that will have you spending the least amount of time on the road. Here are a few pointers that should help you come up with the itinerary of your choice.

  • Be realistic when it comes to choosing your travel destinations, keeping the length of your trip in mind.
  • Start off with a draft itinerary and whittle down your list until you’re left with the top 10 or top 5 destinations around the country.
  • Measure and consider the distances between cities to keep the travel time to the minimum.
  • If you’re planning a road trip, design it in such a way that you keep moving in one direction while chalking up your sightseeing along the way.

Distances in New Zealand

A road trip around New Zealand will introduce you to the local culture from up close. While renting a car is easy here, coming up with a route is not. With so many wonders to explore, a tight road trip itinerary will help you explore most of the country in the least amount of time. Here’s a brief look at the travel times between some of the most important cities of New Zealand measured at average speeds.

  • Auckland to Wellington – 8 hours of driving time
  • Wellington to Picton – 3 hours of ferry ride
  • Picton to Christchurch – 4 hours and 30 minutes of driving time
  • Christchurch to Dunedin – 4 hours and 30 minutes of driving time
  • Christchurch to Queenstown – 6 hours of driving time
  • Dunedin to Queenstown – 3 hours and 30 minutes of driving time

Keeping these distances in mind, you can easily chalk out a sensible drive across New Zealand.

Your holiday essentials

Now that you have decided the best time to visit, drawn up an itinerary and planned your road trip, it is time to look at the travelling essentials that you will need on your holiday around New Zealand. Here’s what you need to carry on your New Zealand trip.

  • Indian passport holders need a visa before travelling to New Zealand.
  • You will need a valid Indian driving license to be able to drive in New Zealand. Since the Indian driving license is issued in English, you do not need to apply for a separate driving permit.
  • Along with the visa fees, you also need to pay for an NZeTA and IVL before you even arrive in the country.
  • Your passport is your main identity document and will be valid as a proof of ID in most scenarios.
  • If you plan to stay awhile in New Zealand, you must have a ‘Hospitality New Zealand 18+ Card’ in order to be able to buy alcohol.
  • Travel insurance is a must and offers you the peace of mind as you enjoy your holiday in New Zealand.
  • The New Zealand Dollar (NZD) is the currency used here and you get access to plenty of ATMs around the country. Though credit cards are accepted, a small transaction fee is charged on all transactions.

How to get around New Zealand?

While a road trip is the best way to explore the length and breadth of the country, public transport is the most convenient and insightful way to get around, especially within a city. Following are some means of transport to be out and about in New Zealand.

  • Renting a car or a camper van
  • National Coaches
  • Hop-on Hop-off Buses
  • Bus tours
  • Domestic flights
  • Trains

Now that you know all that there is to know about planning a trip to New Zealand, it is time to get down to it. Make it a 1-week-tour to explore either of the islands or make it a 4-weeks-stay and explore the country thoroughly. Whichever option you choose, you know you’re in for a memorable holiday. New Zealand’s appeal is in its outdoors, and the wide range of holiday packages make it easier for you to choose one.

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