New Zealand Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know

written by local expert Becky Rogers

Becky is an avid rock climber and outdoor enthusiast and is now living in France as an expat. When she is not writing about travel gear and various destinations she has visited during her travels, you can find her playing with her two dogs.

Thinking of taking a trip to New Zealand but need some guidance on how to start planning? Well, you’ve come to the right place! It’s no wonder that New Zealand is your next destination, with its towering mountains, pristine beaches, and fascinating Maori culture. It is a dream trip for a lot of us. However, being a Western country means it comes with a pretty hefty price tag! While this is true, it is still possible to get it all on a budget. Here is our quick New Zealand guide to help you plan that dream trip!

Visas in New Zealand: What You Need to Know

New Zealand’s immigration rules are strict, particularly regarding employment, but they do offer a Visa Waiver Programme for quite a lot of countries. This means that countries on the list can travel to New Zealand for 3 months or less without a visa, or for 6 months or less if you are a British citizen (for now anyway!). Just make sure to always check in advance if you’re on this list, otherwise, you will have to go through their visa options and apply for the one you need. Your passport also needs to be valid for a minimum of 1 month from the date of your departure from New Zealand. You can check your Visa status here.

Read: How to Prepare for Traveling : A Step by Step Guide A lake and trees in autumn

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Where to Go and What to See in New Zealand

New Zealand may not look like a big country but if you want to take in all the major sights on both islands, you’re going to need more than a week and your planning hat on. The easiest ways to save money is to do your research beforehand. Make a list of what you want to see and book those flights in advance to get the best deals! Check out our Best Travel Hacks to Score Cheap Flights if you need help.


A major city in New Zealand’s North Island, Auckland is the place to go for busy harbors, super yachts and Maori culture. There is so much diversity in this city, from the massive harbors and city parks to the seaside promenade in Mission Bay Beach. You can spend hours here getting a taste of everything. The highlights of the city? The iconic Sky Tower dominating the city center, offering sweeping views of Viaduct Harbour and bungee jumping if you dare! Auckland Domain is also a big deal. It is the city’s oldest park in the middle of a volcanic crater! Not only is that crazy cool, but the park is also home to the stunning formal Wintergardens. For more rugged landscapes, venture out of the city to nearby Kitekite Falls for hiking, waterfalls and swimming holes.

Read: Bungee Jumping Off Auckland Harbor Bridge  Auckland skyline at night

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You might be thinking ‘another city?’ but bare with me. Christchurch is like no other city, seriously. It is still recovering from a devastating Earthquake a few years back that stripped it of its historical buildings. Silver lining though! Now it is being completely rebuilt from scratch and is becoming a modern and quirky mix of culture, with lots of creative buildings and expressive art splayed across the walls. If you want to get inspired, get your butt here! As well as being all kinds of awesome, Christchurch is also a massive adventure playground. Head to the beach for good surf, the Alps for hiking, biking or skiing. Prefer white water rafting? That’s what the Avon River is for! Really, the possibilities are endless!

Read: Check out this 3 week New Zealand itinerary A lake in Christchurch


Calling all adrenaline junkies! Queenstown is the place you’ve been waiting for. It has everything you can possibly think of from bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers, and skiing on its famous slopes in winter. The best part though? Although Queenstown is flying its ‘Adventure Capital’ flag proudly, this small town has a completely chilled atmosphere. Make use of this towns crazy energy and do things you never thought you had the guts to do, but make sure to slow down and experience its history. Sit on a bench alongside Lake Wakatipu and admire the nature or explore the regions vineyards and mining towns.

Read: Top 7 Outdoor Activities in New Zealand That You Just Have to Do!

A mountain covered in snow


Recently named the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ by Lonely Planet, this city is sure to be on your list when you visit New Zealand. Nestled between a bustling harbor and rolling mountains, Wellington is known for its abundance of culture and native beauty. Visit the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, one of the best interactive museums in the world!

Experience the heart of the city’s culture through its art galleries and theatre shows. For outdoor lovers, take on the Makara Peak trail or the City to Sea walk for views that will literally blow your mind! You can also ride the cable car up to Kelburn, or spend your days mountain biking and sea kayaking. Spending time outdoors is definitely high up on our bucket list for New Zealand.
A lighthouse on a rocky cliff

Other Popular Must See Places

  • Canterbury is the greenest region you will ever see in your life. Think Wales 2.0! It is full of stunning grassy plains, crystal clear lakes and snow-capped mountains.
  • Bay of Islands is an enclave home to 140 subtropical islands. Sounds like heaven! The perfect place for chilling in awesome water sports.
  • Rotorua is a city on the Southern shores of Rotorua Lake. This is the places to be for fascinating Maori culture, hot springs and mud pools.

Getting Around New Zealand

Being a Western country, traveling around is super easy. Buses are really budget friendly, offering hop-on-hop-off backpacker bus passes, and anywhere you find yourself you’ll always find a reputable car hire companies. For super budget options, there is always sharing transport with travelers along the way, renting a campervan to save on accommodation or a backpacker favorite – hitchhiking! Going on a New Zealand South Island roadtrip is something we highly recommend doing!

A big stone on a mountain

Budget Traveling Around New Zealand

Unlike the mammoth country that is Australia, traveling around New Zealand is easier and kinder on your budget! Due to a high level of tourism, they also have all the facilities in place, from affordable hostels and city passes to cool money-saving tools such as Grabaseat. If you are really flexible with your time, this site holds regular auctions and standby tickets for crazy cheap flights! Although you can live and travel cheaply, couch surfing and hitchhiking is a very common thing here. It must be the friendly local people! As the busy summer travel season runs from December to February, the quieter and cheaper time to travel to New Zealand is from spring to the beginning of winter. If you want to do it on a budget, check out this article on backpacking New Zealand.

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Unfortunately, we’ve come to the end of our New Zealand guide, but not to worry. All that is left to do now is to go and experience it for yourself! Whether you plan to city-hop your way through New Zealand or spend as much time outdoors as possible, this country is full of adventures that are waiting to be had. What are you waiting for? If you need more convincing, check out this post on reasons why to visit New Zealand.

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out these other articles

Inspired? Pin it! Travelling to New Zealand? Here is our travel guide with everything you need to know to plan your trip!

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