You’ve heard Queenstown is a popular place to stay in New Zealand’s South Island because of its iconic, natural beauty, but you’re not into extreme sports so you’re not sure a Queenstown, New Zealand solo trip is right for you. Let me assure you it is. Here are my 10 best things to do in
NEW ZEALAND TRAVEL GUIDE
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WELCOME TO NEW ZEALAND!
New Zealand – known as the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ in Māori, it is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the All Blacks; Sir Edmund Hilary– the first to summit Mt. Everest (with Tenzing Norgay); great cities like Aukland, Wellington, and Queenstown; the film location of The Lord of the Rings and King Kong; phenomenal outdoor sporting locations; Milford Sound; Toast Martinborough and world-class vineyards; entertainment biggies such as Peter Jackson, Karl Urban, Sam Neill, Russel Crowe, Lucy Lawless, and Anna Paquin; and, the first country in the world to give women the power to vote. Let’s not forget my mate, Treacey.
LANGUAGES IN NEW ZEALAND
There are three official languages in New Zealand: English, Māori, and New Zealand Sign Language, but English is the predominant language spoken.
NEW ZEALAND CULTURE
New Zealand culture derives from the Māori – the indigenous people originating from the eastern Polynesian islands 1000 years ago – and from the Britain, having been colonized from 1856 to September 26, 1907 when the United Kingdom granted New Zealand “Dominion” status (Dominion Day being a national holiday). Today New Zealand is a sovereign island country and considered a Western culture rich in both Māori and Westernart, performing arts, music, literature and sport.
POPULAR NEW ZEALAND ACTIVITIES
Comprising of two main landmasses—the North and South Islands (with large Southern Alps and Mount Cook) – and approximately 600 smaller islands, the Kiwis enjoy many outdoor activities such as rugby – considered the national sport – cricket, football (soccer), basketball, netball, sailing, kayaking, skiing, going to the beach, hiking volcanoes, boogie boarding down sand dunes, wine tasting, and then some.
NEW ZEALAND CURRENCY
The New Zealand dollar (NZD or A$) – exchange rates are usually favorable for U.S. citizens.
NEW ZEALAND TRANSPORTATION
TIPPING IN NEW ZEALAND
Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules. That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated.
What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc. For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.
Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.
NEW ZEALAND'S HOLIDAYS
A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays. It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday. It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So take just a few moments to look at New Zealand’s holidays.
NEW ZEALAND ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS
Besides money, required ID and your ticket, New Zealand voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz so bring a Type I adapter (I recommend bringing 2!) for New Zealand outlets and research if your electronics require a voltage converter, if not already included in the adapter; or, you can bring electronics already adapted for New Zealand outlets or wait to purchase them there (I recommend just bringing the adapter with converter). Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home. If you are going to another country in addition to New Zealand on your trip, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided links to adapters below for your convenience.
- Small Travel Size - 3 Pack
- Standard: Type I plug, Australia, China. Grounded 3-Prong plug.
- Accepts plugs from all countries including USA, DOES Not Accept S. African Plugs
- A Powerful Set of 12 Adapters - Our all-in-one international travel adapter set features 1 universal input socket that allows you to connect a plug from almost any country worldwide, including the 2-prong and 3-prong North American plugs.
REQUIRED TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR NEW ZEALAND
You will need a valid passport traveling from the U.S. Visas are not required if your stay is less than 3 months. Make sure your passport expiration date is greater than 3 months from your return to the U.S. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to New Zealand. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
VACCINATIONS FOR NEW ZEALAND
There are normally no vaccinations required for New Zealand travel. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to New Zealand. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
NEW ZEALAND TRAVEL BOOKING
NEW ZEALAND ECOTOURISM TIPS
There are ways to reduce your eco and carbon footprint through air travel, accommodations, tours, and activities in New Zealand. To help avoid greenwashing businesses, here are some eco-friendly or sustainable travel (also called responsible travel) tips and resources, you can use to book your travel.
ECO-FRIENDLY AIR TRAVEL
Skyscanner provides a ‘Greener flights’ filter highlighting flights that emit less CO2.
Purchase carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
ECO-FRIENDLY GROUND TRANSPORTATION
The best eco-friendly forms of ground transportation in New Zealand are walking, or renting a bicycle or electric scooter.
When booking an Uber in New Zealand, select the Uber Green option, instead of a traditional rideshare, to support the use of electric cars for cleaner transportation in New Zealand.
Look for accommodations with the following self and third-party assessed certifications when you book:
Green Globe – Green Globe certifies hotels, resorts, conference centers, transportation, attractions, tour operators, and other tourism businesses globally on sustainable operations and management. Look for New Zealand Green Global members.
Green Key Global is an internationally recognized environmental certification for the lodging and meetings industries, including hotels and hostels, campsites and holiday parks, restaurants and attractions in 65 countries. Search for Green Key awarded sites.
Living Building Challenge – if you want to stay in a true, sustainable building, find one certified by the Living Building Challenge. LBC’s certification directory shows all project types globally. Hopefully they will put in a filter soon to allow searching by hotels or hospitality type.
LEED Certified – the USGBC’s LEED Certified label on buildings, like many of the Marriott’s hotels, are those that have verifiably employed multiple and varying green building strategies to improve human and environmental health. Search the LEED directory for New Zealand certifications.
GSTC Certified – the Global Sustainable Tourism Council provides global standards for sustainable travel and tourism, as well as international accreditation for sustainable tourism Certification Bodies. Booking sites that offer GSTC certified sustainable are bookdifferent, EcoHotels, and Transat.
Another way to find an establishments implementing eco-friendly or sustainable practices, certified or not, is through Booking.com in which you’ll need to find and review each establishment’s ‘Sustainable Initiatives’ within the booking process. Starting 2022, however, you’ll be able to filter searches for accommodations with the Travel Sustainable badge. Finally!
MORE ECO-TRAVEL TIPS
NEW ZEALAND SAFETY TIPS
HOW TO TRAVEL NEW ZEALAND SAFELY
For the most part, New Zealand is considered a safe place to visit. Street crime is unlikely. Beyond any possible theft or pickpocketing, which could happen in most tourist places to be honest, there is nothing I can recall from New Zealand making it more of a “safety concern” than traveling in my own home country, so my standard tips for female and solo travelers are:
- always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
- always be “street wise”.
- always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
- never leave your food or drink unattended.
- keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
- be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
- research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
- if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.
NEW ZEALAND BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
BEST TIME TO VISIT NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand’s summer is December to February and their winter is June to August, so their high season is considered May to July, making May decent – weather and cost wise – time of year to visit before their winter arrives.
Another one of my best mates is from Wellington. We met in Portugal in 1995 while backpacking (same time as my Australian mate) and have been in touch ever since. The day we met was the World Cup Rugby final with the All Blacks playing South Africa. I know nothing of rugby, but I do remember how crazy the atmosphere was (like the Super Bowl on steroids) in Joe’s Garage in Lagos surrounding by all Kiwis and four South Africans. Unfortunately, New Zealand lost. My poor mate. But a day I will never forget.
Also, unfortunately, New Zealand is a bit of a hike from the U.S. like Australia so I don’t get to visit as often as I like – something I hope to remedy in the future. I had such a wonderful time my last visit exploring Wellington and wine tasting on the south island and north island at Toast Martinborough, the annual wine tasting festival happening in November. My mate and I do love our bubbly! Hopefully a trip to New Zealand can be planned soon. I do have a trip planned for Australia in September 2019, however, to see both my Aussie and Kiwi mates, so keep an eye out for those travel stories.