New Zealand Travel, Backpacking & Gap Year Guide
If you're seeking a perfect combination of adventure, beautiful nature, friendly people and memories that will last forever, then New Zealand will appeal to you. Get information, advice and inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to travel, go backpacking or take a gap year in New Zealand.
Activities & Things to Do in New Zealand
Travel to New Zealand
Our destination guide aims to give you all the information you need to have an amazing experience in this amazing country. Find affordable travel and backpacking ideas with advice for amazing things to do and how you can be more than just your average traveller. You can also get recommendations for budget travel tips, where to stay and advice how to stay safe.
Get inspired to visit New Zealand today!
- Population: 4,500,000
- Capital: Wellington
- Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD) $1 =1.18NZD / £1 = 1.8NZD
- Language: English
- Area: 275,000 sq km (approx)
- International Calling Code +64
Weather & Best Time to Visit New Zealand
Expect a mild climate of around 14 but in summer it can rise as high as around 40, whilst in winter it can get really cold wrap up warm for temperatures below -20. The most popular time for peopl to visit is from November - May. Whenever you plan to visit New Zealand – regardless of winter or summer – you are guaranteed to experience the time of your life.
Both the North and South Islands of New Zealand enjoy moderate, maritime climate and temperatures. The country is located in the southern hemisphere. This means summer starts in December and winter begins in June. New Zealand has moderately high rainfall and many hours of sunshine throughout most of the country.
- Auckland:The Auckland region enjoys a warm, coastal climate without any extremes. Summers in Auckland are generally warm with high humidity, while winters are mild and damp as it rains a lot in winters. The average temperature in summers is around 24°C to 15°C; in winters it’s around 14°C to 9°C.
- Wellington: This region has mild weather, temperate marine climate and is well known for being windy. The best weather in Wellington is during October to April. The average temperature in summers is around 20°C to 13°C; in winters it’s around 12°C to 6°C.
- Christchurch: This region has temperate, bright and sunny days. The climate is relatively dry with lesser rainfall than other places in the country. Temperatures in summer are often moderated by cool sea breeze. Snowfall is usually expected once or twice a year. The average temperature in summer season is around 22°C to 12°C; in winter season is around 12°C to 3°C.
- Queenstown: During winters, Queenstown has snow-capped mountains and bright, clear days while during the summers, days are warm and weather is pleasant. Weather is the main reason why Queenstown is a popular holiday destination at any time of the year. The average temperature in summers is around 22°C to 10°C; in winters it’s around 10°C to 1°C.
Visa & Entry Requirements
If you are from the UK and a number of selected countries you can arrive in New Zealand and get a 6 month tourist visa on arrival.
How to Get to New Zealand
New Zealand is a long way from almost anywhere, Australia and Fiji are close on a map but even these flights take 3 - 4 hours. From London to Auckland flights take around 23 hours with a stop off and cost around £700.
Airlines which fly to New Zealand from the UK and other worldwide destinations include:
- Air China, Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Emirates, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Tianjin Airlines, Thai Airways, United and Virgin Atlantic.
To get the best deals you will need to book in advance. We recommend searching flights on Skyscanner which is one ofthe best flight comparison websites.
New Zealand is built for tourism and there are some of the best hotels and hostels in the world located here. Prices are competative especially if you book in advance. If you are looking for somewhere cheap to stay, use Hostelbookers or Booking.com to find budget accommodation.
You can find cheap, generally hostel dorms are your cheapest bet, they cost around £10 - £20 ($15 - $25 USD). If you are planning on staying somewhere for more than a few days you might also be able to work in the hostel in exchange for free accommodation, these types of hostels can be found but generally off season.
Hotels are usually around £25 ($40) per night and again in the main cities this will be more expensive. You could also rent your own campervan, try couchsurfing or WWOOF which allows you to work in exchange for free accommodation. Recommended to book hostels and hotels in advance during peak season when most tourists visit.
Travelling & Backpacking in New Zealand
We highly recommend visiting both the North and South islands and there are so many unique and special places to visit this will really make your trip more worthwhile and enjoyable. Most flights arrive into the Auckland located in the North Island, this is at the top of the country an a good place to start a gap year. For such a small country there is a lot to keep you occupied, some top recommendations include going whale watching, hiking the Franz Josep glacier, playing giant chess in Christchurch, zorbing, partying in Queenstown and skiing in Wanaka.
There are so many highlights of this stunning destination, for a magical experience go swimming with wild dolphins in Kaikoura. If adventure is what you are after you could take a Heli-Hike up the Fox Glacier, climb the Franz Josef Glacier go skiing in Wanak or party and experience spectacular scenery in Queenstown.
Considering the distance between New Zealand and the rest of the world travel costs can be high so it's a good idea to plan ahead. Adventure sports like bungee jumping, sky diving, glacier walks are everywhere. New Zealand is quiet compared to Australia for example, the population of New Zealand is around 4 million which is smaller than London! The scenery made famous in the Lord of the Rings films is spectacular.
Transport & Getting Around
There is a really excellent transport system in New Zealand and you can choose from trains, buses, flights and trains. Flying is the quickest way to get from the main destinations, but bus and train allows you to see a lot more of the country.
For travellers who want to travel at their own pace with their own itinerary should consider hiring a campervan. Campervans or motorhomes offer both transportation and accommodation in one. Don’t forget that your kitchen will also travel with you; this is very useful especially if you are looking to save money (food wise). It's quite cheap to rent or buy a van and most of them have been adjusted by previous owners so that they now include a double bed and serve as a mobile home.
And it´s quite handy that you don't have to build a tent after a long hiking day. Be careful where you intend to spend a night though, since most of the land is privately owned and the rest (parking lots, picnic spots) are being checked by local authorities that they´re not being used as a camping spot. But have a look at DOC campsites - these are some basic camping places where you can spend a night for free or for some minimum fee, they provide toilets and water, some of then even showers etc.
Some of the best campervan hire companies which are popular with backpackers exploring New Zealand include Mighty Campers, Britz and Maui.
New Zealand Travel Tips
Cheapest Time to Visit:
New Zealand is located a long way from anywhere and your best option for getting here might be a round the world ticket, sometimes this is just a little bit more expensive than a return flight. Try to avoid visiting during peak summer season where accommodation can be booked up in advance and more expensive than off peak.
You will also find the main cities like Auckland and Wellington are more expensive than the rest of the country. Another money saving tip is a lot of hotels and hostels charge to use the internet and this can be expensive. An alternative is to visit the local library or go to a local coffee shop, lots now offer free wifi. There are lots of good deals you can get to explore more of this country, lots of companies operate and you can also book in advance to save money. Also think to yourself how much you really want to and need to see.
Food, Costs & Budget:
If you are arriving from Europe or Australia you should find New Zealand cheaper than these destinations, things like buses and accommodation can be slightly cheaper. There is a wide variety of food available. You can find cheap buffet restaurants like Chinese and Japanese and there are usually good deals on lunch offers. Eating dinner out can be expensive, expect to pay around £7 - £12 ($15) for most meals. There are a lot of fast food outlets which are cheap but even this can add up, it is also really unhealthy to eat this everyday.
If you are going to stay in a hostel most have world class facilities and clean kitchens so you can prepare your own food. Our top recommendation is to find a local supermarket and buy your own food, this will save you a lot of money every week. Bars usually have great deals on beer during happy hour, usually around 4 - 7. Sometimes you can get a huge container with four beers in for less than the price you would pay for one normally. Expect to pay around £1.50 ($3) during happy hour and £3.50 ($5) out. Also if you are drinking alcohol on a daily basis this can eat away at your budget so try not to drink too much.
Health & Safety:
New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world but please check you buy the right insurance policy, some do not cover dangerous and extreme sports. Please also apply lots of sunscreen, New Zealand has a thin ozone layer and has the worlds highest death rate from melanoma. Crime is relatively low but please be street wise and don't flash valuables in public. Always lock valuables in hotels and hostels. For emergencies dial 111 and you will be put through to the emergency services like the police, fire brigade and ambulance services. If calling from an international mobile phone please dial 112. Natives are extremely friendly and welcoming, you might want to get to know more the history of the islands and learn about Maori culture.
Plan a Gap Year to New Zealand
New Zealand is one of the most popular gap year destinations in the world. You will get to see spectacular nature, world famous tourist sights, meet new people and create unforgettable memories. Experience the best time of your life in New Zealand, we have amazing gap year work and travel packages available to book all year round.
If you are looking for the best things to do on your gap year in New Zealand our directory will help you arrange the ultimate experience. One of the most popular ideas is to spend a gap year working in New Zealand but there are so many unique programs and ideas for things you can do on your gap year here.
Affordable options are available all year round and are a great way to meet new people and have a more structured/settled experience rather than just exploring. You might also like to combine experiences and search ideas for taking a gap year in Fiji or a gap year in Australia.
Best Gap Year Trips & Programs in New Zealand
There are so many amazing adventures in New Zealand and to get you excited and to give you some ideas check our list below...
- Go bungee jumping - Queenstown is your destination there are lots of thrilling and nerve shattering jumps but in Auckland you can also bunji jump from the Casino
- Sailing in Auckland, trips depart from the harbour
- Walk around hot springs in Rotarua
- Go Zorbing or Sea Kayaking on the South Island
- Skiing / snowboarding in Wanaka / Queenstown
- White water rafting in Queenstown
- Take an overland trip to explore the New Zealand wilderness
- Go Luging in Queenstown where you can luge with friends seeing spectacular views across the city
- Hike the famous Franz Joesph Glacier and experience something totally different. You can even go sky diving over here
- Try to catch an All Blacks game or watch a local side, the atmosphere is amazing as its the national sport
- Before departing you might want to watch a film like Whale Rider to get background information on Mouri culture, this will be a good introduction to the country.
- Don't fly between the islands, you really will miss a lot, go overland instead
- Base Backpackers hostel in Auckland is amazing
- Hiring a campervan is recommended, ir if not lots of overland bus tours operate
- Queenstown is incredible
- Skiing in Wanka is underrated
- If you want to experience New Zealand in your own time Stray Travel offer flexible hop-on hop-off bus passes of New Zealand
- You could rent your own camper van - lots of companies offer this service
- Don't worry about spending money, make sure you do, you will only regret the things you don't do
- Zorbing is expensive but a lot of fun - you can't do this is many worldwide destinations
- In Christchurch try to challenge a local person to a game of giant chess in the city centre square - its a lot of fun and different way to spend an afternoon
- The Tranzalpine train journey which runs from Christchurch to Greymouth is one of the most scenic routes in the world, it travels through the mountains - be sure to charge the batteries of your camera