New Zealand is a small country in the South West Pacific, about the size of Great Britain or Japan, and has a population of only 4.4 million people, so you won’t see a lot of crowds in New Zealand.
NZ is noted for its majestic scenery, with glaciers, spectacular alpine ranges, picturesque fiords, subtropical forests, volcanic plateaux, and miles of untouched coastlines, all within relatively close proximity.
New Zealand is a multi-cultural society. It has become a melting pot for various cultures and the influence of Maori and Pacific Island cultures makes a visit to NZ a unique experience.
The population is made up of 69% people of European descent, particularly from the UK, 14.6% Maori, 9.2% Asian and 6.9% non-Maori Pacific Islanders.
One third of the population lives in Auckland, at the top of the North Island, with 3/4 of the population living in the North Island. The other main cities are Wellington and Hamilton in the North Island, and Christchurch and Dunedin in the South Island. Most NZers, or Kiwis as they are informally called, live in cities, leaving vast scenic areas of pristine wilderness unpopulated, perfect for adventure holidays and sightseeing.
English is the most commonly spoken language. Maori, the language of the indigenous people, is also an official language, and you’ll often hear Maori words used, such a Kia Ora for hello.
The first country in the world to see the sun each day, New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. In summer NZ uses ‘daylight saving’ from the end of September to the beginning of April, when clocks are put forward one hour.
The weather is generally temperate, although it can be changeable, with moderately high rainfall and many hours of sunshine. Weather varies throughout the country. The far north has subtropical weather during summer and is relatively warm in winter, whereas temperatures can get down to -10 (14F) in winter in the far south, rather cold but perfect for the skifields. January and February are the warmest months in New Zealand, with temperatures ranging between 20-30C (70-85F) and in winter between 10-15C (50-60). Generally the further south you go the cooler the temperatures.
Currency in New Zealand is the NZ dollar, and all major credit cards can be used.
If you’re looking to stay connected to the internet everywhere you go it’s recommended you purchase a plan from one of NZ’s major networks. Free Wi-Fi spots are generally available in most cities.
NZ’s electricity supply runs on 230/240 volts and we use angled 2 and 3 pin plugs (the same as Australia). Most hotels and motels have 110 volt ac sockets (rated at 20 watts) for electrical razors. For all other equipment an adapter/converter is necessary, unless the item has a multi-voltage option.
Driving in NZ is generally good, and there is a good motorway system, but care should be taken on some country roads, and in particular on secondary roads. Motorists should also be aware of NZ’s weather and drive accordingly.
Driving is on the left hand side of the road.