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Answers to Common Questions About our New Zealand Holidays
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Chances are the question on your mind has come up before over 30 years of helping people plan and enjoy unforgettable New Zealand holidays. Look through the list of common questions we have put together here and contact us if you need further information.
- About Independent Coach Touring in New Zealand
- Visiting New Zealand
- Driving in New Zealand
- Rental Cars
- Weather questions
- Meals and Dining
- Interislander ferry
- Making a reservation
- Cancellations and Changes
- Travel Insurance
- Preparing for your tour
- Sunrise and Sunset times
- Visa requirements
- Money and Credit Cards
- Airport information
- Shopping in New Zealand
- Domestic flights
What is an independent coach tour?
When searching for your perfect New Zealand tour, you might come across the term "Independent Coach Tour". What is an independent coach tour? We'll Imagine your own New Zealand tour including the best locations, exactly the things you want to see and do, and the style of accommodation you like. Imagine relaxing and taking in the views along the way with notable sights pointed out and explained. An independent coach tour is like a bespoke self-drive holiday without the driving.
These tours fit in with you and your plans. There is no need to arrange your plans around an organised tour itinerary, as our customised independent coach tours are unique to you. Independent coach tours fit around your flights and any other commitments you might have while you are in New Zealand.
How do you organise your own custom coach tour?
It couldn't be easier to create your perfect New Zealand coach touring experience.
Our vastly experienced team know your coach travel options every step along your dream route. And they know options you probably won't have dreamed of or found in your own research.
They'll talk to you about your plans and interests. Then they'll create a coach travel and holiday itinerary that is perfect for your needs.
Contact our team to find out more about independent coach tours and whether they are the right choice for you on your New Zealand Vacation.
What other options of coach touring are there?
Touring New Zealand by coach is a great way to see New Zealand's beauty. You get to relax and experience the best the country has to offer while leaving the job of planning, organising and driving to experienced travel operators and agents.
There are three main types or styles of coach touring available in New Zealand. These are independent touring, escorted touring and small group touring.
At Thrifty Tours New Zealand, we offer Independent Touring, which gives you the greatest flexibility to plan your New Zealand Tour around what you want to do. Independent Tours depart daily, and you and choose where you go and when you go.
If you prefer to travel on an escorted or small group tours, we also offer these through our sister site New Zealand Coach Tours.
Unsure which type of tour is right for you? Contact our team to discuss your travel plans and they can set you on the right path.
What can I expect the coaches & buses to be like?
The coaches used for our daily departure tours are operated by Great Sights, Intercity, Real Journeys and other top-quality operators.
The coaches comply with the most stringent safety tests. Great Sights and Real Journeys coaches are purposely designed for tours, offering great seating, air conditioning, panoramic windows and commentary. Some coaches have free wi-fi onboard. Intercity coaches are used on some shorter routes and these offer air conditioning and very comfortable seating.
If you have a specific need or requirement then talk to us about the best options and we create a tour specifically for you.
What time do the coaches leave?
Independent coach tours departure times vary from location to location. Ask one of consultants to give you a daily breakdown for the tour you are interested in.
Do the coaches have toilets on board?
The coaches used on independent tours may have toilets on some of the routes. However, the coaches on all tours will usually stop on average every 2 hours for comfort stops.
How many other travellers will be on board?
Independent tour coaches can hold around 48 passengers maximum if full.
Do independent coach tours incorporate the TranzAlpine train journey?
If you are looking to include a Train Tour in your New Zealand Itinerary, you're in luck. All Thrifty Tours can include scenic train journeys. If you are on a South Island Tour, you can travel on the Tranz Alpine Train between Christchurch and Greymouth.
Contact our team to find out more about Including the Tranz Alpine Train in the South Island, or the Northern Explorer in the North Island.
When are the school holidays in New Zealand?
Dates may vary by a few days from school to school but most New Zealand schools are on holiday on these dates.
- 10 April 2019 - 27 April 2020
- 04 July 2020 - 19 July 2020
- 26 September 2020 - 11 October 2020
- 18 December 2020 - 08 February 2021
- 17 April 2021 - 02 May 2021
- 10 July 2021 - 25 July 2021
- 02 October 2021 - 17 October 2021
Which island should I visit? The North, South or both?
Whether you should visit the North or South Island in New Zealand entirely depends on your travel times. Ideally, you would do both! Mutually stunning, each island has unique, individual attractions. However, if you have limited time we recommend choosing one island to thoroughly explore as opposed to trying to rush them both. There's always next time! So to help you decide here's a quick overview of what you can expect:
If you're more of a sun and sand kind of person, then the North is for you. Significantly warmer with many accessible surf beaches, coves and sheltered bays - the North is also home to geothermal Rotorua, all of New Zealand's active volcanoes, and the country’s capital city Wellington. It boasts the longest beach in New Zealand (Ninety Mile Beach) and its sub-tropical Bay of Island region is renowned for its white sand and crystal clear waters.
The South Island
If you love mountains, vineyards and dramatic scenery, then the South is the island you'll enjoy the most. With the Southern Alps running the length of the country you’re never far from some of the most remarkable views in the country. Renowned for it’s hiking, the South has five of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks,’ multiple award-winning wineries, glaciers, rainforest, lakes and dusty plains. It is also home to the adventure capital of New Zealand, Queenstown.
When is the best time to come to New Zealand?
New Zealand is beautiful in every season - but the best time to come really depends on what you would like to do.
New Zealand in Spring is a great time to visit as the days are beginning to warm up, but the nights are still crisp and cool. Flowers begin to bloom, and lambs are born all across the country, making for a lively and vibrant atmosphere.
If you're headed here in the Summer expect long warm days perfect for swimming, kayaking, biking, and hiking. You’ll get plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors because it doesn't get dark until 10pm.
Have your camera ready if you're visiting in Autumn, because the changing of the leaves is really something. If you’re into hiking, this is the best time to come for you. Slightly cool but not too cold, the trails will be virtually empty and the days (mostly) clear and crisp. The new season brings spectacular colour to every New Zealand region, but a must-see at this time of year is Arrowtown, where the hillside is burnished with every shade of red and gold.
If skiing is your thing, Winter is the time for you. Think bluebird days and powdery snow followed by mulled wine and a crackling fire. If skiing isn't your thing, hiking is still great at this time of year, and many of the trails have natural hot springs to relax in.
What are the styles of accommodation available in New Zealand?
New Zealand has a wide range of accommodation to suit any budget. There are six distinct styles including: Motels, three star hotels, four star hotels, luxury lodges and five star hotels, bed and breakfasts, and premium bed and breakfasts.
The motels we recommend are of a very high standard and many have facilities on-par with hotels. Costs can also be comparative of hotels, especially in smaller locations such as Kaikoura and the West Coast where other accommodation types are limited. All motels offer self-contained facilities including cooking utensils, a hot plate and microwave, kettle, crockery and cutlery. Some also offer facilities such as hot-tubs, swimming pools and saunas. Motes usually have bedrooms separate to the living area, making them ideal for families.
In New Zealand, the star rating of a hotel applies to the facilities and services on offer, and not necessarily the value or quality of these services. Throughout the country there are many three star hotels that offer exceptional service and accommodations. All the three star hotels that we book offer restaurant and room service facilities.
Four star hotels are prevalent in New Zealand and are generally very high quality. Most have a range or room types including standard, deluxe, superior or lake/mountain view suites etc. Many also have two and three bedroom suites which are great when travelling in a large group or with family. Most have swimming pools, gyms, a choice of restaurants and room service and most will occupy premium positions within a town network.
Luxury lodges and hotels
New Zealand is internationally renowned for its luxury lodges and upmarket hotels. From cool cosmopolitan properties to premium lodges in scenic locations these accommodations are five star and provide just about anything you can ask for including private in-house chefs, helicopter tours, fishing and hunting guides and spa treatments.
Bed and Breakfast homestays
Bed and Breakfast homestays are often the highlight of our guest’s tours. Beyond just a bedroom in a house, staying at these properties are like going on holiday to a friends place. Owners and operators are enthusiastic kiwi ambassadors and are situated in scenic or central locations. All the bed and breakfast properties we recommend have en suite bathrooms and comfortable bedrooms.
Premium bed and breakfast homestays
Premium homestays are simply the luxurious end of B&B accommodation. Properties are generally historically listed, contemporary or unique homes converted into high-end guest houses.
What are the cost of things in New Zealand?
In New Zealand the cost of things will vary according to the location. In more remote places you should factor in paying a lot more for everyday items such as groceries and petrol. If you have children, tourist attractions usually offer a family rate which will give you the best value for money.
To give you an indication of what things will cost in New Zealand here is general price guide:
- Cup of coffee (flat white) NZ$4 to NZ$5
- Glass of beer or wine NZ$7 to $NZ15
- 2 Litres of Milk NZ$4 to NZ$5
- Jet Boat Ride for 2 children and 2 adults NZ$299
- Milford Sound Scenic Cruise NZ$70 per adult
- 30 minute Scenic Helicopter Flight NZ$300 per adult
Petrol prices vary but you can expect to pay the following in petrol for your entire holiday:
- 10 day South Island tour in mid-size car - expect to spend around NZ$400 on fuel
- 14 day tour of both islands in mid-size car - expect to spend around NZ$550 on fuel
- 23 day tour of both islands in mid-size car - expect to spend around NZ$900 on fuel
What can I expect to pay for food in New Zealand?
New Zealand food is internationally renowned. A wide range of cuisine and styles are available to suit every budget. Dining out in the larger cities you will have a plethora of options while in the smaller towns you may only have one or two choices.
There is a far more extensive range of cuisine in our larger cities. Typically international eateries and fusion restaurants are the go-to fare. Most New Zealand fusion restaurants will offer at several ‘typical’ Kiwi dishes such as lamb or salmon. As a guide, you can expect to pay between NZ$25 and NZ$35 for a main dinner course at most restaurants. However, at a high-end restaurant, you can expect to pay between NZ$40 - NZ$100 for a main dinner course. For lunch, prices range between NZ$12-NZ$25 at most cafes. Tipping is not required in New Zealand and in no way expected. Hospitality staff are paid (at the very least) a living wage and are not reliant on tips.
Take-away/ fast food
If you're in need of a quick fix, New Zealand has an abundance of fast food options. Again, in the larger cities, there is more choice. In New Zealand ‘take-away’ or ‘fast food’ goes beyond the general ‘burgers and fries’ and includes all manner of cuisines including Indian, Thai, Japanese, Mediterranean and classic Kiwi fare, fish and chips. A take-away dinner for two people costs anywhere between NZ$20-NZ$30, and a breakfast is anywhere between NZ$15- $NZ25 depending on the style and location
When travelling New Zealand, the most cost effective way to dine is to self-cater - particularly if you are staying in motel or apartment style accommodations that contain a kitchenette or kitchen so you can prepare your own meals. Most towns will have a main supermarket or a general grocery store. New Zealand grows much of its own produce - and local farmers markets are a great source of fresh fruit, vegetables, honey and eggs.
What sort of driving licence do I need to drive in New Zealand?
You can drive in New Zealand if you have a current and valid overseas licence or driver permit written in English, or accompanied by an accurate translation.
UK residents - with the UK phasing out the 2 Part Paper licence and moving to a plastic card licence please note the following:
- If you only need the plastic card to drive in the UK, then that's all you need in NZ too i.e. you don’t need to bring your paper licence.
- If your license stipulates that you need both, then you will indeed need to bring both.
- If you only have paper license (i.e. no card), then the rental car companies in NZ will accept your paper licence
What is the minimum age to drive a rental vehicle in New Zealand?
The usual minimum age to rent or drive a rental vehicle in New Zealand is 25 however we have a special arrangements with rental car companies which may allow drivers from 21 years old. They must hold a current valid full licence (not a provisional or learners licence). Check with your consultant if you have any questions on your ability to drive in New Zealand.
Which side of the road do you drive on in New Zealand?
In New Zealand we drive on the left hand side of the road - the opposite to Europe, USA, Canada etc. If you have not driven on the left hand side before there are a variety of helpful videos to prepare you and your consultant can advise. The best advice though is to take it easy at first and have your passenger as a co-driver to remind and help you become accustomed to driving this way.
What are road conditions like in New Zealand?
New Zealand roads are generally very well maintained and very well signposted. Finding your way outside of large cities is very straightforward and our directions and maps assist you everywhere.
There are very few motorways or large carriageways in New Zealand with most roads being just 2 lane highways. This does mean that getting from A to B takes a little longer than you might be used to (work on an average of 80kph/50mph) but of course the fantastic scenery makes it worthwhile.
What is the speed limit in New Zealand?
Open road speed limits in New Zealand are 100kph and it will be clearly signposted where this limit applies. In urban areas the limit is usually 50kph and again this will be clearly signposted.
Speed cameras are common around New Zealand and can be either mounted at specific locations or within mobile camera units and within police cars. If you speed there is a pretty good chance you will be caught.
What are winter driving conditions like?
Driving in winter in New Zealand is for the most part no different to any other time. Indeed, winter can be a great time to travel with less traffic and clear days. Extra care does need to be taken in the some places where roads can be affected by snow and ice at times.
Take a little more care where there is potential for ice and avoid night time or early morning driving if possible. Icy road conditions are generally signposted, with regularly ice-affected corners permanently signposted and temporary conditions marked.
Some southern regions' roads can be affected by snow. But road conditions will be clearly signposted and, when necessary, roads will be closed. Main highways usually re-open within a few hours of a heavy snowfall after road crews clear them.
In winter you will need to carry snow chains to travel on some roads when they are likely to be affected by snow. These include some popular and recommended routes like the Crown Range road, between Queenstown and Wanaka, and the road to Milford Sound. Snow chains are available to hire when you collect your rental car.
Driving in winter can be very enjoyable. Quiet roads and clear days make for some of the best scenery. Simply adjust your driving to suit the conditions.
Do I need a disability permit when travelling in New Zealand?
If you utilise a disability permit at home then you can obtain a temporary permit to use as you travel around New Zealand. To do this just let your consultant know and they will help you complete the application. Allow plenty of time to get this sorted before arriving into NZ.
How Do I Apply For a Disability Parking Permit?
Applying for a vehicle disability permit in New Zealand is simple. All you need to do is complete a short form and along with a copy of your current permit send the information to the CCS Disability action office here in New Zealand. There is a small fee.
Even better - when you book your tour with us we can get the forms and help you arrange this. Allow at least 4 weeks though to make sure its in place before you arrive into New Zealand.
What is included with my rental car?
Our tour packages include:
- the rental costs for your car for the duration of your tour,
- airport and ferry terminal fees where applicable,
- additional driver fees (any number of additional drivers at no extra charge),
- insurance & GST (New Zealand sales tax).
Tour costs quoted on our site automatically include full collision and damage waiver fees limiting your maximum liability. But we can arrange your tour with the level of insurance cover your prefer.
Note: you may be offered additional insurance to cover windscreens and tyre and other additional costs on collection of your vehicle.
Can I take my rental car on the Interislander ferry?
All our tour itineraries are arranged so that you drop one rental car at either Picton or Wellington and collect a replacement car on arrival to the other side. This saves you money as taking a car on the ferry is expensive.
Dropping of you car and picking a new one up after your ferry trip is very easy. Your luggage will be checked on board the ferry in the same way you would for a plane flight.
What sort of fuel do the rental cars use?
Most of the rental car fleets operate petrol (gasoline) vehicles for small cars and saloons. The larger SUV/4WD's, people movers and vans usually run on diesel. The fuel type is clearly indicated on the vehicle or check with the gas station staff or call us of you need help.
Are the rental cars manual or automatic gearboxes?
Most of the vehicles in New Zealand rental car fleets have automatic gearboxes. Manual cars are available with some fleets but these tend to be the smaller cars only. If you have a specific request for a type of car then contact the team to get some advice.
Is breakdown cover included with my rental car?
Yes all the rental cars we arrange for you include full roadside assistance (breakdown cover). So if the car develops a problem help is just a phone call away. If your problem cannot be resolved at the roadside then contact us or the rental car company and a solution for a replacement vehicle will be organised as soon as practically possible.
What sort of weather can I expect on my tour?
You can check long range forecasts for weather on the New Zealand Metservice Website.
New Zealand experiences four distinctive seasons, officially these are:
Summer: December, January and February
Autumn: March, April and May
Winter: June, July and August
Spring: September, October and November
However, the weather can be variable and does not always follow traditional seasonal expectations – summer, for instance, can be both very hot and very cold.
Seasonal Temperatures and Conditions?
Summer: Expect an average high of 25 C (76 F) in the north to around 22 C (72 F) in the south.
Average lows (evening time) are 13 C (55 F) in the north to 12 C (54 F) in the south.
Autumn: Expect an average high of 20 C (68 F) in the north to around 17 C (63 F) in the south.
Average lows (evening time) are 11 C (52 F) in the north to 7 C (45 F) in the south.
Winter: Expect an average high of 15 C (59 F) in the north to around 10 C (50 F) in the south.
Average lows (evening time) are 6 C (43 F) in the north to 2 C (35 F) in the south.
Spring: Expect an average high of 18 C (65 F) in the north to around 16 C (61 F) in the south.
Average lows (evening time) are 9 C (48 F) in the north to 7 C (45 F) in the south.
Seasonal Highs & Lows:
Rainfall: Rainfall is generally consistent throughout the year between 7 and 11 days per month, but some regions (such as the South Island's West Coast and Fiordland) get drier during the winter months.
Snow: In the North Island snow mainly affects the high Central Plateau around Tongariro National Park where ski fields Whakapapa and Turoa are located. Other peaks such as Mt Egmont / Taranaki and mountain ranges also get snow but not in the way that will affect travel through surrounding regions. You are unlikely to experience snow anywhere but the Central Plateau in the North. In the South Island almost anywhere can experience snow. The Southern Alps – stretching the length of the island – is entirely covered during winter meaning you’re never too far from a dusting of white. Canterbury, Otago and Southland generally get the most snow and this is why most of the ski resorts are based here.
Driving conditions: New Zealand roads are very well maintained and well signposted. Local road maintenance crews are very used to the wintry conditions that some regions can experience and respond quickly to keep roads clear and safe.
What sort of food is available in New Zealand?
New Zealand is known for its abundant and fresh cuisine. Described as Pacific Rim, it draws on inspiration from Europe, Asia and Indonesia. Being a small island country food served in restaurants is seasonal and consequently, always fresh. Classic New Zealand dishes include lamb, bluff oysters, salmon, whitebait fritters and pavlova, the national dessert.
Every kind of international cuisine can be found in most places nationwide, although the larger cities have a much wider selection - as you would expect. While you're here be sure to try another kiwi classic, fish and chips on the beach. For specific dietary requirements, New Zealand caters well to those who are gluten free/vegan/dairy intolerant. Most places have at least two, if not a range of alternative food options. One of the best ways to get a restaurant recommendation is to ask a local or your accommodation host. Often one cafe or restaurant will be more regularly frequented, one might have better coffee or one might have a great atmosphere etc.
What can I expect to pay for a meal in New Zealand?
The cost of a restaurant meal including drinks will vary, but your bill should be roughly $100 and up for a couple, and a little more if you're at a fine dining establishment.
Expect to pay NZ$19 - NZ$40 for a main meal at a local restaurant, and NZ$30+ for mains at fine dining restaurants. A good hearty pub meal will be around NZ$30 for a main course.
Drinks cost between NZ$9 and NZ$15 for a glass of wine (depending on what it is of course) and a beer will cost you between NZ$9 and NZ$15.
A bottle of wine will cost anything from NZ$35 upwards in a restaurant or cafe.
Is Halal food readily available in New Zealand?
New Zealand has a small population of Muslims but also welcomes many Muslim visitors who require Halal meals. This means there are plenty of Halal certified or specialist restaurants in New Zealand.
This comprehensive guide details restaurants and eateries offering Halal food in New Zealand and also prayer facilities. It is provided by Tourism New Zealand. Please check directly with the restaurant or facility to ensure the information is up to date.
Can I take my rental car on the Interislander ferry?
All our tours are arranged so that you drop one rental car at either Picton or Wellington and collect a replacement car on arrival to the other side. This is a very easy process and luggage on board the ferry is checked in the same way you would for a plane flight.
Taking a car on the Interislander ferry is expensive so this saves you the cost.
How do I make a reservation?
Found a suggested New Zealand holiday package you like? You can simply click the "Get Quote/ Book Now" tab on the tour menu to make a reservation.
Follow the instructions and complete the details requested. The booking process requires a deposit to be made through our secure credit card system (Visa and MasterCard only).
How do I make a payment?
We accept Visa and MasterCard payments and process them via our secure credit card processing system.
This system is administered entirely by our bank (Bank of New Zealand) and DPS (Direct Payment Solutions).
When completing the booking form the final stage is the payment process. From there just follow the instructions.
When your payment is made the screen will display a reference number and a receipt will be emailed to you. (And we are notified automatically of all payments.)
How much deposit do I need to pay?
At the time of booking we ask for a deposit payment of 20% of the quoted tour cost or NZ$250 per person, whichever is higher.
Occasionally, items such as domestic airfares may also need paying for at the time of the deposit. These are usually paid for immediately after you book; so we collect payment along with your deposit.
The deposit amount will be calculated automatically and displayed on the payment page.
When do I need to pay the balance for my tour?
The balance for your tour is due 45 days prior to the start date or if you have made a reservation inside 45 days it is due upon you receiving a confirmation document for your tour. There may be some special arrangements we have made that need paying for earlier and we will advise you of this at the time.
Note: the balance due date is displayed on the costs page of your itinerary.
Is the payment system safe and secure?
Yes. The payment system we use offers the highest levels of safety and security available.
The system we use is administered entirely by DPS (Direct Payment Solutions) -- a world leader in online payment technology -- and our bank, the Bank of New Zealand. When you click through to the payment system the transaction is completed within a secure (https) page and the information entered is only seen by DPS and our bank.
Can I pay in another currency?
Yes. You can choose to pay for your tour in another currency.
Choose your preferred currency on the payments page and our system will convert your balance into your currency using BNZ (Bank of New Zealand) exchange rates.
Paying in Your Local Currency
For example, selecting to pay us in $US will mean you will be charged that exact $US amount, if your card was issued by a US bank.
Paying in NZ Dollars
If you choose to pay in $NZ using a non-New Zealand credit card, then your credit card company or bank may charge you a currency conversion fee. This can sometimes be around 3% of the transactions. So check with your bank or credit card company first to make sure which is the best option for you.
Note: the cost in currencies other than $NZ may fluctuate with exchange rate changes. We use the NZ$ price as the base cost.
I don't have a credit card. How can I pay?
If you don't have a credit card or prefer not to use one then contact us and we can supply all the information you need to make a direct credit to our bank account. Payment made this way will need to made in New Zealand dollars to arrive into our account in New Zealand dollars and any bank fees incurred may need to be also covered by you. Depending on your location and bank this can also take up to 10 days to process.
Can I make part or split payments on the tour balance?
You can split payments decide how much you wish to pay on the balance of the tour or if you are travelling in a party then making the appropriate payment for your share is easy.
When you get to the Payments page, in the payment process, simply edit the amount in the white box before clicking through to the Payment Processing page.
Can I use more than one credit card to pay for my tour?
Yes. You can use as many different credit cards as you wish.
The system processes each card individually and allocates to your account. So splitting costs between fellow travellers is easy. all you need to do when you pay the deposit is advise us you wish to split this across cards or fellow travellers and we will switch to multiple payments. For the balance payment you simply specify the amount you wish to pay.
Are there additional charges for using a credit card to pay?
No. We do not charge an additional fee for paying with your credit card.
Paying in New Zealand dollars
Our tours are priced in New Zealand dollars. If you choose to pay with NZ currency your credit card supplier may charge you a currency conversion fee, much like if you went to a bank and purchased foreign currency.
Paying with other currencies
We do give you the option to pay in alternative currency. For example: paying in US dollars using a credit issued in the US should mean there is no currency conversion fee applied by your credit card company.
Currency conversion rates
The currency conversion rates we use are supplied by our bank here in New Zealand.
Can I book a coach tour if I live outside New Zealand?
Yes, we take reservations from all over the world for all our tours. Our bookings system accepts Visa and MasterCard for payments through secure technology.
Can I book one of these tours through my local travel agent?
Yes, just get your travel agent to contact us with the details and we can direct them to our dedicated travel agent system.
Do I need to tell you about any medical or special conditions?
Yes we like to know about anything that needs consideration on your tour, such as ability to walk up stairs etc. Once you have booked, you will receive a form requesting details of any medical conditions that may be relevant to your tour experience. This allows us to make any necessary arrangements.
What information do I need to provide?
Completing our booking form will supply us with the information we need to arrange your time in New Zealand
The booking form asks you for the information we need such as names, address, phone number etc. We also ask for your flight details if you have those arranged already (if not you can still book and supply those later).
Requesting Special Requirements
There is a section on the form which allows you to add special requests such as dietary requirements or preferred bedding configurations or anything else you want to let us know.
A deposit payment -- 20% of the total itinerary cost or $250 per person, whichever is higher -- is required via our secure credit card system. This is administered by DPS (Direct Payment Solutions) and our bank (Bank of New Zealand) and is extremely safe and secure. Your credit card details are not stored by us.
I need to change the date of my tour. Is this possible?
Changing the date of your booked tour is possible. However, bear in mind that changing the date may mean some of your previous arrangements are not possible, or costs may vary to those first quoted.
Your personal travel specialist will of course give you the best advice at the time to help you with your decision.
What happens if I have to cancel my booked tour?
You can cancel your tour at any time for any reason however please be aware that cancellations fees may apply.
Our full terms and conditions can be viewed here. We strongly advise that you purchase travel insurance that will cover you for any cancellation or interruption costs.
Consult a local professional travel insurance expert for detailed information on this.
Do I need travel insurance for my tour?
We strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance. There are many factors that could cause you to amend or cancel your trip, so ensuring you have cover for extra costs or cancellation fees is important. This means that any delays or unforeseen costs you may incur should be covered. We recommend purchasing your travel insurance locally to make dealing with any claims on your return easier.
Does the tour cost include insurance?
No, the cost of the tour does not include any kind of insurance unless we have quoted this separately to you. Your consultant will advise this. We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance as soon as your trip is booked and to make sure that you are covered for cancellation fees, interruption costs and any other kind of unforeseen circumstance.
Are there any other costs I need to plan for on my tour?
All our self-drive tours include all accommodation costs, car rental (including insurance*), pre-booked activities and items that are clearly identified in your tour. Your tour is also inclusive of all local government taxes.
Items that are not included in the cost of your tour are:
- Parking (unless specified)
- Meals (unless indicated as included)
- Rental car extras, such as baby seats and additional insurance.
* our tours all include CDW insurance with minimum excess.
See other FAQ's for indications of costs for some of these items.
What is the smoking policy in New Zealand?
Smoking is prohibited by law in all cafes, bars, restaurants and other public buildings.
Smoking is also not permitted inside rental cars.
Smoking is not permitted inside hotels or other accommodations.
Some properties are also smoke free in their entire grounds. If this presents a problem to you then please let us know.
What sort of clothing should I pack for my tour?
New Zealand is a fairly informal country and very few places insist on strict dress codes. If you’re spending time in one of the big cities then it pays to bring a tidier outfit for an evening out, otherwise comfort and practicality is key when choosing clothing for your visit. Layers are essential - as the weather can change rapidly. Natural fibres that draw moisture away from the skin like cotton and wool are the best for our climate.
Ensure you pack a rain jacket
A wind and rain proof jacket is important to have when travelling here. As mentioned the weather in New Zealand is changeable, even in the height of summer. If you're heading to Fiordland National Park or the West Coast be prepared for a high chance of rain. These are among some of the wettest places on earth, but that in itself is part of what makes it so special.
Come prepared for water based activities.
Many activities in New Zealand are based around water. On activities such as hikes or glacier walks you will usually be provided with suitable equipment - but if you're planning on going jet-boating, kayaking or swimming, don't forget to pack the appropriate gear.
Bring sturdy shoes for walking
All of the walking tracks and paths are well marked and well maintained so comfortable walking shoes or sneakers. However, if you're planning to venture into the wilderness or tackle any of New Zealand’s Great Walks, Hiking boots are a good idea.
Protect yourself from the sun
The UV levels are particularly strong in New Zealand so be sure to bring a hat and at least 50 SPF Sunscreen.
What is the electricity voltage in New Zealand?
Depending on where you are travelling from, it is likely that you will need a transformer. New Zealand operates on 230 volts (50hz), so appliances on other voltages will need a transformer.
Finding the voltage your devices operate on
Most devices state their operating voltage near where the power cord plug. If the voltage isn't clear then you may need to check on the manufacturer's website for more information.
Adaptors for New Zealand power sockets
You will also need an adaptor to suit NZ sockets. These can be purchased at the airport or online if you can't find one in your local stores. New Zealand sockets are usually three pins, rather than the two pin sockets that you may find in Europe and North America. (See Socket 1 on the useful socket comparison table available here.)
Should I purchase some cash before arriving into New Zealand?
Getting New Zealand Currency before you leave
It is a good idea bring a small amount of New Zealand Currency with you, so you don't need to spend time organising cash at the airport or at the bank on your first day. Your local bank may need to order New Zealand Currency so allow a few days for this in your trip preparation. If you for some reason are not able to get any currency before you come, all major kiosks at the airport should be able to help you.
Exchanging cash as you travel in New Zealand
You won't need a lot of cash at once, as exchanging cash in New Zealand is easy. Just get enough to cover small purchases on your first day, such as a cup of coffee or lunch. When you do need New Zealand Currency, any branch of a major bank including ASB, ANZ, BNZ, Westpac or Kiwibank will have the latest conversion rates, which are consistent throughout the country.
Carrying large amounts of cash while you travel In New Zealand
New Zealand has one of the highest credit card and eftpos usages in the world, so there is no need to carry large amounts of cash. Most retailers including traders at local markets and convenience stores accept electronic payments. This means you will be able to pay for virtually anything with your debit or credit card as you move around - and this is also the safest and most secure way to cover your expenses while you are in New Zealand.
How do I access my Travel App?
Once you have confirmed your booking with us we will invite you to use our travel app. This will give you on-the-go access to your full itinerary with all the most up to date confirmations.
You will benefit from:
- Interactive Mapping,
- A messaging service,
- On location restaurant and activity guides,
- Augmented reality and much more.
This app is compatible with android or apple software and can be easily downloaded from the app store on your mobile. To find it search "New Zealand Touring". Please include the quotation marks to find the app much quicker. You can get your login details from your travel consultant at any time.
What time does the sun rise and set in New Zealand?
See the average sunrise and sunset times across four different New Zealand regions and seasons. Our summers (December through March) have long days and are great to fit the most into your holiday.
The further south in New Zealand you are the longer the days last in summer. In winter the further north you are the longer the days.
Do I need a visa to visit New Zealand?
The New Zealand government has introduced an Electronic Tourist Authority (ETA) and International Visitor Conservation & Tourist Levy (IVL). This is designed to strengthen border security and help smaller communities build the infrastructure to cope with the large influx of international visitors each year.
From 01 October 2019 visitors to New Zealand need to have purchased an ETA and IVL visa. Applications can be made online or via a mobile app once you have booked travel to New Zealand. The visa is valid for up to 2 years and can be used for multiple entries into New Zealand.
It is best to carry a hard copy of your confirmation when you travel through the border.
How do I obtain the visa?
The application for the visa can be made online or via a mobile app. The process should take about 10 minutes and must be undertaken prior to travel. It is advised you apply as soon as possible, be aware the process can take up to 72 hours. Make sure you have yours before you set of on your holiday. Payment for the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy can be made at the same time.
How much does it cost?
If the application is made form the mobile app the ETA will cost $9, online applications will be $12. The IVL cost is $35 and contributes directly to the tourism infrastructure and helps to protect the natural landscapes that so many come to enjoy.
Are there any exceptions?
All passengers travelling on a New Zealand passport, Australian passport or hold a valid resident visa will be exempt from purchasing the ETA visa and paying the IVL.
Take a look at the government website if you would like to learn more.
What currency can we use in New Zealand?
Only New Zealand dollars are legal tender in New Zealand. All our prices include GST, goods and services tax (or sales taxes). All prices displayed must be done including all taxes so there are no nasty surprises.
In the major cities some stores may choose to provide pricing in other currencies and you may be given the opportunity to pay in your own currency for a credit card transaction.
Where should I convert money to New Zealand dollars?
We recommend converting your foreign currency at any branch of our large bank chains. Our five major banks are: ANZ, ASB, Westpac, BNZ and Kiwibank.
There are bank branches in almost every town but not note that most are only open Monday - Friday.
The rate offered by banks does not vary at different locations so changing money at the airport banks is the same rate as changing downtown Auckland.
Can I use credit cards in New Zealand?
Yes, credit cards are a widely accepted form of payment in New Zealand.
Visa and MasterCard providers are the most commonly accepted. American Express and Diners Cards are not accepted in some places so its best to arrange an alternative card if this is all you have.
Before you travel to New Zealand you should notify your credit card issuer so that they can identify you will be making transactions in New Zealand and to avoid any security issues.
Do I need to tip in New Zealand?
Tipping is not customary or expected in New Zealand however if the service or experience you encountered was exceptional and you wish to reward someone for a job well done a small gratuity would be welcomed.There are no set amounts or percentages, its usually a case of 'have a couple of beers on us' calculation. Many bars, cafes and restaurants have a tip jar at the counter and it is common to put any loose change from your transaction in here when you order at a counter. Any kind of recognition is very much appreciated.
Auckland International Airport is New Zealand's largest and busiest airport. It is the main airport for international arrivals into New Zealand and most flights directly from the US arrive and depart here. it is located around 40 minutes drive from Auckland's central business district. Airport shuttle buses operate regularly or a taxi will cost around NZ$65.
Wellington International Airport is located in the suburb of Seatoon. It services all major international flights into the lower North Island as well as a comprehensive domestic network with dozens of flights to Auckland every day. It is a 25 minute drive to the central city, around NZ$45 for a taxi or there are regular shuttle buses.
Christchurch International Airport is the main airport serving Christchurch City and the arrival point for long haul international flights into the South Island. It is located 12 kilometres from Christchurch's central business district or about a 20 minute drive or a NZ$30 taxi ride. it also supports a comprehensive domestic network between the main centres and regional towns.
Queenstown Airport is New Zealand's fastest growing airport. It has been comprehensively refurbished recently to accommodate evening arrivals and increased international arrivals from Australia. The airport is located in Frankton, Queenstown, a 15-minute drive from Queenstown's town centre or is around a NZ$25 taxi ride or a smaller fee for a shuttle. It also serves as a busy domestic airport connecting to the major centres.
Holiday Shopping in New Zealand - Goods and Services Tax
No. Goods or services purchased while you are here in New Zealand are liable for all local taxes, as mandated by New Zealand law.
However, there are a select few store who have a duty free agreement to sell items without GST applied. Items purchased at these stores are likely to be sent to the airport for collection, or shipped directly to your home overseas. Usually this is only possible on high value items.
If I purchase something in New Zealand does the guarantee or warranty still apply?
Yes. All purchases in New Zealand are covered by Consumer Protection Laws.
For example: If you purchase a camera here in New Zealand that you find to be faulty when you return home, the New Zealand retailer is still responsible to either repair or replace the item according to the terms of the warranty or guarantee.
What is the luggage allowance on domestic flights?
Our preferred airline is Air New Zealand and the airfares we will book for you all have a luggage allowance of 23kg. However, you are allowed an additional 10kg for sports gear and if you are travelling with children you may also take a pram and a car seat.
Note: additional bags can be carried for a moderate additional fee.