queenstown new zealand

New Zealand: What I Know Now

New Zealand, while absolutely beautiful, has quite a few quirks when compared to the States.  Therefore, I decided to devote a post to a list of things I learned while traveling through “the land of the long white cloud.”

  1. Iced coffee generally comes with two scoops of ice cream.  This caught me off-guard at first as I thought maybe I had ordered a milkshake instead of iced coffee, but sure enough I found throughout my travels that iced coffee is served universally with scoops of ice cream in New Zealand.
  2. Travel times usually are longer due to roadways, so plan extra time.  The major roads in New Zealand consist of two lanes, one going in each direction.  As a result, this can make passing to be quiet difficult at times, which in return causes travel times to increase.  Do not rely on the calculated travel times of Google Maps as your primary source for deciding how long it will take you to arrive to a destination as these estimated times are not always accurate.  Pro tip: routinely check the New Zealand transportation agency website for the updated traffic information.  There has been much construction, especially along the coast, due to recent earthquakes, so sometimes there are unanticipated road closures.  This site, however, will help you avoid any surprises and assist you in planning accordingly.
  3. Gas is super expensive.  When I first started planning my trip to New Zealand, I had read in many articles online that gas was exorbitantly high.  At first, I thought well how pricey can it really be given that it is all an element of subjectivity.  Given prices fluctuate, one cannot speculate what it will be in the future, but based on my personal experience, a gallon of gas was approximately $10.00 USD.  Of note, this was during the summer season, and as we all know, prices can vary between seasons.  So something to bear in mind when creating a budget for your trip.
  4. No tipping.  This one is a big help considering everything is quite expensive in New Zealand.  It is beneficial to know that minimum wage earners, such as servers, do not work off tips.  In fact, they are paid a rather high minimum wage all things considered.  Nonetheless, if you feel like your server has done an excellent job, 10% is more than sufficient as a way to show your gratitude.  But again, to reiterate, tipping is not the norm.
  5. Sand Flies are the mosquitoes of New Zealand.  Never heard of a sand fly?  Well, neither had I until traveling to New Zealand.  Like mosquitoes, female sand flies bite to suck blood from their prey in order to produce eggs.  That said, while the bites of mosquitoes are generally itchy and annoying, the bites of sand flies can actually be painful.  It is best to try to cover up as much as possible to reduce exposed skin for sand flies to bite, or opt to use insect repellent in areas where sand flies are prevalent.
  6. Check-in times tend to end on the early side.   Given this information, you should check in with your hotel prior to your trip to see what the allotted hours are for check-in.  Unlike popular hotel chains, these smaller lodges/motels which are ubiquitous in New Zealand do not offer a 24-hour reception.  If you think you will be arriving past the check-in window, be sure to inform your hotel of this so they can act accordingly.  More than likely, the receptionist will leave your keys in an envelope with your name on the envelope and tape it to the Reception door if you are going to arrive outside the check-in window.  Sounds a bit crazy, but given New Zealand is one of the safest countries in the world, it makes sense to them.
  7. Always fill up your gas tank when you reach the half a tank mark.  This one is important as much of New Zealand is very rural, and you can go quite a bit of time without seeing a gas station.  So it is always best to fill up around a half a tank to ensure you do not run into any issues of potentially running out of gas.
  8. Cell service can be very spotty.  This one can be a hard pill to swallow for those of us who are accustomed to being able to use our phones 24/7.  The most important takeaway here though is that you should not plan to be able to rely on google maps at all times for directions.  That said, it is best to download a map of New Zealand in advance of your trip or purchase a road map.  Pro tip: As discussed in one of my previous posts, the Galileo Office Maps mobile application is useful in a situation like this. Prior to your trip, you would access the app and download a map of New Zealand, so that you can have the map available when you arrive and access it without a cellular connection.  It is best to preface this with the fact that this is not an app that gives you turn-by-turn directions.  It is just the same as working with an old school map, except the app will track your movement with a little blue dot so you can see exactly where you are geographically.  The application is available for purchase via the App Store for iPhone users or via Google Play for Android  users for $3.99.

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