What Do I Need to Know? All the important stuff
I've made a list of things I think you need to know about. Most important, however, is for you to realize that Kiwis are generally a laid back bunch and up for a good laugh and joke around. So do not worry too much about stuffing up when you get here. Just respect the country and people, drive on the left hand side of the road and you will be sweet.
Driving in New Zealand
Perfect way to see the country
So here is a quick guide to what you should know about and what rules are really important to be aware of. Also you need to know that if you have either a current driver's license from your home country or an International Driving Permit you can legally drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months. After that period, however, you are required to convert to a New Zealand license.
- Speed Limit: the predominant speed limits here are 100 km / h in open areas and 50 / km / h in urban areas. Other speeds will be posted on a red, white and black circular sign post on your side of the road if different. Stick to these speeds, do not go too fast and do not go too slow unless you are prepared to allow other road users to regularly overtake you. Police here are strict regarding road safety and there can be major penalties to careless breaking of road rules.
- Keep Left: you need to stay on the left-hand side of the road when you are driving and cycling. Do not forget that or you may need to use your quick reaction skills. If for some reason you are walking and are not hitch-hiking than it is best to walk on the side of on-coming traffic for best visibility.
- Give Way: this is the most confusing thing about driving in New Zealand, and is also the subject of much debate here. If you are turning left you are required to give way to motorists coming from the right into the same lane. Easy way to remember this is if you were to be in a collision and the other car would hit the driver's side door (right hand side), you should give way.
- Road Signs: there are three main types of sign. Regulatory Signs must be obeyed by law and have a red border or background. Warning Signs should be obeyed for safety reasons and have black borders and symbols with a yellow (permanent) or orange (temporary) background. Information Signs give information and normally have white borders and symbols or text with either a blue, green or brown background. Just a quick mention that suggested reasons for most corners are clearly visible and they give an indication of safe reasons to take each corner.
- All Other Stuff: seatbelts are a must in New Zealand. Never drink alcohol and drive as the police are very strict in New Zealand on this issue. Do not use your cell phone whilst driving. Do not cross double yellow lines and if needing to overtake make sure you have plenty of open space before and after the overtake and only on dashed white lines. Watch out for livestock, gravel roads, ice on the road, snow, log trucks and always rest when needed when driving.
New Zealand Food
A taste explosion
There really is a lot I could write about New Zealand food, but I do not think this is the place. All I want to do here is tell you about the various food options that you can expect when you come to New Zealand, and then help you with your trip planning and expectations.
New Zealanders now eat a load of seafood and you can expect to find seafood options in many restaurants and of course there is the old favorite, fish 'n' chips, as shown here that features some popular local seafood. The New Zealand roast still features in a lot of places and for decades has been a favorite meal for us Kiwis.
In the past few decades fast food has developed a much bigger picture here, so you can expect to see your favorite fast food options in many places you visit. However, if you are wanting to stay away from fast food you can visit a lot of good restaurants that will serve you food influenced by different European and American ideas. In New Zealand you can find Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian and other popular food choices.
Some Kiwiventions and favorites are the classic Pavlova, marmite and L & P. You should try these when you get here and make sure you sample New Zealand's freshest meats and seafoods.
New Zealand Hazards and Safety Information
What you need to know
So coming to a new country and even preparing a trip abroad can be pretty cool and exciting right? It is always better for your peace of mind if you are aware of potential safety issues that may arise, however. Keeping that in mind here is my humble attempt to inform you of stuff you might need to know.
We have already talked about driving in New Zealand so I'll just remind you of some stuff. Remember that when driving in New Zealand you need to be on the look out for livestock, unsealed roads, road signs, logging trucks, black ice on the road (can be scary and dangerous to hit and is usually found after a heavy frost and in sheltered stretches of road), foreign drivers and road works. Also do not forget to stay on the left side of the road when driving.
Accommodation is generally really good in New Zealand and there is not much to watch out for. Just know what the expectations are of you, the customer. In New Zealand the best way to know the quality of your accommodation provider is to see whether they are Qualmark rated, and what their rating is, and just so you have an idea what types of accommodation are available click here.
Wildlife in New Zealand is spectacular and great to see. The only warnings really are some spiders and sea creatures, but do not let that stop you from getting in the water. We have no snakes or large predators (you are the largest predator). Just remember to respect the wildlife and realize that a lot of it is heavily protected.
I just reminded myself with the above paragraph that I should mention something about beaches, rivers and swimming. There are some wild West Coast beaches that should not be swum in. You should be able to use common sense in regards to that. There are some fantastic beaches to access and use, however. When it comes to swimming in rivers just use caution as rivers can be unpredictable.
Going bush, hiking, hunting, trekking and just sightseeing can all come with potential issues and you really need to be prepared for the worst. If you are going trekking over night you need to prepare and pack appropriately and do not just expect that there are going to be people around as New Zealand is a pretty isolated and rugged place. Always wear appropriate clothing (layers are best) and store in your supplies spare dry and warm clothes (thermals are good) and wet weather gear. Make sure you know what the weather and track conditions will be like and always let someone know your plans. Have enough food and pack emergency (just in case) rations as well. Have a first aid kit and a survival kit containing stuff like map and compass, whistle, cord, sharp knife, pencil and paper, survival sheet, fire-lighters and a tent or fly. If you deem it necessary consider buying or hiring an emergency locator beacon. For more information on trip planning in New Zealand go to the Department of Conservation website and scope it out.
That's all I can think of at this stage that you need to aware of. On the whole New Zealand is a pretty safe place to visit, explore and enjoy.
New Zealand Weather
So it's safe to say that New Zealand is in fact affected by weather …. I know, crazy huh.
New Zealand has a huge variety in its weather patterns given its location and geographical features. From sunny beaches to rain drenched forests and parks you can expect to find it all here. We do not generally have massive storms, but in saying that we can get some pretty rough weather and flooding in some parts can be intense.