Inspired by Gadling’s recent dispatches from the South Pacific? It’s not as far away or as difficult a trip as you think. With a strong dollar, good competition on flights and a warm culture, there are plenty of reasons to grab the kids, skip church and head New Zealand right now. We’ll help you out with logistics right here:
When should I go? Since New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, they’re just entering winter. Don’t let that stop you though, the currents in the South Pacific keep the island nation fairly warm, and even if you can’t swim with dolphins you can still enjoy 95% of what the islands have to offer. Most importantly, you should pick a time when the tickets are the cheapest.
Tell me about this ticket that you speak of. You don’t need a travel agent to book international airfares, your tools are right in front of you. Start by running a simple flexible fare search from your home airport to Auckland (AKL) and Christchurch (CHC) on Kayak.com. Most connections will be made in Los Angeles (LAX) or New York (NYC), so if you want a cheaper alternative, try searching independently from those points of departure then connecting on your own. Also consider flying into Sydney (SYD) and moving onward from there. There’s a spectacular fare war among some of the top carriers on the LAX-SYD route right now, so you might be able to cash in and fly in V Australia’s sweet new service for a dirt cheap price.
Do I need a visa? No prearranged visa is required for visits to New Zealand, but you’ll have to prove that you’re leaving or will able to leave within the bounds of your visa, so don’t forget your return trip information when you go to check in for your flight. If you’re laying over in Sydney on a separately booked ticket, you’ll need to arrange an ETA prior to departure, which you can do online.
How do I get around? New Zealand has a comprehensive bus network called Intercity that fits the budget of any frugal traveler trying to get from hot spot to hot spot across the country. One can see almost everything that the country has to offer with these coaches, and they’re also a great way to meet people.
Alternatively, most standard vehicle rental companies have offices at the airports, where you’ll be able to rent a host of miniature, very miniature and absurdly miniature vehicles. You can drive all over with your US driver’s license, but be forewarned that Kiwis drive on the left, so you’ll have to reverse your brain. Fortunately, many rentals have automatic transmissions, so you don’t have to worry about shifting as well.
Finally, many travelers rent or purchase camper vans as a means to inexpensively sleep across the countryside. Parks and campgrounds cover rural areas, so it’s simple to pull over, set up camp and spend the night, and sites like wickedcampers.co.au make rental a snap.
Do I need to bring travelers checks and money? This isn’t 1986. You can withdraw money out of the ATM machine right inside of Auckland International Airport, and save the hassle of paying fees or carrying around large sums of cash.
I’m afraid/I don’t have the time off of work/That’s a long flight/I’ve never traveled alone! Put down your white wine, stop worrying about this season of Lost and book your ticket. This is a once in a lifetime experience and you’re not going to make it if you warble around. You’ll love it. We promise.
Thanks for reading In the Corner of the World.