Every year thousands of backpackers from all over the world visit New Zealand, and it’s easy to see why. With a relaxed, laid-back lifestyle and outstanding quality of life, there’s really no questioning why New Zealand has such a big appeal to those on a quest to see the world and gain new experiences. Whether you’re on a short trip or plan on staying a while and working in the country, Kiwis are likely to welcome you with open arms, and you’ll soon find it to be a place you could see yourself staying in. Before travelling to New Zealand there are a few things you should know first.

To help you acclimatise to the New Zealand way of life as quickly as possible and to ensure you make the most of your trip we have put together a helpful list of what to expect when you arrive in NZ.

1. Choosing the right Visa

Perhaps the most crucial thing to clue up on before planning on visiting New Zealand is the visa application process. If you hope to enter New Zealand, even just for a holiday, you must have a visa. The visa that you apply for will depend on what you actually want to do in New Zealand (holiday, work, study, live?) and how long you will want to stay (temporarily or permanently?) That said, you will still need to take some time to do your research and find out what kind of visa you will be eligible for based on your circumstances, as well as the entitlements it will give you during your time in the country. There will be different requirements and guidelines depending on many different factors, including the country that you hail from. More information about getting a visa for New Zealand.

2. There’s a difference between North and South

Although many countries around the world have notable distinctions between their North and South, this is especially the case in New Zealand, where the two islands couldn’t be more different. One of the biggest differences between the islands is their climates. Although generally void of any real extreme weather, New Zealand does tend to have pretty unpredictable weather at the best of times. It’s often said you can experience all four seasons in just one day, however, there is a notable difference between North and South. In the North, temperatures remain mild throughout the year. On the other hand, winter in the South comes with a bit more of a bite. This is perhaps one of the biggest things to consider when it comes to choosing where to base yourself. However, in terms of seeing as much of the country as possible, your travel options in New Zealand are pretty much endless.

before travelling to new zealand
In the North, temperatures remain mild throughout the year. On the other hand, winter in the South comes with a bit more of a bite.

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3. You’ll need to understand the cost of living

Due to the fact that New Zealand is an island nation far away from everywhere else, it can be a rather expensive place to live, albeit slightly cheaper than its Aussie neighbour. The cost of living, in major cities such as Auckland and Wellington, is generally at the higher end of the scale. For visitors though there can be bargains to be had. Take some time to do research and to get a good idea of what your every day expenses will be and factor in the activities you absolutely can't miss out on. It's possible to get good deals on hostel accommodation, especially in the shoulder and off peak seasons, as well as on transport.

4. The seasons are reversed

It’s certainly no secret, but in New Zealand the seasons are the exact opposite to the Northern Hemisphere, and it takes some getting used to. If you celebrate Christmas, you could be celebrating it in the height of summer. The academic year runs from February to November. Although not huge changes to adapt to, but for some, they could be deciding factors when it comes to deciding what time of year you want to visit the country.

pohutukawa trees
Pohutukawa Trees in New Zealand - they blossom in summer and are known as New Zealand Christmas Trees

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5. Sort out your accommodation before you arrive

When visiting anywhere in the world, finding a place to stay before you arrive will make the entire process so much easier. There are numerous hostels all over New Zealand, and camping sites in the more remote places. This may seem pretty obvious but having your accommodation organised before you arrive in each location you plan on visiting will save you so much hassle and free up more time to explore when you get there.

Book your accommodation now: https://www.stayatbase.com/hostels/
Or purchase a multi-night accommodation pass

6. It’s much further away than you might think

If you’re travelling to New Zealand, one thing that you have to contend with is the fact that it's a long way from virtually everywhere. If you’re away from loved ones, you’ll have consider the fact that going home for visits or flying them out to you is going to cost a pretty penny. If you’re travelling to New Zealand as a student to study for a year, you’ll need to factor the cost of travel into your budget, if your expenses aren’t already covered for you. As well, due to its remoteness, it makes travelling to other countries difficult. That said, there are travel opportunities aplenty to be had throughout New Zealand, which makes up for it.

7. New Zealanders are very friendly

Generally speaking, New Zealanders are very friendly people. Kiwi culture has a fiery passion for rugby and boasts honesty, integrity and trust. As with travelling to any country that is new to you, some research about the culture to gain the respect of the locals really goes go a long way. A few basic Kiwi manners to get you started are the following: take your shoes off before entering someone’s home, and if someone invites you to dinner ask them if they’d like you to bring a plate of food to share. Common courtesy really does go a long way!

Author: Stuart Cooke, blog editor at UniBaggage.com.

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