Are you looking for New Zealand visa?

New Zealand Travel Guide: What every traveler needs to know

by Catherine Carey | July 3, 2023
Travel to New Zealand and discover the Sky Tower in Auckland

New Zealand is the land of verdant landscapes, animals, Māori culture, excellent food and wine and the fjords. It is also the perfect land to go hiking, whale watching, birdwatching, camping, walking through natural National parks and going on a New Zealand campervan trip.

Are you travelling to New Zealand? You will need a visa for New Zealand. In this guide about how to travel to New Zealand, we explain how to get the New Zealand visa and give you all the general information you must know about the country’s history, flag, geography, culture, population of New Zealand, gastronomy, weather, currency and safety.

General overview of New Zealand

New Zealand travel: Basic Information New Zealand

New Zealand’s Flag

 New Zealand flag

New Zealand’s flag was formally adopted in 1902 amidst the patriotism of the South African War. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 2016, when New Zealanders voted for the first time on their flag. The current one won with nearly 57% of the votes.

New Zealand has a number of other official flags. Waitangi Day 2010 saw the first official recognition of the Māori flag, which flew alongside the New Zealand flag on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Parliament, the Beehive, and other government buildings. 

The colours on the flag have specific meanings:

  • The royal blue background is derived from the ensign of the Blue Squadron of the Royal Navy
  • The stars of the Southern Cross represent the country's location in the South Pacific Ocean. 
  • The Union Jack symbolises New Zealand's origins as a British colony.

Geography of New Zealand

The country comprises the North and the South Island, separated by the Cook Strait, and a number of small islands. New Zealand administers the South Pacific island group of Tokelau and Niue and the Cook Islands are self-governing states in free association with New Zealand. The neighbour of New Zealand is Australia, 1,600 kilometers away.

New Zealand is a land of contrasts of active volcanoes, caves, more than 360 glaciers, fjords, beaches, and the snowcapped peaks of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana on the South Island. Due to being in the Ring of Fire (the circum-Pacific seismic belt), New Zealand suffers frequent earthquakes and considerable volcanic activity. 

Where is New Zealand? In what continent is New Zealand?

New Zealand is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean. New Zealand is one of the many islands that make up the continent of Oceania. Oceania is a continent composed of 14 countries spread throughout the Central and South Pacific Ocean. Some of the countries are Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Fiji and Solomon Islands.

The capital of New Zealand is Wellington, located on the North Island. Wellington has been the capital since 1865, after Parliament permanently moved from Auckland to Wellington.

New Zealand travel essentials: New Zealand map

History and Heritage of New Zealand

The first ones to arrive in New Zealand were the Māori people who arrived from Polynesia around 1,000 A.D. The first Europeans to reach the island were the Dutch. They reached New Zealand in 1642 when explorer Abel Tasman visited the islands and New Zealand was named Nieuw Zeeland after a region in the Netherlands.

After 127 years, the British arrived in New Zealand. In 1769, Captain James Cook came to the islands. The British established settlements and signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the Māori  in 1840. The Māori protested after their lands were seized, and in the 1860s a 12-year war against the British started in the North Island. Peace was restored in the 1870s.

During the South African war in 1899, New Zealand showed its loyalty to the British Empire and sent troops to fight for Britain. The country became a dominion of Britain in 1907, after they rejected to join the Australian Federation. New Zealand gained its full independence from Britain in 1947.

Culture and Traditions of New Zealand

The Kiwis, the people from New Zealand, are open-minded and welcoming to everyone. They are tolerant and love spending time with friends and family. 

Originally, the Māori named the country, Aotearoa, "The Land of the Long White Cloud” and Māori culture is widely extended and respected by New Zealanders. Māori culture is central when it comes to food, language and tradition. As a matter of fact, many parcels of land under dispute were returned to the Māori in 1998.

New Zealand is a very culturally diverse country. According to data from the 2013 national Census, 25% of people living in New Zealand were born abroad, 15% are Māori, over 12% are Asian, and over 7% are from Pacific Island nations. 

Sport is a big part of any New Zealander's life, especially rugby and cricket. Nearly everyone cheers on the Rugby national team, the All Blacks.

Some of the traditions in New Zealand are: 

  • Gumboot Day. This is a family event that includes the town’s famed gumboot throwing contest.
  • Cadbury Chocolate Carnival in Dunedin where giant Jaffa balls (orange chocolate unique to New Zealand) are thrown. There are a lot of chocolate filled activities.
  • The haka. This is a traditional Māori war dance that is performed by New Zealand’s All Blacks team.
  • The hongi. This is a personal, customary greeting in special occasions that consists of pressing of the noses and foreheads. This symbolises the passing of the breath of life from one person to another. 

people walking in New Zealand

Gastronomy in New Zealand

New Zealand is home to some of the best seafood, and is especially famous for its crayfish, mussels, salmon and fish and chips. If you are not much into fish, you must eat lamb. A roast lamb is a must-have dish for all kiwis. You can enjoy it in a typical Kiwi BBQ.

You should also try something cooked in the Māori hāngī, a traditional earth oven. Some foods cooked in a hāngī include chicken, pork, mutton, pumpkin, potato and kumara (sweet potato). For desserts, you should definitely try Pavlova which is a dessert consisting of meringue, marshmallow, whipped cream, and fresh fruit. 

It is worth mentioning that in New Zealand there is coffee culture. Kiwis love coffee and, as a matter of fact Auckland hosts a festival of coffee. The flat white is the most popular choice. When it comes to alcoholic drinks, there are really good wines and beers in New Zealand. A good Pinot noir, a Sauvignon blanc and some craft beers are waiting for you.

oysters and fish and chips in your New Zealand travel

Weather in New Zealand

The best time in New Zealand depends on which area you travel to. In general, much of New Zealand experiences high levels of rainfall, and thanks to that it is a very green country.  

In the summer, which is from December to February, New Zealand experiences a rise in temperatures which on average are around 20 - 25˚C (68 - 77˚F) and can get hotter in the South. These are the best months to travel to New Zealand, if you want to swim, surf or do other water sports. 

If you are looking to ski in the mountains, you should go during the winter months, which are from June to August. The best seasons for hiking are Spring and Autumn, from September to November and from March to May respectively. The advantage of travelling during those months is that attractions in New Zealand can be less crowded and rates will be cheaper. 

New Zealand’s currency

The currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). There are plenty of ATMs in New Zealand, so you don't need to exchange currency before you travel, but it's best to check with your bank to make sure your card works before you travel.  Although you can pay with credit cards, it is recommended to carry some cash for smaller purchases.

Main tourist attractions in New Zealand

In New Zealand there are several attractions you must see:

Lord of the Rings film sets

Fans of Lord of the Rings will enjoy a visit to any of the movie’s film sets, including: Matamata “Hobbiton”; Tongariro National Park “Mordor” and Tawhai Falls the “Gollum pool”.

lord of the rings movie set when traveling to New Zealand


New Zealand has breathtaking landscapes ranging from geysers to relaxing mud pools. Traditional Māori culture is still alive in Rotorua, with local tribes keen to share their history and legacy. Rotorua is one of the cities in New Zealand that will leave you breathless. Go there and discover all about the Māori culture or explore the caves.


Auckland is home to a broad range of habitats that highlight the aquatic diversity of New Zealand's largest city. Some of the attractions to visit include: Waitemata Harbor, Sky Tower, one Tree Hill, Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Islands, Rotoroa Island and Rangitoto Island.

Abel Tasman National Park

The spirit of New Zealand is captured in the Abel Tasman National Park. Sandy beaches and the lapping tide make this a wonderful place to relax. Some of the highlights are the Golden Bay, Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Ngarua Caves, Paynes Ford Scenic Reserve, Farewell Split and Te Waikoropupu Springs.

Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park will allow you to see unspoiled rainforests and colossal fiords and endangered animals, which can be seen on multi-day treks and day cruises. Areas like Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound are the ones you must see. Te Anau and Lake Manapouri are also among the highlights.

Safety in New Zealand

New Zealand is a safe place and it has quite a low crime rate. In larger cities, you might face some crime such as pickpocketing or muggings, but there is a low chance of this happening. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Farm animals can be dangerous if approached, so stay away
  • The roads can be dangerous for distracted tourists as sheep are often walking around
  • There can be small earthquakes
  • The weather is unpredictable; hypothermia is a risk at high altitudes
  • Be mindful of ocean currents as they can carry swimmers away
  • If you go hiking, be careful with insects and put on a good repellent

Do I need a visa for New Zealand?

Yes, most travelers will need to apply for a New Zealand visa. If you are a tourist eligible for the NZeTA travel authorization, which is available for over 60 nationalities, you can apply for it online.

You can check our eligibility verifier to find out the specific status of your nationality. If your nationality doesn't allow you to get a NZeTA, then you must apply for the Visitor Visa. 

You do not need to apply for a visa to visit New Zealand if you are:

  • New Zealand or Australian citizen or resident.
  • UK citizen or passport holder (for a maximum stay of 6 months).
  • A citizen of a country with the option of applying for an NZeTA (for a maximum stay of 3 months).

You can learn all about mandatory New Zealand entry requirements in our guide. There, we talk about visas, passports, safety, New Zealand transportation, vaccines, travel insurance and more important details to travel to New Zealand.

If you are traveling to New Zealand for other purposes or wish to stay longer, you will have to apply for a visa, so make sure you check out our guide "How to get a New Zealand visa" to see what type of visa you need.