About three months ago, my husband and I lived a different life for three weeks, which was so fabu. I now think back fondly on space-heater drying my recycled clothes on many a night. The land of laidback Kiwis and delicious eeggs (yes, eeggs)—a wondrous place that brought LOTR geekhood to new heights (FYI, locals don’t seem that into it). For anyone out here in cyberspace who is planning to visit New Zealand, here are some tips:
- Don’t completely fall off the grid. Buy a local SIM card so you can stay connected with home. You can also use GPS to avoid getting really lost. I used Spark with my unlocked AT&T phone. Spark has a convenient location in the Auckland airport.
- Drive lean. We went with an Apex compact car instead of a campervan. More efficient gas mileage, and ending each day in a warm motel room with a private shower and comfy bed was just glorious. We didn’t do a full price comparison, but personal preference definitely played a part.
- When driving, stay on the leeft (yes, leeft) side of the road. The driver seat is on the right side of the car, so the driver should always be closest to the center of the road.
- On long stretches of open road, periodically make sure you are still on the left side of the road. Also, watch out for other drivers who may unknowingly drift to the wrong side of the road or attempt to make dangerous passes.
- When you’re at the gas station—or petrol station, as they call it—pay the attendant after you pump. They trust you. Just press the button for the amount of gas you want to pay for (“Fill” means fill ‘er up), and then wait for the fuel to flow.
- Buy snacky poofs from grocery stores every now and then. Quick bites for breakfast or the road save time and money. And if you pick somewhat healthy items, you’ll feel even better about yourself for making some responsible choices while on vacation.
- If you usually sign for credit card purchases, do not panic if the cashier doesn’t think your signature matches what’s on your credit card. Kiwis mainly use PINs to verify credit card purchases, so cashiers aren’t used to checking signatures very often. Just show your ID and you’re good. Also, if you can swing a credit card with no foreign transaction fees, do it.
- If you go kayaking during cold months (May through September), do not turn down the wetsuit. The kayak rental people might say you don’t need one if it’s sunny for a moment, but you really really do. And don’t take that spray jacket and skirt for granted (unless you want to end up a cold, shivering fool).
- If you see a small, seemingly harmless black fly land on your skin, smack it before it saws through YOUR SOUL. Sandflies are no joke around bodies of water. Goodbye Sandfly kept us bite-free, but it was also a chilly time of year when the sandflies weren’t as active.
- If you want to bring back some delicious NZ honey, make sure it is allowed in your home country and any stopover countries. For Americans, it’s generally okay, but check the U.S. Customs web page on bringing food back to be sure. Also, buy at a local store. Cheaper than the souvenir shop and more interesting honey flavors to try.
Here’s a video of tips that were very useful during our NZ trip, particularly for driving: