Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Travel tips to New Zealand (South Island)

I have just completed a family vacation to South Island of New Zealand. Here are some travel tips that I would like to share with you, if you are going to travel to New Zealand too.


  • Even though I went there during near summer time, the weather most of the time is cold with temperature around 5-15 degree Celsius. You will experience cool breeze at places near the seaside or large lakeside. Therefore, warm jacket in your luggage is a must regardless which month you travel there.
  • The customs check at Christchurch airport is pretty strict. If they suspect you to bring in or bring out forbidden items in your bag, your bag will be quarantined for thorough checking. That will cost you quite a lot of time. Forbidden items include any liquid in your hand carry bag.

Tourist information:
  • Remember to collect a free copy of Arrival Magazine at the arrival hall of the international airport. You can find some coupons which is able to save you some activity cost in New Zealand.
  • In every major town and popular attractions, you will probably find the New Zealand visitor information center called i-Site. You can ask for information, make booking, and get free maps and tourist booklet there. The toilet at i-Site is also available for your use (the toilet in petrol stations, restaurants, shops, ... only open to their customer only, if made available)
  • Check for tickets at BookMe website for the attractions you plan to visit. You might be able to get discount price as high as 99% (in other words, pay only 1% for the ticket price).

Mobile telephony and Internet service:
  • Free WiFi is available at Christchurch airport. Need a simple web-based registration before use.
  • I purchased a Spark prepaid value pack SIM card at the price of $29 that come with 150 minutes talk time, 500MB data plan and unlimited SMS. The coverage is good, even got one or two bars of signal deep inside Mt Cook Hooker Valley. I always get the availability of Spark WiFi (free for Spark users, with daily quota of 1GB) at YHA various hostels, on top of the free WiFi provided by YHA.

On the road:
  • The best way to travel around is to rent a car. There are a few car rental companies near Christchurch Airport. You will need a valid driving license issued in your country. You won't encounter any traffic jam in New Zealand South Island, and there are a lot of road signboards along the way.
  • If you plan to rent a camper van, beware that it would be more difficult for you to find parking place. Besides, camper van can only park overnight at designated areas, normally located near major attractions.
  • If you plan to rent a car, a GPS navigator with most recent New Zealand maps will be very useful. The mobile Internet data plan there is expensive for high quota usage. I would advise you to bring a Garmin GPS with you instead of using online map and navigation apps in your smartphone.
  • The speed limit in town area is normally 50km/h only. The speed limit on highway is 100km/h. The highway speed limit that cross certain small towns is 80km/h.
  • There are kilometres of unpaved road in farm areas. If you want to avoid going into such route, set your GPS avoidance accordingly.
  • New Zealand drivers are generally courteous. Always follow the speed limit, obey the traffic light, give way to pedestrians at zebra crossing. 
  • I didn't see any highway toll in New Zealand South Island.
  • Passenger cars in New Zealand normally filled with RON-91 petrol. RON-95 is considered premium petrol in New Zealand. I didn't see any RON-97 or RON-99 pump there.

  • Most roadside parking is free, but has a maximum parking time from 10 minutes to 2 hours. Certain parking places in Christchurch need to be paid by feeding the machine nearby and display the parking ticket.
  • Parking at shopping mall such as Countdown also has maximum parking time.
  • Do not park exceeding the maximum time. You might get fined, and need to pay the penalty at the town council.

  • If you are looking for cheap accommodation with free WiFi internet facility, YHA hostel could be a good option. They are equipped with shared kitchen that have the necessary cooking utensils, dishes and glasses, coin operated washing machine and clothes dryer.
  • There are quite a lot of motels in New Zealand. Make your booking early while there is still vacancy available. Note that not all of them come with free WiFi and laundry facility. You need to find out the availability before confirming your booking.
  • If you want a motel that provide free shuttle service to pick you up from Christchurch airport to the motel during arrival, and from motel to Christchurch airport upon departure, and the pick-up time can be any time (even at midnight), try to look for Airport Gateway Motor Lodge.

  • The prices you see in New Zealand are inclusive 15% GST.
  •  If you want to buy honey or chocolates, the price in small town could be cheaper than the price in airport's duty free shops.
  • Don't forget there are discount coupons in Arrival Magazine, and Internet booking discount for certain activities at BookMe website.

Credit card:
  • Credit card can be used at most of the places.
  • Certain place will impost additional charge if you pay with credit card rather than cash.
  • The credit card security measure in New Zealand seems to be very loose. Sometimes the shop doesn't even need your signature. Internet transaction also not making use of the 3 digit validation code at the back of your card.


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