7 things you should know before you visit New Zealand
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7 things you should know before you visit New Zealand

New Zealand is an amazing land of contrast, beauty and adventure. If you were ever thinking of visiting New Zealand, you really should. To help you on your visit, we’ve interviewed tourists from around the world, and compiled these top 7 things New Zealand tourists wish they’d known before visiting. Some things are exactly what you’d expect. Driving in New Zealand is like anywhere. You’ve gotta have a current, valid driver’s license and you gotta wear your seatbelt when you are driving. Obviously, you are not allowed to drive while drunk, and the driver can’t use their phone while driving. New Zealand drives on the left side of the road. If you’re from one of these countries, this means everything is going to be reversed for you. To help you out, some intersections have signs pointing to which side of the road you should be on. If you get confused and spot one of these, follow it. A useful guide is that the driver should be closest to the center line. If there is a passenger seat between you and the center of a two way street, pull over and reorient yourself. Most road signs are self explanatory. This is the speed limit. Road Construction. No stopping. No parking. This sign means you can drive up to the national speed limit of 100km/hr. Hang on, that looks like a very narrow bridge ahead. This is a one-lane bridge, and it has a specific set of signs and rules in order to be crossed safely. If the large arrow points ahead, then you have the right of way, and as long as nobody is already on the bridge, then you may cross. Obviously, if someone is already crossing the bridge, then you got to wait for them as they have nowhere else to go. If the small arrow points ahead, then you do NOT have the right of way, and it is your responsibility to wait until all oncoming cars have crossed. A couple bridges in New Zealand also share the road with trains. As you can imagine, the train always has the right of way. Half of the 1,500 railway crossings in New Zealand have alarm bells like these..However, for the other half, you need to slow down and check it’s clear before proceeding. There are around 24 collisions per year between trains and motor vehicles on public road crossings. This sign indicates an upcoming roundabout, which is a round intersection that works a bit like a flowing 4 way stop. Since all the traffic moves in a circle, you need to check to your right to determine when it is safe to proceed. When turning left, indicate left and turn as you would at a normal intersection. If you are turning right, indicate right as you enter the roundabout clockwise, then indicate left as you prepare to exit. If you are going straight, only indicate when you are about to exit. In the case of two lane roundabouts, both lanes can often go straight, but you’ll need to be in the right lane if you are turning right, or in the left lane if you are turning left Great! Now that we know how to safely navigate the country, where should we go? Tourists often struggle to see all the sights they wish during their trip because sights are spread out all across the country. Locations that appear close on the map can be very far due to extreme terrain and winding roads.. Most of New Zealand is countryside, so be sure to fill up the petrol tank and grocery bags whenever you get a chance. Grocery stores in New Zealand are like those in most Western countries. They stock staple foods such as coffee, cereal, noodles, eggs, bread, beer and wine. Shopping at a supermarket can also be far less expensive than buying the same items at a dairy or a convenience store When paying at a petrol station or grocery store, you may be asked if you have “coupon or flybuys”. If you don’t know what they are, you don’t have them, so just say no. The answer to the question “Credit or EFTPOS?” is a bit trickier. EFTPOS is everywhere in NZ, but is incompatible with most overseas debit and credit card pin systems. You are welcome to try using your debit card or credit card pin number, but don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t work. The most reliable method is to use your credit card and when asked “pin or sign”, you choose “sign” or press enter on the terminal then sign your receipt. Many small cafes, takeaway shops and small town shops only accept eftpos. Your credit card will not work with them and you will need to carry some cash if you hope to buy anything off the beaten track. When eating out in NZ, note that tipping is not mandatory and it is not rude to simply pay the total on the bill. If you are driving and someone at the side of the road waves at you like this, that is a New Zealand indicator that there is a road hazard just ahead, so slow down. Farmers are required by law to put up signs that they are moving animals on the road. Ideally this would be flashing lights, but it can be as little as a bit of cardboard with the word “stock” painted on it. If you see a stock sign, slow down and keep an eye out for animals. If the road is completely blocked, simply stay on your side and slowly drive past or through the herd. Above all, enjoy the moment, as you are now officially experiencing life in New Zealand. If a moving tractor is blocking the road, slow down and wait to safely pass. Farmers will usually drive to the side of the road when it is safe to pass, or at least to give you enough of a view to make a good passing decision. Don’t panic, just wait until you are sure it is safe to pass and carry on. For the same reasons, If you are driving a campervan and are holding up traffic behind you, look for safe areas to pull over and allow people to pass. Since driving can be long and challenging, be sure to take plenty of rest stops and never drive tired. Also, stop every now and then to enjoy the scenery. Right. You’ve been sightseeing all day and you need a place to sleep. In tourist towns, there will always be an assortment of fully serviced campgrounds, motels, cabins and backpackers, but advanced booking is often needed during tourist season. When you enter a town, keep an look out for signs leading to “i-SITE’s”, which offer tourist information and a free local map of the area. The Department of Conservation operate over 200 campsites around New Zealand that are great value for money, and often in beautiful locations. Most of these sites are between $6 and $10 per person per night. A versatile and popular tourist option is hiring a campervan. This gives you the freedom to travel where you wish and sleep as late as you like. Also, a self contained campervan will give you a toilet whenever you need one. Be aware though that having the ability to pull up and camp wherever you like does not give you the right. Many councils have laws against roadside camping. If you park in the wrong area or on private land you may find yourself waking up to an angry knock on the window and the risk of a fine. To avoid this, you should know what the freedom camping rules are for the region you are staying in and where the designated camping locations are located. For the technically savvy, you can download the New Zealand travel app, campermate for your smartphone. It shows designated free campsites, dump stations, public toilets, laundromats, petrol stations, i-SITE’s, free wifi spots and even grocery stores located all over New Zealand. And best of all, CamperMate is completely free. Obviously, the best way to see more of New Zealand is to stay longer! The number one wish of tourists is that they could have spent more time taking the country in. So, welcome to New Zealand! Be sure to get a good night’s sleep because you aren’t going to want to miss a moment of your time here!


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