Backpacking New Zealand

Looking for important travel information while backpacking around New Zealand? Here you will find information on working in New Zealand, entry visas, New Zealand hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

Facts About New Zealand

New Zealand is an excellent backpacking or budget travel destination either as part of a larger Australia based tour or on its own. The countries small stature means that travel costs can be kept to a minimum to allow you to really make the most of your budget. Natural sights range from thick forest reserves to beautiful sandy beaches via everything from glacial mountains to volcanic geysers. Much like Australia the population are cosmopolitan and very friendly and open to tourists so you have no excuse to make a trip here something to remember for a lifetime.

  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZ$) = 100 cents
  • Time Zone: GMT + 12
  • Language: English
  • Telephone Services: Country code +64, International access code 00
  • Emergency Numbers: 111 for all services


New Zealand is lucky enough to benefit from an excellent climate, ranging from the subtropical north to the more temperate south you won’t find much bad weather anywhere in the country. In the north there are no significant seasonal changes in climate which is generally hot and dry. In the south there are distinct seasons which since New Zealand lies in the southern hemisphere are opposite to European or American seasons. The mountains areas are high enough to receive permanent snow on the peaks and colder winters.

Things to see and do

The capital of New Zealand is the city of Wellington; inhabited by about 345,000 people it lies right on the southern tip of the North Island. The city is well known for it’s cosmopolitan festivals to various arts and these monthly occurrences have secured Wellington as New Zealand’s city of culture. As well as the countries numerous bohemian restaurants and cafes the city houses the country’s government, visitors might in particular be interested in seeing the Beehive which houses the executive wing of parliament or the wooden Government Building. Other attractions include the Te Papa museum and the Mansfield Memorials, the latter being the birthplace of famous Kiwi author Katherin Mansfield. Being the capital, Wellington offers excellent shopping particularly in Cuba Street and offers a large range of budget accommodation centred around the Mt Victoria region.

Wellington is in some ways surpassed by the larger city of Auckland, at over 4 times the size and boasting a population of around 1.5 million it is easy to see why. Despite the heavy population of the area it is remarkably surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the country including plenty of natural beaches and harbours, of particular interest is the volcanic Waitakere Ranges which boast an impressive 250km of scenic walking trails. The city itself is famed for its impressive bridge and harbour with only the proximity of Sydney preventing it becoming more internationally known. Other sites of interest include the Sky Tower casino; the Auckland Museum which boasts a fantastic Maori exhibit and the cosmopolitan Karangahape Road. Shoppers should head to Parnell and Newmarket and those looking for excellent beaches will enjoy Kohimarama or Mission Bay. Mission Bay also has a variety of restuarants, with lovely views over the beach/harbour and is only a short bus ride from Central Auckland. Also recommended for wining and dining are Parnell and Ponsonby. Before leaving the city it is practically obligatory to climb the dormant One Tree Hill volcano for some fantastic views of the surrounding country.

The Northland peninsula divides the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea and is one of the few mainly Maori areas of the country. Travelling to this part of the country is the easiest way to get a deeper understanding of the Maori culture. As well as the culture the fantastic sub-tropical weather make it known as the winterless north, its abundant sandy beaches, palm trees and citrus fruits only strengthen its appeal to tourists. Highlights include the Otamatea Kauri & Pioneer Museum dedicated to the impact the mighty Kauri tree had on early pioneering culture. Also worth seeing are the historic towns of Pahia and Waitangi as well as the excellent Ninety Mile Beach.


The size of New Zealand may mean that air travel is a somewhat expensive option to choose but there are several companies running domestic flights within New Zealand. The biggest is Air New Zealand which runs flights under its own name or as one of 27 smaller wholly owned subsidiaries which are part of the Air New Zealand Link, Qantas also offer New Zealand domestic flights as well as flight between New Zealand and Australia. Qantas in particular offer a coupon based Kiwi Airpass which can make travelling within New Zealand as cheap as NZ$40 a flight.

Tranzrail operates New Zealand’s 4000km or so of railway network. Fares are affordable and trains are modern with air conditioning and a buffet car on every service. There is a notable lack of sleeper carriages even on overnight services although as the distances aren’t usually too great this shouldn’t really be seen as a problem.

The main inter city bus services are run by Intercity Coach Lines and Newmans Coach Lines. It is advisable to make reservations for seats in advance either online or at bus stations however it is possible to just hop on a bus at times.

Travel Pass New Zealand is an excellent way to explore the country, the 3 in 1 pass allows between 5 and 22 days travel on Intercity Coach Lines buses, two return tickets on Tranz Scenic trains and one ferry crossing across Cook Straight. The site has many other travel passes available so it is easy to find one which caters for your needs exactly.

KiwiCoach Pass New Zealand offers 10 fixed itinerary pass options for independent travellers. From 2-12 days duration, daily departures, 12 month validity. Pre book your coach sectors before arrival in New Zealand or book-as-you-go up to 24 hours before your day of travel. 7 day, toll free, reservations service available.


New Zealand has plenty of hotels and motels ranging from affordable budget accommodation to luxury 5 star resorts. Hotels and motels have a separate grading system but even un-graded establishments are normally serviceable if basic. The Motel Association of New Zealand and the Hotel Association of New Zealand can be contact for further details.

Guest-house, private hotels and bed and breakfast style accommodation is becoming increasingly popular in New Zealand, not least because of its affordability. It is even possible to rent lodgings above a pub or in a farm-stay guest house which are generally conveniently sited near good fishing, skiing or riding areas. Holdsworth offer a good overview of this type of accommodation in all regions of the country.

The Youth Hostel Association runs nearly 60 hostels throughout the country, mainly in cities or other populated areas. It is possible to reserve in advance and the rates are generally affordable. There are also Backpackers’ Hostels located throughout the country which are run by Budget Backpackers Hostels and are available for as little as NZ$14 a night. These rooms also often include prepaid telephone credit and discount coupons for local travel.


Medical and dental care in New Zealand is widely available and doctors are trained to a very high standard. The overall quality of health provision is easily the equal of any Western European country. There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK which allows free treatment for British Citizen in an emergency. Non emergency treatment will expected to be paid for so it is still worth taking out travel insurance.

There are no vaccinations recommended for travel to New Zealand, the tap water is safe to drink and food in considered safe. Only normal everyday precautions need to be observed.

Useful Links

Pure New Zealand offers travel and tourist information for all visitors to the country

Budget Backpackers Hostels operate a range of low cost hostels throughout the country

The Youth Hostel Association runs nearly 60 hostels throughout the New Zealand

Holdsworth offer a good overview of guesthouse and B&B style accomodation

The Motel Association of New Zealand offers information on motels throughout the country

The Hotel Association of New Zealand is responsible for the grading system of hotels and also has general information on hotels in New Zealand

Air New Zealand runs flights under its own name or as one of 27 smaller wholly owned subsidiaries which are part of the Air New Zealand Link

Qantas also offer New Zealand domestic flights as well as flight between New Zealand and Australia

Tranzrail operates New Zealand’s railway network

Intercity Coach Lines is one of New Zealands two major inter-city coach companies

Newmans Coach Lines operate an inter-city bus network on both Islands

Travel Pass New Zealand offer a range of travel passes which cover travel by bus, train, ferry and even air

Flexi-Pass New Zealand is an innovative bus travel pass from Intercity Coachlines allowing travellers to buy hours of travel to get around New Zealand – the most flexible and comprehensive New Zealand travel pass.

Black Cat Cruises & Dolphin Swimming Scenic cruises on Akaroa & Lyttelton Harbours near Christchurch viewing Hector’s Dolphins, penguins & seals and opportunities to experience swimming with the world’s rarest and smallest dolphins.

Thrifty Tours New Zealand An exciting programme of independent package holidays using regular motorcoach, train and ferry services with pre-booked accommodation.

Entry Visas for New Zealand

A valid passport and a return ticket are required by all visitors to New Zealand except Australian Nationals who do not require a return ticket. A visa is not required by British nationals for a stay of up to 6 months, EU and US nationals do not require a visa for a stay of up to 3 months. Any extension to these durations of stay require a visa which are available from the local New Zealand Consulate or High Commision.


All visa and immigration related enquiries should be directed towards the New Zealand High Commision:

New Zealand High Commission 
New Zealand House 
80 Haymarket 
Tel: (020) 7 930 8422 
Fax: (020) 7 839 4580. 

If you require UK representation while abroad you should contact the British High Commision:

British High Commission 
44 Hill Street 
Wellington 1 
New Zealand 
Tel: + [64] (4) 472 6049 
email: British 

There are also Consulate-Generals in Auckland and Christchurch.

Tourist information is dispensed by the New Zealand Tourism Board:

New Zealand Tourism Board 
PO Box 95
Fletcher Challenge House 
89 The Terrace 
New Zealand 
Tel: (4) 472 8860 
Fax: (4) 478 1736

There you have it, the ultimate New Zealand backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around New Zealand.