new zealand travel tips...

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound

My husband and I just came back from our trip last week. We managed to visit both the north and the south island in 15 days, and hit most of key things we needed to see. I'd say New Zealand is a smaller version of California and Alaska together, except they have kiwis and penguins. :)

Flying to New Zealand was expensive because there wasn't a lot of competition among airlines. Since I knew we wanted to visit both islands, I booked a multistop flight from San Francisco to Auckland, then Christchurch to San Francisco on the way back home. We started our trip by driving to the north side of Auckland (Waipu), and drove back to Auckland. We explored the north island for a few days before we flew from Auckland to Queenstown. On the south island, we drove for the rest of the trip. 


New Zealand is a beautiful country, packed with incredible scenery and friendly people. From this trip, I've learned some things that I want to share with you.

1. Driving is on the left side of the road. Be prepared for that, and don't run into a police car. ;-)
2. Great coffee shops--inviting and stylish. You don't have to worry about finding a good coffee here. Even in a very small town that only have one coffee shop, they'll have an espresso machine. You'll be able to get the best coffee. One thing though, you'll need to know about  the word they use when order a cup of coffee here--like a flat white, a long black and a short black. 
3. Pack light. Most hotels offer laundry facilities. You should be able to do your laundry at one of the hotels you stay. Make sure you have some coins.
4. Most hotels, restaurants and coffee shops offer you free wifi. The connection may be very slow in some area. McDonalds and libraries also offer free wifi.
5. Nice beaches in Queenstown. Don't forget to bring your swimming suit if you plan to go there between January-February, so you can enjoy the sun. No sandflies here--yeah!

Bowen Falls, Milford Sound

6. Be aware of sandflies in some areas, like Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. They bite and leave bite marks that will be itching for a week or even longer. You must wear repellent or cover yourself head to toe when visit these areas. I was fine for the whole trip until the last day in Christchurch. I didn't expect sandflies in the city and didn't spray my feet that day. Oh boy, it was bad.
7. If you happen to be in Manapouri for your Doubtful Sound trip. Stock up some food from a grocery in Te Anua because there isn't much here. Get some meats, veggies, fruits and dairy products so that you can cook in your hotel. Most hotels here offer in-unit kitchen facilities.
8. In Manapouri, get a couple of muesli bars at Real Journey boat station. They are really (really) tasty!
9. Tipping is not customary in New Zealand. Since eating out is very expensive, you don't need to leave anything extra unless the service is extremely good.
10. If you fly from Auckland to Queenstown, book the seat on the left side of the plane so that you can see Mount Cook.

Check out my Picasa for more photos!

Franz Josef Glacier
Doubtful Sound

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