Take only memories. Leave nothing but footprints. – Chief Seattle
Whether you’re still planning your upcoming trip (check this link on how to apply for a New Zealand visa) or you’ve already been approved, here are the following guidelines when visiting or migrating to this wonderful country way down under.
Please follow your specific visa conditions
This one actually applies to any country you want to go, but it’s best to reiterate in this article. Be very considerate to other future travelers, most especially those from your home country, by following your specific visa conditions. As stated above, there is at least one visa that will definitely apply to your situation. For example, if you want to migrate to New Zealand, it’s best to apply for a visa that reflects your true intentions. If you do get a visa that doesn’t allow you to work, please refrain from finding jobs. Don’t even bring printed copies of any work-related documents because if immigration officers inspect your bags and they found these, it might be grounds for deportation. Records are now accessible online, and even when you do get past their inspection or non-inspection, you will not escape the law of karma. What you can do is to search online or ask anyone who have traveled or moved here for some advice, even way before coming here.
Don’t overstay either. Depending on whether you’re from a visa-waiver country or not, if you want to stay longer than your current visa allows you to, contact the Customer Service line of Immigration NZ if you are allowed to reapply for another visa way before it expires. You can also check this link if you really want to extend your visitor visa. The customer service lines here are now open 24/7 so there’s no excuse. I’ve had great experiences with them, and they always manage to politely answer my questions. Otherwise, you might be banned from coming back for God knows how long. So please make your own and that of your home country’s reputation good by being honest and following your visa conditions. These conditions are stated in the last part of the NZ visa label.
Please fill the details of the NZ passenger arrival card as honestly as you can
Declare any items you have in both carry-on and check-in luggages have that corresponds to what was written or asked in the card. If you don’t understand what’s asked in the card, be brave enough to ask the flight attendants for help. If you need translation, ask for someone else who understands your language. It’s much better to ask than assume and then get fined at Customs or Immigration office for not declaring any items, and honestly that’s not a good start to your trip. I don’t even recommend throwing any of the items when already waiting in line for your passport to be stamped as there are cameras around and someone might approach and question you about it. Here’s what the NZ passenger arrival card looks like.
Purchase a mobile phone prepay SIM card if staying for more than a week
Vodafone, Spark, and 2Degrees are the three major telecom companies where you can buy a SIM card. There’s also Skinny Mobile, the prepaid arm of Spark. There are SIM cards specifically targeted for travelers and the regular SIM cards. Find out which one would best suit your needs and provide the most value for your money. In my case, I’ve got a 2Degrees Prepay SIM card and have been their loyal customer ever since.
Take advantage of discounts and deals
Get any of the free travel magazines you find as soon as you arrive at a New Zealand airport (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, etc.) because they offer discounts towards car rentals, accommodations, taxi fares, activities such as bungee jumping, entrance fees at places and events, and many more. Arrival, AA Traveller, and Jasons are just a few of them that have discount vouchers inside. There are also leaflets and brochures of specific places and activities. They are all free to take with you, so don’t miss any opportunity to reduce your overall travel costs. If you can’t find any free magazines at the airport, ask for the nearest i-Site visitor information center and get magazines from there. You can also lodge your queries with their friendly staff on anything travel related.
The Entertainment Book NZ is for discounts on meals at restaurants and cafes, where you can get either 25% off the total bill or a complimentary meal when you buy one. For this, you need to buy from a charitable organization’s website though as they’re given an opportunity by the company to raise funds by selling these books on their behalf. Just type “Entertainment Book NZ (current year)” on Google and the websites will come up. Also the books are by place or region, not the entire country. So if you will be in Auckland for most of your trip, for example, buy the Auckland Region one. I’ve talked about this twice in the blog, the first in 2013 and the second in 2014. Highly recommended for food lovers out there!
When buying fruits and veggies, Asian shops have the most reasonable prices and comparable quality with that of major supermarkets
Another way to make the most of your money is to buy fruit and veggies at Asian shops while other items at discount in supermarkets. This is also very helpful when stocking up on supplies ahead of time before traveling between towns through a bus or by driving as it’s much cheaper to make your own meals most of the time. Smaller shops in towns are called dairies, and items sold there are priced a bit higher. I don’t know if haggling is even allowed here, even at farmers markets or night markets, but it’s much better to go for places where food is way cheaper.
When renting a car, camper van, or caravan, please make sure to do a few checks and precautions before driving
Ask what are the basic driving rules because road conditions here are very different from your home country. We mainly drive on the left side of the road. Even when you’re an experienced driver already for many years, for your own safety and of your companions please follow the local rules and know the road conditions.
This I need to emphasize because road signages here are way different from where you live. There are way too many accidents now involving foreign drivers that this honestly could have been avoided. Sadly, both the locals and passengers of foreign drivers are affected. Some of them have actually died while others are still recovering in a hospital. Here’s the case of a Chinese tourist who was sentenced for 18 months for killing a five-year-old girl while she was in the car with her parents. If you’re not careful, you will even go to court for this, get fined up to tens of thousands of dollars when found guilty of causing the accident, and be imprisoned for many months. And to be honest, that’s not a good way to end your trip either.
Another thing to take note of is that you don’t wanna get caught by a vigilante local because they can confiscate your keys and will report you to police. A few locals do take the law into their own hands because they are also fed up with the accidents and I’m sure you don’t wanna get caught in this either. Most, if not all of them, have a sense of community with their neighbors and the best thing you can do is to respect that. Be very careful too where you park the car to take pictures. Be sure the road is wide enough for other cars to pass through. Otherwise, traffic will ensue and people will get angry and beep you, and possibly confiscate your keys too. Although there’s no formal government legislation yet on this matter, hopefully they are working on it because Kiwis here are now calling for this to be made into a requirement for first-time travelers.
Here’s a very helpful YouTube video about driving in New Zealand, and other very useful tips not mentioned in this article.
Some travel magazines you’ll find at airports and i-Site visitor information centers also have basic NZ road code rules on the first few pages, so it’s worth having a read even for just a few minutes. Feel free to ask locals for more info about driving in New Zealand. If you had a long-haul flight, I strongly suggest to rest for at least 24 hours before driving. Do your part to be on the safe side all the time and checking out other videos similar to the one above. Respect the rules when in another country at all times, and you’ll better be safe than sorry.
If you prefer to buy a second-hand or used car for road trips, research first before buying, including checking whether the warrant of fitness (WOF) and car registration are current and still have months on it before the expiry date. The government is pretty vigilant on this too and might impose fines on you if they are not up to date.
Be a tidy person. Always clean up after yourself.
This is one of the countries where, except for cafes and restaurants where they use ceramic plates and silver cutlery, you are expected to throw your own plastic containers, empty wrappers, dirty serviettes/table napkins right after eating. Even at fast-food restaurants sometimes. The general rule of thumb is that if the place is self-service and mostly have plastic cutlery and containers on their counters, you need to throw them in rubbish bins or trash cans after use. If in a proper restaurant or cafe however, just leave it for staff to clean up.
Even when you’re camping or picnicking outside of the city, you still need to throw away your own rubbish in designated bins or trash cans. They can be seen all around the area; if in doubt, always ask. Locals here love the environment so much, they also want you to do the same.
Tipping in cafes, bars and restaurants in New Zealand is not necessary
However, if you and your group are in a high-end restaurant and you receive exceptional service, then it’s at your discretion to give tips. Some high-end restaurants include a service charge in the receipt or docket. Note though that restaurant staff may or may not receive their share on those tips and service charges. Check this article by TripAdvisor on tipping and etiquette guidelines in restaurants, cafes, and when visiting a marae, a meeting place for the Maori people.
When using carparks
Please be considerate and avoid parking in signages that are reserved for mothers with babies in prams, senior citizens, and those using wheelchairs. You will easily see them etched on the parking spaces or on the wall if it’s within buildings. The numbers mentioned in other signages indicate minutes allowed for parking. Also, avoid parking in places where you don’t intend to go inside the building or store, especially those with Tow Away signs; otherwise your vehicle will be literally towed away and you will get fined. Some citizens are very observant and can post pics and videos on social media to get the attention of law enforcement officers.
When using public transport
Plan ahead as some train and bus service times are cancelled or delayed without prior notice. This can be frustrating and will delay further your travel plans. Look up websites that handle public transport in New Zealand as there are different companies servicing different areas. This Wikipedia article describes them in detail. Have their customer service contact number handy on your phone. You can also hitchhike specially in towns where there’s little to none public transport, but proceed with caution and trust your instincts when it doesn’t feel right.
Don’t be shocked when people offered to take your photo, specially when you’re traveling by yourself
I was initially afraid of this, but now I’m used to it as some of them have also traveled and they want you to have a great time. Same thing applies when requesting to take a photo of something interesting that someone wears or carries around.
Most employers value local work experience rather than qualifications
This is one of the main things most migrants with qualifications are concerned about. Most NZ employers prefer applicants who have previous work experience within the country as the way they do things here are different from your home country. Also, your qualifications may not meet the country’s standards as their educational system here is also different. The general advice is to get volunteer work experience because it would help a lot when you’re ready to apply for part time or full time jobs.
The way they write their resumes/CVs and cover letters also differ with what you’re used to. So brush up on your job hunting and letter writing skills by attending free CV and cover letter writing workshops offered by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Auckland Regional Migrant Services, when living in Auckland. For those with skills in IT, software or web development, have a look at Industry Connect. For other settlement services information in all other areas of New Zealand, check with the nearest Citizens Advice Bureau offices.
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I hope this article has helped you on your plans to visit or migrate to New Zealand. If you have visited the country, share your experiences below. Feel free to share this article with anyone you know who’s interested in coming to New Zealand.