New Zealand

Summer 1999 CSANews Issue 32  |  Posted date : Mar 02, 2007.Back to list

When we published a Bird Talk letter extolling the virtues of wintering in New Zealand, we had no idea how great the response would be. New Zealand's climate is desirable, the food is delicious and the accommodation is plentiful and reasonable. In short, there will probably be a few more Canadians in New Zealand this winter - but, before selling your U.S. home away from home, you have to do some homework.
For those weary of the long-suffering Canadian dollar, New Zealand offers a refreshing change of pace. The New Zealand dollar (NZD) averages approximately $1.25 Canadian. That means actually getting more for your money - not less, as many snowbirds have become accustomed. Those on-line should pay a visit to www.bloomberg.com/markets/currency/currcalc.cgi/uscurrcalc.html for an easy-to-use currency exchange calculator.

Canadians travelling to New Zealand do not require a visa for visits of three months or less. That being said, however, there are still some restrictions to visiting. According to the New Zealand Immigration Service, "if you stay a total of nine months in the last 18 months, you are required to remain out of New Zealand for nine months before returning as a visitor. You can apply for a further three months to give a total stay of 12 months. You may qualify for a further three months if you have financially supported yourself, not worked or studied or been sponsored throughout your stay. If you stay a total of 12 months in the last 24 months, you are required to remain out of New Zealand for 12 months before you can return as a visitor." Confused yet? Basically, you need a visitors' visa for trips three months or longer in duration. The New Zealand High Commission in Ottawa will be able to assist you in gathering the information you need. The telephone number is (613) 238-5707.

All those who wish to travel to New Zealand must possess a current passport that will remain valid for three months after departure. As well, travellers must be in possession of a continuing/return ticket to a country that will allow them to enter. In order to meet the requirements, visitors must also prove to have sufficient funds for the duration of their stay - approximately $NZ 700 per month, per person, or $553.06 CDN.

According to the government of New Zealand's Website, "all major international credit cards can be used, and travellers' cheques are accepted at hotels, banks and some stores. If your credit card is encoded with a PIN number, you will be able to withdraw cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs) situated at banks and shopping centres throughout the country." That being said, visitors to New Zealand enjoy some of the world's greatest shopping expeditions - Maori carvings in wood, bone and jade (also called greenstone). "Nelson, Coromandel, Bay of Islands and Whangerei are noted craft centres where people can watch and learn, as well as buy from local craftspeople." The finest sheepskins (at the most reasonable prices), plus hand-knitted wool sweaters are a specialty of New Zealand. Keep in mind, while you get more for the dollar, so does the government, with a 12.5 per cent goods and services tax (included in the sticker price).

Surrounded by many smaller islands, New Zealand boasts two main islands ­ the North and South Islands, separated by Cook Strait. Its landscape is home to, among many other things, Alps that include 19 peaks with snowfields and glaciers, hot springs, geysers and boiling mud pools, plus numerous natural and man made forests. The temperature is ideal for snowbirds, with December through February being the warmest months of the year (20-25 degrees Celsius), and June through August being the coldest (10-15 degrees Celsius).

There is regularly scheduled ferry service between the two islands, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a place in New Zealand that is inaccessible by some form of public transport. Just as touring by motor coach has become a popular way to see the sights in North America, it's an invaluable way to get to know the New Zealand countryside. There are numerous tour companies offering both single-day and overnight excursions. One particular seven-day tour offered by the "Great Fun Bus Company" includes visits to Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers, helicopter flights, winery visits, a cruise in Milford Sound, a visit to a yellow-eyed penguin colony, Mt. Cook National Park, salmon fishing and much, much more for $360 per person (or roughly $288 CDN).

A "3 in 1 Travelpass" has been designed to give travellers a combination of travel on InterCity Coachlines, Tranz Scenic long-distance trains and The Interislander Cook Strait Ferries. With prices starting at $NZ32 per day, this is an ideal way to see the country. For information on the Travelpass, contact your local travel agent or write: Travelpass New Zealand, P.O. Box 26-601, Epsom, Auckland, New Zealand.

If you're planning to bring Fido or Fluffy, be aware that New Zealand has very strict quarantine regulations. There has never been a case of rabies, and canine heart-worm is non-existent. The authorities intend to keep their record clean. Pets arriving from Canada require a period of four to six months of testing and preparation, as well as a one-month quarantine. As requirements are constantly being reviewed, it is best to call New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry at 04-498-9624.

Accommodations are plentiful, with prices ranging from $NZ400 ($320 CDN) per night for a top-class hotel to $NZ15 ($12 CDN) for a backpacker hostel. Motels in New Zealand differ from our North American interpretation in that they feature one or two bedrooms, a lounge, bathroom and fully equipped kitchen. Prices for motels range from $NZ50 - $NZ90 ($40 CDN - $72 CDN) and you'll enjoy the cost savings of cooking your own meals. Apartments for rent are relatively inexpensive. Your best bet is to make an on-line search of properties, as there are literally hundreds listed on the Internet. You should be aware that arranging an apartment sight unseen carries some degree of risk ­ you might be better off making short-term arrangements, and then booking an apartment once you're actually in the country.

Renting a camper-van offers visitors the freedom of the open road, the option of enjoying one's own cooking using local ingredients and sightseeing at a leisurely ­ or not-so-leisurely pace. Most that are available will sleep up to four comfortably and they provide a cost-effective means to see the countryside.

The directory called, "New Zealand. Simply Remarkable" will prove to be an invaluable tool when planning your trip. It is produced by the New Zealand Tourism Board, and we suggest that you write to them to receive a copy. The address is: The New Zealand Tourism Board, 501 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 300, Santa Monica, CA 90401. While the directory is a guide to advertisers, it will provide you with a starting point in your searches. You'll find phone numbers for companies that deal with car rental, camper-van rental, tours, accommodation (including a bed-and-breakfast option), fishing excursions and travel destinations. As well, there is a comprehensive Visitor Information Network listing addresses and phone numbers to make your plans simpler.

New Zealand offers breath-taking scenery, delicious foods and a welcome relief to the much-maligned Canadian dollar. Make this your year to discover the beauty of Aotearoa ­ land of the long white cloud.