New Zealand. Country guide.

How to organize a trip to New Zealand

At the end of April 2019, my friend and I traveled to New Zealand for three weeks.

It became popular with tourists after the movie trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” based on the books by John Tolkien. Many tours and attractions in the country are associated with the places where this movie was filmed.

We dreamed of visiting a hobbit village, traversing the path to Mordor and walking along the suspended bridges of the elven forest. We started to prepare for the trip three months in advance. There was enough time, but it was better to plan six months in advance to have time to get a visa.

Spent in New Zealand for three weeks for one person – 197,098 P

Flight Moscow – Auckland 56 768 Р
Lodging 46 193 Р
Bus and plane tickets 32 423 Р
7 excursions 31 820 Р
Restaurants 16 266 Р
Supermarket food 11 669 Р
Souvenirs 1543 Р
Laundromats 416 Р

I’m in Hobbiton. A hobbit village in New Zealand was built specifically for the filming of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Now it is very popular with tourists

The tree in the middle of Lake Wanaka. I think it is one of the most photographed trees in New Zealand.

When is the best time to go

New Zealand is in a different hemisphere. When it is summer in Russia, it is winter there, when we have spring, it is autumn, and the farther south you go, the colder it is.

The high tourist season in New Zealand is twice a year: in summer from December to February, and in winter from June to August. When it is summer in Russia, the mountains of New Zealand get a lot of snow and the ski season begins.

In March and April some local hotels offer discounts, and airlines lower ticket prices slightly.

The weather in New Zealand often changes because of fronts and tropical cyclones: in summer it is +20 … 30 °C and in winter it is +10 … 15 °C. In spring it rains rarely. We came to the country in the low season, in autumn. The air temperature ranged from +15 ° C to +22 ° C. It rained only two days during our trip.

Autumn in New Zealand is very colorful. Lots of yellow and red trees on the background of green lawns. The air temperature is about +15 ° C.

Visa documents

Let me start with the good news: for Russians tourist visa to New Zealand is free. There is still no need to go to the embassy or send original documents: everything can be downloaded on the website through the Internet.

Types of visas and required documents on the website of the New Zealand Embassy in Russia

The bad news is that you still have to collect a whole mountain of documents, and then wait 13 to 33 days for a decision from the embassy.

To get an electronic tourist visa, you must first register on the official website of the Government of New Zealand through a special service to confirm the identity of Real Me.

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The visa application form is similar to the passport form. I answered all the questions in English. I had to tell them about my marital status, military service, job, periods of unemployment, and where I lived at. There are also points about visa refusals, illnesses, and offenses. Sometimes I used google-translator and peeked at detailed instructions on the Vinsky forum.

The most important section is the supporting documents. They are divided into two categories: mandatory and at the discretion of the tourist. Once sent, nothing can be corrected and delivered, so they need to be collected very carefully. As a result, my document folder was like an annual report of a big company. The good thing is that I can fill out the form and upload files at intervals; the website keeps all the information.

Here are the required documents I submitted to the embassy for review:

  1. Scanned copies of all completed pages of my passport, including all Schengen and UK visas.
  2. A travel plan is a mandatory and important item that demonstrates that you have serious tourist intentions.
  3. Photocopies of all completed pages of your Russian passport. In addition, I translated all the information from the passport into English myself. The website of the embassy states that the translation must be certified, but in practice, a simple translation was enough.
  4. Tickets to the plane in both directions. Applicable and booking, if you do not want to take the risk of a purchase until the visa.
  5. Bank statements from your bank account and deposit with the movement of funds over the past three months. In the forums it is advised to show at least 1000 NZD ( 40 923
  6. P ) for the trip, but I reinsured and showed 2.5 times the money.
  7. The photo is on a light background where you can see the face clearly. I took it at home by myself, against a light wall.

In addition to all of the above, I prepared seven additional optional documents to confirm to the embassy that I am a decent tourist, want to see the country, and then return to Russia. Here is what I additionally submitted:

  1. Scanned copies of my old passport with visas.
  2. Hotel reservations for the entire trip to New Zealand.
  3. Bus and plane tickets to get around the country.
  4. A certificate of employment showing salary and leave for the duration of the trip. Students can attach a certificate of study.
  5. Marriage certificate and its translation into English.
  6. Travel insurance that includes hiking.
  7. A cover letter where I specified the dates, purpose of the trip and listed all the documents to be submitted. I printed it out, signed it, scanned it, and uploaded it to the website.

On February 13, I sent the form for verification. Then I got a message on the website saying that I had to go to the New Zealand visa center in Moscow to verify my identity and passport. I went there the next day and was the only visitor. I paid 1400 R for the verification service.

I paid for the service of verification at the visa center.

On March 6, I received an email with the subject Your Communication with Immigration New Zealand. It had the visa in it: it was attached to the email as a 2 page long text document. I printed out the visa and kept it with my passport during the trip.

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My friend and I took a risk: we paid for airfare, buses, and insurance before getting the visa. I do not regret this decision: in this way I was able to show that I was going to New Zealand to travel and not to emigrate there illegally, which is exactly what the embassy is afraid of. In addition, I had a good visa history, which also reduced the likelihood of rejection.

I had bought bus tickets in advance to get around the country. I also sent a screenshot of the reservation for review. The dollars here are not the usual ones, but New Zealand dollars, their exchange rate is lower

How did we plan our itinerary in New Zealand?

My friend and I created a google table and put our suggestions on it. On the sightseeing page, we put together the places we wanted to visit. We listed the nearest town, potential places to stay, and a link to a tour. The list included sites from other travelers’ reports.

After that, we decided on the logistics of moving between cities, estimating the cost of the tours as well. For example, it is possible to get to Hobbiton from Auckland, but it is more expensive than getting to the city of Rotorua and going to Hobbiton from there. And so it has been with almost every tour that doesn’t involve self-drive.

It turned out to be less expensive to get to a little-known small town than to stay in a big one. It was also cheaper to stay overnight in such towns.

Our final itinerary for New Zealand

April, 19 Departure from Moscow
April 20 Flight to Beijing, long transfer
April 21 Overnight flight from Beijing to Auckland
April 22 Auckland, transfer to Rotorua
April 23. Travel from Rotorua to Hobbiton by sightseeing bus
April 24. Excursion from Rotorua to Wai-O-Tapu and Weimangu Parks for geysers and thermal springs
April 25 Drive to Redwood Forest in Rotorua. Drive to Taupo.
April 26. Trekking in Tongariro Park along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
April 27 Flight from Taupo to Christchurch on the South Island
April 28 Bus trip to Mt. Cook
April 29 Hooker Valley Track
April 30 Bus trip to Lake Wanaka
May 1 Trekking at Lake Wanaka
May 2 Trekking at Roys Peak
May 3 Rest day/we’ll make up our minds on the spot
May 4. Moving to Queenstown.
May 5. Transfer to Te Anau
May 6 Boat trip to the fjords
May 7 Lake Manapouri, return to Queenstown
May 8 Flight to Auckland
May 9 Flight from Auckland to Beijing
May 10 Change in Beijing and fly to Moscow

Flight from Moscow to Auckland

New Zealand is one of the most isolated countries in the world. It takes about 20 hours to fly 16,000 kilometers from Moscow to Wellington. But there are no direct flights from the capital to New Zealand.

A ticket from Moscow to Auckland with one connection costs from 55 000 R . The usual long layovers are in Dubai, Singapore and Beijing. Flights to other New Zealand cities cost even more.

The cheapest flights from Moscow to Auckland are offered by the Chinese carrier Air China. On the airline’s official website, I found tickets with a connection in Beijing for 56,768 P for one person.

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The cost of my tickets from Moscow to Auckland and back

The Air China tickets included two pieces of luggage, but I only took one small suitcase. The contents were enough for the trip to New Zealand.

I spent 38 hours on the road there:

  • Moscow to Beijing – 7.5 hours;
  • Change in Beijing – 18 hours;
  • Beijing – Auckland – 12.5 hours.

The return flight lasted less – 30.5 hours. The connection in Beijing on the way back took 9 hours.

Chinese visa regulations allow you to go out with a free visa if you are flying through Beijing, Shanghai, and several other major cities. Air China provides a hotel near the airport or a place in the lounge area if the flight connection is longer than 4 hours. There was no such information on the ticket. I found it on my own in the service booking section of the airline website.

To stay in a hotel or lounge for free, you need to make and print a reservation in advance. On our way to New Zealand, my girlfriend and I did not go to a hotel. We bought our tickets separately, so we were offered different places, but both with low ratings and terrible reviews. Instead we got transit visas and saw the Chinese capital.

On the way back, we used the lounge area at the Beijing airport. We waited for the last flight sitting in reclining chairs in a darkened room.

We carefully prepared for the long flight: we downloaded movies, music, and books. There are outlets built into the seats, but you need an adapter for Chinese plugs. The airline offers movies with Russian voiceover or subtitles only on the flight from Moscow to Beijing and back.

We came in handy with sleep masks and earplugs. Plaids and small pillows were handed out on the plane. I asked the stewardesses for water and tea in my own thermo-cup, which was much bigger than a standard mini-cup. The Chinese people next door also didn’t hesitate to ask for more water in their thermoses – it’s quite normal for them.

A letter confirming reservation of additional services at Beijing airport. It should be printed out and shown at the hotel or lounge entrance.

The hotel where the airline offered me to stay is close to the airport, but it has a terrible rating

Lodging

We booked our lodging through Booking.com because it was free to cancel there, and that was important to us. When my girlfriend and I got our visas, we checked the hotel rates. We declined some because we found cheaper options.

When choosing a hotel, we looked at reviews and walking distance from the place of arrival and departure of the buses. Most often these turned out to be three-star motels about 10 minutes walk from the stops. The average cost of such accommodation in New Zealand is 5000 P per night.

I spent for accommodation in three weeks.

We spent four more nights at the YHA chain of New Zealand hostels. We rented private rooms with shared showers and kitchens. In Mount Cook National Park, this chain’s hostel had the most beautiful view from the window.

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In three weeks I spent 46,193 P for lodging.

A room in the hostel with a breathtaking view of the mountain cost 130 NZD (P 5314). Photo: Youth Hostel Association

Getting around New Zealand.

By bus. Before the trip I met a lot of skeptical comments that this way of traveling in New Zealand is a waste of time. It really is if you travel without a plan and try to buy tickets at the bus ticket office in the afternoon. Chances are, it will turn out that the transport leaves once a day and is already gone.

We had all of our moves planned, so it was convenient for us to travel by buses.

The buses usually run on schedule. Only once, when we boarded not at the starting point, but in the middle of the route, it was delayed for almost an hour. The driver apologized to the passengers and explained that the delay was due to a breakdown. We had one more transfer ahead of us. We told the driver about it and he assured us that he would pass the information to the next bus to wait for us. And so it turned out: we weren’t the only passengers who needed to make that transfer.

We searched for bus routes with the help of Google Maps, which show travel time and names of carriers. Most often we went with Intercity. On its website it’s easy to search for routes and buy tickets.

It’s especially convenient that Intercity cooperates with other local carriers and allows to buy tickets not only for its own company buses. For example, the trip from Twyla to Wanaka involved a transfer in the town of Tarras. The Intercity bus drove an hour and a half to Tarras, where the Yellow minibus was waiting. When it had collected the passengers, it immediately drove on. The timetable for the transfer was 11 minutes, but we did it faster.

We never showed our tickets: all the drivers had passenger lists. Since the bus tickets were issued by my friend, they let us in with the code phrase “Julia+1”. We were rarely asked for our last name because Julia’s are not common in New Zealand.

During the trip, the drivers sometimes told us about the sights outside the window and warned us about sanitary stops. Only half of the buses had wifi, although the carrier’s website promises internet on every route.

The luggage compartment on some buses is not at the bottom, but about waist level. A heavy suitcase is difficult to hand up to the employee who takes it from the inside and stacks it in the luggage compartment. I suggest keeping this in mind when packing for New Zealand.

At the Intercity offices, we took luggage tags. They wrote on them what station the suitcase was going to, the owner’s name and phone number. We affixed the tags to each segment of the route, but fortunately, the luggage was never lost.

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Once the driver of the bus we were taking down from Mt. Cook to the valley stopped on the platform and suggested we all get off for five minutes to admire the view, which we did

On the planes. We traveled from one island to another on a local Air New Zealand airline plane. It was faster and cheaper than getting to Wellington and then crossing the strait by ferry.

I paid for the flight between the islands of New Zealand

Small planes fly between the islands. Stewardesses in dresses with ethnic patterns bring drinks and snacks: cookies or corn chips. Before takeoff, clips about safety and the sights of the country are shown. The videos suggested petting kiwis, taking a boat ride on a crystal-clear lake, or climbing a mountain.

Hobbiton

An hour before the tour began, we left the city of Rotorua in a special bus that was included in the ticket price. During the trip, a television screen showed a movie about how Hobbiton was created. The guide talked about the park and funny incidents with visitors. For example, advised not to try apples because they were made of wax.

Worth the admission tickets to Hobbiton on the park’s official website

I had a lot of fun looking at and photographing all 44 of Hobbiton’s round doors, mailboxes and other details. Each homeowner’s paraphernalia is elaborate: the fisherman has fishing rods and bundles of dried fish, and the baker has moults of loaves on a table. Behind the windows you can see curtains and vases.

Bilbo Baggins’ cottage is at the highest point in the village. The oak tree above it is artificial, but it looks very natural. Too bad you couldn’t go inside the lodges and see them from the inside.

At the end of the tour at the Green Dragon Pub, everyone is poured a small glass of dark or light beer so that tourists can fully experience the spirit of Hobbiton.

Geysers and thermal springs

There is a thermal lake near the town of Rotorua where there is a spring with gurgling mud and whitish vapors. It is free to visit. There are plenty of bridges and paths near the lake. Going off the marked path is categorically not recommended: it is dangerous to life because of the high temperature.

Waimangu Park entrance fee

As soon as we got off the bus in the town of Rotorua, we immediately smelled hydrogen sulfide. Because of its size, Waimangu Park is less crowded than Wai-O-Tapu, but it was more interesting to walk around. Most memorable was Lake Flourishing Frying Pan: the gases make it look like the water is boiling, although in fact it is cold.

While cruising on the lake, you can see several geothermal springs from the water. But my girlfriend and I ended up deciding that instead of swimming, it would have been better to take a longer walk in the valley itself.

Redwood Forest with sequoias

The tall sequoias are impressive, but the most memorable was the hour-long walk over the bridges. They have two levels, the higher one for the most intrepid. In the evening, large wooden lanterns illuminate the forest.

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