New Zealand is considered by many travellers to be the most beautiful country in the world. The unspoilt nature with mountainous landscapes, geysers, fjords, rainforests and beaches, as well as large cities such as Wellington and Auckland, make it so the country has something to offer for everyone. Read all about the land of the kiwi and the Maori here.
Facts and figures
New Zealand is on the other side of the world, about 22 hours by plane from the UK or Ireland. Most travellers therefore make a stopover in Hong Kong or Singapore before flying on to New Zealand. The country has more than 4.8 million inhabitants, about half a million of whom are Maoris, the first people to inhabit the islands.
|Language||English, Maori, New Zealand Sign Language|
|Religion||Christianity (56 %), many people without religion, Hinduism (2,3 %), Buddhism (1,5 %), Islam (1,2 %)|
|Currency||New Zealand dollar (NZD)|
|Time difference||11 hours (summer) or 13 hours (winter)|
|Flight time||Roughly 22 hours|
|Plugs||Type I (travel plug required)|
|Tap water||Safe to drink|
|Visa||Visa (NZeTA) is mandatory|
New Zealand is an archipelago in the south-west Pacific and is part of Oceania. The country is made up of two large islands, the North and South Island, and more than 700 smaller islands. The North and South Islands are separated by the Cook Strait, a strait named after James Cook, who was the first European to sail through it. The ferry crossing between the two islands takes just over three hours. The North Island is the most densely populated. New Zealand's largest city Auckland and the capital Wellington are located on the North Island. The North Island is volcanic with some still active volcanoes. The South Island, New Zealand's largest island, is mountainous, with 17 peaks above 3,000 metres. The South Island has varied landscapes with glaciers, waterfalls, fjords and valleys, but also sandy beaches.
Compared to other countries, the history of New Zealand is relatively young. The island is one of the last countries to be settled by humans. The first inhabitants, the ancestors of today's Maori, came to New Zealand from the Polynesian islands. Historians disagree about the exact year in which New Zealand was first inhabited. The first settlements arose between 1250 and 1300 AD.
The first Europeans to discover New Zealand were the Dutchman Abel Tasman and his crew. By order of the governor of the Dutch East Indies, they left Batavia for the "great Southland" south of present-day Australia. The men were attacked by the Maoris and some of them were killed. Abel Tasman did not succeed in trading with the Maoris. The small island which was first discovered (part of Australia) was later called Tasmania, and the larger landmass was named after the Dutch province of Zeeland.
Lieutenant James Cook made two trips around the world a century later, between 1769 and 1774, discovering the North Island and the passage between the North and South Islands. Cook maintained good relations with the local population and was able to trade with the Maoris.
From 1870 onward, whalers from France and Great Britain reached New Zealand, and a few years later the first Europeans settled on the island. European interference had a major impact on the Maori. In addition to trade products, Europeans brought diseases and weapons to New Zealand. Conflicts broke out regularly between Maoris and Europeans. To put an end to the clashes, in 1840 some Maori chiefs and the representatives of the British Crown signed the Treaty of Waitangi. This stipulated that New Zealand would become a British colony. The treaty offered the Maoris protection and gave them a guarantee that their possessions would be preserved. In return, the Maoris recognised the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.
In the years that followed, conflicts broke out again between the British and the Maoris. Because the Waitangi Treaty was interpreted in different ways, the agreements were not respected everywhere and the English settlers seized more and more land. The armed conflicts are also known as the Maori Wars. After these conflicts in 1891, the number of Maori was reduced to just 44000, compared to 120000 before 1820.
Even before the turn of the century, New Zealand established guidelines for dealing with the original population, which seemed impossible for the rest of the world at the time. Thanks to the New Zealand Constitution Act, the country has been governed relatively independently since 1852. From 1867 onward, male Maori were given the right to vote and seats in parliament. On 8 September 1893, a law was passed granting British women and Maori women from the age of 21 the right to vote. During the Second World War, New Zealand soldiers fought together with Australia in Europe, Africa and Asia against the Germans and the Japanese.
After the Second World War in 1947, New Zealand became independent with the "Westminster Statute". The country became an autonomous part of the British Commonwealth. The agricultural economy flourished and for a few years New Zealand became one of the most prosperous countries in the world. In 1967, the country switched from the sterling to the New Zealand dollar and by the end of the twentieth century developed into an industrial country with a free market economy and a strong agricultural sector. In the 1970s and 1980s, New Zealand adopted a strong position against nuclear weapons and nuclear power, which led to a conflict with both France and the United States. A protest movement arose in New Zealand against the nuclear tests carried out by France in French Polynesia. In addition, there were protests in the country against the US warships, which were powered by nuclear power, and the Prime Minister banned them from docking in New Zealand ports.
New Zealand generally has a maritime climate with mild winters and relatively warm summers. This means that temperatures average between 20 and 25 degrees in summer and between 10 and 15 degrees in winter. Most rain falls in the west of the country, where it can rain all year round. There is less rain on the east side of New Zealand. The seasons in New Zealand are the exact opposite of the seasons in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Summer in New Zealand takes place from December to February, winter from June to August. The weather in New Zealand can be very changeable and unpredictable. Temperatures can change dramatically within a day.
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Population and culture
The majority of the population of New Zealand originated from European countries (around 68%), including the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Poland. These New Zealanders of European origin are called Pākehā, the name used by the Maoris for the settlers who arrived in New Zealand in the 18th century. The Maoris make up around 15% of the population. The remaining 17% of the population of New Zealand is made up of Asians and people originating from the surrounding islands in Oceania like Micronesia, Polynesia and Melanesia.
The main religion in New Zealand is Protestant Christianity. The Anglican Church is the largest, followed by the Presbyterian Church and the Catholic Church. However, the number of Christians in New Zealand is decreasing. Compared to other countries, there are many people in New Zealand who state they do not belong to any religion.
New Zealand's culture is a combination of the culture of European immigrants and the culture of the Maori. Although the English language is most widely used, including in administration and legislation, only the Maori (Te Reo Maori) and the New Zealand Sign Language are official languages of New Zealand. The written version of Maori was originally used only by older Maoris and during ceremonies. Nowadays, more attention is given to the language. For example, it is taught in schools and a Maori television channel has been created to promote its use and prevent the extinction of the language.
The Maoris are known as an artistic people with a strong connection to nature. The traditional dance of the Maori is the Haka, a ceremony in which an attempt is made to invoke the gods. The dance is still performed on various occasions, such as weddings and funerals, but also at sporting events. In addition, the Maori are known for their wood sculptures and stone statues.
Money and currency
New Zealand's currency is the New Zealand dollar. A New Zealand dollar is currently worth about £0,55. In general, bank or credit cards with the Cirrus or Maestro logo are accepted in New Zealand. Pounds and euros can be exchanged at banks and exchange offices, but it is usually cheaper to withdraw cash from an ATM with a bank card. It is also possible to withdraw cash with a credit card, but this often involves higher transaction costs. Many banks block the use of bank cards outside Europe for security reasons. Usage of these cards outside Europe usually has to be set up manually on the bank’s website.
Tipping is not customary in New Zealand, not even in restaurants or bars. If the service is exceptional, sometimes a small tip of up to 10% is given.
Starting 1 October 2019, British and Irish travellers must apply for an NZeTA (New Zealand electronic Travel Authority) visa if they want to travel to New Zealand. The NZeTA visa is valid for two years and can be used for multiple trips. Each individual visit to New Zealand can last up to 3 months.
Tourists and business travellers who meet the visa requirements can easily apply for the NZeTA online and do not need to apply for a special visa. The NZeTA can be applied for in minutes using the online form. The costs can be paid safely and easily with Visa, MasterCard, American Express or PayPal. After payment, the visa is sent by e-mail, usually within 5 working days.
When applying for a visa to New Zealand (NZeTA), a tourist tax must be paid in addition to the cost of the visa. This tax is called the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) and is used to maintain and protect nature, improve infrastructure and expand the tourism industry in New Zealand. If a visa application is submitted on e-Visa.ie, the amount for the IVL is already included in the total price.
Apply for a New Zealand visa now
Health and safety
New Zealand is one of the safest countries in the world, with a stable political system and few violent crimes. In 2019, terrorist attacks were carried out on two mosques, resulting in many deaths and injuries. Since then, security measures have been stepped up and the government has developed a system to monitor the level of threats to terrorism. The security risks are currently comparable to those in the UK or Ireland. It is advised to keep important documents in a safe place and not to leave valuables unattended.
The greatest risks are natural hazard, as the weather in the country can change very quickly. Therefore, when hiking, even on short walks in the mountains or in remote areas, always take sufficient clothing, water, food and sunscreen with you. In certain (remote) areas of New Zealand there is no mobile reach. New Zealand is located in an area where earthquakes and tropical storms or cyclones occur. Moreover, there are active volcanoes in the country. The volcanic eruption on White Island in 2019 killed 19 people. Keep an eye on local media for up-to-date information on the weather conditions.
No vaccinations or other medications are recommended for a holiday or business trip to New Zealand.