As we traveled through New Zealand for three weeks, we learned some things we hope will help you with your travel plans.
We found grocery stores everywhere. We never had to go out of our way to find one along our route. Driving between cities we always wound up passing at least one. New World, 4 Square and Fresh Choice are all supermarket chains. The Warehouse is a large chain – we saw them in multiple cities. They seem to be a cross between Target (or Walmart) and Costco. It could be great for buying a larger supply of something you’ll be wanting a lot of during your trip (like diapers, for example) at a lower price.
Driving in New Zealand is on the left. That, along with figuring out how to navigate round-a-bouts (especially going in the opposite direction we’re used to) was the only major challenge of driving in New Zealand. Drivers seemed very sedate and turn signals really mean something. We drove all over the North and South Islands and our biggest frustration with local drivers was that they often weren’t going fast enough for us! (Ok, that’s probably more a comment on our need to slow down! ) Roads are well-maintained and well signed, too. AA guides, available in the airport and at your hotel/hostel are great. They have driving rules explained and coupons!
We stayed in several YHAs and found them to be excellent hostels. There were a variety of people staying there and we felt welcome as a family with a baby. The rooms were always clean and it wasn’t overly noisy. We found them conveniently located and the people working at the reception desks were friendly and helpful.
Some Kiwi words may not be the same as what you’re used to at home – depending on where “home” is. The biggest one for us was “CBD” aka “Central Business District” aka “downtown” or “city center”. Other words that were different from American/Canadian English were words that were familiar to us from British English. People seemed to be able to understand us without a problem, though. (One of the upsides to globalization?")
Overall, we found New Zealand to be a very well organized country and Kiwis to be extremely welcoming. Have you been to New Zealand? Do you have your own tips to share? We’d love to hear from you!