NEED TO KNOW
Language: English and Maori
Capital City: Wellington
Population: 4.1 million
Area: 104,515 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 64
Electricity: 230V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 New Zealand Dollars = $0.75 US Calculate Other Amounts
New Zealand does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a three-month stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
New Zealand's breathtaking landscape is featured in a number of Oscar-winning and award-nominated films, including The Piano, The Last Samurai, Whale Rider,The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, River Queen, The World's Fastest Indian and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The North and South islands share the credit for spectacular film-shoot locations, but the coastal and bush-based scenes in movies like The Piano and Whale Rider tend to be on the North Island, while the alpine and wild, open high-country scenes like those in Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia are on the South Island. Kiwi directors Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong), Roger Donaldson (Fastest Indian), Vincent Ward (River Queen), and Jane Campion (The Piano) have helped push the New Zealand movie industry to its new award-winning heights.
One of New Zealand's most celebrated books about the intersection of Maori and European cultures is Keri Hulme's Booker Prizewinning novel from 1983, The Bone People. Not all Kiwis love it, but all have read it.
There's more to New Zealand fare than lamb, beer, and Vegemite but don't worry, they're still perennial favorites. With a Pacific Rim location and British colonial history, New Zealand has a cuisine that is becoming truly international. New Zealand's long coastline ensures fresh seafood, and lots of it, and the lamb is legendary. New niche crops like truffles, saffron, and olives ensure the trimmings are fresh as well. Whether you're in a big city like Auckland or a small town like Nelson, a five-star lodge or a beachside café, you can expect good coffee, tasty lamb, well-prepared seafood, and a great beer wherever you go. A thriving wine industry has also developed: Stellar sauvignon blanc and pinot noir are nursed by long, temperate ripening seasons that are similar to those in Alsace. Riesling, chardonnay, and pinot gris are also well established.
New Zealand is more of an outdoorsman's paradise than a shopper's haven, but some of the world's finest wool and wool products can be found here. There's a lot of it, toosheep outnumber humans in New Zealand 12 to one. Traditional Maori wood, bone, abalone (paua), and stone carvings make unique gift items, and locally produced artwork available in many places is worth sending home as a memento.
A nonrefundable goods-and-services tax (GST) of 12.5 percent is applied to all purchases and is usually included in the stated price.
Tipping in restaurants is becoming more common in major cities. Tip an extra five to ten percent if you feel service has been outstanding, but don't feel required to do so.
Did You Know?
While most people consider New Zealand to be right off the coast of Australia, it is actually 1,000 miles away, the distance between New York City and St. Louis.
January: 1, New Year's Day; 2, Day after New Year's Day
February: 6, Waitangi Day
April: 25, ANZAC Day
June: First Monday, Queen's Birthday
October: Fourth Monday, Labor Day
December: 25, Christmas Day; 26, Boxing Day
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday