SOUTH ISLAND

Don’t dragon for too long.

South Island Guide

It takes about 14 hours to drive around South Island's 840km distance.

The South Island’s time zone is the New Zealand Standard Time, which is GMT + 12, meaning it is 16 hours ahead of New York City time. 

Visa Requirements

If you’re a citizen of the United States, you will be eligible for a Visa Waiver, and you won’t need a visa if you’re staying less than 90 days. Citizens of the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Greece, Germany, and France won’t need a visa either. 

Christchurch Airport

Christchurch Airport is the biggest airport on the South Island and the second biggest in the whole country.  From Christchurch airport, you can transport to your next destination either by Uber, bus, or taxi. Taxi services are located at the “Loop” and Uber has its own labeled pickup and drop off area. The most direct bus line to downtown is the Purple Line.

Queenstown Airport

While Queenstown Airport is known for its scenic views, it also has many international and domestic flight options. Once you arrive at Queenstown Airport, you can either take Uber, shuttle, or taxi to your next destination. The airport is only 15 minutes away from the downtown area and the average taxi fare to downtown Queenstown is 10$.

Uber: Uber operates in most cities in New Zealand, including Christchurch and Queenstown. Taxi fares in New Zealand can get pretty hefty, and Ubers are generally more economical. There are also two other rideshare companies that operate in only Christchurch called Ola and Zoomy.

Public Transportation: All cities in New Zealand have buses. The South Island, however, is most known for its natural beauty which is not as accessible via public transportation. The best way to truly enjoy all that the South Island has to offer is to rent a car. Car rental prices can be as inexpensive as 11$ a day. 

New Zealand is a great country for solo traveling and it is very safe for those who especially love the outdoors. Since there are many ways to make your way around the country, we highly encourage traveling solo on the South Island.

The best times to visit the South Island are from December to April and between September and November. Between June and August are when people usually stop visiting, as temperatures begin to drop off. Throughout most of the year, however, the weather is generally mild and perfect for hiking!

English is the native language of New Zealand, and almost the entire population either speaks it as a first or second language. The indigenous is called Te reo Māori and is spoken by about 3-4% of the population.  

Smoking is becoming increasingly rare in New Zealand and is forbidden in public buildings such as restaurants and bars. If you want to smoke, politely ask to do so even if you are outside. There is a prominent drinking culture in New Zealand; the legal age for purchasing alcohol is 18. Topics to avoid in conversation include how much money people make, their marriage status, or their weight; anything seemingly private or personal. 

It is also important to note that “Kiwi” is the nickname often used internationally to refer to people from New Zealand. It is also used as a self-reference. Unlike various demographic titles, “Kiwi” is not considered to be offensive, it is actually seen as a symbol of pride and a term of endearment. The name comes from the kiwi; not the fruit, but rather the native bird which is a national symbol.

There are many sacred Maori sites throughout the country, so it is extremely important to be respectful and always ask permission before visiting any of them. Never walk through a burial ground and always ask permission before visiting a meeting ground. Please also always ask permission before taking pictures of a Maori site.

Money

The official currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar. 1 New Zealand Dollar is approximately 65 US cents. 

Tipping in New Zealand is a symbol of a job truly well done. It is not necessary to tip at restaurants, hotels, bars, salons, or spas, as well as in a taxi unless the service exceeds all expectations. Still, in every situation, it is completely up to you. 

New Zealand’s electricity supply runs at 230/240 volts, and typically uses angled two or three-pin plugs.

The South Island’s tap water is completely safe to drink even in the major cities, Queenstown and Christchurch.

The main networks in the South Island are Vodafone, 2degrees, and Spark. You’re going to need to take your mobile device into one of the said branches when you first arrive to purchase a plan. 

In major cities on the South Island like Queenstown and Christchurch, there are many free WiFi hotspots that give you 1 GB of data per day. 

Uber operates in most cities in the South Island, including Queenstown and Christchurch. Taxi fares in New Zealand can get pretty hefty, and Ubers are generally more economical. 

There are also two other rideshare companies that operate in only Christchurch called Ola and Zoomy.

In general, I would recommend renting a car since a lot of the rural natural sites are inaccessible by Uber or Taxi.

The protection of LGBTQ rights is quite progressive in New Zealand, especially when compared to other countries in Oceania It is one of the most liberal in the world, as it was the first in the region to legalize same-sex marriage, and 13th in the world. Discrimination in regards to sexual orientation and gender identity has been forbidden since 1993, the same year they were allowed to openly serve in the military. 

It is quite well known that the famed Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed in New Zealand, as the director Peter Jackson hails from the nation. The films are known for their gorgeous cinematic scenes of the North and South Islands, and many people visit New Zealand to see it for themselves. 

There are various natural attractions in the South Island, such as the Southern Alps which is home to Mount Cook as well as the stunning Hokitika and Kawarau Gorges. There is never a shortage of gorgeous views and hikes on the South Island, so take your time to soak up all the beauty that the South Island has to offer. 

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FOR THE PLANNERS:

Try to plan an entire week to travel through South Island, and another week reserved for North Island.