Destination guide: Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland is one of the most important ports in New Zealand (Oceania) and one of the cities with the greatest amount of business and tourist activity in the country. It is found in the middle of an isthmus of volcanic origin and has a stable climate with an average annual temperature of 23°C, making it ideal to visit at any time of year.

Among Auckland’s main tourist attractions are the Sky Tower or “Skywalk”, a financial complex you can bungee jump from, Butterfly Creek, the Howick Villa that recreates the Maori way of life, Kawau Island, Otara Market where you can witness Auckland’s ethnic and cultural mix and the Botanical and Eden Gardens, as well as many other places of interest.

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  • Auckland - Practical Information

    Orientation

    The Auckland isthmus runs roughly west–east, with Waitemata Harbour lying to the north (feeding into the Hauraki Gulf) and Manukau Harbour to the south (feeding into the Tasman Sea). The Harbour Bridge links the city to the North Shore, with the CBD to its east.

    The commercial heart of the city is Queen St, which runs from the waterfront up to Newton’s Karangahape Rd (K Rd), a lively, bohemian, sometimes gritty strip of inexpensive restaurants and boisterous bars.

    In the early days, the area immediately east of the city tended to be upmarket and Anglican, while the west was more Catholic and working-class. While they’re all rather pricey neighbourhoods nowadays, Parnell and Remuera retain vestiges of old-money snobbery while Ponsonby and Grey Lynn are slightly more alternative. Mt Eden sits somewhere between the two, both physically and sociologically. The airport is 23km south of the city centre.

    Currency

    New Zealand Dollar

    Language

    English, Maori.

    Timezone

    UTC/GMT +12

    Budget & Costs

    In recent years burgeoning tourism in NZ has seen prices rise with demand. However, if you’re visiting from Europe or North America, it’s still a fairly economical destination, unless you’re throwing yourself out of a plane or jetboating every day.  Activities like these generally top expense lists − think carefully about what you’ll spend your money on.

    Gastronomes will find food to be surprisingly pricey − cooked breakfasts at snazzy cafes average around $16, while main courses at top-end restaurants cost $30 and beyond. Food in remote areas also costs more, without necessarily being of better quality.

    If you do some sightseeing, eat out once or twice a day and stay in cheap motels or B&Bs, budget on at least $150 per day (per person, travelling as a pair), not including car hire or activities. Packing kids into your suitcases obviously means greater expense, but museums, cinemas, and tour and activity organizers usually offer discounts for youngsters, and there are plenty of open-air attractions available for free!

    At the low-cost end, if you camp or stay in hostels, cook your own meals, repress the urge to drink beer, tackle attractions independently and travel on a bus pass, you could probably eke out an existence on $80 per day. But if you want to enjoy the occasional restaurant meal and glass of wine, then $100 per day is more realistic.

    Sample Prices

    1L petrol: NZ$1.60-1.70
    1L bottled water: NZ$3-4
    Glass of beer: NZ$5-6
    Meat pie: NZ$4-5
    Souvenir T-shirt: NZ$20-30

    Visas

    Visa application forms are available from NZ diplomatic missions overseas, travel agents or through Immigration New Zealand ([tel] 0508 558 855, 09-914 4100; www.immigration.govt.nz). Immigration New Zealand has over a dozen offices overseas; consult the website.

    Visitor Visa

    Citizens of Australia don’t need a visa to visit NZ and can stay indefinitely (provided they have no criminal convictions). UK citizens don’t need a visa either and can stay in the country for up to six months.

    Citizens of another 56 countries that have visa-waiver agreements with NZ don’t need a visa for stays of up to three months, provided they have an onward ticket, sufficient funds to support their stay (NZ$1000 per month, or NZ$400 per month if accommodation has been prepaid) and a passport valid for three months beyond the date of their planned departure from NZ. Nations in this group include Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands and the USA.

    Citizens of other countries must obtain a visa before entering NZ. Visas come with three months’ standard validity and cost NZ$100 if processed in Australia or certain South Pacific countries (eg Samoa, Fiji), or NZ$130 if processed elsewhere in the world.

    Visitors’ visas can be extended for stays of up to nine months within one 18-month period, or to a maximum of 12 months in the country. Applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis; visitors will need to meet criteria such as proof of ongoing financial self-support. Apply for extensions at any Immigration New Zealand office − see the website for locations.

    Work Visa & Working Holiday Scheme

    It’s illegal for foreign nationals to work in NZ on a visitor’s visa, except for Australians who can legally gain work without a visa or permit. If you’re visiting NZ to find work, or you already have an employment offer, you’ll need to apply for a work visa, which translates into a work permit once you arrive and is valid for up to three years. You can apply for a work permit after you’re in NZ, but its validity will be backdated to when you entered the country. The fee for a work visa ranges from NZ$180 to NZ$280 depending on where it’s processed and the type of application.

    Eligible travellers who are only interested in short-term employment to supplement their travels can take part in one of NZ’s working-holiday schemes (WHS). Under these schemes citizens aged 18 to 30 years from 31 countries − including Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries, the UK and the USA − can apply for a visa. For most nationalities the visa is valid for 12 months. It’s only issued to those seeking a genuine working holiday, not permanent work, so you’re not supposed to work for one employer for more than three months.

    Most WHS-eligible nationals must apply for this visa from within their own country; residents of some countries can apply online. Applicants must have an onward ticket, a passport valid for at least three months from the date they will leave NZ and evidence of at least NZ$4200 in accessible funds. The application fee is NZ$120 regardless of where you apply, and isn’t refunded if your application is declined.

    The rules vary for different nationalities, so make sure you read up on the specifics of your country’s agreement with NZ at www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/work/workingholiday.

    Weights & Measures

    Metric

    Customs

    For the low-down on what you can and can’t bring into NZ, see the New Zealand Customs Service (www.customs.govt.nz) website.

    When entering NZ you can bring most articles in free of duty provided customs is satisfied they’re for personal use and that you’ll be taking them with you when you leave. There’s a per-person duty-free allowance of 1125mL of spirits or liqueur, 4.5L of wine or beer, 200 cigarettes (or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco) and dutiable goods up to the value of $700.

    Customs officers are obviously fussy about drugs, so declare all medicines. Bio-security is another customs buzzword – authorities are serious about keeping out any diseases that may harm NZ’s agricultural industry. Tramping gear such as boots and tents will be checked and may need to be cleaned before being allowed in; ditto golf clubs and bicycles. You must declare any plant or animal products (including anything made of wood), and food of any kind. You’ll also come under greater scrutiny if you’ve arrived via Africa, southeast Asia or South America. Weapons and firearms are either prohibited or require a permit and safety testing.

    Business Hour

    Most shops and businesses open their doors at 9am and close at 5.30pm Monday to Friday, and either 12.30pm or 5pm on Saturday. Late-night shopping (until 9pm) happens in the larger cities on Thursday and/or Friday nights; Sunday trading is the norm in most big towns and cities. Supermarkets are usually open from 8am until at least 7pm, often until 9pm or later in cities. Dairies (corner stores) and superettes (small supermarkets) close later than most shops.

    Banks normally open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday (some city branches also open on Saturday mornings). Post offices are open 8.30am to 5pm Monday to Friday, with main branches also open 9.30am to 1pm Saturday; postal desks in newsagencies (Take Note, Paperplus) often open later.

    Restaurants typically take orders until at least 9pm, but often serve food until 11pm or later on Friday and Saturday nights; the main restaurant strips in large cities keep longer hours throughout the week. Cafes sometimes open as early as 7am and close around 5pm, though cafe-bar hybrids push the envelope well into the night. Pubs usually serve food from noon to 2pm and from 6pm to 8pm. Pubs and bars generally start pouring drinks at noon and stay open until late, particularly from Thursday to Saturday. Don’t count on many attractions being open on Christmas Day or Good Friday.

    Telephone

    Telecom New Zealand (www.telecom.co.nz) is the country’s key domestic player and also has a stake in the local mobile (cell) market. Another mobile network option is Vodafone (www.vodafone.co.nz).

    Local & International Calls

    Information Toll-Free Calls
    Numbers starting with [tel] 0900 are usually recorded information services, charging upwards of $1 per minute (more from mobiles); these numbers cannot be dialled from payphones.
    Toll-free numbers in NZ have the prefix [tel] 0800 or [tel] 0508 and can be called free of charge from anywhere in the country, though they may not be accessible from certain areas or from mobile phones. Telephone numbers beginning with [tel] 0508, [tel] 0800 or [tel] 0900 cannot be dialled from outside NZ.

    International Calls
    Payphones allow international calls but the cost and international dialling code for calls will vary depending on which provider you’re using. International calls from NZ are relatively inexpensive and subject to specials that reduce the rates even more, so it’s worth shopping around – consult the Yellow Pages for a list of providers.

    The toll-free Country Direct service connects callers in NZ with overseas operators to make reverse-charge (collect) or credit-card calls. Country Direct numbers and other details are listed in the front of telephone directories or are available from the NZ international operator. The access number varies, depending on the number of phone companies in the country you call, but is usually [tel] 000-9 (followed by the country code).

    To make international calls from NZ you need to dial the international access code ([tel] 00), the country code, and the area code (without the initial 0). So for a London number you’d dial [tel] 00-44-20, then the number. Certain operators will have you dial a special code to access their service.

    If dialling NZ from overseas, the country code is [tel] 64, followed by the appropriate area code minus the initial zero.

    Local Calls
    Local calls from private phones are free! Local calls from payphones cost 50c, though coin-operated payphones are scarce – you’ll need a phonecard. Both involve unlimited talk time. Calls to mobile phones attract higher rates and are timed.

    Long-Distance Calls & Area Codes
    NZ uses regional area codes for long-distance calls, which can be made from any payphone.

    If you’re making a local call (ie to someone else in the same town), you don’t need to dial the area code. But if you’re dialling within a region (even if it’s to a nearby town) you do have to dial the area code, regardless of the fact that the place you’re calling has the same code as the place you’re dialling from. All the numbers in this book are listed with their relevant area codes.

    Mobile Phones

    Local mobile phone numbers are preceded by the prefix [tel] 021, [tel] 025 or [tel] 027. Mobile phone coverage is good in cities and towns and most parts of the North Island, but can be patchy away from urban centers on the South Island.

    If you want to bring your own phone and use a prepaid service with a local SIM card, Vodafone (www.vodafone.co.nz) is a practical option. Any Vodafone shop (found in most major towns) will set you up with a SIM card and phone number (about $35, including $10 worth of calls); top-ups can be purchased at newsagencies, post offices and shops practically anywhere.

    Alternatively, if you don’t bring your own phone from home, you can rent one from Vodafone Rental (www.vodarent.co.nz) priced from $6/25 per day/week, with pick-up and drop-off outlets at NZ’s major airports. You can also rent a SIM card for $2.50 per day (minimum charge $10) or $40 per month. You can arrange this in advance via the website. We’ve also had some positive feedback on Phone Hire New Zealand (www.phonehirenz.com), which hires out mobile phones, SIM cards, modems and GPS systems.

    Phonecards

    NZ has a wide range of phonecards available, which can be bought at hostels, newsagencies and post offices for a fixed dollar value (usually $5, $10, $20 and $50). These can be used with any public or private phone by dialling a toll-free access number and then the PIN number on the card. It’s worth shopping around – call rates vary from company to company.

    Electricity overview

    Australian-style plug with two flat angled blades and one vertical grounding blade

    Electricity overview ( Japanese)