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Frequently asked questions

The most common questions about New Zealand Coach Tours

Escorted coach tours such as those operated by AAT Kings, Kirra and Grand Pacific generally start the travel legs at around 8am. Independent coach touring travel legs can start at various times depending on the location. Ask one of consultants to give you a daily breakdown for the tour you are interested in.
There are toilets on board all the coaches for escorted tours operated by Kings, Grand Pacific and Kirra Tours. The coaches used on independent tours may have toilets on some of the legs. However bear in mind that the coaches on all tours will usually stop every 2 hours on average for comfort stops.
The maximum number of passengers on an escorted tour is usually around 48. Independent tour coaches can hold a similar amount of passengers. Small group tours could range from 12 to 16 passengers.
Our Touring in New Zealand page has an in depth explanation on the different types of touring available.

Some of the coach operators offer child rates such as AAT Kings and Kirra Tours. Check with one of our consultants on the cost for a specific tour. Other tours such as those operated by Grand Pacific (whose target demographic is 50+) are not really suitable for children. Independent coach touring offers the best value and flexibility if you wish to travel with children

Yes, nearly all tours that visit the South Island will include the TranzAlpine Scenic Rail Journey. Not all tours, however, complete the full trip from Greymouth to Christchurch (or v.v.). Many do just Arthurs Pass to Christchurch (or v.v.). All our independent tours which include the TranzAlpine train complete the entire journey.

The Intercity coaches arriving into or departing from Greymouth are timed to meet the TranzAlpine train service. Check the exact timings with one of our consultants.

No you will not be in the same seat for the full duration of the tour. Escorted tours use a seat rotation policy which ensures everyone gets to sit in different parts of the coach throughout the tour. Independent coach tours do not allocate specific seats or operate a rotation policy.
Escorted tour vehicles are usually categorised as 5 star coaches. This means they have superior suspension for comfort, air conditioning, reclining seats, on board bathroom, intercom systems and are generally newer vehicles. Independent touring coaches can also have these facilities but some legs may use Intercity coaches and therefore bathrooms may not be on board. In general the quality and standard of the coaches and vehicles is excellent.
Each tour varies with its inclusions so check each one. Our compare page lets you list tours of interest and see immediately the different inclusions. As a general rule escorted tours include the must see attractions such as Waitomo Caves, Milford Sound etc (where explicable). Also they will include all your accommodations, transport, breakfast each day and nearly all dinners. Sometimes a few evenings are left for you to do your own thing. Airport arrival and departure transfers are usually included when arriving and staying at accommodation arrived by the tour company. The advantage of independent touring is that you get to decide exactly what you want to include, where you want to stay, what you want to do and for how long. Our itineraries and quotes clearly state all inclusions.

Comfort and practicality is the key. New Zealand is an informal country, so you wont be out of place in a t-shirt and jeans. Many guests prefer to have comfortable travel clothes and then change into smart casual for dinner.

Most coach touring companies have strict luggage restrictions that they must abide by.  The general rule varies between company, and it is important to check what the specific requirements are for your selected tour.  An approximate guideline is: one carry on travel bag is permitted to a maximum of 6kg (13lbs).   Often luggage with an adjustable handle and wheels will not fit in the overhead compartments and cannot be accepted as hand luggage so it is best to bring a soft bag for this purpose.

In addition, each traveller is entitled to travel with ONE suitcase on tour measuring (length + width + depth) no more than 140cm (55”).   Weight limits also apply to luggage due to Occupational Health and Safety criteria. Approximately, the maximum suitcase weight allowed is 23kg (50lbs). If a traveller brings more than the allocated limit of luggage, any additional arrangements made to get their luggage to the final destination will be at their own expense.

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Weather questions

There are a few factors that you might want to consider when deciding which season suits you. These are:

  • The weather or season you might prefer
  • Availability of specific activities in specific season
  • Driving conditions during specific seasons
  • Cost and availability of flights to New Zealand
  • Cost of accommodations and activities etc in specific seasons

The weather and our seasons:

New Zealand does experience the four distinctive seasons. Officially these are:

  • Summer: December, January and February
  • Autumn: March, April and May
  • Winter: June, July and August
  • Spring: September, October and November

What sort of temperatures and conditions does each season produce?

  • Summer: Expect an average high of 25 C (76 F) in the north to around 22 C (72 F) in the south. Average lows (evening time) are 13 C (55 F) in the north to 12 C (54 F) in the south.
  • Autumn: Expect an average high of 20 C (68 F) in the north to around 17 C (63 F) in the south. Average lows (evening time) are 11 C (52 F) in the north to 7 C (45 F) in the south.
  • Winter: Expect an average high of 15 C (59 F) in the north to around 10 C (50 F) in the south.
    Average lows (evening time) are 6 C (43 F) in the north to 2 C (35 F) in the south.
  • Spring: Expect an average high of 18 C (65 F) in the north to around 16 C (61 F) in the south.
    Average lows (evening time) are 9 C (48 F) in the north to 7 C (45 F) in the south.
Spring Summer Autumn Winter
Sep, Oct, Nov Dec, Jan, Feb Mar, Apr, May Jun, Jul, Aug
High Low High Low High Low High Low
Bay of Islands
Temperature (C) 19 9 25 14 21 11 16 7
Temperature (F) 67 48 76 56 70 52 61 45
Rain Days/Season 11 7 11 16
Auckland
Temperature (C) 18 11 24 12 20 13 15 9
Temperature (F) 65 52 75 54 68 55 59 48
Rain Days/Season 12 8 11 15
Rotorua
Temperature (C) 17 7 24 12 18 9 13 4
Temperature (F) 63 45 75 54 68 55 59 48
Rain Days/Season 11 9 9 13
Wellington
Temperature (C) 15 9 20 13 17 11 12 6
Temperature (F) 59 48 68 55 63 52 54 43
Rain Days/Season 11 7 10 13
Christchurch
Temperature (C) 17 7 22 12 18 8 12 3
Temperature (F) 63 45 72 54 65 46 54 37
Rain Days/Season 7 7 7 7
Queenstown
Temperature (C) 16 5 22 10 16 6 10 1
Temperature (F) 61 41 72 50 61 43 50 34
Rain Days/Season 9 8 8 7

Rainfall

Generally speaking rainfall days are consistent throughout the year at between 7 and 11 days per month but regions such as the West Coast and Fiordland do get drier during the winter months.

Snow

The North Island only gets snow on the high central plateau around Tongariro National Park (the Whakapapa and Turoa Ski fields) and on a few other high peaks such as Mt Egmont/Taranaki. In the South Island almost everywhere can experience snow and as the Southern Alps and other high mountain ranges stretch from top to bottom then during winter snow isn't far away from anywhere. Stewart Island also gets snow in winter but not often. Canterbury, Otago and Southland generally get the most snow and this is why most of the ski resorts are based here.

Driving conditions:

New Zealand roads are very well maintained and well signposted. The local services are crews are also very used to the wintry conditions that some regions can experience and respond quickly to keep roads clear and safe. During winter months some of the high road passes such as Arthur's Pass, Lindis Pass and Lewis Pass (effectively the roads that join the East Coast of the South Island to the West Coast) might be closed following a heavy snowfall however road crews generally open these within a few hours of the storm passing.

Train services such as the Tranz Alpine are rarely affected. Roads can become quite slippery around the colder regions and areas or sections that are particularly prone to this are well signposted.

Rental car companies do prohibit driving their vehicles on certain roads during certain hours (usually 11pm-6am) and seasons. The Milford Road can be quite a hazardous section in the winter months so if you are not familiar with winter driving our advice would be to take one of the coach trips into Milford instead. The drivers have special training and the specially equipped vehicles ensure a relaxed and informative day trip.

Our tip - always drive to the conditions.

You can check long range forecasts for weather on the New Zealand Metservice Website here.

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Meals and Dining

New Zealand is known for its abundant and fresh cuisine. Described as Pacific Rim, it draws on inspiration from Europe, Asia and Indonesia. Being a small island country food served in restaurants is seasonal and consequently, always fresh. Classic New Zealand dishes include lamb, bluff oysters, salmon, whitebait fritters and pavlova, the national dessert.

Every kind of international cuisine can be found in most places nationwide, although the larger cities have a much wider selection - as you would expect. While you're here be sure to try another kiwi classic, fish and chips on the beach. For specific dietary requirements, New Zealand caters well to those who are gluten free/vegan/dairy intolerant. Most places have at least two, if not a range of alternative food options. One of the best ways to get a restaurant recommendation is to ask a local or your accommodation host. Often one cafe or restaurant will be more regularly frequented, one might have better coffee or one might have a great atmosphere etc.

The cost of a restaurant meal including drinks will vary, but your bill should be roughly $100 and up for a couple, and a little more if you're at a fine dining establishment.

Expect to pay NZ$19 - NZ$40 for a main meal at a local restaurant, and NZ$30+ for mains at fine dining restaurants. A good hearty pub meal will be around NZ$30 for a main course.

Drinks cost between NZ$9 and NZ$15 for a glass of wine (depending on what it is of course) and a beer will cost you between NZ$9 and NZ$15.

A bottle of wine will cost anything from NZ$35 upwards in a restaurant or cafe.

New Zealand has a small population of Muslims but also welcomes many Muslim visitors who require Halal meals. This means there are plenty of Halal certified or specialist restaurants in New Zealand.

This comprehensive guide details restaurants and eateries offering Halal food in New Zealand and also prayer facilities. It is provided by Tourism New Zealand. Please check directly with the restaurant or facility to ensure the information is up to date.

Some operators can cater for specific dietary requests or needs. Check with your consultant when requesting these.

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Making a reservation

We accept Visa and MasterCard payments and process them via our secure credit card processing system.

This system is administered entirely by our bank (Bank of New Zealand) and DPS (Direct Payment Solutions).

When completing the booking form the final stage is the payment process. From there just follow the instructions.

When your payment is made the screen will display a reference number and a receipt will be emailed to you. (And we are notified automatically of all payments.)

The balance for your tour is due 45 days prior to the start date or if you have made a reservation inside 45 days it is due upon you receiving a confirmation document for your tour. There may be some special arrangements we have made that need paying for earlier and we will advise you of this at the time.

Note: the balance due date is displayed on the costs page of your itinerary.

Yes. The payment system we use offers the highest levels of safety and security available.

The system we use is administered entirely by DPS (Direct Payment Solutions) -- a world leader in online payment technology -- and our bank, the Bank of New Zealand. When you click through to the payment system the transaction is completed within a secure (https) page and the information entered is only seen by DPS and our bank.

Yes. You can choose to pay for your tour in another currency.

Choose your preferred currency on the payments page and our system will convert your balance into your currency using BNZ (Bank of New Zealand) exchange rates.

Paying in Your Local Currency

For example, selecting to pay us in $US will mean you will be charged that exact $US amount, if your card was issued by a US bank.

Paying in NZ Dollars

If you choose to pay in $NZ using a non-New Zealand credit card, then your credit card company or bank may charge you a currency conversion fee. This can sometimes be around 3% of the transactions. So check with your bank or credit card company first to make sure which is the best option for you.

Note: the cost in currencies other than $NZ may fluctuate with exchange rate changes. We use the NZ$ price as the base cost.

If you don't have a credit card or prefer not to use one then contact us and we can supply all the information you need to make a direct credit to our bank account. Payment made this way will need to made in New Zealand dollars to arrive into our account in New Zealand dollars and any bank fees incurred may need to be also covered by you. Depending on your location and bank this can also take up to 10 days to process.

You can split payments decide how much you wish to pay on the balance of the tour or if you are travelling in a party then making the appropriate payment for your share is easy.

When you get to the Payments page, in the payment process, simply edit the amount in the white box before clicking through to the Payment Processing page.

Yes. You can use as many different credit cards as you wish.

The system processes each card individually and allocates to your account. So splitting costs between fellow travellers is easy. all you need to do when you pay the deposit is advise us you wish to split this across cards or fellow travellers and we will switch to multiple payments. For the balance payment you simply specify the amount you wish to pay.

No. We do not charge an additional fee for paying with your credit card.

Paying in New Zealand dollars
Our tours are priced in New Zealand dollars. If you choose to pay with NZ currency your credit card supplier may charge you a currency conversion fee, much like if you went to a bank and purchased foreign currency.

Paying with other currencies
We do give you the option to pay in alternative currency. For example: paying in US dollars using a credit issued in the US should mean there is no currency conversion fee applied by your credit card company.

Currency conversion rates
The currency conversion rates we use are supplied by our bank here in New Zealand.

At the time of booking we ask for a deposit payment of NZ$250 per person or 20% of the total tour value (whichever is higher).

Occasionally some items such as domestic airfares may also need paying for at the time of the deposit. These are items which are usually paid for immediately by us and so we collect this in advance too. The deposit amount will be calculated automatically and displayed on the payment page. Deposits are non refundable.

Found a tour you like? You can simply click the "Book Now" tab on the tour menu to begin the booking process.

Note: The booking process requires a deposit to be made through our secure credit card system (Visa and MasterCard only).

Yes, we take reservations from all over the world for all our tours. Our bookings system accepts Visa and MasterCard for payments through secure technology.

Yes, just get your travel agent to contact us with the details and we can direct them to our dedicated travel agent system.

Yes we like to know about anything that needs consideration on your tour, such as ability to walk up stairs etc. Once you have booked, you will receive a form requesting details of any medical conditions that may be relevant to your tour experience. This allows us to make any necessary arrangements.

Completing our booking form will supply us with the information we need to arrange your time in New Zealand

The booking form asks you for the information we need such as names, address, phone number etc. We also ask for your flight details if you have those arranged already (if not you can still book and supply those later).

Requesting Special Requirements

There is a section on the form which allows you to add special requests such as dietary requirements or preferred bedding configurations or anything else you want to let us know.

Deposit Payment

A deposit payment -- 20% of the total itinerary cost or $250 per person, whichever is higher -- is required via our secure credit card system. This is administered by DPS (Direct Payment Solutions) and our bank (Bank of New Zealand) and is extremely safe and secure. Your credit card details are not stored by us.

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Cancellations and Changes

You can cancel your tour at any time for any reason however please be aware that cancellations fees may apply.

Our full terms and conditions can be viewed here. We strongly advise that you purchase travel insurance that will cover you for any cancellation or interruption costs.

Consult a local professional travel insurance expert for detailed information on this.

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Travel Insurance

We strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance. There are many factors that could cause you to amend or cancel your trip, so ensuring you have cover for extra costs or cancellation fees is important. This means that any delays or unforeseen costs you may incur should be covered. We recommend purchasing your travel insurance locally to make dealing with any claims on your return easier.

No, the cost of the tour does not include any kind of insurance unless we have quoted this separately to you. Your consultant will advise this. We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance as soon as your trip is booked and to make sure that you are covered for cancellation fees, interruption costs and any other kind of unforeseen circumstance.

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Preparing for your tour

Smoking is prohibited by law in all cafes, bars, restaurants and other public buildings.

Smoking is also not permitted inside rental cars.

Smoking is not permitted inside hotels or other accommodations.

Some properties are also smoke free in their entire grounds. If this presents a problem to you then please let us know.

New Zealand is a fairly informal country and very few places insist on strict dress codes. If you’re spending time in one of the big cities then it pays to bring a tidier outfit for an evening out, otherwise comfort and practicality is key when choosing clothing for your visit. Layers are essential - as the weather can change rapidly. Natural fibres that draw moisture away from the skin like cotton and wool are the best for our climate.

Ensure you pack a rain jacket
A wind and rain proof jacket is important to have when travelling here. As mentioned the weather in New Zealand is changeable, even in the height of summer. If you're heading to Fiordland National Park or the West Coast be prepared for a high chance of rain. These are among some of the wettest places on earth, but that in itself is part of what makes it so special.

Come prepared for water based activities.
Many activities in New Zealand are based around water. On activities such as hikes or glacier walks you will usually be provided with suitable equipment - but if you're planning on going jet-boating, kayaking or swimming, don't forget to pack the appropriate gear.

Bring sturdy shoes for walking
All of the walking tracks and paths are well marked and well maintained so comfortable walking shoes or sneakers. However, if you're planning to venture into the wilderness or tackle any of New Zealand’s Great Walks, Hiking boots are a good idea.

Protect yourself from the sun
The UV levels are particularly strong in New Zealand so be sure to bring a hat and at least 50 SPF Sunscreen.

Depending on where you are travelling from, it is likely that you will need a transformer. New Zealand operates on 230 volts (50hz), so appliances on other voltages will need a transformer.

Finding the voltage your devices operate on
Most devices state their operating voltage near where the power cord plug. If the voltage isn't clear then you may need to check on the manufacturer's website for more information.

Adaptors for New Zealand power sockets
You will also need an adaptor to suit NZ sockets. These can be purchased at the airport or online if you can't find one in your local stores. New Zealand sockets are usually three pins, rather than the two pin sockets that you may find in Europe and North America. (See Socket 1 on the useful socket comparison table available here.)

Getting New Zealand Currency before you leave
It is a good idea bring a small amount of New Zealand Currency with you, so you don't need to spend time organising cash at the airport or at the bank on your first day. Your local bank may need to order New Zealand Currency so allow a few days for this in your trip preparation. If you for some reason are not able to get any currency before you come, all major kiosks at the airport should be able to help you.

Exchanging cash as you travel in New Zealand
You won't need a lot of cash at once, as exchanging cash in New Zealand is easy. Just get enough to cover small purchases on your first day, such as a cup of coffee or lunch. When you do need New Zealand Currency, any branch of a major bank including ASB, ANZ, BNZ, Westpac or Kiwibank will have the latest conversion rates, which are consistent throughout the country.

Carrying large amounts of cash while you travel In New Zealand
New Zealand has one of the highest credit card and eftpos usages in the world, so there is no need to carry large amounts of cash. Most retailers including traders at local markets and convenience stores accept electronic payments. This means you will be able to pay for virtually anything with your debit or credit card as you move around - and this is also the safest and most secure way to cover your expenses while you are in New Zealand.

Once you have confirmed your booking with us we will invite you to use our travel app. This will give you on-the-go access to your full itinerary with all the most up to date confirmations.

You will benefit from:

  • Interactive Mapping,
  • A messaging service,
  • On location restaurant and activity guides,
  • Augmented reality and much more.

This app is compatible with android or apple software and can be easily downloaded from the app store on your mobile. To find it search "New Zealand Touring". Please include the quotation marks to find the app much quicker. You can get your login details from your travel consultant at any time.

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Visa requirements

The New Zealand government has introduced an Electronic Tourist Authority (ETA) and International Visitor Conservation & Tourist Levy (IVL). This is designed to strengthen border security and help smaller communities build the infrastructure to cope with the large influx of international visitors each year.

From 01 October 2019 visitors to New Zealand need to have purchased an ETA and IVL visa. Applications can be made online or via a mobile app once you have booked travel to New Zealand. The visa is valid for up to 2 years and can be used for multiple entries into New Zealand.

It is best to carry a hard copy of your confirmation when you travel through the border.

How do I obtain the visa?

The application for the visa can be made online or via a mobile app. The process should take about 10 minutes and must be undertaken prior to travel. It is advised you apply as soon as possible, be aware the process can take up to 72 hours. Make sure you have yours before you set of on your holiday. Payment for the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy can be made at the same time.

How much does it cost?

If the application is made form the mobile app the ETA will cost $9, online applications will be $12. The IVL cost is $35 and contributes directly to the tourism infrastructure and helps to protect the natural landscapes that so many come to enjoy.

Are there any exceptions?

All passengers travelling on a New Zealand passport, Australian passport or hold a valid resident visa will be exempt from purchasing the ETA visa and paying the IVL.

Take a look at the government website if you would like to learn more.

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Money and Credit Cards

Only New Zealand dollars are legal tender in New Zealand. All our prices include GST, goods and services tax (or sales taxes). All prices displayed must be done including all taxes so there are no nasty surprises.

In the major cities some stores may choose to provide pricing in other currencies and you may be given the opportunity to pay in your own currency for a credit card transaction.

We recommend converting your foreign currency at any branch of our large bank chains. Our five major banks are: ANZ, ASB, Westpac, BNZ and Kiwibank.

There are bank branches in almost every town but not note that most are only open Monday - Friday.

The rate offered by banks does not vary at different locations so changing money at the airport banks is the same rate as changing downtown Auckland.

Yes, credit cards are a widely accepted form of payment in New Zealand.

Visa and MasterCard providers are the most commonly accepted. American Express and Diners Cards are not accepted in some places so its best to arrange an alternative card if this is all you have.
Before you travel to New Zealand you should notify your credit card issuer so that they can identify you will be making transactions in New Zealand and to avoid any security issues.

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Tipping

Tipping is not customary or expected in New Zealand however if the service or experience you encountered was exceptional and you wish to reward someone for a job well done a small gratuity would be welcomed.There are no set amounts or percentages, its usually a case of 'have a couple of beers on us' calculation. Many bars, cafes and restaurants have a tip jar at the counter and it is common to put any loose change from your transaction in here when you order at a counter. Any kind of recognition is very much appreciated.

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Airport information

Auckland International Airport is New Zealand's largest and busiest airport. It is the main airport for international arrivals into New Zealand and most flights directly from the US arrive and depart here. it is located around 40 minutes drive from Auckland's central business district. Airport shuttle buses operate regularly or a taxi will cost around NZ$65.

More information on Auckland airport.

Wellington International Airport is located in the suburb of Seatoon. It services all major international flights into the lower North Island as well as a comprehensive domestic network with dozens of flights to Auckland every day. It is a 25 minute drive to the central city, around NZ$45 for a taxi or there are regular shuttle buses.

More information on Wellington airport.

Christchurch International Airport is the main airport serving Christchurch City and the arrival point for long haul international flights into the South Island. It is located 12 kilometres from Christchurch's central business district or about a 20 minute drive or a NZ$30 taxi ride. it also supports a comprehensive domestic network between the main centres and regional towns.

More information on Christchurch Airport.

Queenstown Airport is New Zealand's fastest growing airport. It has been comprehensively refurbished recently to accommodate evening arrivals and increased international arrivals from Australia. The airport is located in Frankton, Queenstown, a 15-minute drive from Queenstown's town centre or is around a NZ$25 taxi ride or a smaller fee for a shuttle. It also serves as a busy domestic airport connecting to the major centres.

More information on Queenstown Airport.

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Shopping in New Zealand

No. Goods or services purchased while you are here in New Zealand are liable for all local taxes, as mandated by New Zealand law.

However, there are a select few store who have a duty free agreement to sell items without GST applied. Items purchased at these stores are likely to be sent to the airport for collection, or shipped directly to your home overseas. Usually this is only possible on high value items.

Yes. All purchases in New Zealand are covered by Consumer Protection Laws.

For example: If you purchase a camera here in New Zealand that you find to be faulty when you return home, the New Zealand retailer is still responsible to either repair or replace the item according to the terms of the warranty or guarantee.

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Domestic flights

Our preferred airline is Air New Zealand and the airfares we will book for you all have a luggage allowance of 23kg. However, if you are travelling with children you may also take a pram and a car seat.

If you are wanting to travel with sporting equipment this counts as part of your checked-in baggage and the usual weight allowance applies.
If you need more allowance, for a moderate additional fee you can buy a Prepaid Extra Bag before you fly.

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