What makes New Zealand a unique country to travel to?
New Zealand is a stable parliamentary democracy, which recognizes the British monarch as head of state. It has a modern economy with many tourist conveniences and efficient local services.
The crime rate in New Zealand is relatively low, but theft from cars, recreational vehicles, and hostels is common, especially in areas frequented by tourists. Do not leave passports or other valuable items in unattended vehicles. Violent crime against tourists is rare; however, if you are traveling alone, you should be especially vigilant and avoid isolated areas.
Do not buy counterfeit and/or pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, but if you purchase them, you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in New Zealand, you are subject to its laws. New Zealand’s laws and legal systems can be vastly different from our own. If you break local laws, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution; therefore, it is very important to know what is legal and what is not. There are also some things that might be legal in other countries, but are still illegal in the United States and may result in your prosecution, such as buying pirated goods or engaging in child pornography.
New Zealand officials generally notify the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland if a U.S. citizen is detained or arrested; however, that is not always the case. To ensure that U.S. consular officials are aware of your circumstances, request that New Zealand police and prison officials notify the U.S. Consulate General in Auckland as soon as possible.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Quality medical care is widely available, but waiting lists exist for certain types of treatment. High-quality medication (both over-the-counter and prescription) is widely available at local pharmacies, although the name of the product may differ from the U.S. version. Access to medical care may be less available in rural areas. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
Safety and Security
While in New Zealand you should review your personal security practices, be alert to any unusual activity, and report any significant incidents to local police.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in New Zealand, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. All traffic travels on the left in New Zealand, and you should exercise extra caution if you are accustomed to driving on the right. Driving on the wrong side of the road is a leading cause of serious injury and death for U.S. tourists. Proceed carefully through intersections. Traffic circles are common throughout New Zealand. When approaching a traffic circle, always yield to traffic coming from the right--noting that traffic already in the circle has the right-of-way--and merge to the left into the circle. Right turns on a red traffic signal are not permitted.
Renting a car or a camper is a popular way to enjoy New Zealand's natural beauty, but if you are unfamiliar with local conditions, you should be extremely careful. New Zealand has only 100 miles of multi-lane divided motorways. Most intercity travel is on two-lane roads. While these roads are in good condition, New Zealand's rugged terrain means motorists often encounter sharper curves and steeper grades than those found on the U.S. Interstate Highway System. Make sure to follow the posted speed limit signs. You should also use caution to avoid animals when driving in rural areas. Please note that there is very limited cell phone coverage on large portions of scenic highway in the South Island, which is remote and has little traffic.
Roadside sobriety checks by police are common, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to immediate jail time in New Zealand. Furthermore, New Zealand prohibits driving while texting as well as driving while using a cell phone.
Make sure to look carefully in all directions before crossing a street or roadway, and always use crosswalks. Pedestrians do not have the right of way except in crosswalks. New Zealand law requires that cars stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk and that cars stop at least two meters (approximately 6 feet) from a crosswalk that is in use.
Public transportation, including buses, trains, and taxis, is for the most part reliable and safe.