|Subject: Report from New Zealand|
I spent 5 weeks in New Zealand in March and April. I'll try to tell you a few interesting things that might help if you are planning a trip there. My first surprise was to find that you can buy Duty Free as you go into the country, not just when you are coming home. Maybe this can be done in other countries and I've just never noticed. I ordered through the Internet and picked my purchases up after I got off the plane, saving me from carrying heavy parcels all that way.
Since my daughter and I were travelling around with my friend who lives in NZ, we wanted to keep costs as low as possible, for her sake. Consequently, we stayed in backpackers' accommodation--not a choice I would have made myself, but many were surprisingly fun and comfortable. We picked up the BBH guide (Backpacker accommodation http://www.bbh.co.nz) and used it a lot. We found quite a range of ages at these places and never felt out of place. Some of the places had shower and toilet in the room and others had to be shared. Some provide sheets and at some they can be rented, but my friend brought a sleeping bag and sheets for us, and a cooler (or 'chilly bin' as they are called in NZ) for our milk, wine, eggs, etc.
Our other choice for accommodation, and slightly upscale from backpackers, was to stay in caravan parks. I sent for the booklet for Holiday Parks http://www.holidayparks.co.nz and checked a few out for prices and facilities on the Web before going. These caravan parks have several different types of accommodation in one place--from tenting sites, to motel units, to places to park your rented RV. Some even had restaurants and pools on site.
My next surprise was how hilly and winding the roads were, even in the North Island. You certainly can't figure travelling times according to how far things look on the map. However, the traffic was light on all but the motorways and the scenery was spectacular.
One place that NZ excels is in its provision of public toilets! Even very small hamlets have them and it makes it very convenient for travellers and even people out shopping.
The i-sites, or tourist offices are well-marked and easy to find even in small towns. Many booked accommodations ahead for us at no charge, although one had a small service fee. We didn't want to book far ahead because we didn't know where we'd be at night, but this was a convenient way to find a room if we went into an i-site around noon. The people there were very helpful.
I hope this helps someone who is planning a trip. When I get some time I'll post more about some of the interesting things that we saw and did.
Regards, Nancy Bowmanville, ON, Canada