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Climate of New Zealand

New Zealand has a temperate climate - winters are fairly cold in the south of the South Island but mild in the north of the North Island. The nature of the terrain, the prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts. Maximum daytime temperatures sometimes exceed 30°C (86°F)and only fall below 0°C (32°F) in the elevated inland regions. Generally speaking, rainfall and humidity is higher in the west than the east of the country due to the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges and the prevailing westerly/north westerly winds. Part situated in the Roaring Forties, unsheltered areas of the country can get a bit breezy, especially in the centre, through Cook Strait and around Wellington. The winds seem to be stronger around the equinoxes. In the winter, southerly gales can be severe but they also bring snow to the ski-fields and are usually followed by calm clear days.

New Zealand is one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to forecast the weather.

Although the weather is changeable, there is certainly more sunshine and warm temperate temperatures to enjoy in summer. It is not uncommon, especially on the South Island, to experience four seasons in one day. New Zealand is a small country surrounded by ocean. A complicating, but often beneficial factor on the day to day weather, is the steep mountain range running down the spine of New Zealand orientated in a southwest-northeast direction. These mountains often shelter eastern parts of the country from an onslaught of westerly winds and rain. The weather is mostly influenced by fast moving weather systems in the strong westerly winds, which are often referred to as the roaring forties, that predominate over southern parts of the country and seas to the south. There tends to be a seven day cycle associated with these westerlies as a cold front sweeps over the country associated with a couple of days rain, somewhere over the country. Often though these westerlies are disrupted by large high pressure systems or by storm systems.

During the summer and early autumn months from about December to April, the westerlies tend to move south giving more settled weather. Always be prepared for a change though. Also, during this time, random weather systems from the tropics can make their presence felt, mainly over the North Island, with a period of warm wet windy weather.

In the Winter, May to August, the weather tends to be more changeable. Cold fronts often bring a period of rain to western areas followed by a cold wind from the south bringing snow to the mountains and sometimes to near sea level over eastern parts of the South Island. When the weather turns cold and wet in the east, to the west of the mountains it will be fantastic. At this time of the year it is not uncommon for high pressure systems and clear skies to park over the whole country for long periods bringing crisp frosty nights and mornings followed by cool sunny days.

In spring, from August to November, the westerly winds are typically at their strongest – these are called the equinoctial westerlies. It tends to rain more in western areas, and especially on the South Island, at this time, while in the east, warm dry winds can give great cycling weather. Once again though, a cold front and its accompanying south winds can give you a taste of winter at any stage.

Best time to go

New Zealand is beautiful no matter what time of the year or season you visit. The best time to visit New Zealand is the time that suits you best. However, if you have more than one date in mind, the following information may help with your travel plans.

The warmest months of the year are from September through to April.

December, January and February are the 3 warmest months of the year (Summer). Spring is from September - November. Autumn (fall) is from March - May and the Winter season runs from June - August. Maximum daytime temperatures vary from 15 to 30+ degrees (Celcius) in the Summer, 10 to 25 degrees in the Autumn (& Spring) and 5 to 18 degrees in the Winter.

 

Currency

As on 31 August 2012 One NZD = 44.6 INR

Currency used in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). Other currencies are not readily accepted other than at some of the larger hotels and at banks throughout New Zealand. Attempting to make a transaction in a foreign currency may result in some light hearted bemusement.

The smallest coin is 10c, since New Zealand reduced the size of its silver (cent) coins in 2006, and eliminated the 5c piece. The 10c piece is a coppery colour similar to a U.S. or UK penny. The 20c piece is silver with a Maori carving depicted, as is the 50c piece with captain James Cook's ship the Endeavour. The gold $1 features a kiwi, whilst the $2 features a heron. Banknotes come in $5 (orange with Sir Edmund Hillary), $10 (blue with Kate Sheppard), $20 (green with Queen Elizabeth II), $50 (purple with Sir Apirana Ngata), and $100 (red with Lord Rutherford of Nelson).

 

 

Clothing

New Zealand has a temperate climate - winters are fairly cold in the south of the South Island but mild in the north of the North Island. The nature of the terrain, the prevailing winds and the length of the country lead to sharp regional contrasts. Maximum daytime temperatures sometimes exceed 30°C (86°F)and only fall below 0°C (32°F) in the elevated inland regions. Generally speaking, rainfall and humidity is higher in the west than the east of the country due to the north-south orientation of the mountain ranges and the prevailing westerly/north westerly winds. Part situated in the Roaring Forties, unsheltered areas of the country can get a bit breezy, especially in the centre, through Cook Strait and around Wellington. The winds seem to be stronger around the equinoxes. In the winter, southerly gales can be severe but they also bring snow to the ski-fields and are usually followed by calm clear days.

Temperatures in (°C) Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
North Island 23 24 23 20 17 15 14 15 17 18 20 22
South Island 22 22 19 17 14 11 11 12 15 17 19 21

 

New Zealand is one of the most difficult countries in the world in which to forecast the weather.

Although the weather is changeable, there is certainly more sunshine and warm temperate temperatures to enjoy in summer. It is not uncommon, especially on the South Island, to experience four seasons in one day. New Zealand is a small country surrounded by ocean. A complicating, but often beneficial factor on the day to day weather, is the steep mountain range running down the spine of New Zealand orientated in a southwest-northeast direction. These mountains often shelter eastern parts of the country from an onslaught of westerly winds and rain.

The weather is mostly influenced by fast moving weather systems in the strong westerly winds, which are often referred to as the roaring forties, that predominate over southern parts of the country and seas to the south. There tends to be a seven day cycle associated with these westerlies as a cold front sweeps over the country associated with a couple of days rain, somewhere over the country. Often though these westerlies are disrupted by large high pressure systems or by storm systems. During the summer and early autumn months from about December to April, the westerlies tend to move south giving more settled weather. Always be prepared for a change though. Also, during this time, random weather systems from the tropics can make their presence felt, mainly over the North Island, with a period of warm wet windy weather.

In the Winter, May to August, the weather tends to be more changeable. Cold fronts often bring a period of rain to western areas followed by a cold wind from the south bringing snow to the mountains and sometimes to near sea level over eastern parts of the South Island. When the weather turns cold and wet in the east, to the west of the mountains it will be fantastic. At this time of the year it is not uncommon for high pressure systems and clear skies to park over the whole country for long periods bringing crisp frosty nights and mornings followed by cool sunny days.

In spring, from August to November, the westerly winds are typically at their strongest – these are called the equinoctial westerlies. It tends to rain more in western areas, and especially on the South Island, at this time, while in the east, warm dry winds can give great cycling weather. Once again though, a cold front and its accompanying south winds can give you a taste of winter at any stage.

Best time to go

New Zealand is beautiful no matter what time of the year or season you visit. The best time to visit New Zealand is the time that suits you best. However, if you have more than one date in mind, the following information may help with your travel plans.
The warmest months of the year are from September through to April.

December, January and February are the 3 warmest months of the year (Summer). Spring is from September - November. Autumn (fall) is from March - May and the Winter season runs from June - August. Maximum daytime temperatures vary from 15 to 30+ degrees (Celcius) in the Summer, 10 to 25 degrees in the Autumn (& Spring) and 5 to 18 degrees in the Winter.

Dress Code

The dress code in New Zealand varies depending upon the context, and is becoming more casual over time.
Appropriate clothing for work in a bank is commonly a little more formal than that considered appropriate for work in an architectural practice or advertising firm where suits are unusual for example, but varies from office to office.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best times to travel to New Zealand?

Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons in New Zealand are opposite the United States and Europe. The warmer months from October through April are ideal for exploring the outdoors. The Kiwis are on holiday from mid-December through February, and this is the busiest travel time of the year throughout the country. The shoulder seasons—October, November, March, and April—are excellent times to visit. If you are traveling to New Zealand to ski, ski season generally runs from June through September. There are several resorts on the North Island but the majority of the skiing is on the South Island.
 
What is the climate like in New Zealand?

New Zealand has mild temperatures, moderate to high rainfall, and a lot of sunshine. Given the lush forests that pervade much of the country, it goes without saying that precipitation is commonplace (they say you can expect 1 out of 3 rainy days in New Zealand). Travelers who head into the backcountry should be prepared for rain and weather, but the climate in New Zealand is mild and generally hospitable to getting outdoors.

There is a noticeable difference in climate between the bottom of the South Island, which is temperate, and the top of the North Island, which is sub-tropical. The high peaks of the Southern Alps get significant snow in the winter, but the northern end of the South Island and the North Island stay moderate throughout the year.
 
Should I visit the South Island or the North Island or both?

Both islands are beautiful places to travel, but the South Island is more wild and home to the majority of New Zealand’s most spectacular natural scenery. The Southern Alps, New Zealand’s major mountain range including its highest peak Mt. Cook, are located on the South Island, as well as Fiordland National Park, Milford Sound, and the coastal regions of Abel Tasman and Marlborough.

The North Island has considerably more people than the South Island but is wonderful nonetheless. Wellington, on the southern end of the North Island, is the cultural heart of the country with a San Francisco-esque vibe. The volcanoes of Tongariro National Park are worth the trip, and the Far North including the Bay of Islands is spectacular. If you’re interested in Auckland, it’s easy to add a layover there when booking your flights.

If I were to make a recommendation, I would tell travelers with two weeks or less in New Zealand to stick to the South Island. If it were my own trip I would raise that time period to three weeks. Those on longer tours should definitely consider visiting the North Island.
 
What are the transportation options for travelers in New Zealand?

As with most outdoor oriented trips, renting a vehicle provides the most flexibility. Budget rental cars of the compact variety get excellent gas mileage (and small cars are totally sufficient on New Zealand roads, which are in good condition). For two people or more the cost of renting a car can be comparable to public transportation. Renting a campervan is a popular option and saves money on accommodations. Check with local rental companies first for the best deals.
Most people opt to travel by road. 

How are the accommodations in New Zealand?

The accommodations in New Zealand are generally of a good standard. “Holiday parks” are in almost every town, providing an easy, low cost option for travelers on the move. The holiday parks vary but generally have areas for camping, RVs, and many offer small cabins. Common areas have kitchens, showers, laundry, and often internet. Holiday parks are cheap, starting at about $15 per night up to $50 per night for the newest parks with the nicest facilities, and they don’t require reservations.

New Zealand also has good mid-range accommodations, with a plethora of motels, hotels, and bed and breakfasts. In fact, New Zealand’s motels are the best of anywhere I have traveled—they are always clean and many have small refrigerators and kitchenettes so you can avoid eating out every meal.

Although New Zealand is not the most capitalistic place (one of the reasons we love it), there are luxury accommodations in certain pockets around the country. Queenstown and Wanaka are the classic luxury destinations on the South Island, and Rotorua, the Bay of Islands, and the cities of Wellington and Auckland on the North Island.
 
How is the food in New Zealand?

The food in New Zealand is okay but not the strong point of a trip (we don't come for the food anyway). It’s hard to top local lamb or seafood from the Marlborough region, but the majority of the food is standard British-based cuisine. New Zealand also has the disadvantage of being so isolated that it’s extremely expensive to import fresh ingredients. One local specialty worth trying are the savory muffins, which have omelette-like fillings such as bacon and feta and make a great breakfast on the go. Of course, New Zealand wine has carved out an international reputation.
 
Is New Zealand expensive?

New Zealand is more expensive than it used to be, but is still economical compared to the United States and Western Europe. Food and gas are particularly expensive (gas is currently around $2 per liter), but rental cars, accommodations and activities are reasonable. People come to New Zealand and travel on the full range of budgets—from sleeping in vans to posh Queenstown resorts—and New Zealand has the travel infrastructure to match.

WHAT ARE TYPICAL AIR COSTS TO NEW ZEALAND?

Airfares can change at any time, so statements of approximate costs must be taken as only a very rough guideline. You can look for prices in the $800 to $1000US in the NZ winter (june-august), $1600-$2000 in the winter..jan-feb, and in-between these amounts in the spring and summer. Remember to book as early as you can, since there are a limited number of the least expensive seats, and they sell first. Intra-NZ fares are in the $100-$200 range for the most part. We at newzealandtourist.com will search a variety of sources to find the lowest fare for you: our own computer reservation system, the internet, the airline sites, wholesalers and consolidators, and tour companies.

Always make your reservations as early as possible

since availability of seats can become scarce as you approach the flight date. Courtyard Travel, Inc. , the travel agency underlying newzealandtourist.com, uses consolidators (who buy in bulk volume) to obtain the lowest available prices; this can cut $100-200 off the standard price in many cases. And, from time to time, special discounted fares are offered by the airlines. And, Consolidators, special wholesale houses, can be searched for fares that are lower than the standard Computer Reservation System prices.

Departure taxes must be paid separately from the tickets,

at the time of departure. They range from $NZ 20 to $NZ 35, depending on the departure city.

WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE?

The oceans that surround it temper New Zealand’s climate. Apart from isolated areas of the central South Island, the country does not experience great extremes of heat or cold. New Zealand has a particularly unpolluted atmosphere with average daily sunshine hours ranging from seven to eight hours in summer and four and five in winter. Weather systems move from west to east.

Mean Temperatures in Selected Cities (deg F)

 

Summer
Dec-Jan-Feb

Winter
Jun-Jul-Aug

City

max

min

max

min

Auckland

75

54

59

48

Wellington

68

55

54

43

Christchurch

72

54

54

37

Queenstown

72

50

50

34

Dunedin

66

52

52

39

 

DO I NEED A VISA?
While a valid passport is required, U. S. citizens do not need visas for stays less than 3 months, provided:

  • you hold an onward or return ticket to a country you have a right to enter
  • you have a valid passport, WHICH DOES NOT EXPIRE UNTIL AT LEAST THREE MONTHS AFTER YOUR DEPARTURE FROM NEW ZEALAND.
  • you have sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay in NZ — approximately NZ$1000 per month per person.

WHAT ARE SOME WEBSITES FOR MORE DETAILED NZ INFORMATION?

  • A good contact for more detailed information is www.travel.state.gov/new_zealand.html.
  • The NZ embassy’s home page is www.nzemb.org.
  • NZHOST is a comprehensive information database of NZ tourism activities and services.
  • There are more than 100 Visitor Information Network (VIN) centers spread throughout the country, providing information on a national, regional, and local basis.

HOW DOES NZ CURRENCY COMPARE WITH US CURRENCY?

The New Zealand dollar (NZ$) is valued at about 55% of the U. S. dollar (1 USD = NZ$1.63 as of October 2008).

WILL I NEED VACCINATIONS?

No vaccinations are required to enter New Zealand, but information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention hotline for international travel (1 877 394-8747 or www.cdc.gov).

IS IT OK TO DRINK THE WATER?

New Zealand cities and towns have excellent public water supplies and in all cases tap water is fresh and safe to drink. Water in back country rivers and lakes may contain the parasite giardia, which can cause stomach illness. Such water should be boiled, filtered, or chemically treated.

WHAT ARE THE CUSTOMS REQUIREMENTS?

Incoming travelers must declare food, plants, and animals, and certain items such as camping gear and golf clubs. Some items such as firearms (without a permit), pornographic videos, and telecommunications equipment are prohibited. Check the New Zealand customs website at www.customs.govt.nz for details. Heavy fines can be imposed for violations.

IS THERE GAMBLING IN NEW ZEALAND?

There are a limited number of Las Vegas style casinos in NZ. One is located in Auckland as part of the Sky Tower complex, while others are located in Christchurch and Dunedin.

WHAT IF I HAVE A MEDICAL PROBLEM?

Quality medical care is widely available, but waiting lists exist for certain types of treatment. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the U. S. can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

WHAT TYPE OF CLOTHING IS APPROPRIATE?

New Zealanders dress casually for most occasions. While traveling in New Zealand’s late spring and summer, clients should pack cotton and other cool washable clothes. A sweater or medium-weight jacket for cooler weather and evenings is advisable. During New Zealand’s late fall and winter months, warmer clothing and all season coats are recommended. Comfortable shoes and a light raincoat are a must for all seasons since rain can be expected at any time of the year and many of New Zealand’s activities or attractions involve outdoor participation.

WILL MY ELECTRICAL DEVICES WORK?

New Zealand’s electrical supply is 230/240 volts, 50 cycles, so 110 volt hairdryers and other U. S. electrical devices will not work without converters. Most hotels provide 110 volts for electric shavers.

WHAT SHOULD I WATCH OUT FOR?

There are no snakes or dangerous wild animals in New Zealand, but in the outdoors you should take precautions against sunburn. New Zealand’s clear, unpolluted atmosphere produces sunlight stronger than most countries, so be prepared to wear hats or sun block if you plan to be out in the sun for more than 15-20 minutes.

DO I HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT CRIME?

Crime in New Zealand is comparatively low but has increased in recent years. The most prevalent crime is theft or attempted theft from cars, camper vans, and hostels. To help protect against theft, do not leave passports or other valuable documents in unattended vehicles. Violent crime against tourists is unusual.

AM I EXPECTED TO TIP?

Tips in New Zealand are given in appreciation for extra-special service and consideration or kindness at the discretion of the visitor, particularly in restaurants for waiter service, in bars or room service. Service charges are not ordinarily added to hotel or restaurant bills.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO?

December is probably the worst – kids are out of school, availability of lodging is the lowest, and air fares are the highest. The spring, fall, and winter are all better, with spring and fall optimal, say March (fall) and October (spring).

 

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