Area Codes -- The area code for New Zealand is 64. Within New Zealand, the following area codes should be added if dialing from outside each of the areas: Auckland and Northland, 09; Coromandel Peninsula, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua, Taupo, 07; Tongariro National Park, Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Wanganui, Wairarapa, 06; Wellington, 04; and the whole of the South Island, 03.
Business Hours -- Banks are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 4:30pm. Shops are usually open Monday through Thursday from 9am (sometimes 8am) to 5:30pm, and until 9pm on either Thursday or Friday. Increasingly, shops are open all day Saturday; many shops are also open all day Sunday, with others closing between noon and 4pm.
Doctors -- If you need to visit a doctor, your hotel or accommodation provider can put you in touch with local services. Emergency doctors are also listed in the Fast Facts section of each destination. If your condition is severe and urgent, go straight to the nearest hospital Accident & Emergency (A&E) department, or call an ambulance. Be aware though, that New Zealand A&E departments are usually extremely busy and under-staffed and you may have to wait several hours. Unless your life is under threat, it is always best to consult an emergency doctor first.
Drinking Laws -- The minimum drinking age is 18 in pubs and proof of age may be required, so make sure you carry some form of photo ID. Children are allowed in pubs with their parents, but they cannot be served alcohol. Beer and wine can be purchased from most supermarkets and from liquor stores. Wine can also be purchased from specialty wine shops and wineries. The closing time for hotels and bars varies - some have longer liquor licenses than others. In the main centers, most close between midnight and 2am, but some close at 3 or 4am. Some areas also observe complete liquor bans. Please take note of the signs and warnings or you will be arrested and fined heavily. Do not carry open containers of alcohol in your car or any public area that isn't zoned for alcohol consumption. The police can fine you on the spot. Don't even think about driving while intoxicated, or you'll be fined heavily. New Zealand Police often stage random drug and alcohol testing on roads of major cities to stop drink-driving. You must stop on request and you will have to take a breath test.
Electricity -- The voltage is 230 volts in New Zealand, and plugs are of the flat, three-pronged variety (with the top two prongs angled). If you bring a hair dryer, it should be a dual-voltage one, and you'll need an adapter plug. Most motels and some B&Bs have built-in wall transformers for 110-volt, two-prong razors, but if you're going to be staying in hostels, cabins, homestays, or guesthouses, bring dual-voltage appliances.
Embassies & Consulates -- In Wellington, the capital city, you'll find the United States Embassy, the Canadian High Commission, and the British High Commission. In Auckland, you'll find consulates for the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
Emergencies -- Dial tel. 111 to contact the police, call an ambulance, or report a fire.
Language -- English is spoken by all New Zealanders. You'll hear Maori spoken on some TV and radio programs and in some Maori settlements. As New Zealand is officially a bicultural country, you'll also hear Maori words spoken in daily conversation.
Legal Aid -- While driving, if you are pulled over for a minor infraction (such as speeding), never attempt to pay the fine directly to a police officer; this could be construed as attempted bribery, a much more serious crime. Pay fines by mail, or directly into the hands of the clerk of the court. If accused of a more serious offense, say and do nothing before consulting a lawyer. International visitors should call their embassy or consulate.
New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade, 195 Lambton Quay, Wellington (tel. 04/439-8000; www.mfat.govt.nz), can assist with initial advice if you find yourself in trouble. If you need help, know that you don't have to be a New Zealand citizen, or living here permanently, to qualify for free legal aid. If you've been charged with a criminal offense - drink-driving, assault, theft, bribery, fraud, sexual or drug offenses, arson, or murder - but can't afford a lawyer, your legal fees may be paid by Criminal Legal Aid, which covers all lawyers' costs. Check Legal Services Agency (www.lsa.govt.nz), which has 11 regional offices: Auckland, Waitakere and Manukau (both within Auckland), Whangarei, Hamilton, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.
Mail -- New Zealand post offices will receive mail and hold it for you for 1 month. Have the parcel addressed to you c/o Poste Restante at the Chief Post Office of the town you'll be visiting. It costs NZ$3 to send an airmail letter to the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, or Europe. Overseas postcards cost NZ$2. The postal service is very reliable. Send items Fast Post within New Zealand for a faster airmail service. Parcels and documents can also be sent by tracked post for extra security. Courier and tracked courier services both within New Zealand and to overseas destinations are faster and more secure, but tracked airmail packages are cheaper and just as secure. You can follow the progress of all tracked items on the New Zealand Post website, www.nzpost.co.nz.
Medical Requirements -- Unless you are arriving from an area known to be suffering from an epidemic, inoculations or vaccinations are not required to enter New Zealand. If you are currently taking any prescription medicines for recognized medical conditions, it is wise to bring the dosage you'll require with you. Keep all drugs in original bottles and bring a cover letter from your doctor to show airport security staff if required. If you require needles, they'll be fine in the aircraft hold but if you need them during your flight you will need to make special arrangements.
Newspapers & Magazines -- All New Zealand newspapers are printed in English. In Auckland the main daily is the New Zealand Herald (www.nzherald.co.nz); in Wellington, The Dominion (www.stuff.co.nz/dompost); and for the South Island, The Christchurch Press (www.stuff.co.nz/the-press). The major weekend newspaper is the Sunday Star Times (www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times). Most dairies, supermarkets, corner stores, bookstores, and petrol stations sell newspapers. Hotels and most other accommodation providers also offer their guests a newspaper delivery service. New Zealand produces numerous specialized and general lifestyle magazines, which can be found in bookstores and supermarkets.
Packing -- Regardless of the season, New Zealand weather can be very changeable. Even in summer, you will need to pack warm clothing and something weatherproof. This particularly applies if you are going walking, tramping, or mountaineering. Very few places have formal dress codes in New Zealand, requiring the use of jackets - perhaps just one or two of the luxury lodges; but in most cases, smart casual is perfectly acceptable. Many people do dress up if they are visiting high-end restaurants and bars, but this is optional. Some clubs, restaurants, and bars do not permit jeans. For more helpful information on packing for your trip, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Police -- The emergency number for New Zealand Police is 111; for non-emergencies, ring the local police number listed in the local phone directory. Police drive white vehicles with bright blue and orange markings. In addition to dealing with general crime, they also have the power to stop vehicles for speeding, traffic infringements, or for alcohol breath testing. Some also drive unmarked cars, so don't even think about breaking speed limits just because you can't see a white police vehicle.
Smoking -- Smoking is illegal in all public buildings in New Zealand, from hotels and offices to restaurants and bars. Many bars and restaurants now provide an outdoor area for smoking customers, but it is increasingly frowned upon.
Taxes -- There is a national 15% Goods and Services Tax (GST) that's applicable to everything. A departure tax of NZ$25 is assessed and can be paid by credit card or in cash in New Zealand currency.
Time -- New Zealand is located just west of the international date line, and its standard time is 12 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Thus, when it's noon in New Zealand, it's 7:30am in Singapore, 9am in Tokyo, 10am in Sydney; and -- all the previous day -- 4pm in San Francisco, 7pm in New York, and midnight in London. In New Zealand, daylight saving time starts the first weekend in October and ends in mid-March. For help with time translations, and more, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Tipping -- Most New Zealanders don't tip waitstaff unless they've received extraordinary service -- and then only 5% to 10%. Taxi drivers and porters are rarely tipped in this country. For help with tip calculations, currency conversions, and more, download our convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Toilets -- There are "public conveniences" strategically located in all cities and many towns. Local Plunket Rooms come with a "Mother's Room," where you can change your child's diapers. The Plunket Society is a state-subsidized organization that provides free baby care to all New Zealand families. You'll also find well signposted public toilets on the street in most towns and cities. They can also be found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, railway and bus stations, and service stations. Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. Restaurants and bars in resorts or heavily visited areas may reserve their restrooms for patrons.
Water -- New Zealand tap water is pollution-free and safe to drink. In the bush, you should boil, filter, or chemically treat water from rivers and lakes to avoid contracting Giardia (a waterborne parasite that causes diarrhea).