Internet & Wi-Fi
Without Your Own Computer -- To find cybercafes in New Zealand, check www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com.
Aside from formal cybercafes, most youth hostels have at least one computer you can use for Internet access. Most public libraries in New Zealand offer Internet access free, or for a small charge, as do many i-SITE visitor centers. All cities and most larger towns have retail Internet providers, and these can be easily found by asking at the visitor center. Avoid hotel business centers, unless access to them is included in your rates; otherwise, you'll find yourself paying an additional charge to use it. Most major airports now have Internet kiosks scattered throughout their gates.
With Your Own Computer -- More and more hotels, resorts, airports, cafes, and retailers are going Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) and becoming "hot spots" that offer free high-speed Wi-Fi access or charge a fee for usage. Most upscale accommodations and many B&Bs in New Zealand offer a free high-speed or Wi-Fi service, but for those that charge for the service, the rates can be excessive (say, NZ$35 for a 24-hour period). From my own experience, check hotel Internet fees before signing on. If you only want to check your e-mail, you're better off paying a mere NZ$5 to NZ$6 for an hour's computer use at a retail Internet provider. Most towns on the main tourist beat have at least two or three such retailers, and information centers will point you in the right direction.
Most laptops sold today have built-in wireless capability. To find public Wi-Fi hot spots at your destination, go to www.jiwire.com; its Global Wi-Fi Finder holds the world's largest directory of public wireless hot spots. The New Zealand Yellow Pages telephone directories also list wireless and Internet hot spots under "Internet Service." There are also some New Zealand listings at www.laptopfriendlycafes.com.
Wherever you go, bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters (the voltage is 230 volts in New Zealand, and plugs are the three-prong type), a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable. Connectivity is often poor in more remote provincial areas.
The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobiles), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use throughout Europe and dozens of other countries worldwide. In the U.S., T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless, and Cingular use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM; and all Europeans and most Australians and New Zealanders use GSM.
If your cellphone is on a GSM system, and you have a world-capable phone such as many (but not all) Sony Ericsson, Motorola, or Samsung models, you can make and receive calls across civilized areas on much of the globe, from Andorra to Uganda. Unfortunately, per-minute charges can be high. New Zealanders, it should be noted, currently pay some of the highest cellphone usage charges in the world.
In New Zealand, the two main telecommunications providers are Telecom, which operates on an 800 megahertz frequency, and Vodafone, which operates on a 900 megahertz frequency. If your own cellphone is able to operate within either of those frequencies, your best-value option is to bring it with you and purchase a local SIM card when you get here.
You'll get good cellphone coverage in most urban areas in New Zealand, but be prepared for "black holes" where there is no coverage at all. These areas are usually off the beaten track and are too numerous to list. Thankfully, you seldom have to travel far before coverage resumes. The West Coast, Arthur's Pass, parts of Eastland, and parts of the far south are notorious for weaker coverage.
True wilderness adventurers should consider renting a satellite phone. Per-minute call charges can be even cheaper than roaming charges with a regular cellphone, but the phone itself is more expensive (up to $150 a week), and depending on the service you choose, people calling you may incur high long-distance charges.
Cellphone rental is not always cheap, and there is only one cellphone rental provider within New Zealand - Vodafone - so you can't shop around. If you wish to rent a cellphone for your trip, you need to call at the Vodafone Rental shop at either Auckland International Airport or Christchurch International Airport. The base rental rate for less than 1 week is NZ$8 per day. For more than 1 week it's NZ$4 per day, or NZ$30 per week. On top of that you pay a call rate of NZ90¢ per minute anytime, anywhere within New Zealand. International calls will cost more. You can check details at www.vodarent.co.nz.
Two good wireless rental companies outside of New Zealand are InTouch USA (tel. 800/872-7626; www.intouchglobal.com) and RoadPost (tel. 888/290-1606 or 905/272-5665; www.roadpost.com). Give them your itinerary, and they'll tell you what wireless products you need. InTouch will also, for free, advise you on whether your existing phone will work overseas; simply call tel. 703/222-7161 between 9am and 4pm EST, or go to www.intouchglobal.com/travel.htm.
To call New Zealand from another country:
1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S.; 00 from the U.K. or Ireland; or 0011 from Australia.
2. Dial the country code, 64.
3. Dial the area code (for example, 03, 09, or 06, but without the zero) known as STD (subscriber toll dialing), and then the number.
To call long distance within New Zealand: First dial the STD -- 09 for Auckland and Northland, 07 for the Thames Valley, 06 for the east coast and Wanganui, 04 for Wellington, or 03 for the South Island -- and then the local number. (If you're calling from outside New Zealand, omit the zero.) There are three main kinds of public telephones in New Zealand: card phones, credit card phones, and coin phones. Magnetic strip phone cards for public phones can be purchased from supermarkets, post offices, dairies, and service stations.
To make international calls: To make international calls from New Zealand, first dial tel. 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61). Next dial the area code and number.
The most economical way to make international phone calls from New Zealand is to charge them to an international calling card (available free from your long-distance company at home). All calls, even international ones, can be made from public phone booths. (Long-distance calls made from your hotel or motel often have hefty surcharges added.) You can also call home using Country Direct numbers. They are 000-911 for the U.S.; 000-944 for British Telecom (operator); 000-912 for British Telecom (automatic); 000-940 for UK Mercury; 000-919 for Canada; 000-996 for Australia-Optus; and 000-961 for Australia-Telstra.
For directory assistance within New Zealand: Dial tel. 018. For operator assistance within New Zealand, dial tel. 010.
For international operator assistance: If you need operator assistance in making a call, dial tel. 0170; for directory assistance for an international call, dial tel. 0172.
Remember that calling a 1-800 or toll-free number in your country from New Zealand is not toll-free. In fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.