English is spoken by about 95 percent of New Zealand’s population. However, the official language is actually Maori and New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL). In 2006, New Zealand was the first country in the world to officially make a sign language an official language. It is estimated that roughly two percent of the population are native speakers of Maori, with an additional four percent able to speak conversationally.
The official currency of New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar, abbreviated as NZD or NZ$, divided into 100 cents. Bank notes come in denominations of NZ $100, 50, 20, 10, and 5. Coins are available in NZ $2, $1, 50 cents, 20 cents, and 10 cents. Locals also call the currency the kiwi, as the coins have the kiwi bird on them. All major credit cards are readily accepted and ATMs are plenty. Traveler’s checks can easily be cashed at banks and most hotels. Other currencies are not normally valid and visitors will have to buy NZD for travel in the country.
New Zealand is in the GMT+12 time zone and GMT+13 during the summer time (September to April).
New Zealand uses 230V electricity at 50Hz. Most sockets use the I-type plug, which means three flat prongs, with the two on the bottom being diagonal. North American and European visitors will require plug adaptors and converters if appliances are not compatible with 230V.
The dialing code for New Zealand is +64, with the area codes for Wellington being 04, Auckland 09, and Christchurch 03. The country is basically divided into five major areas. Currently, New Zealand has seven mobile phone operators, with Telecom New Zealand and Vodafone New Zealand the largest in size. Visitors can buy pay-as-you-go SIM cards compatible with European and North American GSM systems. Free wireless internet is available, particularly in the larger cities and Wellington has free Wi-Fi throughout all of downtown. There is also the Magicbus, a roaming hotspot bus that provides free internet access. However, in some remote areas, visitors may not find cell phone coverage or internet connectivity.
Most up to date duty-free allowances for New Zealand can be obtained from the Customs Office (http://www.customs.govt.nz). Generally, visitors over 17 years of age can bring into New Zealand, duty-free: 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or 50 cigars (mix of all three cannot be more than 250 grams in weight); 4.5 liters of wine or 4.5 liters of beer or three bottles of spirits. Visitors are also allowed to bring in personal goods in the value of NZ $700.
New Zealand Tourism: +64-4-462-8000 or http://www.newzealand.com or http://www.tourismnewzealand.com
Consulates in New Zealand
Australian High Commission, Wellington: +64-4-473-6411 British Consulate General, Auckland: +64-9-303-2973 British High Commission, Wellington: +64-4-924-2888 French Embassy, Wellington: +64-4-384-2555 German Embassy, Wellington: +64-4-473-6063 Norwegian Consulate General: +64-4-471-2503 US Embassy, Wellington: +64-4-462-6000 US Consulate General, Auckland: +64-9-303-2724
Emergency services: 111