If you do see these roadsigns, showing a sharp corner and a number, please be aware of them.
This indicates there is sharp corner and that the recommended speed in this case, is only 15 kilometres per hour. Please take notice of these speeds, as they are not joking. OK you may be able to negotiate the corner at a slightly faster speed, but at least you should know to slow down when approaching.
The nature of the terrain of New Zealand is such that there are many examples of these signs, this one is an extreme.
PLEASE NEVER HITCHIKE ALONE!! We are at present shocked at the murder of a young German backpacker, who was hitchiking alone in New Zealand, Sept 2005. Of course we are proud of our safe country. However don't be lulled into a false sense of safety, never drop your defense and alertness while travelling around here.
Despite at least two New Zealanders who this girl came in contact with, warning her against the dangers of hitching alone, she went ahead and did just that. She paid with her life, in a far away land, far from her family and so very unexpected and tragic. She told both those people, "I'll be fine". Well she wasn't. This is not the first time such a story could be told, and we can only ask you all and advise that you do not hitch alone.
Most of the time you are very safe here, but it's not guaranteed.
Another trap is this. You put your pack into the rear of the vehicle, and they drive off with all your belongings, and leave you standing on the side of the road!! It happens, be aware!!
You may come across a gravel road from time to time. Please take extreme care, as driving on these is quite dangerous. The tyres on most rental cars are not designed for these roads, and you will experience quite slippery conditions. It's very easy for your car to skid on corners, especially when you apply your brakes.
Just drive very slow and take your time on these roads.
And remember to keep to your side of the road, there just may be someone coming the other way on a corner. Often these roads are not very wide and of course they don't have a white line in the middle!
If you see this P5 sign, remember it means Parking here for only 5 minutes!! If you park longer you risk receiving a substantial fine or having your car towed away.
You may also see P60 or P120 etc. The numerals refer to the number of minutes you may park here.
If you see one of these signs with a cow, it indicates that nearby there is a place where cows often cross the road. Normally it is when the farmer owns land on both sides of the road and needs to take the cows across the road to be milked in a cowshed.
Often this happens at 5.30am - 9.00am and again between 3.30pm and 7.00pm.
You must slow down and preferrably stop. sometimes is it possible to slowly drive through the line of cows and carry on your way, but you must drive very slowly and be alert the whole time so you don't him any of the animals.
Remember in the countryside of New Zealand cows and dairy farming is a traditional way of life.
During summer time, hence tourist season, it's pertinent to remind you we drive on the left side of the road.
Please be very careful about this, for both driving and when a pedestrian.
Every year we have tourists involved in head-on collisions due to them driving on the wrong side of the road. This often happens because our roads have so few cars on them, so you sail along on the wrong side. Then you go round a corner and bang! into a solitary car on the same side.
It's not a pretty outcome, for the tourists or for the locals.
Safe journey and enjoy your trip.
If you are in Rural areas between late July - late August beware of the new born lambs.
They are so cute, you can hardly handle it. You'll find yourself rapping on some Taranaki or North Otago Farmer's door, saying "Please Mr. Farmer can I take a lamb back to Germany (or Israel, England, USA Botswana, or Nicaragua wherever)." And New Zealand farmers are so laid back, and kind they'll say "Oh yeah, Go and pick one. Do you need a bag to carry it in." And this is all fine and dandy.
But I warn you now, You will encounter problems at the Airport. First you'll have to declare the animal... and If you try and do it secretly, Lambs have a habit of Baaaing loudly until they are fed. And once its declared, MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) will be on you like a Fly on Sheep Poo.
On many carparks near tourist attractions or in remote areas there are warning signs not to leave valuables in the car. Although you think NZ is the safest country in the world because the majority of the people are so friendly - it is not, the crime rate is even rather high.
There are gangsters specialised in travelling from carpark to carpark and break into tourist cars whenever they spot something interesting in them. And sure, in most cars and vans they would find something because most people are on the way from A to B with the luggage in the car while they visit points of interest and go for little walks.
Particularly dangerous spots are places where an event takes place at a certain time, for example penguin viewing in Oamaru. The West Coast has become an infamous area for thefts from cars, especially around the Pancake Rocks. There were also various reports from Northland about this nuisance.
Update 10 Jan 2008
It is with disgust that I read about some thugs who went to the extraordinary length of driving 50 km on a gravel road to break into cars in the Mt. Aspiring National Park. They travelled those 50 km from Wanaka to the Raspberry Flat carpark in the Matukituki Valley. The carpark is at the end of the road, and only trampers (hikers) go there who set out on multi-day walks or do the Rob Roy Track past the glacier. It is just another example that we have too many criminals in this country and a warning that you should take my warnings and the warnings at the carparks seriously. And not just: Lock it or lose it. But: Take it with you, store valuables at a safe place or lose them.
One of the forgotten dangers of driving in New Zealand, is fatigue.
Our roads can be very long and lonely between towns. OK we are a small nation, however the roads seem to be longer than imagined. It think it is because of the lack of towns along the way.
Fatigue can Kill. It can kill you and your loved ones as well as some innocent other people.
When you are touring our country, so often you are trying to fit a lot in a short time frame, hence the long driving hours.
This is when fatigue can hit unexpectedly, so PLEASE remember this and take some breaks in your journey.
Remember to declare these:
- food of any kind
- plants or parts of plants (alive or dead)
- animals (alive or dead) or their products
- equipment used with animals
- equipment such as camping/hiking gear, golf clubs, and used bicycles
- biological specimens
If you're unsure, it's better to declare them. Else there's an instant fine of NZ$200!
Dump any food items, even those from the airplane, either on board or in the bin provided at the airport (you can't miss them!). You'll never win this race!!
$200 Instant Fine. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has imposed this instant fine at all entry points to New Zealand. We are an island nation dependent on primary produce, therefore it is vital that we protect our environment from foreign diseases and pest etc. Here is a brief list of what they are targeting:
-Any and all live animals, animal equipment, outdoor and camping equipment.
-Soil and water.
-Any plant material, plant matter and things made from plants.
-Any and all items made from wood, wool, hair, shell, fur, skin, ivory, feathers, bone, horn, and tusks.
Now this doesn't mean you can't bring these items in to the country. You just have to declare them so they can be checked before entry. Some will be confiscated if they are deemed a threat or danger. And some are automatically banned.
Remember to check you luggage, for example shoes can be made from wood, and some toys are filled with water. All shells need to be shown to the officers and are usually ok. My daughter and I often return with shells. Clams and coral are banned as they are protected in their native countries.
I've listed both Agriculture and Customs websites here for your information.
Before getting into the car of a stranger know: New Zealand has the second highest crime rate in the developed world! We do not want to deter you from this beautiful country but tell you that you should not do things you would not risk to do in your own country. You are not confronted with the daily problems and meet so many nice people when you tour around, so you might lose the awareness of the dangers.
In September 2005 a German backpacker named Birgit Braeuer was murdered when hitchhiking in Taranaki. She had been warned by NZ friends at her backpackers hostel and by New Zealanders for whom she had worked at a farm, but she was so euphoric about this beautiful country and the people that she thought nothing could ever happen to her. Although her alleged killer has been arrested this does not make her alive. So think twice before you take a ride with someone you do not know. As a hitchhiker you are not only a target for rape and assault, everybody knows that you carry all your belongings with you. What starts as theft might end in murder.
Every now and then we have reports about assaults on hitchhiking tourists, strangely enough most times in the Wellington area.
Also take into account that many people take drugs, and under the influence of "P" or other drugs people might do things they would never do when sober. There are many reports about crimes committed under the influence of drugs.
If you cannot afford or do not want to travel in a rental car invest in a pass for the bus, or try to get a ride with a fellow backpacker.
... is going to change at 5am on Sunday, 25 March 2012, and New Zealand will have the same turn left and right rules as the rest of the world.
Meaning all traffic turning right has to give way to a vehicle coming from the opposite direction and turning left. This applies at cross roads, T-intersections and driveways where both vehicles are facing each other with no signs or signals, or the same signs or signals.
A second rule change will be introduced regarding the give way rule at uncontrolled T intersections. All traffic from a terminating road (bottom of the T) will have to give way to all traffic on a continuing road (top of the T). This will bring it into line with T-intersections where there are Stop or Give Way signs on the terminating road. The NZ Transport Agency recommends that you think: Top of the T goes before me ;-))
Here is the story about the old give way rule.
The absolutely funny thing about this rule is that I did not know about this rule on my first two trips to New Zealand and nothing happened. Perhaps this was due to low traffic in the countryside or - in the cities - the cautious New Zealanders who automatically stop in such situations because they know that even their fellow contrymen and -women have problems with the rule... ;-)
Anyway... The rule says that if you are turning left, you have to give way to vehicles on your right that are turning right.
New Zealand is the only country in the world which has this rule, and there are endless discussions about to abolish it to make driving safer for everyone. The rule creates absurd and dangerous situations because it is not done with giving way to right-turning cars. Just try to imagine this situation: You want to turn left and see that an oncoming car wants to turn right. You stop to give way but this damn car does not turn. Of course, this is because either a tourist not used to the rule is driving this car - or a car behind you or even on a second lane behind you is heading straight on. So the oncoming car has to give way to this car. This means that you have to look into the rear mirror when turning left and only stop if there is nobody behind you who drives straight ahead...
Apart from that rule there is a nerve-cutting tendency not to drive to the middle of a big intersection when turning left or right and stay in front of a green traffic light, so sometimes only one or two cars can turn while the lights are green. I think the reason for this bad attitude is the lack of professional driving training. New Zealanders are not obliged to take driving lessons, so they can only learn what their accompanying friends and relatives teach them, and if they have never learnt how to properly turn by waiting at the furthermost point of an intersection until the oncoming traffic has passed this will not change for generations to come.
See also: http://www.landtransport.govt.nz/overseasdrivers/driving-in-nz.html
Update 4 March 2010
The Government has decided that this crazy rule will be changed - but only in early 2012. It is so hard for New Zealanders to give up old traditions ;-) So in early 2012 the turning right rule will work as in the rest of the world. I think this will be a great relief for tourists.
These mountain parrots are among the few species of parrot familiar with snow. Unlike most others, they are not brilliantly coloured but do have some lovely colours hidden under their wings.
They are very friendly, or should I say, they are not afraid. Perhaps this is because they know they have a powerful weapon in their beak!!
Keas have been known to almost dismantle a vehicle! They can remove hubcaps, take out complete windscreen seals, making the screen dislodge. They can carry off a whole boot leaving trampers (trekkers) with one boot! They can take off with a heavy SLR camera and fly off with it.
They have been known to reach into a pack and remove items. Don't ever underestimate their ability, so always be aware and prepared. Keas live to 20 yrs of age or more, so they know about things!!
Their mischieviousness and playfulness has been described as a sign of a higher level of intelligence, so always respect these wonderful birds. They are quite happy walking around, and don't fly to move from A to B if they can walk.
There are no requirements regarding vaccinations. The water is completely safe to drink although, if you prefer bottled water, it's readily available. New Zealand's public and private medical and hospital facilities provide a high standard of treatment and service but it's not free (except in the case of an accident). Health and/or Travel Insurance therefore is highly recommended.
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