New Zealand is a beautiful place to visit, though it is essentially Montana with beaches. Considering the ridiculous prices for everything, I really can’t say it’s worth visiting. If you have been to the Pacific Northwest or Montana, then nothing in New Zealand will be much different except all of that natural beauty is crammed into a relatively small place. In a way I was slightly disappointed since I was expecting to really be wowed and that did not happen. In retrospect I would have much rather spent the money going somewhere else. With that said, I still enjoyed myself.
I started in Auckland, flew to Christchurch and then drove about 3000 kilometers (about 1900 miles) around the South Island. Driving is a bit of a challenge only because New Zealanders are really aggressive drivers. They like to tailgate, they speed and will pass you even if you are going faster than the posted speed limit. I rented a camper van for about $180 for 10 days, though I never actually slept in it. It was too cold so we stayed in “cheap” hotels, which seem to always run about $82 for two people (even hostels run that price). Renting the camper van was about one-quarter the price of renting a car. Gas is expensive, but that was expected.
The cost of food and restaurants however, was not expected. Everything is absurdly over priced. Even items produced New Zealand run triple or more over what you would pay in the US. Imported stuff is even more expensive. Some Australians were telling me that they thought New Zealand was really expensive, and Australia is not exactly cheap (though, their prices are more reasonable). I never could get over the price of things, just because it make no sense. I suppose the only good thing was that tax and service charges are included in the prices.
The trip was supposed to be with friends that are living and working in New Zealand, but they flaked out us at the last-minute. The trip was mostly my friend from Seattle and me. That turned out really well since we were able to do what we wanted and got to see far more of New Zealand that we otherwise would have. Since we arrived in New Zealand’s fall, we did encounter some rain but mostly the weather was quite nice if a bit cool at times.
The people are mostly nice, though occasionally they can be a bit unfriendly. I think this is part of their culture. They have no problem telling you how they are feeling. Whereas Americans don’t usually respond to “How are you?” with anything but “Good, thanks,” a New Zealander will respond with how they actually feel (that is a bit surprising for an American, let me tell you). 🙂