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ON THE MOVE / CAROL SMITH

Executive Travel: SPOTLIGHT ON NEW ZEALAND : Americans Should Feel at Home Doing Business on These Islands

November 10, 1994|CAROL SMITH | CAROL SMITH is a free-lance writer based in Pasadena

New Zealand, generally considered the gentle cousin to its more boisterous and robust neighbor Australia, is a relatively easy country for business travel because its customs are similar to those in the United States and the official language is English.

Though known for its scenery, New Zealand has attracted interest recently from foreign investors, including Americans, lured by the well-established infrastructure.

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Getting There: Auckland on the North Island is the largest city and main gateway to New Zealand. Air New Zealand and United Airlines both have a daily nonstop to Auckland from Los Angeles. Qantas Airways flies nonstops on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and it has one-stop flights on Mondays and Saturdays.

Nonstop flights last about 13 hours. A few international flights go on to Wellington. And from Australia's major cities you can fly nonstop directly to Wellington.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday November 11, 1994 Home Edition Business Part D Page 2 Column 6 Financial Desk 1 inches; 17 words Type of Material: Correction
New Zealand capital--A photo caption in Thursday's editions misstated the capital of New Zealand. It is Wellington.

You don't need a visa for business stays of three months or less. However, you may need to prove that you have sufficient funds for further or return travel. For more information, contact the Consulate General of New Zealand in Los Angeles at (310) 207-1605.

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Money: The New Zealand dollar is based on the same dollars-and-cents system the United States uses. Recently, $100 U.S. bought you about $164 New Zealand. You can exchange money at exchange bureaus, banks or hotels. Typical banking hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Airport banks in the international arrival and departure areas are always open for exchanging money.

This is one case where advance work may not pay off. "It can be time-consuming and difficult to get New Zealand currency in the U.S.," said Kim Wong, marketing director for the New Zealand Tourism Board in Santa Monica. "I usually use my credit card and exchange a small amount of currency when I get to New Zealand."

You can conceivably get by with less cash than in other countries because tipping is not expected in restaurants or hotels or for cabs, Wong said.

Automated teller machines are becoming increasingly common, and some now accept international credit cards, she said.

Most establishments accept major credit cards such as American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa.

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Getting Around: "All our cities are a bit like downtown San Francisco," Wong said. The cities are compact and public transportation is plentiful. But travel is on the left side of the road, as in Britain and Japan. You can walk almost anywhere or take local buses. You'll find taxis in central cities, but it is not common practice to flag them down, Wong said. Travelers should get cabs at taxi stands or call ahead for pickup.

You can take shuttle buses from the airport to the main downtown hotels, said Dennis McKinlay, who travels frequently to New Zealand for the Los Angeles-based New Zealand/Australia Reservations Office. Taxis are a more expensive choice, costing about $32 (New Zealand) from Auckland's airport to downtown, $18 from the Christchurch airport to downtown and $16 from the Wellington airport to its metropolitan area.

If you're considering renting a car, keep in mind that it will be more expensive than in the United States and that credit-card collision insurance from U.S. credit cards won't be effective in New Zealand because rental agencies provide full insurance after a $600 deductible. Collision-damage waivers are usually available for the $600, generally for a few dollars a day.

Many people who travel on business find it's not necessary to rent a car, McKinlay said. "It's cheaper just to take taxis."

Two major domestic airlines provide long-distance service within the country: Air New Zealand and Ansett New Zealand. Flights from Auckland to Wellington at the southwest tip of the North Island take about an hour. Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island, is another hour beyond that. Flights leave hourly throughout the day, Wong said.

When planning your trip, it's helpful to avoid national and local holidays, when shops and offices are closed. National holidays include New Year's Day, Waitangi Day (Feb. 6), Good Friday and Easter Monday in April, Anzac Day (April 25), the Queen's Birthday (first Monday in June), Labour Day (the fourth Monday in October), Christmas Day and Boxing Day (Dec. 26). In addition, Auckland has a local holiday on Jan. 29, and Wellington has one on Jan. 22.

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Hotels: All the major cities have business-class hotels with complete business services, Wong said. In Auckland, for example, the Pan Pacific, Regent and Sheraton hotels offer business accommodations.

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Safety: According to the U.S. State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, crime in New Zealand is minimal. Foreign visitors are not typically victims of crime, though they occasionally report thefts.

For updated security information, call the bureau's information line at (202) 647-5225. You can also obtain updated information on travel and security by registering with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in New Zealand. The embassy is in Wellington at (64-4) 472-2068. The consulate in Auckland is at (64-9) 303-2724, and the U.S. consular agent in Christchurch can be reached at (64-3) 379-0040.

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