Written by Emma Watkins

With Christmas and the New Year celebrations a distant memory, many people will find themselves looking forward to the new adventures and challenges that 2018 is bound to bring.

One thing that will inevitably be on the top of many to-do-lists will be travelling. The opportunity to travel is undoubtedly a gift, and yet it seems that many people get it incredibly wrong.

2017 wasn’t necessarily an easy year for Brits abroad, who faced heavy criticism after appearing to show a lack of cultural sensitivity during their trips, a trend unfortunately continuing from previous years. Remember the naked backpacker, Eleanor Hawkins, who posed naked on top of a holy site and found herself incarcerated for 3 days? Yes, so do we. And unfortunately, so does the rest of the world.

One of the major things than can help to avoid scarlet faces or – more seriously – jail time for any traveller is some forward planning. Whilst flight tickets and accommodation are essential in ensuring the smooth running of a trip, there are many other aspects that are so often overlooked.

Understanding the culture, norms, and local laws of the country you are planning to visit can be pivotal to the success of a holiday and not just in terms of keeping you safe. Grasping a good knowledge of all of the above will allow you to get the most out your trip-of-a-lifetime, which no one wants to see debunked by carelessness.

One location that has gained a large amount of notice with travellers in recent years is New Zealand.

Previously considered the baby brother of Australia, this country – made up of two distinctly beautiful islands: the North Island and the South Island – now holds its own in the wanderlust stakes and it’s easy to see why.

The islands boast stunning scenery, vast wildlife and the fact that its official language is English has a lot of young explorers reaching for their backpacks quicker than you can say “kiwi”.

And, why shouldn’t they? The country has so much to offer in terms of entertainment and historical richness, but be warned: just because we share a language does not mean that we share every law, norm and custom with these idyllic isles.

Getting into the country itself should not be taken for granted either.  Your passport must be at least a month before its expiry date when you fly, and you’ll need a visa if you’re planning a trip of more than 6 months; however, an onward ticket should all satisfy the border control. New Zealand does also hold strong rules and regulations regarding the import of foodstuffs and some restrictions on medicines so ensure you read the FCO travel pages prior to your departure to avoid getting into any trouble off the back of your 24 hour flight.

The beautiful beaches of New Zealand conjure images of days surfing, barbecuing and maybe even cracking open a cold one with your friends. However, the latter could get you in trouble without you even realising. Some areas in New Zealand impose a drinking ban on public holidays, the fine for which can result in more than just a post-session hangover, totalling up to $250. Make sure you look at the region-specific laws before you travel (or pop those corks) to avoid any problems.

Another strong pull of New Zealand is the outdoorsy lifestyle. This country offers the chance for tourists to sample a large array of activities from sky-diving to caving, and whilst they are once in a lifetime opportunities to be relished, poor planning can lead to more than a little inconvenience. Insurance is absolutely essential if you are taking any trip but if some of the more extreme offerings do take your fancy in NZ, make sure you have adequate cover before making the leap.

Wherever you are planning on heading this year, make sure you stay up to date and safe by checking out the FCO pages and remember; cultural sensitivity costs nothing!