Planning a trip to New Zealand from the UK? We’re not going to beat around the bush here. The flight from the UK & Europe to New Zealand is one of the longest air trips in the world. In fact, you’ll need at least two flights to make it here. But don’t let that put you off. The trip is worth every minute. Don't believe us? Almost 200,000 visitors make the trip every year from the UK, which is fantastic, we love making lots of new British friends on our tours every season. What’s more interesting is that, according to Tourism New Zealand, half of British visitors will have already visited at least once before.
That tells us that we've not only got a wonderful country to show off but the flight times are not much of a deterrent to visitors. Flying is a more comfortable experience these days anyway. And we believe it's getting better every year. Today's modern, fast aircraft with excellent in-flight entertainment systems make the whole journey a pleasant experience.
Flight times to New Zealand from the UK and Major European Cities
|Flying to New Zealand from:||Flight time to Auckland|
|London (via Asia)||24|
How to handle the flights
There are a few ways of making the trip to New Zealand more pleasant.
Transit Stopovers - Get me to NZ now!
One option is to fly with the minimum stopover so you have 12-16 hours of waking time on the plane and 8 hours of sleep time. The more you can sleep the better, as it will help you get over your jet lag. Watch a couple of movies, read a book but don't forget to move around and stretch during the wake times. On long-haul flights, there are a few places near the back of the aircraft where you can stretch your shoulders and legs and move around. This is important to help keep the blood circulating but also to help your body rest and sleep later on.
Short Stopovers - Let me off this plane so I can explore a new city!
The second option is to plan a stopover and break up the journey. Short stopovers of 12 hours are great for getting some vertical time at a hotel and also for stretching your legs. Some people like to explore a city for the full day and then return to the aircraft ready to snooze for the remaining journey. A full 24 hours or more of stopover time will give you the best of both. Obviously, this adds an extra day to your journey but for many people, breaking up the journey like this can reduce the jet lag effects. So, in effect, there’s no time lost. Longer stopovers are also great for seeing a new city for free.
If you can work it into your itinerary, even 12 hours is enough to see parts of wonderful cities in Asia and the US.
Let’s look at your options for flying from Europe to our little islands on the other side of the world.
Our favourite stopover cities
From the UK (and almost anywhere in Europe) you can fly to New Zealand via Asia or the US. The Asia route is shorter and more popular. The further south and east you go in Europe the shorter the trip to New Zealand via this part of the world.
A great option from London (or most of the other cities on the list below) is to fly via Dubai. Most London-Dubai flights leave in the evening time so you can snooze on the plane. When you arrive in Dubai early the next day you'll be ready for a day's adventure in the city.
Emirates Airways operate one of the longest flights in the world from Dubai airport. At 16 hours from Dubai to Auckland it’s currently the world’s longest commercial flight but will soon be beaten by the upcoming London to Perth direct route operate by Qantas. Dubai is not for everyone but it certainly has the wow factor. The world’s tallest building, mega-rich jet setters, the world’s largest man-made island, and the 5th largest mall in the world are all here. The summer months (June - August) can be quite hot in Dubai but winter months (Dec-Feb) are pleasant and temperatures sit around 20C. Every building has air conditioning and there are plenty of places to escape the heat.
You can also fly from London to Auckland via Bangkok, one of the world’s most exciting cities. Bangkok is exactly halfway between both cities and is an excellent stopover choice. Flight times are 11 and a half hours on each leg. Stopover times can be as little as 2 hours but Bangkok is an easy city to navigate and a great introduction to Asia so we’d recommend spending a few days here if you can. It’s a safe city, the people are friendly and the food is amazing. Thai Airways, Air New Zealand, Emirates, and British Airways are some of the airlines that fly to all three cities.
Another city on the stopover list and one that we’ll put near the top of our must-see-cities list is Singapore. The city-state at the bottom of Malaysia is one of the world’s best food destinations. Singapore a melting pot of cultures, mostly from Asia but there is a very large non-Asian expat community here. Think of the city as an easy entry to Asia. If you’ve never been to Asia this is a good (if not totally representative) introduction. Check out the truly beautiful Supertree grove, the Marina Bay Sands hotel, and the preserved colonial architecture. As one of the world’s safest cities, Singapore is perfect for a short stopover to relax and break up a long journey.
Hong Kong is another Air New Zealand stopover more or less halfway between Europe and New Zealand. A thoroughly modern city with plenty of history stuffed into every corner, Hong Kong is one of the most interesting cities in Asia. Land is hard to come by here so naturally, rent is high for those that live in the city. But you don’t have to worry about that as a tourist. Hotel rates are reasonable enough so you can enjoy the city without the high cost of living there. Try the amazing food (we recommend Dim Sum), the tram up to Victoria Peak, and the Star Ferry passenger trip over to Kowloon. You can even visit the island of Macau if you’re staying any longer than a day. Hong Kong is small but there is a lot packed into this little space.
A less direct route between Europe and New Zealand takes you to Tokyo, the capital of Japan and the world’s biggest city. Tokyo is not as expensive as many people think and it can be quite affordable for short trips. The city offers many attractions and places of cultural interest. Japanese culture is fascinating and Tokyo is ground zero for everything new, exciting, and wacky in Japan. Take time to visit the beautiful gardens, shrines, and public squares that are very well preserved and open to visitors.
Air New Zealand operates a codeshare from the UK to New Zealand via the US. The stopover city is Los Angeles and what a great city to explore! This is especially true if it’s your first time in that part of the world. LA never ceases to amaze. Note that flying via the United States adds on another 6 hours total journey time so it’s not the best choice if you’re in a hurry.
Why fly all the way to New Zealand? To walk the golden sands of the Abel Tasman!
What to expect when you arrive in New Zealand
Temperature wise, New Zealand is similar to northern Europe (excluding the Scandinavian countries). But the biggest change is the seasons. Down south the seasons reverse so if you’re leaving Europe in the cold of December pack your shorts and sun hat. At that time of year expect (mostly) fine weather in New Zealand. But if you visit New Zealand in July or August we suggest you bring a warm jacket, especially if you’re visiting the South Island. You won’t experience snowfall in Auckland’s milder climate but Queenstown, Christchurch and other major cities of the South Island can get a lot of snow in winter.
It might take a little getting used to the slower pace of life here, particularly if you live in a major city like London, Paris, or Berlin. But it should be a welcome change from the hectic pace of the big city. We Kiwis are a laid back bunch and we’d rather stop to chat than hurry on to our next appointment. There’s no rush and everything always works out in the end. You’ll get used to it.
If you’re coming from the UK or Ireland and you plan on driving a vehicle you’ll feel right at home. We drive on the left. Check out our guide to driving in New Zealand.
Why New Zealand is worth the trip
Considering the long flight, the change in seasons, and the cost, why come all this way to visit the other side of the world?
New Zealand was one of the last places on earth discovered by man. It’s a living breathing natural wonder with a small population of friendly people and even more friendly animals. The geography of the country means that there are several different climates with beaches and snow-capped mountains within hours of each other. The possibilities for outdoor activities are endless and the tourist services based around the activities are some of the best in the world.
With a world-class cuisine, wine and coffee culture, a safe and pleasant environment for travelling, and some of the friendliest people on earth, New Zealand is worth the trip. Just ask the almost 4 million visitors that come to these shores every year. Take our advice and make the most of your journey down under. Take in the highlights of a world-class city en route to New Zealand and avail of the opportunities to catch up on some reading, movies, or relaxation time.
Check out our guide to planning a trip to New Zealand for information on passports, medical insurance and the best times to visit the country.
We hope you've found this travel guide helpful for your big trip to New Zealand. We're MoaTrek, and we've been running small group tours here in New Zealand since the early 1970s, and we love nothing more than sharing all our favourite spots with visitors. There are more handy travel tips here or drop us a line, we'd love to hear all about your "Dream Trip to New Zealand".