If you're visiting New Zealand from the UK or Europe, one of the biggest things to deal with is the time difference. There's no easy way to get round it, times in New Zealand are pretty much the exact opposite to the UK and Europe. Breakfast time in Auckland is dinner time in London, mid afternoon in Nelson is the middle of the night in Amsterdam. It's all upside down! Here's a handy summary of time differences between New Zealand and the United Kingdom / Europe, including the best time to phone and a few handy hints on how to handle that time difference once you're here.
We're MoaTrek, and we've been running our small group tours here in New Zealand since the 1970s, and have shown all our favourite holiday spots to lots of people from Europe and the UK. We're very used to helping people sort out their trips, even if there is a 12 hour time difference and can help you sort it out too.
Back in the 1960s the Beatles, on their tour of the far east and Australasia, had this to say about New Zealand: "When we were flying into New Zealand it looked like England, like Devon, with cows and sheep. But in those days we were looking for some action and there was absolutely nothing happening.”
Visitors from the UK might take comfort in the similarities between the UK and New Zealand. The South Island’s mountainous terrain resembles parts of Scotland. The wide expanses of Canterbury resemble parts of Devon, as the Beatles noted. But modern New Zealand is different and The Beatles’ comments about the level of ‘action’ are outdated. You will never be short of things to do in New Zealand.
Modern New Zealand’s cities and way of life are literally a world away from the UK. There isn’t an inhabitable spot on the planet further from the UK than the islands of New Zealand. Travelling further east means you’ll be on your way back again.
What does this mean for travellers? It means adjusting to a change in seasons and a complete reversal of the clock. Morning in the UK is evening time in NZ. Midday in London is Midnight in Wellington. Winter in the UK is summer in Aotearoa.
What to know about time differences when planning your trip to New Zealand
The Internet is a mine of information on almost everything you’d need to know about the country before visiting. You can perform thorough research by reading blogs like this one. However, we’ve found that many of our clients like to talk to a real human being before booking activities, hotels, and tours. And this means picking up the phone and calling the other side of the world. It’s great to see how the human touch still wins the day but before you make the call, check the time zone differences between the two countries.
There's only a short window of opportunity for calling New Zealand businesses from England, Scotland, Wales, and the rest of Europe.
In the UK 9 am is 9 pm down under (this is true for half of the year until daylight savings kicks in when the time would be 8 pm in NZ). The sailing company in the Bay of Islands you've been wanting to talk to won’t be answering their phone when you’re at the office in England. They’ll be getting some shut eye just as you’re having your morning coffee. If you want to get office workers in Auckland or Wellington as they arrive at the office try calling at 9 pm or 10 pm from London. The difference between 9 pm or 10 pm is important because New Zealand observes Daylight Savings Time.
Daylight savings time in New Zealand - the complicated version
In summer time down south, Daylight Savings Time pushes New Zealand to 13 hours ahead of GMT. So during the months of roughly October to March, New Zealand is on UTC + 13. UTC is the Coordinated Universal Time - the clock that the world references as a standard. GMT, so you know, is a time zone used by some European countries.
The United Kingdom uses British Summer Time (BST) during, you guessed it, summer (from March to October). BST is one hour ahead of GMT.
And just to confuse the matter further, at certain times, New Zealand is 13 hours ahead of GMT but only 12 hours ahead of BST. This happens around the end of March and reverts to GMT towards the end of September every year.
BST happens around the 1st of April and the UK returns to GMT (UTC) again around the 24th of September.
Daylight savings time in New Zealand - the easy version
- In January, February and March the time difference between NZ and the UK is 13 hours (NZ is 13 hours ahead)
- In April the time difference is 12 hours
- In May, June, July, August and September the time difference is 11 hours
- In October the time difference is 12 hours
- In November and December, the time difference is 13 hours
A quick way to think about is to add twelve full hours and leave one hour as a margin error. Give or take one hour when calling NZ and you’ll never call outside of ‘standard’ office hours. Call New Zealand at around 10 pm from the UK and at any time of the year it's at least 9 am down under. Just make sure you don’t call on a Friday or Saturday night. In Wellington, it happens to be Saturday and Sunday morning.
Not every business, of course, operates on a 9 to 5 office hours basis. Check the businesses website to see what times you should call and use the Time Zone Converter tool.
When to call New Zealand from the United Kingdom?
The best times to call a business operating standard office hours in New Zealand from the UK are:
Sunday to Thursday from 9 pm to 11 pm, if we take 11 pm as a reasonable hour to head to bed. If you can stay up later, all the better.
The best times to contact someone in New Zealand outside of office hours from the UK are:
Every day from 7 am to 10 am - Calling before 10 am ensures that you’re not ringing at midnight in New Zealand.
Jet lag when travelling to New Zealand
Unless you fly business class, the journey to New Zealand will leave you a little tired and disoriented. Even with business class seats, the time zone adjustments might require a day or two to get used to. Plan on at least a day of rest to adjust. If you arrive in the daytime try to stay awake until the evening so you can better adjust to the day-night pattern. If you’re truly exhausted, a nap of a few hours followed by a brisk walk in the sunshine before winding down for the night will do you more good than sleeping right through. The sooner you get on NZ time the better.
Most visitors from the UK fly into Auckland as it’s the biggest airport and main gateway city to New Zealand. Auckland is a wonderful city with plenty to see and great weather. It’s worth spending a day or two in the city to help your body acclimatise. If you’ve come from the UK winter, the sunshine and fresh air will help you sleep better and get over the jet lag quicker.
Transport and connections from Auckland are plentiful and easy to find. Flights from Auckland to most major cities run daily so there’s no need to worry about onward connections. Take your time and enjoy the Kiwi hospitality. Take a stroll along Auckland’s waterfront. We’d tell you to sample one of the world's best coffee cultures but it might not be a wise choice at this stage. Best to avoid the stimulants until the jet lag has worn off.
Flying east is harder on the body than flying west. Most flights from the UK will fly east over Asia so prepare for some tiredness in the first few days. Don’t go hiking, kayaking, or doing any kind of strenuous activity within 1-3 days of arriving. Keep exercising as this will help with the jet lag but make it gentle exercise: walking, cycling, and easy swimming.
Calling the UK from New Zealand
One of the joys of travelling to New Zealand is calling your friends and family to regale them with tales of mountains, volcanic hot pools, whales, and strange flightless birds. You’ll be around 12 hours ahead of everyone back in the UK and you’ve got a few hours of overlap to make the call.
The best times to call the UK from New Zealand are:
- Monday to Friday from 9 pm to 11 pm to catch office workers at their desks in the morning
- Every day from 7 am to 11 am to call people outside of office hours.
Kiwis are early risers but many events and tours start later than 8 am or 9 am. If you get up early (you could even start at 6 am) you’ll have time to call home for a good chat before the day's events begin. On Moatrek tours you’ll have time to yourself to relax, run personal errands, and catch up with friends and family back home. On certain days we kick off a bit later so you’ll have a few hours free to yourself. These are ideal moments for arranging a call. Just remember not to sleep in too late! We’re here to help so don’t hesitate to ask us for advice on calling home. Many of our clients are from the UK and we’ve got lots of experience helping travellers like you to arrange calls with friends & family on the other side of the world.
Calling Europe from New Zealand
Europe covers 4 main time zones so remember to add an hour or two to UTC when calculating the time in your country.
The UK, Ireland, Iceland, & Portugal all use UTC and BST. Iceland does not use BST. It remains on UTC all year round)
Most countries in Western Europe use UTC+1 (and UTC+2 in summer). These countries include France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and Spain.
Eastern Europe uses UTC+2 (and UTC+3 in summer): Latvia, Finland, Turkey, Greece.
Travelling all the way to New Zealand from Europe or the UK is a big trip, there's no way around that. But once you're here enjoying all the wide open spaces and fresh air out on the road with your Kiwi Guide and new friends it will all be worth it!