Visiting New Zealand?

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If you’re planning a trip to Aotearoa New Zealand, you’re in the right place.

This page will introduce you to everything you need to know before booking your NZ vacation.

  • Check entry requirements
  • Plan your route
  • Choose your transport
  • Secure discounts
  • and more…

If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, sign up to our newsletter and join our Facebook group – both of these are free of charge and will help ensure you don’t overlook important information.

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Did you know? Aoearoa is the te reo Māori name for New Zealand. Whether we say Aotearoa, New Zealand or NZ, we’re talking about the same place 🇳🇿

When visiting New Zealand from overseas, it is essential you meet all entry requirements. Babies and children must also do the same.

You will need to plan in advance to ensure you’re covered. If not, you might not be allowed on your flight.

This includes checking the validity on your passport, how long you are allowed to stay and any other requirements (like proof of funds).

Many travellers require an NZeTA or a visa, though some are able to travel freely into the country.

New Zealand electronic Travel Authority or Visa

New Zealand residents/citizens and Australian citizens do not generally require an NZeTA.

Australian permanent residents and people from USA, UK, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia and many other countries require an NZeTA to travel to New Zealand.

Should you need one, it’s a good idea to apply for your NZeTA early. It can take up to 72 hours to be approved (if nothing goes wrong) but we suggest applying 1-2 weeks early. When approved, your NZeTA will be valid for 2 years.

⛔️ Only use the links to the official immigration website. Third-party sites charge significantly more and offer no added benefits.

Other travellers require a visa to travel.

If you have a visa (like a working holiday visa), you do not require an NZeTA in addition.

It is important to understand and meet your entry requirements in advance of your trip.

International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL)

If you require an NZeTA or visa to visit New Zealand, you will likely need to pay the IVL too.

In total, an NZeTA and IVL costs approximately NZD55 per person.

DISCLAIMER: This entry information is provided in an informal way, designed to help you understand the process of travelling to Aotearoa.

In New Zealand, official immigration advice must be provided by a licensed immigration adviser, unless the person/company is exempt.

We suggest you get an overview here and then confirm details with an official source.

If visiting another country (even in transit) be sure to check your entry/visa requirements there too.

Insurance

We recommend travel insurance to everyone visiting New Zealand.

Ideally, you should book your travel insurance before you book anything related to your vacation. At the very least, book it as soon as you’ve made your first reservation.

ACC will cover many tourist injuries, but it does not cover all situations. It also does not cover rehabilitation once you return home.

Your travel insurance policy should cover you for delays, illness, accidents and more.

If you have an annual policy, or cover through your credit card, ensure you will be covered for the duration of your visit.

Also, check that your insurance at home will allow you to leave your home empty for the duration of your trip. If not, consider getting a house sitter or talking to the insurance company.

>>> Learn more about travel insurance and get a quote.

Emergencies

If you find yourself in an emergency situation, phone 111 for police, ambulance or fire services.

If you need to be seen in person, most doctor’s surgeries (also known as General Practitioners/GPs) are able to see international visitors. Accident and Emergency (A&E) medical clinics are also common.

Some hospitals in larger cities/towns have emergency departments – these welcome walk-up patients.

Remember, there may be a cost for your care so be sure to have appropriate travel/medical insurance.

It’s worth being aware of our timezone when getting in touch with friends and family back home. Use this timezone converter to check how our time zones vary.

We are GMT +12 during the winter season and GMT +13 during the summer (when we observe daylight saving).

Many people travelling to New Zealand cross the international date line. This means you’ll often lose a day when travelling from the US and you’ll gain one when travelling back.

Consult the times and dates on your flight ticket to be absolutely certain of when you land.

Use our map to find information about different locations in New Zealand. These are some of the best places to visit – and we’re frequently adding more information.

If you’d like more help, download our travel guides. They are designed to walk you through the planning process.

Or, book a private Zoom consultation to co-construct a personalised itinerary.

Though some people base themselves in particular cities/towns, most people prefer to travel from one place to the next, completing a loop or route.

New Zealand is better suited to this type of travel than ‘hub and spoke’ travel.

Remember, when planning drive times, allow additional time for planned/unplanned stops, toilet breaks and to account for slow drivers. Half the beauty of travelling in New Zealand is taking your time and exploring our beautiful countryside – don’t race right past it all.

Where possible, plan for less than 3-4 hours of driving in a day and include days with minimal driving.

If you’re short on time, we suggest choosing either the North Island or South Island. Or consider flying between some locations.

If you have enough time to see both main islands, most people choose to spend 2/3 of their time in the South Island and 1/3 in the North Island.

How you spend your time really depends on your personal interests though – there’s not one right answer here.

Do I need to prebook accommodation and activities?

During peak season (December – mid-February) we strongly encourage you to prebook. Do the same near public holidays, school holidays and the ski season (in affected areas).

If you prefer not to prebook, be aware that you might miss out on activities you want to do and you might find the best accommodation is sold out.

>>> Check your NZTT discounts and save on anything you want to prebook.

>>> Compare the advantages and disadvantages of different types of transport in NZ.

>>> Book discounted transport in New Zealand.

Travelling by road

New Zealand is larger and more spread apart than many people expect. This can make travelling around the countryside challenging.

Many people prefer to rent a car or campervan. Doing so provides the flexibility to stop wherever you like.

If you’d prefer not to drive, you can travel between regions by:

Uber is available in many places in New Zealand. It is often more affordable than a traditional taxi.

Local buses are available in cities and larger towns (like Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin). Some accept cash while others require a local transport card (which you can buy as a visitor).

>>> Book discounted transport in New Zealand.

Travelling between the North and South Island by ferry

Many people choose to travel between the North Island and South Island by ferry.

Bluebridge and Interislander operate on this route, with this scenic ferry crossing taking approximately 3.5 hours. You can travel as a walk-on passenger or cross with your car/campervan.

>>> Book discounted Bluebridge crossings.

⚠️ Some rental cars are not allowed on the ferry. Check that the company you want to hire from will let you cross the Cook Strait with your car before booking. If they won’t let you take your car, check they have a depot on each side of the strait so you can travel as a walk-on passenger.

Travelling by air

Commercial flights can sometimes save you time and money when compared with car hire and a ferry crossing.

Air New Zealand and Jetstar are our main airlines, servicing a range of airports around the country. Both are generally reliable.

Travelling by train

Some larger cities have commuter trains, like Auckland and Wellington.

There are also a limited number of inter-regional trains available (between Auckland and Wellington, Picton and Christchurch, and Christchurch and Greymouth on the West Coast).

>>> Save money on long-distance trains in New Zealand.

What to expect when driving in New Zealand

If coming off a long-haul flight, we recommend having a good rest before travelling long-distance in a rental car or campervan.

New Zealand roads are quite different to many roads overseas.

Motorways in/near big cities are often multi-lane roads, with concrete median barriers. The speed limit on these roads is generally 100km/h.

State Highways connect cities and regions across NZ. These are normally single-lane roads without median barriers, and they can be quite windy. The speed limit on these roads is generally 100km/h but some are lower and a few others are higher.

When driving on multi-lane motorways and highways, stay to the left unless overtaking.

When driving on single-lane open roads, pull over if you notice traffic building up behind you.

Urban/residential roads are normally limited to speeds of 50km/h.

Traffic lights are common in larger towns and cities and roundabouts are found right across the country.

One-way bridges are located in quieter parts of the country – particularly on the West Coast of the South Island – be sure to follow give-way rules when approaching one.

We do not have many toll roads, but if you come across one, be sure to pay for it online ASAP.

>>> Read about our most important road rules before arriving in New Zealand.

>>> Check if you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) – if your licence is in English, you don’t. If it’s in a language other than English, an IDP is required.

Drive times in NZ

We recommend using Google Maps to check approximate drive times but allow additional time for planned/unplanned stops, toilet breaks and to account for slow drivers.

Where possible, plan for less than 3-4 hours of driving in a day and include days with minimal driving.

Check Waka Kohtahi for information about roadworks, road closures and more.

Do I need an International Driver’s Permit to drive in NZ?

As with anywhere in the world, you need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) if your driver’s licence is in a different language to the country you are visiting.

If your licence is written in English, you do not need an IDP. Just bring your normal driver’s licence with you.

If your licence is not written in English, you will require an IDP as this translates your licence for local authorities.

Car rental insurance

All rental cars come with insurance. However, it will likely have a significant excess should something go wrong.

You will be invited to upgrade your insurance, reducing your excess payment.

Whether you take the insurance reduction is totally up to you.

Checking fuel prices

Download the GASPY app if you’d like to check petrol prices across New Zealand.

You’ll find a wide range of accommodation options in New Zealand.

Budget travellers often prefer hostels/backpackers, while motels suit mid-range travellers. We also have a range of local and global hotel brands and Airbnbs (which are often holiday homes – or, as we say in New Zealand, baches).

>>> Check out our favourite accommodations in New Zealand.

>>> Save money with our accommodation specials.

Many people choose to travel in New Zealand by motorhome/campervan (you’ll notice we use these terms interchangeably).

This is often more expensive than hiring a car and staying in a motel (especially if paying for holiday park campsites), but it can be a fun and convenient way to travel.

Be sure to allow plenty of time when collecting your campervan – you will be taught how to use it properly. Then you’ll want more time again to go to the supermarket and buy any supplies you might need.

>>> Read our campervan packing list.

Overnight camping options include holiday parks (with great facilities), Department of Conservation (DOC) campgrounds (generally with limited facilities) and freedom camping spots (free or low-cost options, where reservations are generally not possible).

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

If freedom camping, be sure that you meet local requirements – these can vary in different parts of New Zealand.

Find freedom camping locations using Campermate, Camping NZ and Rankers Camping NZ.

Be warned though, more freedom camping locations don’t allow tents and require you to be completely self-contained.

If you want to camp in a tent, chances are you’ll need to use a DOC campground or a holiday park.

>>> Read our guide to freedom camping.

>>> Check out our ‘camping’ information.

>>> Save money with discounted campervans.

The weather in New Zealand can be very changeable, so we recommend packing clothing to suit different seasons. Dressing in layers here is key.

Use our packing list to help you plan.

It’s worth noting that medication should be in original containers and accompanied by a prescription (if required).

Fresh fruit, vegetables and some meats are not allowed. And remember to declare all food items on your New Zealand Traveller Declaration (NZTD) – more on that shortly.

Any camping/farming/hiking/scuba equipment must be well-cleaned and free of soil.

>>> Learn about bringing food and medication into New Zealand.

>>> Learn about luggage transfers while travelling here.

Power plugs

We use a ‘type I’ power plug – it looks a bit like a face. The same plugs are used in Australia and Argentina.

If your appliance runs between 220 and 240 volts, it will work here (with a converter plug if necessary).

Some appliances from North America and parts of South America will not work here without a step-down converter.

Computer, mobile phone and camera chargers are generally an exception to this, wherever they are from, as they have step-down converters built into them.

>>> Learn more about power plugs and appliances in New Zealand.

Everyone arriving in New Zealand used to complete an arrivals card. These were given out on the plane.

This was recently replaced by the New Zealand Traveller Declaration, and everyone, including people from New Zealand and Australia, is required to fill one in. A form is also required for babies and children.

You can complete the New Zealand Traveller Declaration online, within 24 hours of your flight, or by hand when you are on the plane.

You’ll be asked for some personal information (including passport number and emergency contact) details of food, medication, currency etc. that you are carrying.

When you arrive in New Zealand by air you pass through the duty-free shopping area, clear immigration (where your passport, visa and/or NZeTA will be checked), collect your bags and will go through customs (where your NZTD and bags will be checked).

You will need to clear customs and immigration at the first New Zealand airport you land at, even if you are connecting to a domestic flight.

>>> Learn more about arriving and connecting at Auckland Airport.

🚨 Remember to be honest on your NZTD. Declare all food and medication, even if you know it’s allowed into the country.

connecting to a domestic flight

Air New Zealand will transfer your luggage on a through-ticket as long as you give allow a minimum connection time of 2 hours. You will still need to clear immigration and customs.

If you have not allowed two hours, you can collect your baggage and check in as a normal domestic traveller. Note that in Auckland, the domestic and international airports are a 15-minute walk or a short bus ride away.

If your flights are booked separately, we recommend you allow 3 hours between landing in New Zealand and departing on your next flight (though it generally won’t take that long).

Jetstar requires passengers to be checked in 40 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time.

Air New Zealand requires passengers be checked in 30 minutes early.

We suggest you arrive at smaller airports approximately 15 minutes prior to your final check-in time. So no later than 45 – 55 minutes before your flight is due to depart.

Plan to arrive 30 minutes earlier than your final check-in time at larger/busier airports like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. This means you’ll want to arrive 1 hour – 1 hour 10 minutes before your flight.

We use New Zealand Dollars (NZD) in New Zealand.

No other currency is accepted here, though you may be able to have payments converted to your home currency at the register).

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted, though some stores charge a small fee to cover their costs.

You will need to enter a 4-digit PIN number or have your signature checked for any debit or credit card purchases. If your card does not have a pin number, you won’t be able to use it at an unmanned petrol station.

We also recommend letting your bank know you will be travelling abroad. This ensures they don’t put a hold on it.

Cash is widely accepted in New Zealand. A few shops don’t accept cash (this is more common since COVID), but they must display a sign saying so.

We recommend Wise cards as an affordable way to spend local currency in New Zealand (and around the world). These are also a great solution for people without PIN numbers on their credit cards (normally those from North America)

Tipping is not expected in New Zealand, nor is it particularly common. However, a tip for outstanding service will gladly be received.

You may be invited to add a tip to credit card transactions and might notice tip jars in some restaurants and tour desks. What you choose to do here is totally up to you.

>>> Learn more about paying for things in New Zealand.

We negotiate a wide range of discounts for our members and readers.

Find accommodation, transport (including rental cars, campervans and ferries) and a range of activities on our site.

Or browse activities by location.

If you would like to use your phone in New Zealand you can either set up roaming, get a local SIM card or an international eSIM.

International roaming

If you set up international roaming you’ll keep your normal phone number while travelling in New Zealand.

The biggest disadvantage to roaming, however, is the cost. It can be expensive and will likely give you limited amounts of data.

Getting a local SIM card

Organising a local SIM card will probably save you a lot of money.

You will receive a New Zealand phone number and will be able to make local calls, send next messages and use data like any other New Zealander.

Unfortunately, if you choose not to roam, you will not be able to pick up calls from your existing home mobile number – that is the biggest disadvantage to doing this.

Local mobile operators include One (previously known as Vodafone), Spark, Skinny (which uses the Spark network) and 2degrees.

We personally use Skinny – they are a full coverage provider that offers discounted prices.

>>> Get 4GB of free data when you get a local Skinny SIM card.

⚠️ If you want to get a local SIM, check your phone is not locked to your mobile provider before travelling.

International eSIM

Providers like Airalo allow you to purchase digital SIM cards.

This will allow you to get data while still keeping your original physical SIM card in your phone.

Just be aware, you may still be charged roaming fees if you use your original phone number in New Zealand.

There is also a learning curve to set up an eSIM for the first time. Though, if you’re technically minded, you won’t find it difficult.

We suggest you compare the prices and pros/cons of each of the above solutions before deciding what is best for you.

>>> Learn more about different ways to get connected in New Zealand.

We recommend downloading/checking out these New Zealand apps and websites and general travel apps before you arrive.

We organise discounts on a wide range of amazing activities, tours, accommodations, transport and more.

What’s more, when you book with one of our partner operators, you’ll know you’re supporting the best NZ businesses. You’ll also have our support should you need it.

>>> Check all the NZTT discounts.

>>> Save money on transport in New Zealand.

>>> Save money on accommodation.

If you would like to see a particular activity discounted through NZTT, please let the operator know, or contact us.

Once in New Zealand, you’ll almost certainly need to head along to the shops.

Keep your eyes peeled for the following shops:

Supermarkets: PAK’nSAVE, Countdown/Woolworths, New World, Fresh Choice, Four Square and Supervalue.

General/household supplies: The Warehouse, Kmart, Briscoes, Farmers, Bunnings, Mitre 10.

Clothing & outdoor/camping supplies: Kathmandu, Macpac, Mountain Warehouse, Torpedo7, Hunting & Fishing.

If you’d prefer to shop second-hand, keep an eye on Facebook Marketplace, Trademe, Pass it on, and second-hand/op shops that are found across the country.

Checking into your departing flight

If you have a domestic connection

If you have a domestic flight before your international one, you can generally check-in based on normal domestic check-in times.

AirNZ & Partner airlines

If you are travelling on a through ticket (you booked your domestic and international flights on the same ticket), you do not need to collect your baggage again in New Zealand. Be checked in no later than 30 minutes before your flight.

Your baggage tag will confirm the destination of your luggage.

If your baggage hasn’t been checked through, you will need to collect it when you arrive between flights, ready to check in again.

Jetstar & Partner airlines

Jetstar does not generally transfer luggage, regardless of the type of booking you have.

You will need to check in no later than 40 minutes before your domestic flight, while allowing time to check in again for your international flight at the next airport.

I don’t have a domestic flight: Departing from the international airport

We suggest checking in for Australian and Pacific flights no later than 2 hours before scheduled departure.

For other flights, allow 3 hours.

What can I take out of New Zealand?

Though we have many restrictions coming into New Zealand, we’re not too worried about what you take out (aside from obvious things like live animals and native plants).

You will, however, need to check that your next destination is happy for you to carry the food, medication etc. that you have on you.

And there you have it, an introduction to everything you need to know about travelling to New Zealand.

Keen to dig deeper? Check out our NZ travel FAQ.

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