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World Travel Guide > Guides > Oceania > New Zealand

New Zealand travel guide

About New Zealand

Widely held to be one of the most breathtaking countries on the planet, New Zealand is a phenomenal travel destination. The rugged mountains and remote valleys that thrust the destination into the world’s spotlight through The Lord of the Rings trilogy tell only part of the story – you’ll also find beaches, fjords, lakes and gorgeous swathes of forest, not to mention age-old Maori culture, forward-looking cities and, famously, a world-class array of outdoor activities. Not only does it pack a punch as hard as an All Black tackle, but it's also incredibly easy to travel around. What’s not to love?

Split into two main landmasses – the North and South Islands –New Zealand is a deceptively diverse and complicated destination that rewards both first-time and repeat visitors. The North Island is less visually dramatic than its southern counterpart, but it is home to around two thirds of the country’s inhabitants. The majority of the major urban centres are here, including the capital, Wellington, and the increasingly dynamic city of Auckland. But nature is still a major player, thanks to volcanoes, thermal regions and the magnificent Bay of Islands.

The South Island is home to far fewer people, but boasts the country’s most spectacular scenery. Empty beaches, soaring mountain ranges, glaciers, fjords, wide-open expanses – they’re all here. Outdoor enthusiasts can take their pick from tramping (hiking), cycling, climbing, white-water rafting, caving, zorbing, sky-diving, bungee jumping and more. Christchurch, a city bouncing back with extraordinary creativity from earthquake damage, is also here.

New Zealand has also developed into one of the cleanest and greenest countries in the world. There are 14 national parks throughout the country and almost a quarter of New Zealand is protected land. What else? There’s wildlife, wine and a cultural resurgence that’s seeing local films, literature and art gaining more and more attention.

A blend of Maori and European culture, coupled with breathtaking landscapes, provides New Zealand with a truly unique character. 

Key facts

Area:

270,534 sq km (104,454 sq miles).

Population:

4,565,185 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

16.4 per sq km.

Capital:

Wellington.

Government:

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state:

HM King Charles III since 2022, represented locally by Governor-General Dame Cindy Kiro since 2021.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern since 2017.

Travel Advice

COVID-19 restrictions in New Zealand are subject to change at short notice and can apply regionally or nationally. On 12 September 2022, New Zealand announced the removal of most COVID-19 restrictions. This includes removal of mandatory mask wearing in most settings and removal of all vaccination and testing requirements for incoming travellers and air crew. Masks are only required in healthcare and aged care settings.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you will still be required to isolate for seven days from symptom onset, but members of your household will no longer be required to isolate as long as they return a negative RAT test each day. Although not mandatory, some businesses, public venues and events in New Zealand may continue to require evidence of vaccination status and mask use.

Coronavirus travel health

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for New Zealand on the TravelHealthPro website

See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You should contact a GP or visit the Healthpoint website for further information on accessing pre-departure COVID-19 tests in New Zealand. More details can be found on the New Zealand government website.

Private testing facilities are also available.

The British High Commission in Wellington and Consulate General in Auckland are unable to offer certification or a negative test result.

On 17 November 2021, the New Zealand Government launched its International Travel Vaccination Certificate, for people aged 12 years and over who have had a vaccine dose administered in New Zealand. If you have been vaccinated in New Zealand, you may request a digital vaccination certificate from the New Zealand Ministry of Health. Please see the New Zealand Government COVID-19 website for further information.

Entry and borders

See Entry requirements to find information about entry and departure from New Zealand.

Other specific country and airline restrictions

Travel restrictions may be imposed by other transit hubs. We advise you to check with your airline before travelling in case of any related disruption to airline schedules caused by any new restrictions.

Some airlines have mandatory pre-departure PCR COVID-19 testing requirements. You should contact your individual airline for further information. The British High Commission in Wellington and Consulate General in Auckland are unable to offer certification or a negative test result. Those requiring testing should contact their GP or visit the Healthpoint website for further information on accessing medical services.

Face coverings are no longer legally required on domestic flights. Masks may be mandatory on international flights departing New Zealand where they are required by the country of destination or airline. The Cook Strait inter-island ferry services between the North and South Islands of New Zealand no longer requires a vaccine pass or COVID test to travel.

See the Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Bluebridge and InterIslander websites for further information.

Visas

Information about New Zealand Government visa extensions and changes to visa conditions can be found on the Immigration new Zealand COVID-19 website.

You can confirm your visa expiry date by checking the Visa Verification Service on the Immigration New Zealand website. Please do not call the Immigration Contact Centre as they will not be able to confirm your visa status until the records have been fully updated.

Be prepared for your plans to change

No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Plan ahead and make sure you:

  • can access money
  • understand what your insurance will cover
  • can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned

Travel in New Zealand

From 13 September 2022, the New Zealand government has lifted most legal restrictions that would impact on travel in New Zealand. However, before you travel domestically within New Zealand, make sure you check the COVID-19 requirements with your transport provider as each company may have different policies.

The New Zealand Government does not currently require people to keep track of their movements to help with contact tracing. However, the New Zealand COVID-19 Tracer app is still available to download for this purpose with many shops and businesses displaying their QR codes for scanning. You can find out more about scanning and contact tracing here.

Range of measures that can be applied locally or nationally

COVID-19 public health measures and restrictions may be applied at a town, city, territorial local authority, regional or national level.

New Zealand currently has minimal COVID-19 requirements around mask use and only those who test positive for COVID-19 are required to isolate. You can check restrictions and health updates on the New Zealand Ministry of Health website.

Healthcare in New Zealand

If you’re concerned that you may have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms, you can get health advice and information by calling Healthline (free) on 0800 358 5453. Coronavirus (COVID-19) tests and treatment are provided free of charge.

Eligibility for healthcare in New Zealand under the reciprocal health agreement applies to British nationals who have had to extend their temporary stay in New Zealand due to COVID-19. View ‘Local medical care’ for further detail on the conditions.

View Health for further details on healthcare in New Zealand.

Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health

Finance

For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.

Further information

Further information on these and the wider situation in New Zealand is available from the New Zealand government and New Zealand Ministry of Health websites.

Crime

Crime levels are generally low, but street crime occurs in major towns and cities. Thefts from unattended vehicles, especially hire cars and camper vans in major tourist areas (the Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua and Queenstown) have increased. There has also been an increase in the number of thefts from hotel rooms in some tourist areas. Do not leave possessions in unattended vehicles even if out of sight in a locked boot. Do not leave valuables in hotel rooms. Use the hotel safe if possible. Keep passports, travellers’ cheques, credit cards, etc. separate.

Local travel

There have been a number of tragic accidents involving British visitors, including during extreme sports activities. If you’re taking part in extreme sports check that the company is well established in the industry and that your insurance covers you. If you’re visiting remote areas, check with local tourist authorities for advice before setting out. Make sure you register your details with a visitor information centre or leave details with family or friends. Weather conditions can quickly become treacherous in some areas. Keep yourself informed of regional weather forecasts.

Road travel  

You can use a UK driving licence to drive in New Zealand for up to a maximum of 12 months.

Although road conditions are generally good in New Zealand, it takes a while to get used to local driving conditions. Even the main highways can be narrow, winding and hilly. Read a copy of the Road Code - the official guide to traffic rules and traffic safety - before driving. Car rental companies should provide you with information about what’s different about driving in New Zealand.

You should take out private motor vehicle insurance. Accident victims do not have a legal right to sue a third party in the event of an accident in New Zealand. Instead the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) helps pay for your care if you’re injured as a result of an accident. However, the ACC only covers the cost of treatment in New Zealand and delayed travel or loss of income in a third country isn’t covered. You should therefore make sure you have adequate travel and accident insurance.

In 2020 there were 318 road deaths in New Zealand (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 6.2 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.3 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2020.

For the latest information on road closures, see the New Zealand Transport Agency website.

Terrorist attacks in New Zealand cannot be ruled out.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public places including those visited by foreigners.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

This page has information on travelling to New Zealand.

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in New Zealand set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how New Zealand’s entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.

COVID-19 entry restrictions

New Zealand’s borders have fully re-opened.

New Zealand borders are fully open to all travellers as of 31 July 2022.

From 1 April 2022 travellers arriving into New Zealand by air must complete the Traveller Declaration and be issued a New Zealand Traveller Pass before travelling to New Zealand.

Start your declaration as soon as you can, to ensure you have time to complete it before you travel.

Travellers will need to provide:

  • Passport details
  • Flight information
  • Travel history for 14 days prior to arriving in New Zealand
  • Contact details in New Zealand
  • Emergency contact details.

You need to show your Traveller Pass when you check-in at the airport, and to Customs when you arrive in New Zealand. It can be printed out or saved on your mobile device.

See the New Zealand Government’s Traveller Declaration website for further information.

All travellers

Following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on 13 September 2022, there are no longer any requirements for travellers to be fully vaccinated in order to travel to New Zealand. However, some travel providers might have in place certain requirements for passengers to travel with them, so please consult your travel provider’s website for further information.

Eligible travellers entering New Zealand will also be given a pack of rapid antigen tests (RATs) with instructions at the airport. Travellers are encouraged to test on day 0/1 and 5/6. Please see New Zealand Government COVID-19 for full details.

You do not need a visa to enter New Zealand as a visitor for up to 6 months, but you will need to get a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) before you travel.

The NZeTA costs NZD $9 if applying via the dedicated mobile app, or NZD $12 if completed online. You will also need to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) of NZD $35 when you apply. Once issued, the NZeTA is valid for up to two years. The New Zealand immigration authorities recommend that applicants allow up to 72 hours for processing.

On arrival in New Zealand, you will also need to satisfy the Immigration Officer that you meet the criteria for visa-free entry, which includes having an onward ticket and sufficient funds to support you during your stay. You can check the full criteria on the New Zealand Immigration website.

New Zealand’s immigration rules are strict, particularly regarding employment. Visitors cannot work in New Zealand.

For more information about visas, visit the New Zealand Immigration website or contact the nearest New Zealand High Commission.

If you’re transiting through New Zealand

Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.

If you are planning to transit through New Zealand to another country you must request an NZeTA before you travel. You must ensure you hold the necessary entry documentation for your final destination and the other countries which you will transit through.

In most cases, transit passengers must hold an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) or transit ETA before travel. These are applied for online. See Information about NZeTA for further detail.

Check your passport and travel documents before you travel

Passport validity

If you are visiting New Zealand, your passport should be valid for three months from the date you intend to depart.

Visas

You do not need a visa to enter New Zealand as a visitor for up to 6 months, but you will need to get a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) before you travel. The New Zealand government has, however, introduced a temporary border closure at this time.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are valid for entry into New Zealand when accompanied by a permanent residence, work or study visa. ETDs are accepted for holidaymakers as long as New Zealand is not the final destination. ETDs are also accepted for airside transit and exit from New Zealand.

Quarantine and bio security

New Zealand has very strict bio-security regulations. It is illegal to import most food-stuffs (meat and meat products, honey, fruit, dairy produce) and strict penalties are handed out to those breaking these rules. Take care when importing wood products, golf clubs, footwear, tents, fishing equipment and items made from animal skin. The immigration arrivals card has full details. If in doubt, declare items to a Ministry of Agriculture official or dump them in one of the bins available at the airport. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in a heavy fine of up to $100,000 or imprisonment.

Medication

There are some restrictions on bringing medication into New Zealand. Visit the New Zealand Customs website for more information. If you arrive in New Zealand with any prescription medicines, you must declare it on your passenger arrival card.

All codeine-containing products are classified as prescription only medication (a controlled drug). Codeine is found in many pain relieving medications. You can import controlled drugs for personal use, subject to declaring them on arrival into New Zealand to the Customs Service and demonstrating they have been lawfully supplied for the treatment of yourself or someone under your care. More details on these requirements can be found on the New Zealand Customs website.

Importing illegal drugs is punishable by up to 12 years imprisonment.

New Zealand has an established tradition of tolerance towards homosexuality, but there are still isolated incidents of homophobic related crimes. LGBT travellers should be aware of local sensitivities, particularly when visiting rural areas. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.

If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.

See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.

Preparing for travel

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.

General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).

Asthma

Research has shown that asthma sufferers may be more at risk of an attack in New Zealand and sufferers should be suitably prepared.

Local medical care

Under a reciprocal health agreement, UK nationals who live in the UK and who are on a short-term visit to New Zealand are eligible for immediately necessary healthcare under the health system on the same terms as citizens of New Zealand. This extends, unusually, to pre-hospital care including air or road ambulance transportation. You should show your UK passport when requested.

Despite this reciprocal agreement and the Accident Compensation Commission you should make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 111 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

British nationals with the need of a repeat prescription will need to see a New Zealand prescriber (usually a GP) to get a new prescription. An appointment can be done virtually or potentially on the phone. There will be a charge. For more information on where GP services/medical centres are please visit: www.healthpoint.co.nz.

New Zealand is located in a seismic zone and is subject to earthquakes. Tsunamis may occur along the coastlines. There are also a number of active volcanoes in New Zealand. Flooding and landslides can occur, resulting in road closures and infrastructure damage. Follow the advice of the local authorities and emergency services in the event of a natural disaster.

As part of your own contingency plans, you should make sure you have easy access to your passport and other important documents such as nationality documents and birth and marriage certificates, as well as any essential medication. You can read our crisis overseas page for further information and advice, including sections on what you can do to prepare effectively, what you should do in the event of a crisis abroad, and how we can help you. You can also find specific information on how to prepare for and react to a natural disaster. To learn more see the National Emergency Management Agency and Get Ready websites.

Earthquakes and tsunamis

As New Zealand is in a major earthquake zone you should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake or tsunami, and take note of instructions in hotel rooms, public areas and on your local emergency services social media pages. Information on earthquakes and any impact on towns and cities in New Zealand, including tsunami warnings are published by the Civil Defence, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the Get Ready Get Thru website. Local Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups have tsunami evacuation zone maps and advice. Make sure you know where to go, whether you are at home, at work or out and about.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or cannot offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCDO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you cannot find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.

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