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.
270,534 sq km (104,454 sq miles).
4,565,185 (UN estimate 2016).
16.4 per sq km.
Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by interim Governor-General Dame Helen Winkelmann since 2021.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern since 2017.
COVID-19 alert levels in New Zealand are subject to change at short notice and can apply locally or nationally. You can find detailed information on current COVID-19 alert levels and the restriction measures that are being enforced on the New Zealand Government website.
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.
Check the current New Zealand COVID-19 restrictions.
Entry and borders
New Zealand’s border restrictions remain in place and public health measures remain unchanged (wash hands and high-touch surfaces regularly, physical distancing, stay home if sick, and get tested if symptomatic).
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in New Zealand.
Returning to the UK
When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact a GP or visit the Healthpoint website for further information on accessing PCR 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.
Other specific country and airline restrictions
Travel restrictions may be by imposed by other transit hubs to travellers who have been in the UK for at least 14 days before their flight. These restrictions should not affect British Nationals leaving New Zealand. We advise you to check with your airline before travelling in case of any related disruption to airline schedules caused by the new restrictions.
Some airlines, including Etihad, have mandatory pre-departure PCR COVID-19 testing requirements, even for transit passengers. 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.
Air New Zealand now requires all passengers to wear a face-covering on international flights. Face-coverings are already required by local legislation on all New Zealand domestic flights. This requirement comes into effect from 26 January.
If you’re unable to leave New Zealand and your visa is nearing expiry, you should contact the New Zealand authorities as soon as possible. See New Zealand government and New Zealand Immigration websites for the latest information.
The New Zealand government have made an additional extension to some visas.
From early March 2021 you will be able to 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.
You should consult the Immigration New Zealand Covid-19 website for up-to-date information.
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID. 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
Wearing a face mask on all public transport and domestic flights in New Zealand is legally required at COVID Levels 1 and 2. Physical distancing is recommended in public places.The government also encourages people to keep track of their movements and who they have seen to help with contact tracing. The NZ COVID Tracer app is available to download for this purpose with all shops and businesses displaying their QR codes for scanning. Detailed information on face coverings is available from the New Zealand government.
Range of measures that can be applied locally or nationally
The Alert Levels may be applied at a town, city, territorial local authority, regional or national level.
You should monitor alert levels by reviewing the New Zealand government COVID website for the latest information where you are and comply with these measures and other advice from local authorities. You can also check restrictions and health updates on the New Zealand Ministry of Health website.
Measures may include:
- Restrictions on numbers of people at non-work gatherings, in shops, cafes, restaurants and other places of public gathering, and on visitors to private residences
- Physical distancing of 2 metres from people you do not know when out in public or in retail stores and 1 metre physical distancing in controlled environments like workplaces, where practicable
- Restrictions on domestic transport, inter regional travel and use of public transport
- Restrictions on schools, business, recreation activities operating restrictions
- Face masks on public transport and in high risk, crowded areas
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
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in New Zealand
Wherever possible British nationals should aim to be vaccinated in the country where they live. We will update this page when the Government of New Zealand announces new information on the national vaccination programme. You can sign up to get email notifications when this page is updated.
The New Zealand national vaccination programme started in February 2021 and is using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. British nationals resident in New Zealand are eligible for vaccination, regardless of their visa or citizenship status, this includes any temporary visa holders who are in New Zealand, and any information collected will not be used for immigration purposes.
Further information about the national vaccination programme is available on the New Zealand Ministry of Health website.
Find out more, including about vaccines that are authorised in the UK or approved by the World Health Organisation, on the COVID-19 vaccines if you live abroad.
If you’re a British national living in New Zealand, you should seek medical advice from your local healthcare provider. Information about COVID-19 vaccines used in the national programme where you live, including regulatory status, should be available from local authorities.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
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.
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.
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 Whats 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.
The November 2016 earthquake caused significant damage to roads and rail in the Canterbury region between Christchurch and Picton, making some areas inaccessible. For the latest information on road closures, see the New Zealand Transport Agency website.
In 2019 there were 353 road deaths in New Zealand (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 7.2 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2019.
Terrorist attacks in New Zealand cannot be ruled out.
You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public places including those visited by foreigners.
On 15 March 2019, a series of shootings took place at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch. Fifty-one people were killed and many more injured.
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 reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in New Zealand set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry to New Zealand
The New Zealand border is currently closed to almost all arrivals.
From 11:59pm on 28 April 2021, travellers to New Zealand from very high risk countries are temporarily restricted to New Zealand citizens, their partners, dependent children, the parent of a dependent child who is a New Zealand citizen, and those with significant humanitarian reasons. All non-New Zealand citizens must hold a valid visa to enter New Zealand. Other travellers, including New Zealand residents, can enter only if they spend 14 days outside a very high risk country before their arrival here. Transit through a very high risk country is excluded from the 14-day requirement. See New Zealand Immigration’s (INZ) website for further details.
The following countries currently meet the threshold of being very high risk:
- Papua New Guinea
Quarantine free travel
For New Zealand, quarantine-free travel is available on commercial aircraft only. There are agreements in place with each State in Australia (see ‘travel between New Zealand and Australia’) and the Cook Islands only. Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands does not include those travelling from Australia to New Zealand.
When entering New Zealand from a quarantine free travel zone, normal visa conditions remain. If you are a temporary visa holder in New Zealand, you should be aware that you need to meet New Zealand immigration requirements in order to return to New Zealand. This means you need to have a ‘multiple entry’ visa that gives permission to leave New Zealand and return, provided all entry requirements are met.
Border rules including eligibility criteria can change quickly. Travellers must prepare for disruption to their plans.
Check the COVID-19 government website for the latest information, including changes to quarantine-free travel.
Between New Zealand and Australia
From 19 April 2021 travellers who have been in Australia for 14 days can travel by air to New Zealand without having to enter a managed isolation facility unless advised otherwise.
The quarantine free travel agreements between New Zealand and individual States in Australia may be fully or partially suspended at short notice.
You should check the New Zealand government COVID-19 quarantine free travel requirements before you travel and during your stay in Australia. If your travel plans are disrupted, you should contact your airline.
To enter New Zealand from a safe zone in Australia travellers must hold a visa or NZeTA, normal immigration rules apply, please see INZ for criteria information.
Between New Zealand and the Cook Islands
From 17 May 2021 you can travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands without having to go into managed isolation or self-isolation when you arrive at your destination. You need to spend 14 full days before your date of departure in either New Zealand or the Cook Islands. See the New Zealand government COVID-19 website for details. You must hold a visa or NZeTA to travel from the Cook Islands to New Zealand, please see INZ for criteria information.
All travellers to New Zealand (except those coming from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands) will be required to have confirmation of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result in the 72 hours prior to departure.
For more information please visit the New Zealand government COVID-19 website.
Reasons you can travel to New Zealand: You may be able to travel to New Zealand while the border is closed if you are considered to have a critical purpose to travel. Please see the INZ website for criteria. The website also includes information on how to submit a request for travel to New Zealand.
For more information on COVID-19 in New Zealand visit the government COVID-19 website.
Anyone entering New Zealand (except from within a quarantine-free travel bubble, currently arranged with Australia and the Cook Islands) needs to undergo quarantine or managed isolation in an approved facility for a minimum of 14 days. Arrivals must then test negative for COVID-19 before entering the community.
From 19 April 2021 travellers who have been in Australia for 14 days can travel by air to New Zealand without having to enter a managed isolation facility. Please see the New Zealand government COVID-19 website for details.
Anyone travelling to New Zealand (except travel from within a quarantine-free travel bubble) will be required to have a COVID-19 test on ‘day zero’, i.e. within 24 hours of arrival in a managed isolation and quarantine facility. Arrivals must remain in their managed isolation or quarantine facility room until the results of the test is known. You will then undergo further testing on Day 3 and Day 12 as required for all arrivals, in line with New Zealand’s policy on isolation and quarantine.
Travellers to New Zealand will need to register on the Managed Isolation Allocation System as the first step to securing their place in a managed isolation facility. Before you book your flights, you need to register for a voucher for managed isolation. Your voucher allocates you a place in a managed isolation facility. For more information see ‘Secure your place in managed isolation’.
Provision of a voucher for managed isolation does not guarantee entry into New Zealand. You must first ensure you qualify to enter the country under New Zealand’s border restrictions. You can apply for your MIQ voucher in advance. Space in managed isolation is limited and the New Zealand government is asking prospective travellers to regularly check the Managed Isolation Allocation System website for preferred dates. There are a few exceptional circumstances in which people can apply for an exemption from managed isolation. Visit the New Zealand Ministry of Health website for more information.
There are a few exceptional circumstances in which people can apply for an exemption from managed isolation. Visit the New Zealand Ministry of Health website for more information.
You will be liable for a managed isolation charge if you’re currently overseas and return to NZ for a period of less than 90 days; or you leave NZ after the regulations came into effect (12:01am on 11 August 2020) and return at a later date.
Transit via New Zealand
From 20 June 2020, transit visa waiver and visa waiver nationalities, people transiting to or from Australia and people departing a Pacific country or territory to return home, do not need a transit visa as long as they have a confirmed flight out of New Zealand within 24 hours to a port which will accept them.
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.
If the passport holder is not from a visa-waiver or transit visa-waiver country or territory, or covered by one of the situations listed above, then they will need to apply for a transit visa. Due to COVID-19, Immigration New Zealand is not currently accepting paper applications for transit visas so have put a temporary process in place for submitting applications by email.
The process for applying for a transit visa via email is available on the Immigration New Zealand website - transits.
If you are staying airside while transiting through New Zealand you do not need to provide a negative COVID-19 pre-departure test (but you may need to be tested as per the requirements of your destination country).
Onward travel to the Cook Islands
Regular entry requirements
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.
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. The New Zealand government has though introduced a temporary border closure at this time.
New Zealand’s immigration rules are strict, particularly regarding employment. Visitors cannot work in New Zealand.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of three months from the date of exit from New Zealand.
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 foodstuffs (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.
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.
From 5 November all codeine-containing products will be 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 8 - 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.
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for New Zealand on the TravelHealthPro website
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in New Zealand.
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).
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. There are also a number of active volcanoes in New Zealand. Follow the advice of the local authorities and emergency services in the event of a natural disaster. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the New Zealand Earthquake Commission and Get Ready Get Thru websites.
To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, New Zealand Earthquake Commission and Get Ready Get Thru websites. If a major earthquake or landslide occurs close to shore, you should follow the instructions of local authorities, bearing in mind that a tsunami could arrive within minutes.
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.
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.
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. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.