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.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon since November 2023.
This travel advice page covers New Zealand. See separate travel advice for Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:
- advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
- information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice 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 not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the New Zealand High Commission in the UK.
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering New Zealand.
Passport validity requirements
To enter New Zealand, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave. If you’re travelling through another country on your way to or from New Zealand, check the entry requirements for that country. Many countries will only allow entry if you have at least 6 months validity remaining on your passport. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
You do not need a visa to enter New Zealand if you are a visitor staying less than 6 months. You do need a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA).
At New Zealand border control, you will also need to show that you meet the criteria for visa-free entry:
- proof of a return or onward ticket
- proof that you have enough money for your stay
Check the full criteria on New Zealand Immigration.
New Zealand has strict immigration rules, particularly on employment. Visitors cannot work in New Zealand.
New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA)
If you are entering without a visa, you need a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) before you travel. You will also need to pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy when you apply.
Allow up to 72 hours for it to be processed. Your NZeTA is valid for up to 2 years.
Applying for a visa
Check the visa options and costs on New Zealand Immigration.
Travelling through New Zealand
You will need to get a NZeTA before you travel if you are travelling through New Zealand to another country.
In most cases, transit passengers must hold an NZeTA or transit NZeTA before travel.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s New Zealand guide.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of New Zealand. It is illegal to import most food products. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
Some products, including wood products, golf clubs, footwear, tents, fishing equipment and items made from animal skin, can carry harmful pests or diseases. Check what items you are permitted to bring into New Zealand. If in doubt, declare items to a Biosecurity New Zealand official or dispose of them in one of the marked bins available at the airport.
If you break any of these rules you could get a fine of up to 100,000 New Zealand dollars or a prison sentence.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
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 how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in New Zealand
Terrorist attacks in New Zealand cannot be ruled out.
Crime levels are generally low, but street crime happens in major towns and cities. Thieves may target unattended vehicles, especially hire cars and camper vans in major tourist areas (the Coromandel Peninsula, Rotorua and Queenstown), as well as hotel rooms. You should:
- avoid leaving possessions in unattended vehicles even if out of sight
- not leave valuables in hotel rooms
- use the hotel safe if possible
- keep passports, travellers cheques and credit cards separate
Laws and cultural differences
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Importing illegal drugs could result in a prison sentence of up to 12 years.
New Zealand has an established tradition of tolerance towards same-sex relations, but there are still isolated incidents of homophobia-related crimes. LGBT+ travellers should be aware of local sensitivities, particularly when visiting rural areas. Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
British nationals have been involved in tragic accidents while doing extreme sports activities. If you’re taking part in extreme sports, check that:
- the company is well established
- your insurance covers you
Visiting remote areas
If you are planning to visit a remote area, check with the local tourist authorities for advice before you leave. Register your details with a visitor information centre or leave details with family or friends. Weather conditions can quickly become dangerous in some coastal and exposed areas. Monitor regional weather forecasts.
You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in New Zealand for up to 12 months. You can exchange an old-style paper licence if you need to.
Highways can be narrow, winding and hilly. Car rental companies should provide you with information, or read what’s different about driving in New Zealand.
Motor vehicle insurance
You should get 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. The Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) helps pay for your care if you’re injured as a result of an accident. The ACC only covers the cost of treatment in New Zealand but delayed travel or loss of income in a third country is not covered. Check you have adequate travel and accident insurance.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Natural disasters can happen in New Zealand. If there is a disaster, follow the advice of the local authorities and the National Emergency Management Agency. For more information, see the government’s Get Ready website.
New Zealand is in a major earthquake zone. Tsunamis can happen along the coastlines. You should:
- familiarise yourself with safety procedures
- take note of instructions in hotel rooms, public areas and on your local emergency services social media pages
- monitor any warnings or updates from the National Emergency Management Agency
For more information about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the New Zealand government’s Get Ready advice for earthquakes.
If there is a tsunami warning, the Local Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups will have tsunami evacuation zone maps and advice.
Flooding and landslides can happen, resulting in road closures and infrastructure damage.
There are several active volcanoes on the North Island of New Zealand. Get local advice when visiting remote areas about where there might be volcanic activity.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Call 111 and ask for an ambulance.
Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Vaccinations and health risks
At least 8 weeks before your trip check:
- the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s New Zealand guide
- where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
You must declare any prescription medicines on your passenger arrival card. All products containing codeine are classified as prescription-only medication (a controlled drug). You can import controlled drugs for personal use, but you must declare them on arrival to the Customs Service and provide evidence that they are for personal use.
See New Zealand Customs for more information on restrictions on medication.
Healthcare facilities in New Zealand
British nationals who live in the UK and who are on a short-term visit to New Zealand are eligible for urgent healthcare treatment under the reciprocal health agreement with New Zealand. This agreement does not extend to routine, non-emergency medical treatment including prescriptions.
FCDO has a list of medical facilities in New Zealand.
There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in New Zealand.
COVID-19 healthcare in New Zealand
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you can get health advice and information by calling Healthline (free) on 0800 358 5453. COVID-19 tests and treatment are free of charge.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in New Zealand
Telephone: 111 (ambulance, fire, police)
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers, funeral directors and translators and interpreters in New Zealand
- dealing with a death in New Zealand
- being arrested or imprisoned in New Zealand
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you’re in New Zealand and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Wellington.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)
Risk information for British companies
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.