Smart Traveller New Zealand

Planning to make a trip across the ditch to our neighbours in New Zealand? Great choice! New Zealand is home to some stunning mountainous scenery, a unique culture, fabulous fjords, some wonderful wildlife, fine food and wine and much, much more. It is also an easily accessible overseas destination, being just a short three-to-four hour flight from Australia’s east-coast capital cities. Here is what you need to know to ensure you have a safe and fun-filled trip to New Zealand.

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Do I need a visa to visit New Zealand?

Tourists holding an Australian passport do not need a visa to enter New Zealand, except for those who have a criminal record or have been deported from any country. Australian permanent residents who do not hold an Australian passport need to apply for a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority (NZeTA) for entry to New Zealand.

Staying safe in New Zealand

The Australian Government recommends exercising normal safety precautions during travel to New Zealand. Crime rates in New Zealand are similar to those in Australia, with thefts from vehicles being one of the most commonly reported crimes. If you hire a car or campervan, make sure you do not leave valuables in it when it is unattended.

Natural disasters in New Zealand

Given New Zealand is located on the boundary between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, there is a constant risk of natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity are all ever-present risks in New Zealand, as well as flash flooding and bushfires.

There are about 150 to 200 earthquakes that are big enough to feel in New Zealand each year and some larger and more damaging quakes hit from time to time. Aftershocks can also continue for days or weeks. If you are caught in an earthquake, the advice is to drop, cover and hold. If you are indoors, try to find a heavy, solid nearby object to get underneath and hold onto it and stay inside until the shaking stops. If you are outside, move to the nearest clear spot and drop to the ground, staying away from buildings, trees and power lines.

Tsunamis can occur in connection with earthquakes in New Zealand and may arrive within minutes before any official warning can be put out. If you are near the coast and feel a strong earthquake, a rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more or see a sudden rise or fall in sea level then you should immediately move to higher ground or as far inland as possible. Volcanic eruptions can happen at any time in New Zealand, with limited warning.

In the event of bushfires or severe weather, always follow local advice. 

New Zealand local laws

Penalties including fines and prison sentences may apply for those caught possessing or using illicit drugs in New Zealand. To enter a licensed premises or buy alcohol in New Zealand, an Approved ID is required. An Australian driver’s licence is not an Approved ID, but a current passport is accepted.

Health risks in New Zealand

There is a similar health risk in New Zealand to that in Australia.

Extreme sports in New Zealand

New Zealand is a popular destination for thrill-seekers, as the home of extreme sports and activities. Sky diving, bungee jumping, caving, canyoning, quad-biking, white water rafting, base jumping, ice climbing, cave diving, kitesurfing, rock climbing and mountain biking are among the many activities on offer. If you are thinking about partaking in such extreme activities, make sure you first check your travel insurance policy so you know what you are covered for and what you are not covered for.

Can I drive in New Zealand on an Australian driver’s licence?

Driving yourself around is a great way to explore all that New Zealand has to offer.

You can drive in New Zealand using an Australian driver’s licence for up to 12 months.

New Zealand’s roads are generally well maintained and they drive on the left side of the road just like in Australia.

What is the New Zealand currency?

The local currency across the Tasman Sea is the New Zealand Dollar ($NZ). ATM’s are available, while most merchants in New Zealand also accept debit and credit card payments for goods and services. As of November 2022, $1 Australian was equivalent to about $1.10 NZ.

Emergency contacts in New Zealand

If you are travelling in New Zealand and require emergency assistance from local authorities, you can call 111 from your mobile phone to be put in touch with fire and rescue services, ambulance services and police. For police non-emergencies, instead dial 105.

Australian Consular Services in New Zealand

The Australian High Commission in New Zealand is located in Wellington and can be contacted by phoning (+64 4) 473 6411.

The Australian Consulate-General in New Zealand is located in Auckland and can be reached on (+64 9) 921 8800.

New Zealand reciprocal health care for Australians

New Zealand has a reciprocal health care agreement with Australia, which lets Australian travellers access public medical facilities and care while in New Zealand. Both Australian citizens and permanent residents are eligible under this agreement if they present an Australian passport or proof of permanent residency as well as a valid Australian Medicare card. However, this reciprocal health care does not replace the need for overseas travel insurance. The agreement has some limitations, with medical care being provided only when “immediately necessary” in the opinion of the medical treatment provider. Australian visitors to New Zealand are also not covered for emergency transport to hospital by ambulance, which could cost a significant amount of money. While this agreement can be handy for Australians travelling to New Zealand, only a comprehensive travel insurance policy can provide you with complete peace of mind and coverage in case anything does go wrong on your trip.

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New Zealand travel insurance

As with any overseas travel, the Australian Government highly recommends taking out a comprehensive travel insurance policy before your trip to New Zealand. Travel insurance can not only cover you for medical expenses that fall outside of the reciprocal health agreement with New Zealand, but often come with a wide range of other inclusions to provide you with peace of mind. Many policies will include unlimited overseas emergency medical and hospital expenses, including emergency transport by ambulance to hospital.

Coverage generally also includes emergency medical repatriation back to Australia if required. Most policies will cover you for cancellation fees and lost deposits for pre-paid travel arrangements that are unable to be completed due to a range of “unforeseen circumstances”.

If your luggage or personal effects are delayed, lost or stolen during your trip, you could be covered for repair or replacement costs. Additional accommodation and travel expenses are another common policy inclusion, providing coverage if you cannot travel onwards or back home as planned due to injury or sickness. Importantly for a trip to New Zealand, many comprehensive travel insurance policies provide rental vehicle excess insurance up to a specified limit. Many Australians will hire a car or camper van when travelling to New Zealand and this insurance can cover you for the excess payable if your rental vehicle is stolen, crashes or damaged while in your possession.

If you are severely injured while overseas and are unable to return to your normal place of work upon your return to Australia, you may also be covered for loss of income under some travel insurance policies. Always thoroughly check the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) before purchasing an overseas travel insurance policy to check the specific inclusions of each policy.

New Zealand skiing travel insurance

New Zealand is a popular destination for Australians to go skiing and snowboarding. However, it is important that you have the right travel insurance policy if you are planning a trip to the New Zealand mountains. There is an increased risk of injury in winter sports compared to other activities and even highly experienced skiers and snowboarders can be seriously injured on the slopes. Some overseas travel insurance policies for travel to New Zealand offer snow sports or ski insurance cover as an optional add-on. This insurance can provide coverage for medical costs and medical evacuation if you hurt yourself on the ski slopes. Things like cancellation cover, ski equipment cover for damaged, lost or stolen equipment, weather delay cover, Piste closure and ski rental gear excess cover are among other common inclusions on these policies.

New Zealand cruise travel insurance

Cruises from Australia to New Zealand have become increasingly popular and are enjoyed by many thousands of travellers each year. But if you are boarding a cruise to New Zealand, you need to ensure you have an appropriate comprehensive overseas travel insurance policy. Medical costs while onboard a ship are not covered as part of your cruise fare and can be quite expensive, while those with more serious injuries and illness may need to be transported by helicopter to shore which can come at a significant cost. Make sure your travel insurance policy specifically provides coverage for cruises before you purchase it.

Some travel insurance policies are specifically designed for cruise holidays, while other policies offer cruise coverage as an optional add-on.

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Travel insurance documentation can be quite complex and difficult to understand. If you have a query we are only too willing to find the answer for you.