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Moving to New Zealand

Expats moving to New Zealand have to make a distinct life choice. The island country is remote, sparsely populated and income levels are low when compared to countries such as the USA and the UK. At the same time, those who live in New Zealand are surrounded by awe-inspiring natural splendour and are able to enjoy a high quality of life. 

Around a fifth of the people living and working in the country were born overseas. New Zealand hosts large communities from the UK, North America, South Africa, the South Pacific, India and China.

Moving to New Zealand with family is especially popular with expats who want a fresh start and a better work-life balance. New arrivals are especially attracted by the good state-sponsored healthcare, low crime rates, a society that values children and the environment, and high-quality public education.

The country lacks the economic might of larger countries and faces challenges such as a growing income gap and high levels of debt. The government has made impressive efforts in recent years to address these challenges, resulting in a growing economy and a positive outlook. As a result, there are opportunities for expats with initiative, energy and optimism. This is helped by the fact that the country has been experiencing an outflow in which young, qualified locals have been moving overseas. As a result, the New Zealand government welcomes prospective expats in a range of industries, provided that they have the skills and experience to benefit the local economy. Major sectors and sources of employment include agriculture, finance, tourism and manufacturing. 

One downside to life in New Zealand is that seismic activity is a reality of life in the country, and residents experience around 200 felt earthquakes a year. Thankfully, only two earthquakes in the last century have caused significant losses. Residents usually have emergency plans for their families, and schools regularly practice earthquake drills. Houses in New Zealand are often built out of materials such as wood and plasterboard, which are more flexible and are able to better cope with earthquakes than traditional bricks and mortar. Local accommodation does, however, have a reputation for poor insulation and residents tend to dress warmly rather than warm their homes, which takes some adjustment for many expats. 

New arrivals will learn that New Zealand’s transport infrastructure is well developed and easily used. Most cities have a public bus network, all major cities are linked by rail, and a regular ferry service connects the North and South Islands.

Known to its Maori inhabitants as Aotearoa, which means “Land of the Long White Cloud”, the country gets its share of cold and rainy weather. Expats will be relieved to know that the country usually does get more sunshine than most European countries.

Expats who commit to their new home and are suited to the laid-back, outdoors lifestyle it offers will find that New Zealand has the potential to be an ideal expat destination.


Fast facts

Population: About 4.8 million

Capital city: Wellington

Other major cities: Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton

Neighbouring countries: While New Zealand has no direct neighbours, Australia is situated to the northwest, while Tonga and Fiji are two of the most prominent island countries to the north of New Zealand.

Geography: New Zealand is made up of two main islands (the North and South Islands) and a number of smaller islands. New Zealand's climate varies from cold and wet to subtropical in some areas. Much of the country's terrain is mountainous. The landscape is very dramatic and volcanoes can be found on the South Island.

Political system: New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy in which the British monarch is the head of state, as represented by the Governor-General. The head of government is the Prime Minister.

Major religions: Christianity

Main languages: English and Maori

Money: The official currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD), which is divided into 100 cents. It is relatively easy for expats to open a bank account provided they have proof of address and identification. ATMs and internet banking are widely available.

Tipping: New Zealand tipping culture is based on merit and tipping is not expected. A 10 percent tip can be added in appreciation of excellent service. 

Time: GMT+12 (GMT+13 from the last Sunday in September to the first Sunday in April)

Electricity: 230 volts, 50 Hz. 'Type I' three-pin flat-blade plugs are used.

Internet domain: .nz

International dialling code: +64

Emergency contacts: 111

Transport and driving: Cars in New Zealand drive on the left-hand side. Travel between the North and South Islands is usually by ferry. Bus services are the main mode of transport in most cities, while local rail services operate in Auckland and Wellington. Long-distance travel is done by trains, buses and domestic air flights. 

Weather in New Zealand

Although the weather conditions do vary somewhat depending on which part of New Zealand one lives in, expats might be surprised by how much wetter New Zealand is compared to nearby Australia.

Auckland has a generally warm and wet, almost sub-tropical, climate. Summers are humid, winters mild and wet. Tropical cyclones do occur occasionally. Cold fronts are not uncommon in the colder months.

Wellington has a windy, mild climate. Temperatures seldom exceed 64°F (18°C), and won’t drop much below 47°F (8°C), even in June, the coldest month.

Queenstown has some of New Zealand’s best weather. It has an oceanic climate, with snowy winters and blue skies. Summers bring fresh, warm days. 

Christchurch enjoys a dry and temperate climate, with hot summers and manageably mild winters. Winters offer clear, crisp days, and freezing nights. Christchurch experiences smog in winter, and year-round rain.





 

Embassy contacts for New Zealand

New Zealand embassies

  • New Zealand Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 328 4800

  • New Zealand High Commission, London, United Kingdom (also responsible for Ireland): +44 20 7930 8422

  • New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 238 5991

  • New Zealand High Commission, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6270 4211

  • New Zealand High Commission, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 435 9000


Foreign embassies in New Zealand

  • United States Embassy, Wellington: +64 4 462 6000

  • British High Commission, Wellington: +64 4 924 2888

  • Canadian High Commission, Wellington: +64 4 473 9577

  • Australian High Commission, Wellington: +64 4 473 6411

  • South African High Commission, Wellington: +64 4 815 8484

  • Irish Embassy, Wellington: +64 4 471 2252

Public Holidays in New Zealand

 

 

2020

2021

New Year’s Day

1 January

1 January

Day After New Year’s Day

2 January

2 January

Waitangi Day

6 February

8 February

Good Friday

10 April

2 April

Easter Monday

13 April

5 April

ANZAC Day

25 April

26 April

Queen's Birthday

1 June

7 June

Labour Day

26 October

25 October

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

*If a public holiday in New Zealand falls on a weekend, it is observed on the first non-public-holiday weekday.

Pros and Cons of Moving to New Zealand

New Zealand is a popular expat destination and those moving there will experience both benefits and the drawbacks to their new life there. Expats should prepare themselves for the reality of the transition to ensure that their stay in New Zealand is as fulfilling and comfortable as possible.


Environment and weather in New Zealand

+ PRO: It has an astonishing amount of staggeringly beautiful scenery

In terms of natural scenery, New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. For such a small country, it has an amazing range of landscapes, including rainforests, glaciers, mountains, deserts, plains, fjords and a variety of different beaches. 

- CON: It has lots of mosquitos and sandflies

When moving to New Zealand, prepare to deal with itchy mosquito and sandfly bites. The first summer is always the worst. Expats should make sure to use insect repellent when enjoying the warm evenings. It’s a good idea to take insect repellent to the beach as well.

+ PRO: New Zealand has great weather

New Zealand’s climate is a temperate one. It rarely gets too cold or too hot. However, it definitely has more sunshine than rain. Winters are warm in the North Island, but in the South Island they can bring snow. New Zealand is about the only country in the world where one could, theoretically, swim at the beach and ski down a mountain on the same day. 

- CON:Skin cancer is a concern

New Zealand is a gloriously sunny country. Unfortunately, it’s right under a hole in the ozone layer. So, New Zealand experiences higher amounts of UV rays, which increases the prevalence of sunburn and skin cancer. The strong sunshine also means that anything placed next to a window at home will lose its colour very quickly.


Safety and location in New Zealand

+ PRO: It’s one of the safest places in the world

New Zealand was ranked second on the 2019 Global Peace Index. The crime rate is extremely low and religious tolerance is high. 

- CON: It’s so far away from everywhere

New Zealand is a small island country at the bottom of the world. This means that New Zealanders have to fly a long way if they want to visit any other country that isn’t Australia or one of the Pacific Islands. This makes overseas holidays very expensive. Many expats find that they cannot afford to visit relatives back home as often as they’d like to. New Zealand's distance from the rest of the world also increases the cost of imported goods. 


Lifestyle, transport and housing in New Zealand

+ PRO: It’s a laidback country

New Zealand is the place to go for a relaxed lifestyle. People don’t expect too much, so the work-life balance emphatically favours life. The same is true within the schooling system. 

+ PRO: It’s uncrowded

New Zealand is larger than Britain, but it has just about 4.8 million people in it. Auckland is the only place in the country where one needs to worry about traffic. The beaches are peaceful and people are unhurried. 

- CON: Lower-quality housing

Until quite recently, New Zealand had a very relaxed attitude towards housing standards. This means that many older houses are poorly insulated, amongst other faults. It’s rare, for example, to find radiators in New Zealand houses.

- CON: Public transport is limited 

If one wishes to explore New Zealand, it might be necessary to acquire a vehicle, especially when exploring New Zealand's famed rural areas. Public transport here leaves much to be desired. There are trains, but no nation-wide rail network. The train from Auckland to Wellington, for example, leaves once a day, very early, and is slow and extremely expensive. The bus system is extensive but varies in reliability.


Population of New Zealand

+ PRO: It has really friendly people

Everyone who’s ever been to New Zealand seems to gush about how friendly Kiwis are. This has a lot to do with their relaxed attitude towards life in general.

- CON: The population suffers from Tall Poppy Syndrome

New Zealanders are very down-to-earth people who despise pretentiousness. This means, as the proverb goes, that tall poppies will get cut down. People are almost afraid to distinguish themselves academically, often opting to seem slow-witted in order to fit in. 

+ PRO: It’s very multi-cultural

New Zealand is a society of immigrants. Even its native inhabitants, the Maori, have only been here for about 800 years. Most of the population is of (relatively recent) European descent. There are also a lot of people from Asia and the Pacific Islands. While the country still bears the scars of colonisation, it doesn’t seem to be as racist as other places, and many cultures are joyously evident.


Cost of living in New Zealand

+ PRO: It’s one of the least corrupt places in the world

New Zealand was ranked second on the 2018 Corruptions Perceptions Index. Some of the political scandals are laughable, purely because they’re so minor compared with those of other countries.

- CON: Dental treatment is very expensive

While healthcare is subsidised in New Zealand, dental treatment is not. Although it’s free for children, the cost of both appointments and treatments for adults is alarmingly high. Indeed, just over half the population of New Zealand does not see a dentist regularly, if ever – it’s simply too expensive for lower, and even middle, income people.

+ PRO: It has good food

New Zealand has world-class seafood, lamb, wines and cheeses. In some parts, it would be difficult to find a bad restaurant, and the café culture is booming. There’s plenty of delicious Asian food around, as well as the best of European food presented in a range of fresh Kiwi styles. Posh restaurants are quite reasonably priced, although cafés could be cheaper.

- CON: House prices in Auckland are scary

Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city. Half the total population of the country live in or around it. It’s about the only place with plenty of jobs going. It’s where nearly all New Zealand immigrants go. No wonder there’s a housing crisis. Rent continues to go up, with people giving over half their income to it now. Once moving outside of Auckland, though, rent is reasonable.


Work opportunities in New Zealand

+ PRO: It’s egalitarian

New Zealand society is socially fluid. There is little or no talk of ‘class’ and old-fashioned ideas of ‘dressing to impress’ are largely frowned upon. The wage-gap has widened significantly since the 1980s, but the Kiwi attitude that wealth has nothing to do with a person’s value is still alive. 

- CON: It has limited career options

Because of the aforementioned small population, jobs in a specific field can be hard to come by. Many Kiwis who dream big are forced to leave New Zealand upon the completion of their studies. Artists also tend to struggle more here, as the opportunities are fewer. 

Working in New Zealand

With more sheep than people and more pine trees than sheep, expats working in New Zealand can certainly count on employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.

Most businesses in New Zealand have a standard five-day, 40-hour work week. Businesses are generally open from 8am to 5pm with a lunch break of between 30 minutes to an hour. That said, businesses often determine their hours according to the needs of their industry, employees and customers. For instance, it is common for employees at hospitals and factories to work outside of regular work hours.


The job market in New Zealand

New Zealand has become a very popular country for expats to immigrate to. This means there may be high competition for the limited jobs that are available. The biggest issue foreigners may face will be meeting the stringent immigration requirements. Foreigners with specialised qualifications and who are proficient in English will be most successful.

While the country is known for its agricultural output, other large industries in New Zealand include tourism, finance, and construction.

Occasionally, the government announces qualified personnel deficiencies in a specific job field. They will then actively recruits expats in that field. This is especially true for towns other than Auckland.

Skills deficiency announcements are published in the Essential Skills in Demand List published by Immigration New Zealand, which is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The list outlines the job fields and skill sets that are needed in the country. It's a good guide for expats looking for work in New Zealand.

Obtaining or qualifying for a job on this list allows employers to streamline the visa application process, as employers will not have to prove that there are no New Zealanders able to take the position that is applied for. The Essential Skills in Demand List is reviewed and updated annually.

Other industries in New Zealand that continuously provide employment to expat workers include IT, new media, medicine, construction and engineering.

New Zealanders are also known for being great entrepreneurs. There are many small businesses in the country. This bodes well for expats wanting to move to New Zealand to start up a business, as the government is open to entrepreneurs with a focus on job creation.


Finding a job in New Zealand

The official Immigration New Zealand website is a valuable resource for the most up-to-date information on industries that have a short- or long-term shortage of skilled workers.

Expats can also try searching for jobs through recruitment agencies, in the classified sections of major newspapers or on online job boards. One example is CareersNZ. This website is government supported. It provides helpful advice on finding a job in New Zealand as well as information on job postings for locals and foreigners.

Expats wishing to take up employment in New Zealand must ensure that they have a valid visa.

Doing Business in New Zealand

Expats planning on doing business in New Zealand are sure to find that the country's friendly yet professional corporate atmosphere is well suited to their ambitions.

The country has a reputation for encouraging foreign investment. In addition to this, its openness to international trade, lack of government and business corruption and free-market economic reforms mean that it is recognised as one of the most business-friendly countries in the world.

In fact, New Zealand impressively ranked first in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business list for 2020, particularly excelling in the criteria of starting a business and getting credit – where it is ranked first out of 190 countries. The areas where New Zealand didn't score as highly included trading across borders (63rd) and resolving insolvency (36th).

Its stellar reputation for business does, however, mean that there is a high degree of competition. Having an awareness of the country’s business norms will give expats an added advantage in the corporate environment.


Fast facts

Business hours

Generally, from 8am or 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday; and sometimes 9am to 12.30pm on Saturdays.

Business language

English

Business dress

The business dress code in New Zealand is difficult to pin down, although appearing well-groomed and presentable is highly valued. In more formal business settings, men tend to wear traditional dark suits while women wear business suits or appropriate dresses. Some industries do, however, exhibit a relaxed dress code where jeans and sports jackets are not an uncommon sight. The dress code of the office is entirely dependent on the industry. 

Greeting

Greetings in New Zealand are usually casual and consist of a handshake and direct eye contact. 

Gifts

Gifts are not usually exchanged during business meetings. However, if invited to a colleague's home, be sure to take along wine, chocolates or flowers to say thanks. Gifts are usually opened in the presence of the giver and should not be overly expensive.

Gender equality

Women are treated as equals in the New Zealand workplace, often rising to senior corporate positions.


Business culture in New Zealand

In some ways, the business culture in New Zealand conforms to a typically British model in that it is formal, reserved and conservative. However, New Zealand's corporate culture distinguishes itself with its characteristically South Pacific warmth and friendliness. This creates a relaxed yet professional atmosphere that is founded on egalitarianism.

Business structure

Although the general approach to management in New Zealand is hierarchical, with decisions being made by senior-level executives, ideas, input and collaboration, from all members of the organisation are also highly valued. At the same time, while most New Zealanders shun formal titles, it would be a good idea for expats to use these until instructed otherwise.

Work ethic

Business etiquette in New Zealand will be familiar to expats who have worked in Western corporate environments before. New Zealand businesspeople tend to favour forthrightness, honesty and hard work over self-aggrandisement and empty promises. They will be far more interested in what someone actually does, rather than what they say they can do.

Communication

Although Kiwis can initially be reserved, they are generally friendly, hospitable and willing to help. Rewarding personal relationships are often developed between business associates.

When raising a point or responding to someone else's ideas, present points directly with supporting facts and figures. While a relaxed, human-orientated atmosphere is prized in the New Zealand workplace, business decisions remain unemotional and are motivated by the business' best interests.

Expats should expect some informal conversation before getting down to 'the agenda' at business meetings. Sport is a massively popular topic of conversation, and expats may want to have one or two complimentary things to say about the All Blacks, New Zealand's national rugby team, for good measure.

Meetings and punctuality

Business meetings should be scheduled at least a week in advance. They should then be confirmed a few days before they are due to take place. Be punctual. Lateness can be seen as a sign of unreliability or even indifference. If at all possible, avoid scheduling meetings in December and January. This is holiday time in New Zealand, and many people will be on leave.

Maori culture in the New Zealand workplace

Expats who want an added advantage when doing business in New Zealand should keep in mind that although the country is largely Western in character, the indigenous Māori culture plays a significant role in the lives of many residents. As such, while it may not be necessary to learn the intricacies of traditional protocol, displaying an awareness of their culture is sure to go down well with Māori business associates.

As an example, there is no specific protocol for the exchanging of business cards in New Zealand, although it is typically done when meeting a potential associate for the first time. A really nice touch, if meeting with someone with a Māori background, would be for an expat to get one side of their card translated into te reo Māori, the local language.


Dos and don'ts of doing business in New Zealand

  • Do be polite and reserved, yet willing to develop personal relationships with colleagues

  • Do get involved in 'team-building' exercises; these are taken quite seriously in New Zealand

  • Don't try to prove your credentials by talking about them. Rather, show your worth to employers and associates, by getting on with it and working hard

  • Don't make unfavourable comparisons between New Zealand and its neighbour, Australia – this is a sore point for many Kiwis

Visas for New Zealand

There are a number of different New Zealand visas to choose from depending on whether an expat wants to visit the country on holiday, travel around taking on temporary jobs on a working vacation, or move to New Zealand for the long-term.

The application process varies depending on the visa being applied for. The official Immigration New Zealand website provides extensive information about the visa process. Expats could also seek the assistance of a professional visa-processing agency to help ensure that they are correctly informed about what is required of them. 

Before applying, expats must ensure that their passport is valid for at least three months (but ideally six months or more) after the date of their arrival in New Zealand. They should also ensure that their passport has enough blank pages for all of the necessary arrival and departure stamps.

Applicants will also need to pay an application fee and supply several passport-sized photographs as well as any other additional information that may be required. It is important that expats take the time to ensure that their documentation is complete as incomplete applications will be rejected and returned.


Tourist visas for New Zealand

Travellers from some countries don’t need a tourist visa to enter New Zealand. These include nationals of the USA, Ireland and Canada, among others. However, even if someone’s country is on the visa-waiver list they will need to supply evidence of funds and proof of onward travel. Visitors who do not need a visa should get an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority) before they travel.

Applicants for a New Zealand visitor visa are required to show that they are in good health, are of good character and have an appropriate purpose for their visit. They will also need to prove that they have plans to leave the country, such as an onward ticket, and that they have enough funds to support themselves during their stay.

Visitors need a certain amount of money per month of their visit, and a passport that is valid for at least three months but ideally six months or more after the date of their scheduled date of departure.

The longest that someone can stay in New Zealand on a visitor visa is nine months. During this time, they are not allowed to work or study for longer than three months and must obey New Zealand law. Expats face deportation if they disregard these conditions.


Work visas for New Zealand

There are many different visa options available for those wanting to live and work in New Zealand. When applying for a work visa for New Zealand, expats should ensure that they choose the correct visa for their situation. There are different visas for expats wanting to work in the country temporarily and for those wanting permanent employment.


Work to Residence visas for New Zealand

The Work to Residence visa allows holders to stay in the country for up to 30 months and gives them the opportunity to apply for a resident visa at a later date. In order for an expat to apply under the programme, their skills must be needed by a New Zealand employer or they must have exceptional talent in certain fields. 

Applicants must fall within several categories in the Work to Residence programme. This includes skilled workers with a job offer from an accredited employer, those in occupations on the skills shortage list, expats with exceptional talents in art, culture or sport, or those who plan to establish a business in New Zealand.


Permanent resident visas for New Zealand

Those who have worked temporarily and decide to stay and live in New Zealand will need to apply for permanent residence.

New Zealand permanent residents are not citizens, but may remain in the country indefinitely. They are eligible for all of the rights and privileges of citizens, including access to healthcare, education and voting. They can leave and re-enter New Zealand as often as they like.

Requirements for permanent resident visas

In order to be eligible to apply for a permanent resident visa for New Zealand, applicants must have had a resident visa for at least two years continuously as well as meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • They have spent at least 184 days in New Zealand during each of the two years preceding the application

  • They can prove they have tax residence status with proper documentation

  • They have made an investment of 1,000,000 NZD or more in New Zealand for two years

  • They have at least 25 percent or more shares in a business in New Zealand that benefits the country in some way

  • They own a family home in New Zealand and have maintained paid employment for at least nine months within the two-year period

* Please note that visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for New Zealand

New Zealand is a safe, stable, English-speaking country. These are three points that draw many foreigners to the country. The country has a reputation for encouraging foreign investment and has a positive attitude toward individuals who want to start their own business. So, it comes as no surprise that more and more expats will look to relocate to Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

However, with the exception of those moving to New Zealand from Australia, expats will need to have a work permit/work visa to legally work in the country. 

There’s an incredible assortment of working visa categories. Each category has its own requirements and loopholes. To help expats navigate this complex system, Immigration New Zealand’s website is a useful and up-to-date tool. It will help expats find the visa that suits their industry field, their skill set and their intentions. 

Whether one is a skilled worker or a labourer looking to fill a skill shortage in the country, it’s vital that expats research the work permit process as comprehensively as possible prior to application. 


Types of work permits in New Zealand

Working Holiday Scheme

Nationals of certain countries, including the UK, Canada and the USA, are able to apply for a working holiday visa for New Zealand. The Working Holiday Scheme visa allows expats to stay and work in the country for one year. It is designed for young travellers wanting to fund their travels around New Zealand. Expats planning to work in the country for longer than a year should look into longer-term options.

Generally, working holiday visa applicants must be between 18 and 30 years old, prove that they have sufficient funds to support themselves as well as proof of onward travel out of New Zealand. Expats will need to have medical insurance to cover their stay in New Zealand as well as evidence that the main reason for their visit is a holiday, with work being secondary to this.

Applications for a working holiday visa must be done online. After making their application, expats will be notified within five working days about the outcome of the application.

Skilled Migrant Visa

This visa is available for those wanting to move to New Zealand to live and work permanently. In order to be eligible, applicants must be younger than 55 years old, pass a health screening and criminal record check, and speak English. Eligibility for this visa is determined by a points system where points are received for age, experience, qualifications and employability.

The application process starts with submitting an Expression of Interest which describes their family, skills and experience. If the Expression of Interest is accepted, the applicant will be sent an Invitation to Apply.

Countries such as South Africa are not listed among the approved countries for the Working Holiday Visa and, as such, the Skilled Migrant Visa is the route that many immigrants take to find work in New Zealand.

Entrepreneur Work Visa 

This visa is for people who want to work in their own business in New Zealand. Applicants need to provide a detailed business plan and have at least 100,000 NZD to invest in the business. They also need to claim a minimum number of points on the immigration points scale. 

The visa is initially valid for 12 months in the start-up stage of the business. It can then be extended for another 24 months once the business has been set up. If the visa is granted, expats can buy or set up a business without living in New Zealand permanently. They can also use this as a first step towards New Zealand residency. 

* Please note that visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details. 

Cost of Living in New Zealand

The cost of living in New Zealand is quite high. Like most countries, it tends to fluctuate depending on whether an expat lives in an urban or rural area. The cost of living also varies depending on which of New Zealand's islands a person lives on, since the South Island is significantly cheaper than the North Island. Auckland and Wellington ranked 89th and 114th respectively in the 2019 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. This makes them more expensive to live in than cities like Doha and Montreal, but cheaper than Hong Kong and Seattle.


The cost of accommodation in New Zealand

Accommodation is likely to be the biggest expense for anyone moving to New Zealand. Naturally, rental prices for properties in the city centre tend to be more expensive than those for accommodation in the suburbs. 

Properties in New Zealand do tend to be more spacious than expats, especially those from Europe, might be used to. Properties are also generally furnished to a high standard. Expats should expect to pay between 1,500 and 3,500 NZD per month on rent. This will also depend on the size of the property and where it is located. 

Utilities are generally not included in the rental price of a property, so expats should budget accordingly. It can get very cold in New Zealand during the winter months which results in heating bills going up. 


The cost of groceries in New Zealand

Groceries tend to be expensive in New Zealand. They are made more affordable by purchasing local goods and taking advantage of the special offers that commonly run at supermarkets and convenience stores. Many locals also save money by buying in bulk. Expats should keep in mind that New Zealand is remotely isolated from many places, therefore specific groceries often have to be imported, increasing their cost.


The cost of transport in New Zealand

Many expats will find that car prices are relatively inexpensive compared to their home countries. While people don't necessarily need a car, especially in urban areas, it can be useful for expats with families or those who travel regularly for work.

That said, public transport is reasonably priced in New Zealand and regular users can save money by purchasing monthly or annual transport passes. 


Cost of living in New Zealand

Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Auckland in October 2019.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

NZD 1,880

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

NZD 3,500

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

NZD 1,550

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

NZD 2,700

Groceries

Dozen eggs

NZD 5

Milk (1 litre)

NZD 2.70

Loaf of white bread

NZD 2.40

Chicken breasts (1kg)

NZD 12.60

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

NZD 30

Utilities/household (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

NZD 0.55

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

NZD 84

Basic utilities (average per month for a small apartment)

NZD 169

Eating out and entertainment

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

NZD 90

Big Mac meal 

NZD 11

Cappuccino

NZD 5

Coca-Cola (330ml)

NZD 3.50

Local beer (500ml)

NZD 10

Transportation

Taxi rate per km

NZD 3

City centre public transport

NZD 4

Petrol (per litre)

NZD 2.50

Culture Shock in New Zealand

Despite being a fairly isolated island country in the southwestern Pacific, expats who are familiar with the USA and Europe are unlikely to experience a significant amount of culture shock in New Zealand.

Maori culture plays an important role in public life and has influenced the dominant culture in the country. However, New Zealand is broadly recognised as a Western country As a former British colony, it still retains the British monarch as its head of state – despite being independent and having its own government.

Open-minded expats who make an effort to learn about the local culture and are realistic about the positives and negatives of living in New Zealand are likely to enjoy life in their new host country.


Socialising in New Zealand

New Zealanders are known to be friendly, helpful and egalitarian. Local residents also tend to be laid back. All of this is reflected in the informal dress code adopted at restaurants and other social occasions.

Children in New Zealand are highly valued and residents take the safety and upbringing of children very seriously. New Zealand societal attitudes focus strongly on the community. Expats are often pleasantly surprised by how helpful strangers can be. 

Though locals are generally warm and courteous, they can be reserved which may feel isolating at times. While instances of outright discrimination against foreigners are not frequent, many expats feel, for instance, that the job market is more skewed towards locals. Some expats may also feel that cementing lasting friendships with local residents can be hard.

Aside from feelings of homesickness, however, expats will mostly find themselves adjusting to the culture of the country. Some expats have trouble understanding local slang words. However, this problem is quickly overcome once expats start settling in and mingling with the locals. Expats may be surprised by the drinking culture of New Zealand, as it plays a rather significant role in weekend (and weekday) activities.


Outdoor lifestyle and sports in New Zealand

New Zealanders share a love of the outdoors and staying healthy. Most suburban neighbourhoods have parks where families often take their children in the evenings. There is usually a national park or a range of outdoor activities within driving distance.

As can be seen by the amazing playing fields throughout New Zealand, sport is at the centre of local culture. While sports like cricket, netball and soccer are popular, rugby is decidedly the national sport. The national team, the All Blacks, are one of the strongest sides in the world, having won the Rugby World Cup several times. 

Adjusting to life in New Zealand is further influenced by how sparsely populated the country is. This sense of space may take some getting used to. Though many new arrivals end up finding it very enjoyable to have a beach or golf course all to themselves.


Environment and weather in New Zealand

The country's general climate can be a slight culture shock for expats choosing to settle in New Zealand. While rainy and cold weather won’t be unfamiliar for many expats, the standard of insulation in many of the houses in New Zealand is a point of contention for foreigners from countries that are better equipped to deal with the cold.

An accepted part of life for most New Zealanders, and a point of concern for some expats is the constant threat of earthquakes. The country is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire and New Zealand experiences thousands of earthquakes every year, although the vast majority of them aren’t even felt. 

Many residents have an emergency kit in their garage that consists of water, food and medical supplies. This prospect may leave many new arrivals feeling uneasy. However, this is only a safety precaution. Before the tragic earthquake in Christchurch in 2011, the last time that an earthquake caused substantial casualties was in 1931.

Accommodation in New Zealand

From ranch-style suburban family homes to high-rise bachelor apartments in the city centre, there are plenty of options for expats when it comes to accommodation in New Zealand. Choices will be determined to a certain degree by location and whether one is renting or buying.

Rent in New Zealand tends to be expensive, though it varies greatly depending on the city and the distance one lives from the city centre.


Types of property in New Zealand

Expats will have a wide variety of choices when it comes to types of housing in New Zealand. The range of accommodation includes free-standing and duplex houses, apartments and home units.

In New Zealand, units are generally used to describe any single dwelling. Home units, on the other hand, usually describe modest homes that are grouped with other similar houses around a driveway. These can be attached, detached or semi-detached and sometimes share a communal garden.

There is also a wide range of architectural styles available, with everything from ultra-modern apartments to older houses based on traditional English country styles. Houses in New Zealand are often made of wood. As a result of this, and the varied climate, poor insulation is a problem found in many New Zealand homes.

Homes in New Zealand are very rarely rented out furnished. The more bedrooms a property has, the less likely it is that it will be furnished. Typically, it’s only one-bedroom apartments that would be furnished since they tend to be used more for short-term leases.


Finding property in New Zealand

Rental houses or apartments can be found in the classified sections of local newspapers and through various online portals. It is a good idea to become familiar with the main online property resources before making the move to New Zealand. Browsing these websites will give expats an idea of the types of properties available and rental prices in the area they are considering. 

Expats shouldn't struggle to find a property to rent in New Zealand. However, those who are pressed for time should consider using the services of an estate agent. These professionals have a knowledge of the property market in their respective areas and are in a good position to help new arrivals find exactly what they are looking for.

There’s a very high demand for good rental properties in New Zealand, so it pays to make contact quickly.


Renting accommodation in New Zealand

Whether on a long- or short-term basis, renting in New Zealand is a fairly straightforward process. Housing legislation and official processes are centrally administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), a government agency that provides standard contracts outlining the responsibilities of both tenants and landlords in New Zealand. The agency also holds rental deposits, oversees landlord and tenant disputes and provides information such as the average housing prices in different areas on its website.

Costs and fees

Rent in New Zealand is usually calculated weekly. Expats should keep that in mind when considering the value of the rent advertised. In the past, rental agents also charge an agent’s fee when a tenant first signed their lease, which usually amounted to about one week’s rent. However, recent legislation has banned agents from charging tenants letting fees.

Deposits

Expats will also need to pay a deposit or “bond” of up to four weeks' rent in advance. The landlord will deposit this at the Bond Centre at the MBIE, which will issue both the landlord and the tenant with a receipt. A tenant needs this receipt to claim back their deposit once they leave the property. If there is any damage to the property that is determined to be the fault of the tenant, the costs will be deducted from the deposit before it is returned.

Leases

The official document signed when renting a property in New Zealand is the Residential Tenancy Agreement. Expats will either sign for a periodic tenancy which lasts until either the landlord or the tenant gives notice, or for a fixed-term tenancy which lasts for a set amount of time and cannot be terminated earlier. Fixed-term contracts are typically signed for 12 months.

The tenancy agreement should be signed by both the landlord and the tenant. Both parties should get a copy to keep in a safe place should there be any disagreements later on.

Utilities

The word “outgoings” is often used when talking about real estate in New Zealand, and it refers to all of the costs incurred by the landlord such as rates and taxes. Tenants in New Zealand are usually responsible for any outgoings they use, including utilities such as water and electricity.

Healthcare in New Zealand

Both public and private healthcare in New Zealand are excellent. Public care is funded through general taxation. This means residents receive free or subsidised medical care. Alternatively, the private sector is more costly, but provides speedier treatment.

Emergency medical care in New Zealand is offered by three organisations. Each on is run by both volunteers and permanent staff.


Public healthcare in New Zealand

The public healthcare system in New Zealand gives permanent residents access to free or heavily-subsidised hospital care, as well as emergency treatment. In order to access public healthcare, expats need to have permanent residency status in New Zealand. Other free medical services include standard medical tests, children’s immunisations, and prescription medication for children under six years old. Visits to a General Practitioner (GP), the purchase of prescription drugs and ambulance services are all subsidised.

In order to access healthcare in New Zealand, expats will have to register with a GP. There is no restriction on which doctor an expat has to register with. However, some doctors may specialise in certain areas of medicine. It might therefore be best for new arrivals to research the practices in their area to find the GP who best suits their individual needs. The biggest downside to state healthcare is the long waiting periods for non-emergency procedures. Waiting times vary between hospitals, so it helps to find the most time-efficient option.

In addition to the national healthcare scheme, there are district-funded healthcare initiatives known as Primary Health Organisations (PHO) which provide further subsidies to medical costs. There are, however, some non-subsidised items, which expats and residents have to pay for in full. Most New Zealanders and expats are members of a PHO in their residential district. Expats are advised to join a PHO as soon as they arrive in New Zealand, as the application process generally takes up to three months to be processed.


Private healthcare in New Zealand

Many New Zealanders who choose to use private healthcare do so in order to jump the queues for non-emergency procedures. Private healthcare users are, however, still able to use free public health services.

There is a wide range of clinics and private hospitals. They provide healthcare services such as general surgery, recuperative care and specialist procedures. Private testing laboratories and radiology clinics are also available.


Health insurance in New Zealand

In comparison to other expat destinations, health insurance in New Zealand isn’t overly expensive. Some employers offer medical cover. Expats should check with their company or negotiate medical insurance as part of their employment contract.

Both public and private hospitals in New Zealand accept health insurance. Expats will be able to choose between international health cover and local health insurance providers.


Pharmacies in New Zealand

The New Zealand government set up PHARMAC (Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand) in 1983. This agency aims to make subsidised medications available and negotiates low drug prices. Currently, about 2,000 drugs sold in the country are either partially or fully subsidised by PHARMAC. A lot of medication can be purchased over the counter. However, to obtain more expensive or specialised medications, prescription from a GP may be needed.

Pharmacies in New Zealand are plentiful in urban areas. Expats will find large pharmacy franchises as well as independent, and online services. Most Western medicines are available in New Zealand. However, 24-hour pharmacies are rare.

As with specialist hospital procedures, expats should remember that New Zealand is a small island country and advanced or specialist care is better sourced abroad. It might be best for expats with a medical condition to stock up on their medication before arriving in the country.


Health hazards in New Zealand

Unlike its neighbour Australia, New Zealand has few deadly animals. It only has two rare species of poisonous spiders and there are no snakes. New Zealand does have sharks. Though shark attacks are rare because of the cold water which keeps both tourists and sharks at bay. 

As New Zealand is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is a seismically active area, natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity are prevalent. The country is particularly prone to earthquakes. 

While not as bad as cities such as Mexico City, Los Angeles and Beijing, smog in Christchurch has been a problem for quite some time. Expats with chronic lung problems intending to live in the area should consult their doctor about ways to compensate for this.


Emergency services in New Zealand

Pre-hospital emergency medical care is largely conducted by trained paramedics. Emergency medical services in New Zealand are operated mostly by St John's Ambulance and Wellington Free Ambulance. Both have air ambulance services that operate out of Auckland and Wellington.

New Zealand has a programme called Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). The programme is funded from the public tax pool and levies obtained from all businesses, vehicle registration, petrol and employees. It offers no-fault injury cover to residents and visitors. So, when someone is involved in an accident, they will receive free medical care under this programme. Services provided include medical cost, prescription drugs and surgeries.

  • Emergency number (fire, ambulance, police): 111 

Education and Schools in New Zealand

The quality of education in New Zealand is ranked among the best in the world. The country consistently gains high ratings in measures such as the UN Human Development Index. Subsequently, New Zealand has a high proportion of residents who have upper secondary or tertiary qualifications.

Expats moving to the island country with children will have no difficulty finding an affordable, high-quality school. Cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have a broad range to choose from.

Only citizens and permanent residents are entitled to free public education in New Zealand. Parents in the country on a temporary visa will need to apply for a student visa for their children. This registers them as domestic students, enabling them to receive a free education within the public school system. Although residents do not pay public school fees, some schools ask for voluntary donations from parents. In addition, parents will need to budget for other expenses such as uniforms, sporting equipment, field trips and stationery.

New Zealand follows a southern-hemisphere school calendar. This means the school year begins in late January and ends mid-December. There are four terms each year, and the longest holiday periods are in July and December. Dates often differ slightly for primary and secondary schools.


Public schools in New Zealand

The vast majority of children attend public schools in New Zealand. Known for providing a high standard of education, state schools can be either co-educational or single-sex. Schools are usually secular, although a small number of state-integrated schools operate according to a particular religious ethos. These institutions are usually privately owned but controlled by the state.

School is compulsory from age six up until 16, although it is possible to enrol at the age of five. Most children in New Zealand do, however, continue to Years 12 and 13 to acquire the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). The NCEA is internationally regarded and readily accepted by overseas universities. It is awarded at three levels that correspond to Years 11, 12 and 13.

Children are placed in a state school that serves their geographic zone. For this reason, the best schools typically push up property prices in the suburbs they are in.


Private and international schools in New Zealand

Compared with public school fees, international schools are expensive in New Zealand. Private schools receive about a quarter of their funding from the government, and the rest from school fees. There is a range of private schools in New Zealand, including several offering the International Baccalaureate and the IGCSE/A-Levels.

Some international schools in New Zealand are among the best in the world. They provide the benefit of allowing students to continue following the curriculum from their home country. This leads to a more consistent schooling experience.


Homeschooling in New Zealand

In New Zealand, all children aged between six and 16 are required to enrol in and attend a registered school. Therefore, parents wanting to homeschool their children in New Zealand will need to apply for permission from the Ministry of Education. They will also need to prove that their child will be taught as regularly and as well as in a regular school – although the law is vague on what counts as sufficient proof. Once the ministry has granted an exemption certificate, parents are then entitled to claim a state-sponsored stipend to help with costs. 

Homeschooling is not a particularly popular method. Nevertheless, there are good online resources and support groups to help expat parents, such as the Home Education Foundation.


Special needs education in New Zealand

The New Zealand Disability Strategy guides the work of government agencies on disability issues in New Zealand. All local schools and education services provide inclusive education. Teachers and educators are trained to support and believe in students with special needs. They encourage students to progress and achieve and value their contribution to the learning environment. 

Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour service (RTLB) are specialists or teachers who work across a number of schools in New Zealand. They support schools and manage the additional learning needs of students in a number of ways.

New Zealand also has a number of residential special schools (RSS). These schools are for students with educational needs relating to vision, hearing, and socialisation, behaviour, and learning. Parents of children with special needs can contact their local office to find out about enrolment. The New Zealand Ministry of Education has a well-developed website that will help prospective parents as well.


Tutors in New Zealand

Private tutoring in New Zealand is a growing industry. However, it is an area where parents can be vulnerable to scam offers and misleading advertising. 

In 2008, the New Zealand Tutoring Association (NZTA) Ltd. was created to protect parents and students. It is the only association of its kind in New Zealand. It represents tutoring organisations and educational tutors throughout New Zealand. The association was formed in recognition of the need to unify the tutoring industry nationally. It aims to represent tutors and tutoring organisations, act as a lobby group and raise the standard of tutoring in New Zealand.


Tertiary education in New Zealand

There is a wide range of formal and vocational options when it comes to tertiary education in New Zealand. There are different types of institutions in this category, each with their own focus and approach. These include traditional universities, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), Private Training Establishments (PTEs), Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) as well as Wananga (Maori institutions).

Formal courses are offered by the country's eight universities, where students must meet a minimum level of English language proficiency to gain acceptance. The University of Auckland is generally recognised as the best university in New Zealand. Though several universities are ranked internationally and all provide a high standard of education. Degrees in New Zealand tend to either be three-year courses followed by an optional one-year honours degree or four-year qualifications, depending on the field of study.

Tertiary education is partly state-funded, and permanent resident students have their tuition subsidised. Expats who travel to the country with the express purpose of studying will, however, need to acquire a New Zealand study visa if their course lasts longer than 12 weeks.

Clubs and societies in New Zealand

New Zealand has many clubs and societies for expats looking to joinNew Zealand has some of the most impressive scenery, therefore there is no better way to experience it than in the great 
outdoors. Expats will be able to take part in solo and team sports throughout the year under sunny skies.  

Some of the clubs require approval of registration by a committee, and at times the waiting list may be lengthy.
 

Cricket in New Zealand


Auckland Cricket Association  

aucklandcricket.co.nz/
Featuring a detailed list of all the clubs in the area, the Auckland Cricket Association is a great resource for expats looking to find cricket grounds located close by. 
 

Cornwall Cricket

www.cornwallcricket.co.nz/
Address: 197 Greenlane Road West, Epsom
Tel: 09 623 1529
An Auckland club dedicated to cricket, it is open to all ages. The club is committed to creating an interactive environment for members. 
 

Sydenham Cricket Club

www.sydenhamcricket.co.nz
Address: 240 Brougham Street, Sydenham, Christchurch
Tel: +64 3 365 6046
One of the oldest cricket clubs in New Zealand, the Christchurch club is open to men and women of all ages, boasting over 500 members. 
 

Footballin New Zealand


Auckland City Football Club

www.aucklandcityfc.com/
Address: 47A Kiwitea Street, Sandringham
Tel: +64 9 629 3262
Auckland City FC is an amateur club with most players having full-time occupations outside of football. However the game is taken seriously, accounting for the Auckland City side winning many times. 
 

West Auckland AFC 

www.westaucklandafc.co.nz/
Address: Brains Park, 9a Tamariki Ave
Tel: 09 818 3612 
Open to all ages, the club prides itself on being a family club, perfect for expats moving to Auckland with kids.

Christchurch United Football Club

www.christchurchunited.co.nz
Address: Domain Terrace, Spreydon, Christchurch 
The teams are known as 'The Rams', and range from junior to senior level. 
 

Golf in New Zealand 

 

Royal Auckland Golf Club

www.aucklandgolfclub.co.nz/
Address: Hospital Road, Otahuhu
Tel: +64 9 276 6149
A private club that has been around for more than a century, it is regarded as one of the top golf clubs in New Zealand. 
 

Akarana Golf Club

www.akaranagolf.co.nz/
Address: 1388 Dominion Road, Mt Roskill
Tel: +64 9 621 0024 
Offering a host of benefits to its members, Akarana is the perfect place for expats in Auckland looking to fine-tune their swing. 

Christchurch Golf Club

www.christchurchgolf.co.nz/
Address: 45 Horseshoe Lake Road, Shirley
Tel: (03) 385 9506
The club has a long history, and has held numerous championships. The club offers different green fees and memberships to suit everyone.
 

Hiking in New Zealand

 

Auckland Tramping Club

www.aucktramping.org.nz/index.php
Tel: (09) 630 2591
The tramping (or hiking) club offers competitive rates for expats looking to explore the incredible New Zealand scenery. 
 

Hockey in New Zealand

 

Auckland Hockey

http://www.akhockey.org.nz/
Address: Lady Marie Drive, Pakuranga Heights
Tel: +64 9 576 0683
Auckland Hockey is open to men and women, who play alongside each other at all levels.
 

Harwood Hockey Club

www.harewood.co.nz/harewood-hockey-club/ 
Address: 238 Wooldridge Rd, Harewood
Open to people of all ages and abilities, this hockey club located in Christchurch.
 

Rugby in New Zealand

 

Ponsonby Rugby Club

www.ponsonbyrugby.co.nz/
Address: 1 Stadium Rd, Western Springs
Tel: 09 846 9954
The club has a rich history as one of the oldest rugby clubs in Auckland. The members, or ‘ponies’ as they are known, are committed to playing rugby, whilst still making time for socialising. 

Sydenham Rugby Club

www.sydenhamrugby.co.nz
Address: 88 Hunter Terrace, Cashmere, Christchurch City
Tel: 03 332 8875
Members of the club come from various ethnic backgrounds and range from ages 5-70, making it the ideal place for expats to meet friends.
 

Running in New Zealand

 

Auckland YMCA Running Club

www.ymcamarathon.org.nz/
Address: YMCA Auckland Gym, Corner Pitt St & Greys Ave
Focused on distance running and improvement, Auckland YMCA Running Club offers expats the chance to get fit and socialise. 
 

Auckland Joggers Club

http://www.joggers.co.nz/
Address: Cornwall Park, Puriri Drive, One Tree Hill
Tel: +64 9 520 2321
Their motto ‘Fitness with Friendship’ is sure to appeal to expats looking to make friends through exercise. Any level of fitness is accepted, perfect for beginners to advanced joggers. 
 

Tennis in New Zealand

 

Mission Bay Tennis Club

www.mtedentennis.co.nz/
Address: 22 Poronui Street, Mt Eden
Tel: 022 0237216
Surrounded by trees, the club’s location in Auckland makes the game even more enjoyable. Open to all ages and skills’ levels, the club also encourages socialising. 

Hagley Park Tennis Club

www.hagleyparktennis.co.nz
Address: Riccarton Avenu, Christchurch
Tel: 03 366 2870
With lawn and hard court tennis facilities available, the club is conveniently located in the city. 
 

Transport and Driving in New Zealand

New Zealand is a relatively small country with urban areas that are well connected for the most part. When it comes to day-to-day travelling, expats will find that all New Zealand cities and most towns have buses that are convenient to use. Auckland and Wellington even have city-suburban rail services.

On the other hand, those travelling long-distance or to more rural cities will find public transport lacking. This leads to most people in New Zealand finding it easier and more convenient to drive their own car for much of their getting around.

Despite the occasional narrow mountain road, it is easy to get around New Zealand by car. The North and South islands are connected by ferries which cross the Cook Strait several times a day. These ferries are used to transport cars and people between the islands.


Public transport in New Zealand

Cities in New Zealand are compact and pedestrian-friendly, with good public transport options. Comprehensive maps and timetables for different modes of public transportation are usually available for free at libraries, convenience stores and stations. Fares and timetables for buses, trains, ferries and dedicated school buses for most cities are available online.

Trains

The state-owned KiwiRail operates both freight and passenger trains in New Zealand. The company is responsible for the urban network in Wellington and provides long-distance services across the North Island and the upper part of the South Island. It also owns the railway infrastructure in Auckland, although the network is operated locally. 

It is easy to purchase single tickets and multiple-ride passes both online and at train stations across the country. Single tickets can usually be purchased when boarding a train, except in Auckland where tickets have to be bought in advance. Auckland also offers commuters a prepaid smart card for travel on different modes of transport called the AT HOP card. 

Buses

Buses in New Zealand form the backbone of the country’s various public transport networks. They are often the primary or only mode of transit in cities such as Christchurch, Hamilton and Dunedin. Local bus services are often contracted to private companies. The largest of these companies is NZ Bus, which operates services under different brand names in Auckland and Wellington.

It is usually possible to get single-ride tickets and multiple-ride passes. Buses in Auckland also accept the AT HOP card.

There are many private bus companies in New Zealand that offer intercity travel. While some of these are primarily aimed at tourists, expats will find that it should still be possible to find affordable one-way tickets between towns and cities. 


Taxis in New Zealand 

Expats will have access to a wide range of taxi services in New Zealand. There are plenty of operators in different areas of the country. Commuters are also able to make use of single taxis as well as group transport and shuttle options. New arrivals who want to get to know their surroundings can also take advantage of services such as day-tour packages. 

The most reliable way of getting a taxi in New Zealand is to book with a local service in advance. However, empty taxis can be hailed in the street or found at taxi ranks, especially in larger cities. Government bodies such as Auckland Transport provide information online about where taxi stands can be found.

App-based rideshare services such as Uber and Zoomy are active in New Zealand. Many expats prefer using rideshare apps as they allow for automatic credit card billing as well as a greater control over their route.


Ferries in New Zealand

Owned by KiwiRail, the Interislander ferry service has three vessels that regularly travel across the Cook Strait between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island. An alternative service is the Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry, which is run by Strait Shipping Limited, a privately owned company.

The journey takes around three hours, and it is possible to transport freight that ranges from cars to livestock. Ferries offer onboard services such as Wi-Fi, restaurants and play areas for young travellers.


Driving in New Zealand

It is possible to get just about everywhere on both islands in a regular car. Crossing between the North and South islands on a ferry is also fairly easy.

Expats can drive in New Zealand for up to a year with a driver’s licence from their home country as long as it is in English. Otherwise, they will need to carry an official translation of their licence or acquire an International Driver’s Permit. After living in New Zealand for more than 12 months, an expat would need to apply for a New Zealand driver's licence. 

Road rules in New Zealand are similar to those in the UK, and cars drive on the left-hand side. Driving in New Zealand is not usually stressful, except in rush hour in big cities. Drivers exploring the country should exercise caution as many roads in New Zealand's rural areas vary in condition and can be narrow or winding.


Domestic flights in New Zealand

It can be cheaper to travel between cities using domestic flights in New Zealand, especially when travelling from one island to the other. Regular domestic flights operate between large airports at Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown as well as smaller regional airports. The larger airports have shuttle buses that run from town to the airport. 

Keeping in Touch in New Zealand

New Zealand is an English-speaking country with reliable media, both local and international mobile phone providers and an efficient postal service. Expats therefore shouldn’t have any problems keeping in touch in New Zealand. The internet in New Zealand, although generally accessible, is slower and more expensive than it is in many parts of Europe or the USA, particularly in rural areas of New Zealand.


Internet in New Zealand

There are a number of options when it comes to using the internet in New Zealand. These include having an ADSL or fibre line installed, or using prepaid 3G or 4G broadband. 

Spark New Zealand, the main telephone company in New Zealand, owns much of the communications infrastructure in the country. It, along with its subsidiaries, is the largest internet service provider in the country. Many expats report that their internet isn’t nearly as fast as it was back home but, in theory, New Zealand is capable of reaching globally competitive internet speeds. Much depends on the connection and line quality. In rural areas, internet lines tend to be extremely slow. 

Some areas of the larger cities in New Zealand, such as the city centre in Wellington, offer free Wi-Fi for those with laptops and handheld devices. There is also free Wi-Fi in most airports and many cafés and restaurants. 


Mobile telephones in New Zealand

Mobile phone contracts and services in New Zealand are provided by the likes of Spark New Zealand, as well as Vodafone and 2degrees, among others. 

SIM cards are freely available in airports and large supermarkets. Expats can apply for phone contracts as long as they legally reside in the country. Applicants need to provide two forms of identification (such as a passport and driver’s licence) as well as proof of address to sign up for a mobile phone contract in New Zealand. There are also a number of affordable prepaid options.


Landline telephones in New Zealand

Some telecommunications providers, such as Spark New Zealand or Vodafone, may offer free landline calls to customers who sign up for an ADSL package. Otherwise, a landline can be expensive, as customers must pay monthly line rental fees in addition to per minute call rates. Some packages allow customers to make unlimited local and/or overseas calls for a flat monthly fee. 


Postal services in New Zealand

The New Zealand postal service is known for being very reliable and user-friendly. 

Overseas post is charged by weight. As New Zealand is quite far from the US and Europe, expats should be aware that shipping heavy items can be very expensive. 

Shipping and Removals in New Zealand

There is a fairly wide selection of companies that can help with shipping to New Zealand. Expats should get quotes from several companies before making a final decision.

Although unfurnished accommodation is more common, it is possible to rent furnished accommodation in New Zealand. Depending on how long an expat intends to stay in New Zealand, it may be worth leaving household belongings in storage in their home country if they plan to return.


Shipping personal belongings to New Zealand

Shipping times vary depending on where a person ships from. Most companies will be able to provide an accurate estimated arrival time. Forums and online testimonials are a good way to confirm this kind of estimate if an expat is unsure about information given to them by their shipping company.

Air freight is a popular and often faster way to ship smaller cargo. However, it costs more than shipping by sea (air freight is typically billed by weight while sea freight is billed according to the size of container). Still, some expats prefer to spend more on the cost of excess baggage to have their belongings arrive immediately.

It is advisable for expats to insure any belongings prior to shipping to New Zealand.


Shipping pets to New Zealand

Shipping pets to New Zealand is likely to be a large expense in terms of vet bills, permits, quarantine, as well as air transport costs.

Pets will need to be fitted with a microchip and must have a medical check-up in their home country from an accredited vet. They'll need to meet bio-security regulations for New Zealand, which are stricter than many other countries. The exact regulations that apply to an expat’s pet depend on the type of animal and the country of origin.

All cats and dogs, except those arriving from Australia, have to be placed in a quarantine facility for at least 10 days after they arrive in New Zealand. The facility has to be approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and supervised by official government veterinarians.

Expats should also be aware that there are restrictions on different types of animals. Certain breeds of dogs, such as American pit bull terriers, are not allowed to be brought into the country at all, and neither are guinea pigs, snakes, birds, and rats. New Zealand's Customs page has a full list of the animals and items that are prohibited from entering the country.  

More information can be found on the Biosecurity New Zealand website. Expats should be aware that importing animals is a complicated process. Therefore, the Ministry for Primary Industries recommends that travellers use a reputable pet relocation agency.

Frequently Asked Questions about New Zealand

Expats moving to New Zealand usually have many questions, often about what to expect from expat life. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about living in New Zealand.

Is it expensive to live in New Zealand?

The cost of living in New Zealand is entirely dependent on one's salary, lifestyle and dependents. Generally, the cost of living in New Zealand is found to be quite high for expats, but this opinion is also relative to where they were living prior to moving to New Zealand. 

How far away is Australia?

‘Not far enough!’ goes the Kiwi joke. In reality, Australia is a little over 1,200 km (745 miles) to the west. Flight time from Auckland to Sydney is two and a half hours, with frequent departures throughout the day.

How safe is New Zealand?

New Zealand is a very safe place, with among the lowest rates of robbery and violent crime in the developed world. But there are incidents of crime, so expats should take the usual precautions.

What percentage of the population is Maori?

Around 15 percent of the people are Maori, 75 percent are of European descent and the remainder is made up of Pacific Islanders and Asian immigrants, among other ethnicities.

Articles about New Zealand

Banking, Money and Taxes in New Zealand

Expats will find that banking in New Zealand is sophisticated and comprehensive. It also offers a good standard of customer service.

The requirements to open an account vary. However, it will generally be a simple matter for expats with a bank reference from their home country.

Visa and MasterCard are accepted everywhere. There are many ATMs which can be used to draw from local and foreign funds with a debit or credit card.


Money in New Zealand

The currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD), which is divided into 100 cents. In New Zealand, it is normally written with a dollar sign or as NZ$ to distinguish it from other dollar currencies. A dollar in New Zealand is sometimes informally referred to by residents as a Kiwi.

  • Notes: 5 NZD, 10 NZD, 20 NZD, 50 NZD and 100 NZD

  • Coins: 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 NZD and 2 NZD


Banking in New Zealand

Banking in New Zealand is relatively uncomplicated. The largest banks in New Zealand are ANZ, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ), ASB and Westpac. 

All banks have online banking services which allow account holders to transfer funds or pay certain municipal bills and other services online. Banks usually issue holders with a card that can be used to pay bills at electronic points of sale at shops and restaurants, such as a Visa debit card. Cashless services are very popular throughout New Zealand.

Opening a bank account 

It is advisable for expats to investigate their banking options before they commit to a certain account type or bank. Some banks or bank accounts charge fees for certain services – such as for transactions or monthly statements – while others don’t. In general, expats will be offered a choice between a current account and a savings account or a package which includes both.

The requirements for opening a bank account in New Zealand vary depending on the bank. In general, foreign applicants will need identification (usually in the form of a passport and a driver’s licence), proof of residence and their visa. Conveniently, the account can be set up and a new bank card can be issued on the day that the account is created. 

Some banks, such as the Bank of New Zealand, allow customers to apply online before they have even arrived in New Zealand. Expats who meet certain criteria are therefore able to begin depositing money into their account before moving to New Zealand. However, they would need to go into a branch when they arrive to get a bank card that will allow them to access their funds in cash.

Credit cards and ATMs

ATMs are widely available in New Zealand. Visa and MasterCard are accepted everywhere. Expats who open a bank account in New Zealand are issued with an EFTPOS card, similar to a debit card, which can be used to make purchases directly from their account simply by swiping the card at a till and entering a PIN number.


Taxes in New Zealand

New Zealand has simple tax laws with minimal loophole. It is one of the most favourable tax environments for investors of all OECD countries.

Local income tax is calculated on a sliding scale depending on how much one earns. Expats who are in New Zealand for less than 183 days of any 12-month period are only liable for tax on their locally earned income. However, expats in New Zealand for 183 days or more in any 12-month period are considered tax residents. This means that they will be liable to pay tax on their worldwide income.

The taxation system in New Zealand is characterised by the fact that there is no capital gains tax, inheritance tax, estate tax, healthcare tax or local taxes aside from property rates. There is, however, a blanket Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 15 percent factored into most things that expats would buy in New Zealand. Additional taxes are paid on alcohol, tobacco and petrol.

Expat Experiences in New Zealand

When considering a move to a new country, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in New Zealand and would like to share your story.


After living in Central America, Steph somehow ended up in New Zealand. She lives on the North Island with her partner and runs her own company. Learn more about Steph's struggles adjusting to expat life in New Zealand.

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After living in Japan, Jared moved to the New Zealand countryside with his partner. They've since established an olive grove complete with a trout stream, veggie garden, fruit trees and adorable pet pigs. Read about Jared's life in New Zealand

A kunekune pig  in front of two trees - image by Annie Spratt

Eve Brickner, with her Kiwi partner, moved from San Fransisco to pursue adventure in New Zealand, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. A great lover of the outdoors, read about Eve's expat experiences as she adjusts to life in New Zealand

Close up of Eve, smiling during a selfie

Betty, an American expat in New Zealand, left her home to court and eventually marry her New Zealander husband. The country's beauty has had such a profound effect on her, that Betty has since become an amateur photographer. Read about her life in New Zealand.  

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Isaac and Dawn are two British expats and long-term partners, who made the move to Auckland, New Zealand in December 2014. They share their honest experiences of what life is like in the land of the Kiwis, and how it compares to home. Read about their experiences of New Zealand here.

Rhonda Albom is an American expat who moved to Auckland, New Zealand in 2003. She relocated with her husband and two young children, and having lived there for over a decade, is well-versed in New Zealander life. Here she shares her expat experience in New Zealand.

Abigail Simpson, originally from England, moved to New Zealand at the age of ten with her family. Now living in Hamilton with her boyfriend, she shares her tips for making friends and fitting into the New Zealand lifestyle. Read more about her expat experience in New Zealand.  

Pierre Moseley is a South African expat who moved to New Zealand in 2008, after living in Namibia for a few years. After braving cold houses and bugs in Wellington, he finally settled in Hamilton, which he is more than happy to call home. Read more about his expat experience in New Zealand.

Fiona Gilston is a Scottish expat living in New Zealand. She moved to Christchurch in search of a change from her life in Scotland, and with no specific plans on where to settle, she met a Kiwi and has now made Christchurch her home. Read more about her expat experience in New Zealand.

Fiona Gilston - A Scottish expat living in New Zealand

Sarah Robertson is a British expat living in Queenstown, New Zealand. She left the city-life in London and relocated to New Zealand in 2011. She enjoys the laid-back lifestyle that Queenstown offers. Read about her expat experience in New Zealand.

Diane, an American expat in Wellington, New Zealand, spent a few years studying and living in Berlin and Amsterdam before settling with her husband in New Zealand. Read her advice on the best areas to live in Wellington, and what she loves about living in Wellington as an expat.

Diane an American expat in New Zealand

Wendy, a British expat living in Wellington, travelled with her family to the Falkland Islands and Australia before finally settling in Wellington – a city she is happy to call home. Read about what she likes and dislikes about Wellington and about her life as an expat in New Zealand.

Wendy an expat in New Zealand

Jimmy, an American expat living in Auckland, is a self-proclaimed country boy who followed his sweetheart to New Zealand from North Carolina. The sweetheart left, but he found a new love: the city of Auckland itself. Read all about his experiences making new friends and carving out a new life for himself living in Auckland as an expat.

Jimmy an American expat in Auckland


Whitney, an American expat living in New Zealand, is no stranger to relocation. She opted to settle into student life in Christchurch and has found simple pleasure in the pairing of small-town living and mid-sized city infrastructure. Read about her expat experience of living in New Zealand here.

American Expat in New Zealand


Molly, an American expat living in New Zealand, has found it challenging dealing with the distance of her new home from her Alaskan hometown and adjusting to a space without access to the mountains she feels closest to. She chronicles the complexities of her journey and the highs and lows of her time abroad in her blog "Bring a Raincoat". Read about her expat experience in New Zealand here.

American expat in New Zealand