New Zealand sim cards, travel insurance, money and more


Visas, vaccinations, phone roaming, SIM cards, internet, power adaptors, money, travel insurance, handy apps and more.

Planning your New Zealand trip


Get the best cash rate, phone rates, phone apps for maps and currency conversions, and why you need travel insurance - download the New Zealand travel guide.

Visas and passports

Most Australians don't need a visa to enter New Zealand, but you will need your passport (yes, some people really do forget that!). Make sure yours is up to date.

Australian citizens and permanent residents can visit, live, study and work in New Zealand indefinitely. You simply need to fill in a passenger arrival card at the airport and show a valid passport.

People with "significant character issues" (usually those who have been convicted of certain crimes) may be denied entry. If you have a criminal record or if you've ever been deported from a country, check your situation with the New Zealand Embassy before you fly.

Entry rules may change. Check the latest advice and procedures at nzembassy.com/australia.

Vaccinations

The risk of contracting a dangerous disease in New Zealand is comparable to the risk in Australia, so vaccinations are generally unnecessary. traveldoctor.com.au recommends you make sure your routine vaccinations are up to date, and that you consider shots for flu and hepatitis B if you travel often. See their New Zealand Travel Health page for more information.

More about health and safety in New Zealand.

Phone and internet

Global roaming and coverage

Everyone knows New Zealand is not another state of Australia, but many Aussies forget when it comes to using their phones. Plenty of visitors have been stuck with enormous global roaming charges after using their phones just the way they normally would at home.

Check with your telco for roaming prices:

Tip: Switch off data roaming on your phone before you leave Australia. Likewise, switch off your voicemail and ask friends and family to text you rather than calling (you'll be charged if you answer incoming calls).

Cheaper roaming

A Travel Pass from Telstra, a Travel Pack from Optus or a $5-a-day roaming rate from Vodafone are all add-ons that you can use with your existing account while overseas. They're not particularly cheap, but they'll save you from any nasty bill surprises and can be a good option if you're only visiting New Zealand for a few days or weeks.

Local SIM

If you're planning to spend more than a few weeks in New Zealand, or if you just want cheaper rates and don't mind having a different phone number while you're on holidays, a local pre-paid SIM is easy enough to buy and set up, as long as your handset is unlocked. Spark (formerly Telecom), Vodafone and 2 Degrees are the three main telcos. Compare their pre-paid rates, and if you're travelling to remote areas, check coverage maps to make sure you'll get reception.

Tip: 2 Degrees has been named a 'Consumer Trusted' business by CHOICE's sister organisation consumer.org.nz.

Travel SIM

Pre-paid travel SIMs can be bought from some Australian travel stores, phone stores and post offices, or ordered online before you leave the country. Rates won't be as cheap as a local SIM, but they can be a smart option if you're travelling to multiple countries and don't want to buy a local SIM every time.

Remember: Your phone will need to be unlocked to accept a SIM from another network.

Beat global roaming bill shock – our guide to unlocking your phone and changing your global roaming settings.

Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi isn't as common in New Zealand as it is in Australia, but it can be found in some cafes, hotels, libraries and in franchises like McDonald's and Starbucks. You'll find free hotspots in the city centres of Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington and Dunedin. In rural and remote areas, internet access is harder to come by. To search for free hotspots, try wificafespots.com or download an app such as wefi or Wi-Fi Finder (Apple or Android).

Tip: The mobile phone company Spark provides free Wi-Fi hotspots for its customers in various locations throughout the country.

Power plugs

Standard voltage: 220–240V

Frequency: 50Hz

New Zealand's power runs at the same voltage and frequency as Australia's, so you can use your Australian appliances without worrying about frying them.

Power sockets:

 

New Zealand and Australia use the same size power plugs and sockets, so there's no need to pack an adapter.

Money

Currency: New Zealand dollar (NZD)

Check xe.com for the latest exchange rates.

Important: Tell your bank about your travel plans two weeks before you leave. Card activity in a foreign country could be mistaken for fraud and you could find your account frozen.

Credit cards

MasterCard, Visa and American Express are widely accepted in New Zealand. Remember you'll be charged a foreign transaction fee by your bank, and the vendor may add a surcharge too. Talk to your bank about the best card to use overseas - some offer credit cards for travellers with no, or low, fees.

ATMs

ATMs are widely available in New Zealand, except in very remote areas. Your Australian bank card should work in most machines, but remember even if the bank looks familiar (a number of banks have branches in both Australia and New Zealand) you'll be charged foreign transaction fees and a withdrawal fee for each transaction.

Tip: Westpac customers can avoid withdrawal fees by using Westpac NZ ATMs (a 3% foreign transaction fee still applies).

EFTPOS

Most shops in New Zealand have EFTPOS machines however they aren't compatible with many foreign debit cards. It can't hurt to try, but chances are you'll need to pay with cash or credit instead.

Money changers

You'll find money exchange counters at airports and in tourist areas, hotels and banks. You're unlikely to get the best rate at the airport, but remember you'll need New Zealand dollars as soon as you arrive in the country. Very few retailers (including taxi drivers) will accept Australian currency.

Travellers' cheques

Travellers' cheques aren't so common these days, but some New Zealand banks and hotels will still cash them. If you're concerned about money security and you're planning on doing a lot of spending, you could consider a pre-loaded travel money card, which can be used like a debit or credit card, and cancelled if lost.

Tip: Carry at least two cards and more than one currency (Australian and New Zealand dollars). Split your money and cards between separate bags. That way if you lose one, you have a back-up.

GST (Goods and Services Tax) of 15% is applied to most goods and services. Unlike in some other countries, visitors cannot claim a refund when leaving New Zealand.

1c, 2c and 5c coins have been discontinued, so prices are generally rounded up (if the price ends with 6 to 9 cents) or down (if the price ends with 1 to 4 cents). If the price ends with 5c, it's at the retailer's discretion whether to round up or down.

For more advice on overseas spending, see our travel money guide.

Travel insurance

Many Aussies may have a relaxed attitude towards travel insurance when planning a trip to New Zealand. After all, we're only popping next door, and if there's an emergency, we have the same level of access to the public health system as New Zealand residents do. But that's no substitute for insurance. Here's a good reason why:

Under New Zealand law, accident victims cannot sue a third party for compensation. Instead, the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC) dips into a national compensation fund to cover the cost of medical care - but only within New Zealand. This means that if you were injured in an accident while on holidays, even if the other person was 100% at fault, you'd have no way of paying for your ongoing medical costs at home in Australia. Without travel insurance, you'd also be stuck with the cost of changes to travel plans and loss of income.

Travel insurance is essential. Buy your insurance at the same time as you book your trip, that way you'll be covered if you have to cancel for some reason before you go. The good news is that insurance for Australians travelling to New Zealand is likely to be cheaper than for many other destinations, thanks to the lower risks and the reciprocal health care agreement.

For more information read our buying guide and to choose the best cover, see CHOICE's travel insurance reviews and comparisons.

Tips:

  • If you're planning on skiing, bungee jumping or doing anything else potentially bone-breaking, make sure your insurance covers it. Most policies won't, so you'll probably need to purchase extra cover.
  • If you're planning on driving, check what your travel insurance policy covers so you don't end up paying for the same insurance again with the car hire company.
  • Remember, anything that happens to you while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is unlikely to be covered by insurance.
  • Keep a print-out of your travel insurance details with you at all times while on your trip.
  • Share your insurance details with family or friends before you leave.

Handy links and apps

Consider adding these links and apps to your phone, tablet or laptop before you go.

Tip: If possible, choose apps that work offline so they won't chew up your mobile data or stop working when you're in remote places.

Tip: To save a map onto your mobile device for offline use, select the area on Google Maps then select 'Save offline map' from the menu and follow the directions on the screen. Your GPS positioning will still work on the saved map, even when you don't have access to the internet. Alternatively, go to 'Offline maps' in the menu and select a city.

Public transport trip-planners by city

Websites


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