Erica ClappComment

New Zealand: Know Before You Go

Erica ClappComment
New Zealand: Know Before You Go

It’s been almost two months since leaving for New Zealand and I already have a running list of things I wish I knew before going to New Zealand.  If you’re making the same (or similar) move, spare yourself some stress by doing exactly what I didn’t do.

Bank Accounts

If you are going to be there for a while and will be making money, it’s a good idea to open a bank account.  The best thing you can do is open a bank account well before you arrive.  You can do this online and this allows you the option to bypass the headache of having a permanent address.  As far as getting money into the account, in hindsight, I should have just paid the $50 wire transfer fee from my US bank to the NZ bank.  I was trying to be frugal and it ended up costing me money in the long run.  It also took a lot longer which was frustrating.

If you do not open it up before you arrive, you should consider setting up an appointment to open an account before you arrive.  I didn’t realize you needed to schedule appointments and when I arrived, I heard talk of it taking up to a week to get an appointment.  That was about six days longer than I wanted to be in Auckland.  Luckily, I was able to get an appointment for the day after my arrival.  You need your passport, proof of address (most banks, except Kiwibank, allow you to use your hostel’s address), and a copy of your visa.  You can deposit cash into your account if you have it or write yourself a check from your native bank.  I chose the check option which cost me $15 and took 5 business days.  

If you need more cash before you get all of this settled, be aware you can only take out a certain amount each day.  Check with your bank to find out what this limit is.  This was an especially frustrating point for me since I was trying to take out heaps of cash for my car.  


You need an IRD number if you are going to work in New Zealand.  It’s easy to get.  Go to the post office, fill out the form, provide the documents and you’re well on your way.  You need a copy of your passport, your license (in English or with an English translation), and a copy of your visa.  It takes about 10 days to receive the IRD number.  They mail it to you but you can also call to get it over the phone if you’re on the move.

Buying a Car:

If you are going to be in New Zealand for more than a few months, consider buying a car.  It might be cheaper, especially if you can split the cost with more than one person, and gives you the freedom to explore New Zealand’s infamous nooks and crannies.  

I talk about this a lot more here and here.


Hostels get very pricey after a while.  If you can camp, do it.  There’s a huge camp culture in New Zealand so you’ll fit right in, just make sure you do so legally. New Zealand has a huge problem with freedom camping so make sure you're at an official campsite or a conservation area where camping is permitted. It also goes without saying (although not quite) but pack it in, pack it out. Don't leave your rubbish and look after your campsite. As for gear, I suggest bringing rather than buying since gear is very expensive here.  

I also recommend checking out WWOOF if want accommodation and food in exchange for your labor.  It’s a good exchange but does limit your freedom a bit since you’ll have responsibilities to attend to every day.  I would also recommend being very clear on the expectations and tasks before you commit.  My first WWOOF experience was a bit odd but I’m hoping to bounce back with a second experience coming soon. {link to post about spiders}

If you know you'll be settled down in a town for a while, it's worth it to get an apartment or house. You can find these through the local ads or community facebook groups. It's a great way to meet people and gives you a place to relax for a bit. 

To be totally honest, New Zealand's working holiday scheme is not for those who are looking to save money while living abroad. It's incredibly expensive to live on this island and while you'll make enough to get by, you won't be living large.

You can easily make enough money to get by and supplement your travels but the working holiday visa is not for those wanting permanent, high-paying jobs. Be prepared for low-skilled, temporary jobs. Waiting tables, washing dishes, picking fruit and cleaning hotels are all common jobs for travelers. Minimum wage is $15.75 and you can expect to earn $15.75 – $17 an hour for backpacker jobs.

While the pay can be low and the work monotonous, these jobs also come with extreme flexibility. It’s common for travelers to work for a month or two then take off to another part of the country.

Keep your work expectations low and remember why you are in New Zealand and you’ll get by just fine. It’s a very easy country to move to. 

Finding work in cities like Auckland and Wellington will be more difficult than in smaller towns with less competition. Websites like TradeMe,, and Backpackerboard will give you a good idea of what type of work is available. Most towns will also have their own community Facebook group or local news publications which are both common ways to find work. Many travelers also find work by walking around town and handing in physical CVs.

If you want an in-depth view of everything you need to know about the working holiday visa, you can read my post on it here

Good luck with your preparations and don't stress too much. The most important thing is to stay flexible and keep your cool when things don't go as planned because they certainly won't. Enjoy!

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