Are you thinking about doing a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand and not sure where to start? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Even after doing two years on a WHV in Australia, moving to New Zealand felt just as daunting for us but I promise, it’s easier than it often seems on paper. There’s so much to think about but hopefully this little guide to planning your NZ working holiday will help you get your head on straight and know what needs doing starting before you even book your flights up to your first few days in New Zealand – we’ve thrown in a checklist at the end to make it even easier for you!

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Do I need a visa to work and travel in New Zealand?

First things first, visas! Everyone needs a visa of one kind or another to get into New Zealand but, for easy coverage I’ll focus on what you need as a fellow Brit who’s looking to work and travel in NZ. If you’ve looked into an Australian WHV, or you’ve already done one there, you’ll be pleased to know that the processes are pretty much the same; but YES they’re COMPLETELY SEPARATE VISAS.

In order to have the same work/travel freedom in New Zealand, you’ll need to apply for the Working Holiday Visa via the ‘.gov’ website. Providing you’re between 18 and 30 years old without any serious illnesses or convictions and can prove you have the funds to support yourself (more on this next), your shiny new visa will be in your inbox within just a few weeks! You’ll then have one year from the grant date to enter the county and activate your visa.

What are the requirements for the New Zealand WHV?

Every working holiday scheme has a strict set of rules or guidelines you need to meet before they grant you a visa or let you into the country, these are in addition to any quarantine or customs regulations in place for the country as a whole.

  • Be aged between 18 – 31
  • Have upwards of NZ$4,200 each or the price of a return ticket upon arrival (Even though we didn’t get questioned, they can ask for proof of this at the arrival hall)
  • Have 0 dependants
  • Have no criminal convictions
  • Have a clean bill of health – if you’ve been in Asia for 3+ months, or apply for the 23 month WHV, you’ll need to provide a health check that includes X-rays and blood tests.

Are there any restrictions on the New Zealand working holiday visa?

Beyond what I already stated above, there are some limitations to the New Zealand working holiday visa once you get here too;

  • You can only work on this visa for 12 months – even if you apply for the 23 month option
  • You’re not able to take on a permanent contract – they’re saved for NZ residents
  • You can study for up to 6 months if you wish
girl on a bench overlooking a city in New Zealand

Booking flights and accommodation

Where should I fly to?

This depends entirely on what you want to see and do in New Zealand as well as when you plan on flying. There are two main airports in New Zealand, Auckland in the North Island and Christchurch in the South, both on opposite sides of the country and closer to completely different landscapes and activities.

It’s a tiny country (especially compared to Australia) but there’s still a lot to fit in. We chose to fly to Auckland because July is winter over on this end of the world and while we were only across the water in Australia we didn’t fancy going from Sydney’s fairly mild winter, to Christchurch where there’s usually snow. It would have been even worse if we were in summer temps! That being said, the South Island is apparently where ‘all the beauty’ of the county is, so if you want to land straight in the heart of it all maybe start at the bottom.

Take some time to think about what you want to get out of your working holiday visa in New Zealand and go from there. This little chart with the seasons and average temperatures should help too just remember, it’s usually colder on the South but wetter in the North!

  • Spring 16 – 19°C – September, October, November.

  • Summer 20 – 25°C – December, January, February.

  • Autumn 17 – 21°C – March, April, May.

  • Winter 12 – 16°C – June, July, August.

Do I need Travel Insurance?

While it isn’t part of the visa requirement we still recommend you have some sort of insurance before booking your flights. Not only is it good to have on the off chance your baggage goes missing but in a country famous for its adventure activities, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

If New Zealand will be your first long trip away from England, you’ll find it easy to get cover with any insurance company, we used Go Walkabout when we flew to Australia as they have specific working holiday packages! 

However, if you’re like us and you’ve already been away from ‘home’ for two years, you’re going to need a more specialised cover that allows you to start or renew without being in your home country – and it’s going to come with a higher price tag. We really like World Nomads, they’re very popular amongst backpackers and digital nomads but they’re definitely not budget friendly. While we love their flexibility, we’re in the market for something cheaper when our next renewal comes around.

Where should I stay?

For couples, we always recommend booking at least one or two nights in a budget hotel (we love Ibis budget) or an Air B+B to relax in while you get your jet lag in order. Believe it or not, it’s often cheaper to book a whole apartment or hotel room as a couple compared to the price for two beds in a hostel!

There’s almost always an Ibis Budget next to the airport so if you don’t want to stress about getting into the city when you first land we highly recommend them, Booking.coms is our go-to site for hotels. 

Air B+B is amazing if you want a locals touch, 99% of the hosts on Air B+B are happy to provide advice and pointers for places to go nearby – we’ve found some cool brunch spots thanks to our Air B+B hosts in the past! The only downside is that they’re often a little difficult to get to, especially if you arrive on a red-eye flight.

You can get a discount off your first stay by signing up through our code.

Hostels and couch surfing are great if you’re a solo traveller. They’re a cheap and fun way to meet other travellers and hostel managers will often help you with any travel planning if you get stuck while you’re there.

Booking.com
snow capped Mount Cook in New Zealand

As soon as you arrive

I know once the Jet Lag has worn off you’ll probably want to hop in a camper-van and go exploring but there are still a few important things to do before you’re all set up and ready to go! This is what we call the ‘boring admin’ days of a new country.

What phone company should I go with?

I ummed and ahhed for a little bit about where in the list of priorities this should go. Given that most banks expect you to have a New Zealand phone number when you go to open an account, I figured it made sense to get your sim cards sorted before you open your bank account. Strap in, because things are alot different in NZ than in England or even Australia!

The big thing you need to realise is that you won’t find a good pre-paid package (a bit like pay as you go – you’re not tied in to a contract and just buy a package as and when you need one) that is both budget friendly and full of mobile data. They don’t exhist in New Zealand unless you want to go with a pay monthly plan – and even those choices aren’t perfect. You’re limited to three companies here, Spark, Vodafone and Skinny. Each one has black spots when you leave the cities, so don’t expect perfect coverage either.

There are big debates over which is the better company for backpackers, and which one you decide to go with will depend on what you’re looking for; a cheap plan, big data or a plan that ‘gives back’ with user bonuses. We chose to go with Spark because it was the only one that gave us heaps of data for not a rediculous amount – although it’s still not ‘cheap’ by Australia standards.

Below we’re going to compare the cheapest pre-paid plans and one monthly plan for each company and link to their website so you can do more research for yourself.

Vodafone

Prepaid NZ$26

  • Unlimited texts
  • 200 Minutes
  • 2GB data

Monthly plan NZ$39.99

  • Unlimited texts
  • 300 minutes
  • 5GB (for the 1st 6month, 2.5gb after)

Spark

Prepaid NZ$29

  • Unlimited texts
  • 300 Minutes
  • 2GB data
  • 2GB social data (for Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram)
  • Free 1GB at Spark hotspot
  • 50% off spotify premium

Monthly plan NZ$39.99

  • Unlimited texts
  • 300 Minutes
  • 1GB data
  • 1GB social data (for Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram)
  • Free 1GB at Spark hotspot
  • 50% off spotify premium
  • Free lightbox account (NZ version of Netflix)

Monthly plan we chose $79.99

  • Unlimited texts
  • Unlimited data (slows at 40GB)
  • Unlimited calls
  • Free spotify premium
  • Free lighbox account
  • Hotspot ability (shared data)

Skinny

Prepaid NZ$26

  • Unlimited texts
  • 300 Minutes
  • 2.5GB data
  • Free skinny – skinny calls
  • 4GB bonus data if you use a referel code at 1st top up

Monthly plan Travel sims NZ$48 (lasts 2 months)

  • 200 NZ Minutes
  • 200 international calls
  • 200 texts
  • 6GB data

Prepaid plans last for 4 weeks and will end after this time even if you haven’t used up all your data/calls/texts however, if you run out before the 4 weeks is up you can top up again and start a fresh plan. Most monthly paid plans are open term, which means you can cancel at any point as long as you give the company notice. You’re not tied in for 12, 24, 36 months like in England.

If you know who you want to go with before you even arrive in New Zealand (we didn’t), then you can pick up a sim from pretty much anywhere; the airport, supermarkets etc. If you’re still unsure, or you want to go with a monthly plan, you’re better off going in to a branch and speaking to one of the assistants there. The people in New Zealand are so friendly, they’re not shy about reccomending you go somewhere else if they feel another company would suit you better, something that really took us by surprise.

How to open a bank account

If you intend to work while you’re in New Zealand you’ll need to open your own bank account. Banks in New Zealand operate slightly differently compared to England. Some have monthly usage fees, some charge you if you don’t have ‘X’ amount incoming each month, and others have no monthly fees but charge you to use your card. Here’s a quick rundown of the three main banks recommended for travellers.

Note: In both Australia and New Zealand you’ll hear the phrase ‘EFTPOS’, this refers to card transactions. If you’re asked ‘are you paying by EFTPOS’, they mean are you paying by card.

For every bank you’ll need to provide the following:

  • Proof of ID (passport)
  • A printed copy of your visa
  • Proof of address (your hotel or hostel can help you with this)
  • Tax number for every county you’ve worked in (NI for England, TFN for Australia)

ANZ

  • No monthly account fee
  • $10 yearly charge for the debit card
  • Option for free EFTPOS only card that can’t be used online
  • Unlimited free transactions
  • $3 fee for in-store assistance (branch deposits/withdrawal)
  • No ATM fee at any bank operated ATM.
  • No cash deposit to open

BNZ

  • $5 monthly account fee
  • Unlimited free transactions
  •  No yearly debit card fee
  • May need a cash deposit to open

ASB

Option A – streamline account

  • $3.50 monthly fee
  • Unlimited free transactions
  • $3 fee for in-store assistance (branch deposits/withdrawal)
  • No yearly debit card fee

Option B – Omni account

  • No monthly fee
  • 40c per electronic transactions
  • 80c per manual transaction

Have enough cash with you for at least a week to cut down the cost of using your English card abroad. You’ll need to make an appointment with whichever bank you choose to open your account, which can sometimes mean waiting a few days. We chose ANZ because of the lack of fees and we were able to get our card on the same day!

A girl walking through a field with views over New Zealand's mountains

How do I transfer money into my New Zealand account?

Transferring between accounts is really easy and doesn’t have to be expensive. There are a couple of methods to do this and depending on which one you choose, it can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a week; which is why we recommend you have cash ready just in case.

Bank to bank transfer

This is an old fashioned and expensive method where you use your English online banking to transfer the money to your New Zealand account. With this, both banks will charge you an international transfer fee because they’re handling the conversion of one currency into another. The fees and time it takes to transfer will vary between companies and while it may seem the ‘safest’, it isn’t a method we usually use.

Transferwise

This is our go-to way of transferring our money. Using a third party company to handle your money can be a bit unnerving to start with but it’s super easy and we usually get our money available within 4 hours. 

It works as a ‘middle-man’ between banks. You set your amounts and then send them your money. They exchange your money into your desired currency and then send it over to the end destination. This cuts down on your bank international fees because the start/end account is only sending/receiving its local currency. 

Transferwise work with live currency exchange rates which enable them to give you the best rate available. Once you set up your transfer that exchange rate is locked in, so no matter how long your transfer takes or how many times the rate changes in that time, you’ll get the rate they quoted you.

When you sign up with TW through Our code* your first transfer up to $5000 will be free, which makes it an even better option. Any transfers after that will have fees attached depending on how much you’re transferring. We’ll also receive $90 if you decide to sign up using our code.

CurrencyFair

Currencyfair works exactly the same as Transferwise, they handle the exchange between banks to help you beat high bank fees. On the occasions we’ve needed to transfer money, we have found their exchange rates to be the same as Transferwise but some reviews suggest that they often have a more competitive rate. 

As of July 2019, they don’t offer a free first transaction but their fees are explained in more detail here. If you want to give CurrencyFair a try, sign up through our code* and we’ll get €30. 

With both CurrencyFair and Transferwise you’ll need to verify your identity with a mobile number and photo ID before they allow you to transfer money. You might also need to get your bank to approve the transaction if you’re dealing with a large amount of money. 

*Our code is from their customer referral scheme, and not an affiliate programme. If you do sign up to either of our recommendations, you’ll receive your own code to help refer friend, which will get you the same rewards.

How do I get a tax number ready for when I get a job?

Now you have your bank account set up and have made a couple of transactions, getting a tax number (or IRD) in New Zealand is easy. You need to fill in the form on this website to apply, in the application you’ll be asked for:

  • Passport details
  • Visa details
  • Previous tax numbers
  • Bank details

Once you’ve done this, you’ll receive your number by email/text or through the post! Easy.

There are plenty of companies that would be ‘willing to help’ for a small fee, but I hope we’ve shown you that it’s easy enough to do on your own for free. Below is our checklist to help you speed through the process. 

If you want to get some ideas on things to do in New Zealand on a working holiday visa, follow us on our socials and get inspired by our journey! 

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