InsurancesafeNZ provides three different travel insurance policy categories: Studentsafe, Workersafe and Explorersafe. This means that if you’re travelling to New Zealand, travelling within New Zealand or temporarily leaving New Zealand, we have something to offer you. Use the Policy Finder to narrow your policy search and get a quote. Our website is also packed with great information on how to keep safe, how to make the most of your time abroad and how to understand your travel insurance policy better. If you need further assistance contact one of our friendly staff on our toll-free number 0800 486 004 (within NZ) or +64 9 488 1638 (outside of NZ).
In some ways many may find New Zealand airports easier to understand and less stressful than other airports. Our customs agents aren’t armed, and they tend to be friendly unless you give them reason not to be. The airports themselves aren’t huge multi-terminal places where you can get lost just trying to find the right place to check-in.
But in other ways, they can seem very strict for people not familiar with New Zealand and our unique place in the world. Our biosecurity rules in particular are extremely strict, which can be confusing to many people visiting for the first time.
This article focuses on what you need to know before going through a New Zealand airport. Hopefully it will help you have an easier journey, and make sure that you start your time here pleasantly!
First things first – get your visa right
This first point applies for travel to any country, not just New Zealand – make sure that you have the right visa! The last thing you want to happen is to find out that you have packed everything up, paid for flights, organised your plans… only to be turned away at border control because you arrived with the wrong documentation. There are many different visas, with variations for visitors from different countries – especially if you are coming to New Zealand on a working holiday. The Immigration New Zealand website has more information, and they are the organisation to contact if you have any questions.
Packing for New Zealand
To save yourself a lot of trouble in biosecurity and customs, it’s sensible to carefully consider the rules that are in place for what you can and can’t bring into New Zealand. We have very unique plant and animal life here, and we spend a lot of time and money protecting it so that it’s preserved for future generations.
This means that we are much stricter than many other countries about what can be brought in, or what must be declared if it is brought in. After all, we’re an island nation that’s further away than any other country than almost anywhere else – so we keep firm protections in place. For example – did you know that there are no snakes in New Zealand? Not in the wild – but not even in zoos? They pose too much risk to our native bird life, so we just don’t let them in at all.
Thinking about what you’ll need to declare
When you’re in the plane on the way to New Zealand, you’ll have to fill out a Passenger Arrival Card, where you declare any potential risk items that you are carrying. But rather than waiting until you’re in the air to think about what you’ve packed, it’s sensible to refer to the list while you’re packing, so you know in advance what items might cause a problem. Sometimes, you could have easily fixed the situation before you packed if you had known that there could be a problem.
As per the guidelines from Biosecurity New Zealand, you must declare:
- Any food
- Animals or animal products
- Plants or plant products
- Equipment used with animals, plants or water
- Items that have been used for outdoor or farming activities
When it comes to food, as long as it’s declared, some types of food are permitted. However, some things are also always banned no matter what – fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meat or fish, and any honey or bee products.
Most of the time, border officials will let you bring in baked goods in sealed packaging – as long as they don’t have raw nuts or any filling like meat or fresh fruit. Confectionery items are generally acceptable, provided that they don’t contain liquid honey, loose fresh fruit, loose raw seeds, raw citrus peel or meat products – which may sound unlikely, but chocolate covered bacon is a new treat in some places!
Common types of tea – Early Grey, English Breakfast, Green, Chamomile – can be brought in without issue, whether it’s loose leaf or in tea bags. Herbal tea is acceptable if it is in sealed teabags or sachets, while loose herbal teas will need to be inspected at the border.
The reason behind these food restrictions is that they can potentially bring in pests or diseases that can threaten our natural resources. This in turn lowers our agricultural and horticultural production as a company, which affects our trade ability with other countries – so ultimately threatens our economy.
All it takes sometimes is for one little insect to sneak through at the wrong time, and it can cause chaos. In February 2015, several Queensland fruit flies were found in a central Auckland suburb – which resulted in a controlled area being set up around the location the population of flies was found, and for 1.5km in every direction, fruit and vegetables were not able to leave the area after entering it. That controlled area stayed in place until December of that year – so you can understand that these threats are taken very seriously in New Zealand.
Animals & plants
Anything that comes from an animal or plant source must be declared. That means anything from obvious things like meat, eggs and plant cuttings to things that you might not immediately think of, like shells, feathers, bone carvings, items made from wood and herbal medicines. As with the different types of food, some will be fine, and others will not – and some may be acceptable after the biosecurity team take it away to be treated before returning it to you. Think hard about anything that you’re packing – you don’t want to get a fine because you forgot that you had a straw hat in your luggage and didn’t declare it.
Used outdoor equipment
If you are a keen hiker who plans on hiking while you’re in New Zealand – as many visitors do – you must be very careful with your gear. Any footwear that you have used for hiking, or on a farm, or anywhere outside of an urban area, must be well cleaned before you come to New Zealand, and they must not have any soil or seeds stuck to them.
The same applies to tents and camping equipment, anything that you might have worn or used while working with animals or gardening, and any fishing and water sport clothing or equipment. Clean everything as carefully as you can – and if you’re just not quite sure, declare them just in case. Hopefully the biosecurity staff will check them over and then compliment you on how well you cleaned them!
Ultimately, if there is anything that you are not quite sure about, you should declare it, just to be safe. The worst case scenario is that you will have that item taken away – which is unfortunate, but it’s the way the rules work. Most often, if you have been thoughtful about packing and sensible about what you declare, the biosecurity staff will tell you that everything’s fine and that they appreciate your commitment to travelling here properly. But if you don’t declare a problem item and it’s found by biosecurity, you’ll have it taken away and you’ll have to pay a fine.
Arriving in the country
After you’re off the plane and back on solid ground again, the first official stop is Passport Control – though you can pause for a bathroom trip or a drink of water beforehand if you need to. Visitors from some countries can use the new eGate technology if they have a modern e-passport, while visitors from every other country – or who just don’t have a new enough passport – will talk to an Immigration Officer.
Countries that can use the eGate are currently: New Zealand, Australia, the UK, the USA, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ireland, and The Netherlands. Just make sure that you present yourself in a similar way to how you look in your passport photo – if you didn’t wear glasses in your photo but you wear heavy frames now, take them off so that the computer can properly recognise you.
If you’re talking to an Immigration Officer, they will ask you if there is anything you need to declare – just like with the Passenger Arrival Card, you need to be truthful about anything coming in with you. Nobody wants their visit to a new country to begin with a fine. They might ask you a range of other questions, things like:
- What is the purpose of your trip? I’m here on a working holiday.
- Do you have a return ticket? No, but here’s proof I have funds to purchase one.
- Do you have sufficient funds required of your visa? Yes, here is my bank statement.
- Where is your first destination? I am staying at Haka Lodge for my first three nights. It’s located at 373 Karangahape Road.
- What was your last destination? Shanghai.
- Have you visited New Zealand before? No.
They may also ask you how much cash you have with you – if you have more than NZ$10,000 or the equivalent in another currency, you will have to go through additional steps.
The Immigration Officer will stamp your passport and return it to you along with your Passenger Arrival Card. The next stop is luggage collection, before you head along to New Zealand Customs, where you’ll be asked about items to declare again. By now you should be an expert at knowing what you need to mention! Your bags may be X-rayed, and they may also be checked by a customs dog and their handler while you wait in line, as part of the checking for prohibited material.
Hopefully you will have learned by now that being honest about what you are bringing into New Zealand with you is a very important part of the process of arriving. But it’s a useful way to start your time here, as it’s a reminder of how important our natural world is to those of us who live here, and means that you can understand the Kiwi way of life from the moment you arrive.
The exciting part comes next. Once you’ve passed through the X-ray lines and spoken to customs and biosecurity officers about any final questions they may have, you’ll get to walk through those doors where crowds of people are waiting to greet visitors and returning New Zealanders alike. Even if you’re arriving by yourself, it still feels nice to get a warm reception to a new country. Nau mai, haere mai ki Aotearoa – welcome to New Zealand.