New Zealand is famous for its stunning mountains, beautiful beaches, and greener-than-green native forests. It’s also famous for being a country where you can go skiing in the morning and surfing in the afternoon! So, to get the most of your trip, it’s best to pack for ALL seasons.
NZ spans several climate “zones”, so it can be a surprisingly tough place to pack for. Below you’ll find a list of 17 items I highly recommend, a section on what to wear in New Zealand, what NOT to bring and other FAQs. Enjoy your travels to Kiwiland!
1) Universal Waterproof Phone Case – Phones keep us connected and often safe, so it’s a good idea to have one while traveling. That being said, electronics are also vulnerable to damage, and they need to be kept safe from water, dirt and debris, and scratches. This affordable phone case is perfect – it allows you full use of your device while also protecting it from all of the above. They also make a version for your eReader, which you may want to consider if you’re planning to read on your trip!
2) NZ Power adapter – Power outlets in New Zealand will require an adapter to be used safely with US-style power cords and devices. You know you’ll need to charge your phone at the very least, but chances are you’ll need to charge your camera as well, and maybe even your Kindle. When choosing an adapter, make sure you choose a high-quality one with fuse protection.
3) Travel insurance – A good insurance plan that covers potential travel mishaps is one of the first things I recommend to any international traveler. More often than not you’ll be safe and your trip will be free of hassles. However, it doesn’t pay to take chances – especially when things like theft, medical problems, or emergency trips home can be extremely costly.
4) Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger – A small portable charger is a wise idea when traveling, especially since you may be taking day trips far enough away from your accommodation that you can’t stop back midday to recharge your phone or camera. This one is as small as a tube of lipstick, easy to use, and holds multiple charges so that you can charge more than one device even while on the go.
5) Packing cubes – Organization is one of the keys to easy traveling, and it doesn’t get much more organized than packing cubes. Don’t worry, they’re not bulky or a pain to use – these zippered pouches make packing, finding things in your luggage, and transferring items to and from your daybag much easier and more efficient.
6) Jet Lag relief – It’s a LONG trip to New Zealand from the States, and the time change is fairly significant. Travel days are hard enough without jet lag adding to your stress. These natural tablets can help prevent and treat jet lag so that you don’t have to miss any time that could be spent exploring NZ!
7) Travel backpack – You’re definitely going to want to bring a daybag of some kind, and a backpack-style bag will save your back and shoulders a lot of tension and pain. The bag should be large enough to hold the things you need each day – water bottle, rain jacket, money, passport, camera, etc. – but lightweight to keep you from adding to your already heavy travel load. This bag brings that nice balance, and gets great reviews! It also compacts down into a small rectangular pouch for storage when you don’t need it.
8) Activated Charcoal – Almost every traveler I know has experienced some kind of stomach upset – most frequently Traveler’s Diarrhea – as a result of long journeys, new foods, and the general physical stress of traveling. Activated charcoal has provided me quite a lot of relief, and now I take it with me wherever I go (I even use it at home if need be!). It absorbs toxins in your system if there are any, and it helps return your digestion to normal so that you can go on enjoying your trip instead of feeling unwell.
9) Travel towel – Carrying a portable towel with you is always handy since you never know when you’ll need to dry off while adventuring. It’s also good to bear in mind that some accommodations may not provide towels, so having a quick-drying one like this is a good solution. It can be carried easily in your daybag, and is incredibly soft, too.
10) Rain jacket Women’s and Men’s – You’ll definitely need this in New Zealand. Weather varies from region to region in the country, and you never know when you’ll need to ward off a chilly breeze or a sudden rainfall. This jacket is especially nice because it can be stored compactly, making it ideal to carry with you in your daypack.
11) Virtual Private Network (VPN) – A virtual private network can allow you to browse the internet despite restrictions and any country-specific censorhip, so it’s one of the wiser subscriptions you can have if you travel at all – and one of the cheapest. The best feature of a VPN, though, is that it adds an additional layer of security to your browsing and data to help protect you from identity theft or other hacking issues. If I’d used one in Paris when I traveled there recently, I would have avoided having my credit card information stolen!
12) Insect Repellant that works on mosquitoes and sand-flies – Trust me on this one: you don’t want to be attacked by sand-flies or mosquitoes while you’re traveling NZ. The mosquitoes are not friendly, but they’re certainly not as bad as the flies. Peak season for biting insects is summer, but sand-flies especially can be experienced year-round. This repellent seems to work well, and it smells fresh, too!
13) Water bottle with built-in filter – You’re not going to have a hard time finding safe water to drink in New Zealand, but if you’re doing a day hike and need some water from a mountain stream this is a great way to be sure it’s okay to drink. Since you’re likely to carry water with you at all times when you’re out and about in NZ anyway, opting for a filtered water bottle is a good idea. That way the water will definitely be safe, and you’ll have an easy and free way to stay hydrated without having to purchase bottled water.
14) New Zealand Guidebook – There’s a surprising amount of things to do and see in New Zealand. You’ll want to spend a little time planning before your trip to make sure you don’t miss anything you really want to see. You’ll also really benefit from bringing a guidebook with you. It will add to your overall experience by making planning easier, adding insider insight and tips, and giving you a better idea of what to expect from your overall trip.
15) Women’s and Men’s hiking shoes – With so many outdoor activities to choose from, you’re going to be doing a considerable amount of walking. It’s best to have sturdy, broken-in hiking shoes for New Zealand so that you don’t risk hurting your feet or ankles hiking in regular sneakers. These ones are waterproof and rated well for comfort and price.
16) Beach bag – Having a tote bag specifically for beach days is always a good idea. That way you don’t have to worry about sand getting into your other bags and then into your suitcase when you bring your items back from the shore. A sturdy tote like this one that’s easy to empty of sand and which will dry quickly if it gets wet is best.
17) Women’s and Men’s quick-dry convertible pants – This is an item I bring on all trips that involve hiking, simply because I often start activities in the morning when it’s cooler, and finish the day when it’s later and much warmer. The transition from cold weather to warm weather is super easy when you can simply zip off part of your pants to make them into shorts. These pants are also quick-drying, which is a necessary bonus when you’re in a humid or water-plentiful area.
Warm layers are your friend if you are planning to visit New Zealand during winter, as the South Island can drop down to 14°F! (-10°C).
If you’re planning a visit in the warmer months, pack a light raincoat. It is also really important to remember your sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat to protect your skin from the sun, as well as your swimsuit, so you can enjoy a dip in the ocean!
The winters can be cold but the summers are warm and pleasant.
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).
For a destination as diverse as New Zealand, check the weather before your departure and pack accordingly. If you’re planning lots of outdoor excursions or even hiking, ensure you pack reasonable footwear with a suitable grip. It’s also important to note, Kiwis tend to be quite laid back when it comes to their outlook on life and their style. You may notice many people not even wearing shoes, let alone dressing up for the weekend. Therefore, your fancy best heels can probably stay at home this time.
That’s not to say there’s no need to get dressed up if you’re planning fancy dinners and nights out in the city. New Zealand has so much to offer a traveler, so you’ll definitely have ample choices when it comes to activities! Night time does mean a drop in temperature year round, so pack a shawl, comfy layers, and a warm scarf.
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).
Casual and comfy attire is very much welcomed in New Zealand. If you are planning on having fancy, extravagant dinners and nights out in the city, then a normal smart dress outfit is advisable. Other than that you can take a laid-back approach to what you’re wearing, as the locals do. Make sure to pack practically for what you have planned, so you can move freely, enjoy the activities, and stay comfortable. It is a good idea to pack layers for the evenings, as the temperature does drop down a little overnight, especially if camping or hiking at elevation. Try to pack natural and light materials that breathe well, as well as a few pairs of soft pants that allow for walking and hiking. Normal sun safety precautions should also be taken in New Zealand, including hat or cap, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
SPRING – March, April, May:
New Zealand during Spring for the most of the day is warm, but expect chilly mornings and evenings. You may find the days pleasant enough, especially if you are from somewhere colder. Be ready to layer up and for the temperature to change quickly. It is always handy to have a sweater and extra layer for the evening as night time sees a drop in temperature. Definitely pack a light coat.
Average daytime temperature: 61 – 66˚F (16 – 19˚C).
SUMMER – December, January and February:
These are the hottest months in New Zealand. Remember to pack your sunscreen and other sun protection such as hats and sunglasses.
Remember to cover body parts after sun exposure to avoid damage and use after sun. Swimsuits perfect for these months, as well as shorts, t-shirts, dresses. It may be advisable to carry light layer in the evening.
Average daytime temperature: 68 – 77˚F (20 – 25˚C).
FALL – March, April, May:
Fall in New Zealand will be chilly and sunny in the daytime, with a sense of the Winter months approaching and a drop in temperature, particularly at night. It is important to pack cozy layers, something warm to sleep in and lighter layers for the daytime. You may wake up to really cold mornings. Prepare for all weathers here, but for the most part it will be cold.
Average daytime temperature: 62 – 70˚F (17 – 21˚C).
WINTER – June, July, August
Winter sees the average temperature in New Zealand drop. The South Island can drop down to 14°F! (-10°C) Wear a coat, pack layers including moisture-wicking shirts and even thermal leggings to go under pants.
There’s a chance of it being particularly cold, so remember a scarf, a warm hat, and gloves!
Average daytime temperature: 53 – 61˚F (12 – 16˚C).
Outdoor Activities: Please plan all excursions carefully and to heed the information from the guide if you are working with one. Use common sense when venturing off alone, like dressing so you are comfy and able to move freely, and remembering to stay hydrated and plan a route. Good footwear can be the difference between a really successful excursion or not, so make sure you’re taking shoes with enough grip for the activity. Mountaineering and other fun activities can require proper equipment such as helmets, so check in with the organizers of any such activities to be sure you have access to the correct equipment.
Beaches: Normal beach attire is most welcomed and suitable here. New Zealand has some diverse and beautiful beaches. If you are planning on doing water sports or surfing, a wetsuit may be advisable to protect your skin from the cold water.
Walking and Hiking: Walks and hikes are one of the most incredible ways to see New Zealand. Stay on pathways or planned routes. Wear breathable layers. Ensure you have enough water and food for the walk. You may want to wear long pants to prevent any leg scratches from the natural surroundings. A light walking shoe with good grip will be suitable for most terrains. More difficult landscapes require sturdier and more advanced gear and clothing.
What NOT To Take to New Zealand
1) DON’T PACK your own sunscreen: It just takes up valuable packing space. Yes, it’s ABSOLUTELY crucial to wear sunscreen while in New Zealand as the sun’s rays are much stronger there. But sunscreen can be found anywhere, and it’s pretty affordable in any pharmacy or supermarket, so don’t bother bringing your own.
2) DON’T BRING too much clothing: and especially not fancy clothes. You won’t need a lot of clothing anyway, and New Zealand is not the place to dress up. Avoid bringing anything too nice – you’ll probably just get it dirty, anyway. DO bring layers that you can mix and match, and outfits that can easily go from warm to chilly.
3) DON’T TAKE extra electronics: It’s both a packing no-no and a security issue (yes, crime exists in NZ too!). You don’t want to schlep all of that extra weight around, and you REALLY don’t want your electronics stolen or damaged. There’s plenty to entertain you in NZ without them.
4) DON’T PACK heavy books: Or, honestly, any books except ones you need to navigate and explore NZ. Books are delightful, but heavy and bulky, which your back will not thank you for. If you haven’t already, update your library with a Kindle or similar e-reader, and bring that instead.
5) DON’T TAKE lots of cash: Another security issue. You don’t want to attract any unwanted attention, and cash is an unfortunate beacon for petty criminals. ATMs are everywhere in NZ, and they’re not usually any more expensive than in the States, so you’ll be able to get small amounts of cash when you need it.
6) DON’T BRING expensive or valuable jewelry: The theme here is not to take anything you’d be sad to see lost, stolen, or destroyed. You really won’t need decorative accessories in New Zealand – most of your activities will be outdoorsy and a little on the rugged side. Leave nice accessories and heirlooms at home.
No shoes Although the locals do it and you may see them going around shoe-less, it may not be advisable to go barefoot. There may be glass or debris on the floor, you may end up injuring your foot accidentally. Restaurants and shops will require shoes to be admitted.
Fancy, elegant, expensive clothing For the most part, leave your precious clothing at home – the exception being if you are planning very extravagant nights out. Opt for clothing practical for your activities that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty.
Expensive Jewellery Do not wear expensive, eye-catching jewelry. As with everywhere else in the world, flashy things like this will only attract pickpockets and thieves. Trying to minimize the risks to yourself and your belongings is always best, no matter where you’re traveling.
Impractical or ill-fitting clothing Make sure you are comfortable, in light, breathable fabrics Sunstroke and exhaustion are a risk, so stay hydrated and wear clothing to keep your body cool and prevent overheating.
FAQs about Travel in New Zealand
1) Is NZ tap water safe to drink?
Yes! Tap water is perfectly safe, although the water in many cities tastes a little unpleasant due to treatment. Mineral water is available in all supermarkets and dairies, or you can bring your own filtered water bottle with you so that your water is always fresh.
2) What is the cheapest way to get around New Zealand?
There are several options for traveling NZ on a budget, including:
Campervans. Buying or renting a van means you save on accommodation and get to travel at your own pace. There are hundreds of campervan parks around NZ, and in some places you can freedom camp.
Bus: Lots of budget options with companies that run services that cover all of NZ, or hop-on/hop-off tours.
Train: Although not a common way to travel due to the expense, the Tranz Alpine train journey is one of the most beautiful in the world.
3) Do I need to tip in restaurants?
Tipping isn’t expected in New Zealand. If you’re impressed by a particular staff member, then go ahead and tip if you want to, but many establishments require staff to pool any tips so that they can be shared equally. You may even see a “Tip Jar” on the counter, but again, it’s up to you to put something into it.
4) How safe is it to go hiking in NZ?
Hiking is as safe as long as you’re prepared!
Most hiking tracks will have a sign posted at the start which tells you how long it will take and the grade of difficulty, so you should know what to expect.
In any case, you should check the details with a local information centre or on the Department of Conservation website beforehand. Always take sufficient gear and ALWAYS tell someone when and where you’re going.
5) Do I need a visa to visit NZ? Or to work in NZ?
If you are a UK citizen and/or passport holder, you can stay up to six months without a visa. If you are a citizen of a country which has a visa waiver agreement with NZ, you can stay up to three months without a visa. Otherwise, you’ll need a visitor visa, which allows you to stay for up to 9 months.
A working holiday visa allows you to travel and work in New Zealand for up to 12 months, or 23 months if you’re from the UK.
6) When is the best/worst time of year to visit NZ?
Depends on what you want to do in NZ! If you’re coming for beaches and bush trekking, summer is your best bet. But if you want to hit the slopes and see the wild beauty of snow-capped Alps, you can’t miss winter. Some parts of NZ are quite wet and cold during winter, so outdoor adventures aren’t as safe or fun, but there’s always somewhere to go to escape the worst of it.
And remember – the southern hemisphere seasons are opposite to the northern hemisphere, so Christmas is in summer!
7) How can I stick to a budget while traveling NZ?
Budget travel can be tough, as New Zealand has become much more expensive in recent years. But there are still ways to see plenty on a shoestring by:
Camping: if you don’t mind communal kitchens and a slightly cramped living space, camping is a fun and cheap way to see the country.
Van or campervan: As above – rent or buy a campervan and your accommodation is sorted!
Couchsurfing: Very popular in NZ with over 2000 hosts around the country.
WWOOFing: A great way to work for your keep whilst hanging out the locals!
8) What are some foods to try while I’m in New Zealand?
Lamb is kind of a given, considering sheep are their primary pasture animal. Roast lamb is drool-worthy and an experience you won’t want to miss.
Other, lesser-known foods to try are:
Tuatua (a soft and mild shellfish), Hāngi (A traditional Maori dish of steam-roasted veggies and meats), Fish and chips (again: FRESH, LOCAL seafood!), and NZ’s delicious offerings of wine and cheese.
9) How can I find out where to get off the beaten path?
This is best done by visiting an i-site (information centre), checking out TripAdvisor or, better yet, getting to know some locals. There are many, many hidden gems in New Zealand that you won’t see on a tourist brochure – I could tell you a few just off the top of my head! Locals are only too-willing to point you in the direction of a cool place.
10) Where can I go camping in NZ
There are loads of campgrounds in NZ, especially in areas near tourist attractions. Facilities in campgrounds range from cabins, TV rooms and modern communal kitchens, to isolated paddocks with cold showers and long drops.
Freedom camping is also possible in some areas, which means you can park your van or pitch your tent and camp for the night – for free. It’s a fantastic way to explore New Zealand, BUT please obey the rules!
Katie is a born-and-bred Kiwi currently backpacking around Asia and working as a freelance writer. She has explored most of New Zealand and knows all the “dos-and-do-nots” of getting around the country – and a lot of other things the guidebooks won’t tell you! You can read about her backpacking adventures around India and Vietnam at A Woman Wanders.