19 Top New Zealand Packing List + What NOT To Bring (2017 Update)

What Should I Bring on my NZ Trip?

NZ 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.

What to Bring:

1) Tablet and/or Laptop – The essentials for keeping in touch on the road. Most cafes, restaurants and lodgings in NZ haveWi-Fi, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting connected.

2) Camera – It goes without saying that a lightweight, point-and-shoot t digital camera is an absolute must when travelling. Sure, a smartphone can take photos too, but a digital camera with a zoom will make all the difference when you’re trying to snap those stunning Southern Alps.
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3) Smartphone – Nobody likes to be without their phone these days – especially not when travelling. It’s easy to pick up a NZ SIM card when you arrive – most come loaded with mobile data and talk time.
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4) Travel insurance – Whether you’re planning to try out a few adventure activities or not, travel insurance is a must! Accidents happen when – and where – you least expect.

5) Kindle – NZ may have great scenery, but those long bus rides are sometimes better spent with your head in a book.
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6) Walking/running shoes – The best way to explore NZ’s diverse landscape is on foot. Break out the runners and moving!
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7) Weatherproof/ventilated rain jacket – Nowhere in the world is the weather so unpredictable as in New Zealand. A morning of perfect sunshine can give way to rain and thunder within an hour. Don’t go anywhere without a waterproof, breathable rain jacket.

8) Swimsuit – They’re called ‘togs’ in NZ, and unless you’re planning to hit the nudist beaches (yes, they do exist!) you’ll need your own.

9) Day pack – Whether you’re heading out on a hike, a bike or just a wander, a day pack makes moving around a lot easier. If you can, get one that zips onto your main pack.

10) Packing cubes – You’ll be taking quite a variety of clothes and accessories to New Zealand, so it really helps to keep them separate. Packing cubes are an ingenious way to keep everything neat and accessible.
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11) Travel towel – No matter where you are in the world, there’s something nice about having your own towel. A light, quick-dry travel towel is idea when you’re moving around – and not all budget accommodation provides towels anyway.
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12) Power adapter – Yes, the electric sockets are different in NZ! If you’re travelling this far, you’re probably stopping at other countries on the way – so get yourself a worldwide travel adaptor and save a whole heap of space.
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13) Electronics chargers – Obviously! But they are easy to forget, too.
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14) Hat – You’ll hear the Slip, Slop, Slap anthem everywhere you go in NZ in the summer. Sobe a good backpacker and slap on a hat – one that covers your neck and ears.
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15) Hiking shoes: Women’s and Men’s – Most off-road terrain in NZ is best tackled in hiking boots. Some hiking routes are steep gravel paths which make hiking boots a must. Don’t forget to bring good hiking socks and keep a pack of Band-Aids or Compeed handy in case blisters strike. In the colder seasons, hiking boots double as everyday wear – you certainly won’t be the only one wearing them in the street!

16) Lonely Planet NZ – Always handy! If you don’t like the weight of the book, download the Kindle version. Lonely Planet is famous for a reason, and it can be a lifesaver if you’re stuck for ideas.
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17) Flip flops/thongs – Kiwis call them ‘jandals’, and everyone has a pair. They’re all you need in summer, whether on the beach or downtown, and in winter they’re useful for wearing in hostel dorms. TIP: In New Zealand, a “thong” is a completely different item of clothing!

18) Sleeping bag – If you’re going camping, you’ll need a good-quality sleeping bag. BUT – if you’re going to be staying in hostels only, don’t bother – most hostels and hotels don’t allow sleeping bags due to hygiene reasons.
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19) Fleece jacket – Fleece is light, quick-drying and very warm. A good-quality fleece jacket is essential in winter, especially in the bush or snow. And it can double as a pillow on long journeys!
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Other items to consider

Of course, you can get any kind of toiletries in New Zealand, but you might want to bring any personal favourites.

What Should I Wear In NZ?

New Zealand is the sort of place where pretty much anything goes. ‘Tidy casual’ is the most common dress code – unless, of course, you’re planning to sip cocktails in Ponsonby!

Aim for gear that’s suitable for all-weather, all-terrain. It’s likely that you’ll be outdoors for a good part of your trip (if not, you’re missing out!) so your clothing should be hard-wearing, comfortable and easy to wash and dry. Think zip-off pants, moisture-wicking shirts, ventilated, waterproof and water-resistant fabrics. Jeans and bush trekking really don’t go together!

TIP: Merino wool is unique to New Zealand, and it’s available in most mainstream clothing stores. Good quality merino isn’t cheap, but it’ll last for YEARS so it’s worth it – especially if you’re travelling in winter. Merino is light, quick-drying, absorbent and it’s WARM. The best part is that it’s stretchy and can be layered.

In summer, jandals and board shorts are worn almost everywhere. But if you’re baring a lot of skin, take care to wear a high-protection sunscreen ALL THE TIME. The high UV exposure in NZ means that you can get sunburnt within just five minutes in peak summer. Sunburn not only hurts, it puts you at risk of skin cancer.

1) Quick-dry gear for tramping/hiking
2) Board shorts
3) T-shirts
4) Thermal underwear for layering
5) Wool hiking socks (for winter)
6) Teva sandals
7) Comfortable ‘day or night’ shoes

What NOT To Take to NZ

1) 🚫 DON’T bring sunscreen: Unless you’re able to source one with SPF 30+ or higher. A sunscreen with an SPF (sun-protection factor) of 30-50 is recommended. This will block up to 98% of the harmful UV rays. It’s even more important to wear sunscreen at high altitude as the UV rays are stronger. And it’s an absolute MUST on the beach! Sunscreen is available in most supermarkets, pharmacies and other outlets in NZ and it’s relatively affordable, so there shouldn’t any trouble getting your hands on some.

2) 🚫 DON’T’ bring a lot of heavy expensive electronics: It’s a security issue (yes, crime exists in NZ too!) and it weighs you down.

3) 🚫 DON’T bring books: Get with the times and put it all on Kindle or your tablet.

4) 🚫 DON’T bring lots of cash: Again, it’s a security thing – and ATMs are everywhere, so there’s no reason to stuff your wallet with cash and coins.

5) 🚫 DON’T bring lots of clothes: and especially not fancy clothes. New Zealand is about getting out in the great outdoors. It’s not the place for high heels and designer dresses! If you do need some extra gear, hit the op-shops – they’re everywhere. You can often get quality second-hand clothes for just a few dollars.

FAQs about Travel in NZ

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.

2) What is the cheapest way to get around NZ?

There are several options for travelling 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 the opposite to the northern hemisphere, so Christmas is in summer!

7) How can I stick to a budget while travelling 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) 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 your fellow Kiwi. 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.

9) 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 up 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!

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Guest Author: Katie Stone

katie-stoneKatie 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 “do’s-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.