Updated on March 5, 2021 by Asher Fergusson
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!
What to Pack for New Zealand – 17 Essentials
1. Neck Wallet
After having some scares with misplacing valuables while jet-lagged, I never do long distance trips without my neck wallet and this is especially important for New Zealand since the travel time is typically so loooong. When you’re a tired tourist getting off the plane into a new city you have a target on the back of your head but with a neck wallet, it’s practically impossible for thieves to steal since you can keep your passport, phone, credit cards and cash all concealed under your clothing.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
You’ll definitely need a good travel umbrella in New Zealand. Weather varies from region to region in the country, and you never know when you’ll need to ward off a sudden rainfall. This umbrella is especially nice because it’s also windproof and is large enough for two people while staying lightweight and compact.
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.
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.
11. 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.
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!
13. 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!
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.
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.
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.
Other NZ packing list items not to forget
Vitamins and/or personal medications
Flash drive/memory card
Travel toilet paper
What to wear in New Zealand?
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.
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! Nighttime does mean a drop in temperature year-round, so pack a shawl, comfy layers, and a warm scarf.
SPRING – September, October, November:
New Zealand during Spring for 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:
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.
Average daytime temperature: 53 – 61˚F (12 – 16˚C).
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 some 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
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.
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?
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?
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 that 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?
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 with the locals!
8) What are some foods to try while I’m in New Zealand?
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 center), 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
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!
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