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Living in New Zealand

You will find this section a useful guide to living in the New Zealand throughout your stay in New Zealand. It explains everything from the basics, such the New Zealand climate, Banking & Currency, to the intricacies of Clothing, Travel and Transport etc. It also includes tips on how to stay healthy.

  • Accommodation
  • Banking & Currency
  • Health System
  • Family Visits
  • Physical Environment
  • Shopping
  • Media
  • Transport & Travel
  • Communication
  • Recreation Facilities
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New Zealand's high quality living conditions are well known universally, and accommodation is one aspect of this. In many cases, accommodation will be only minutes away from your place of study. Most educational institutions will assist you to find accommodation.

The main options are

Halls of Residence/Student Hostels

These are usually located on the campus or nearby, with single or twin rooms. Bed linen and cleaning facilities are provided. Meals are eaten in a communal dining hall, with special dietary needs catered to. A warden lives on site and social and cultural activities are organised for residents. Hostels usually have computer laboratories and recreation rooms. Some institutions provide "self-catering" hostels where 6-8 students have their own bedrooms and share a kitchen and living room.

Cost: approximately $200 per week.
Some cities have self-catering private or independent hostels. Cost of furnished room, shared kitchen and lounge facilities is $90 - $130 per week, plus utilities (power, water, etc.)

Home stay/Private Board

This is a room of your own in a suburban house, usually with a garden and lawns. Your host family provides meals. Interacting with your host family and meeting their neighbours and friends is an excellent way to improve your English. The host family helps you make phone calls, read bus timetables, find a doctor and so on. But homestay is not like living in a hotel. Some "give and take" is expected, as you become part of the family.

Cost: approximately $180 per week, plus one-time administration fee of about $150.

Going "flatting"

This term means renting a house or flat (apartment) singly or with other people. Choose your own flatmates of the same or opposite sex with mixed accommodation, ranging from a two-bedroom apartment to a large house on its own land. Most rental properties are unfurnished, other than an oven, a laundry facility, curtains and carpet. The landlord does not have to provide heating. You pay for electricity, gas, telephone and water, including connection charges. A "bond" of up to four weeks' rent is held by Tenancy Services and refunded when you move out, if the flat is still in good condition. Tenancy Services, a division of the Ministry of Housing has information about dispute resolution procedures and your rights and obligations.

The accommodation office at your tertiary institution will probably have a noticeboard with advertisements for flats. The newspaper classified advertisements list rental properties available, mostly on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Rental agents charge you for services provided.

Flatting gives you more freedom, but requires a lot of maturity. You'll have to co-operate with flatmates to organise cooking and cleaning and paying the bills. For a good overview of the issues involved.

Cost: bond, plus about $120 per bedroom per week (cheaper in smaller cities) plus food, power, telephone, etc.
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Banking & Currency

New Zealand has dollars and cents. The denominations are $100, $50, $20, $10 and $5 notes, $2 and $1 gold-coloured coins, and 50, 20, 10 and 5-cent silver-coloured coins.

All cities and towns have banks. There is a bank branch, or at least an ATM, on nearly every tertiary institution campus. Trading banks are open 9.00am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Banking is very advanced in New Zealand, with a huge network of ATMs, and EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale) in most shops. Telephone and Internet banking are available. For currency exchange rate visit: www.xe.com/ucc

ATM's, Travelers' Cheques

If you are planning to be in New Zealand for only a few months, it is simple to use your credit card to get New Zealand dollars at automatic teller machines (ATMs). Credit accounts usually do not levy a charge for cash withdrawals. If your bank has international links, you can use your EFTPOS card from your home country at ATM's. All major credit cards are accepted in shops and at ATM's. Traveler's cheques are a good option, too.

Daily Limits

There is a limit to the amount of cash you can take out of an account using an automatic teller machine. The limit is usually $500 per day, so if you want to pay a big bill by cash, you have to go to the branch, or start withdrawing money piece meal, day by day.

Opening a Bank Account

If you're staying more than a few months, it is worth opening your own bank account. Some banks, including the ASB, let you open an account in New Zealand before you arrive. Banks don not usually have international students' loans. See Tax Systems

Bank Fees

A fee is charged for every transaction, including EFTPOS. Fees can be very high, so make sure you get advice from the bank's staff about which account and fee structure will suit your needs. Most banks offer special packages for full-time students taking a full-year course.

Foreign Currency

You can bring as much foreign currency as you like into New Zealand, but if it is beyond NZ$10,000 you have to inform a customs officer so that you can sign the relevant form. Most overseas currencies are easily exchanged at New Zealand Banks.

See Tax System regarding interest earned on money in your bank account.

Wallet Loss

Make sure you contact the bank immediately and cancel credit and EFTPOS cards. Also let the police know - sometimes lost property is handed in to them. It is a good idea to keep a separate list of the contents of your wallet, with the numbers of all the cards.
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Health Requirement

Health System

New Zealand has an excellent healthcare system, comprising of public and private providers. However, these health services are generally not free for international students.

For a cold, influenza, or other common health problem, visit a general practitioner (GP) at the student health centre on the campus of your tertiary institution, or your host family's GP. If the doctor prescribes medicine for you, it is important to tell the doctor if you have any allergies and if you are taking any other medication, including herbal medicine.

Make an appointment to see your doctor. If you need emergency help, go to an After Hours Medical Centre or the Accident and Emergency Clinic at a hospital.

In the cities there is a wide range of treatment available, including chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy and Chinese medicine.


If you have a serious health emergency or accident, dial 111 and ask for 'Ambulance'. The call is free - you don't need coins or a phone card even if you are dialling from a public phone box. This is also the emergency number for police and fire services.

Hospital Treatment

If you need surgery or other treatment, you will probably have to pay for it at a private hospital, unless you are eligible to public hospital treatment in New Zealand.


In New Zealand the legal age for alcohol is 18. Supermarkets sell alcohol seven days a week, and may ask to see your passport as proof of age. There are serious legal consequences for drunk driving.


The National Poison Information Centre has a 24-hour emergency number: freephone 0800 POISON (0800 764 766).

Sexual and Reproductive Health

Hospital Sexual Health Clinics, the Family Planning Association and some youth health centres provide a free, confidential service for contraceptive advice, sexually transmitted infections, cervical screening and pregnancy testing. Youngsters are sexually librated in New Zealand, similar to European countries. They are much freer than in most Asian countries. Trustworthy adults at the above agencies, or the counsellors at your school or institution, can give you advice and support.


Buildings are specially designed for wheelchairs. Many older buildings now have ramps. Some institutions have hearing loops. There are usually volunteer or paid reader/writers (in English) to help students who have difficulty writing or reading.
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Family Visits

New Zealand welcomes international students - you will find friends quickly and feel included, and for homestay students, you'll enjoy becoming a member of a New Zealand family.

Family members want to visit New Zealand as tourists while a student is studying here. Such visits should be carefully planned to ensure that their timing is best for both the student and the family. Pre-mature visits may disrupt the adapting process to a new country and language.

If your family visits after you have finished your course of study, you will be able to focus better on your study - the main reason for your visit to New Zealand. You may prefer to enjoy your family's company in holiday time or after your studies have been completed, and use your new English skills as you travel around together.

It is possible to reserve air tickets to New Zealand for your family while you are here. However, international travel agency rules mean that only local agents can offer a wide range of special deals, so it will probably be more affordable for your family to buy tickets in your home country.
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Physical Environment

From rolling greens to barren volcanic deserts, from sun-kissed beaches with turquoise blue water to majestic snow-covered mountains, New Zealand spans every possible landscape within a relatively small country.

New Zealand is sparsely populated. Most of the people live in urban areas, very sparsely populated. While the scenery sets the country apart from the rest of the world, the people have a tradition of friendliness, strength, creativity and independence.

The North Island and the South Island are the two major islands, while Stewart Island is the small one at the bottom of the map. The varied terrain and long thin shape of the country (from 34 to 48 degrees latitude South) create a variety of climatic conditions, from sub-tropical to almost continental. This is a blessing for the agriculture and horticulture industries, which are vital parts of the economy.

Our closest neighbour is Australia, three hours away by flight. The physical isolation means that many species of plants and birds are found exclusively in New Zealand, including, of course, the famous kiwi.

National Holiday Dates

Education institutions are closed on weekends. Staff is not contactable on these days or during holidays. Tertiary institution libraries are open over the weekend and in the evenings.

The normal timings for office workers are Monday to Friday, from about 8.30 to 5pm. Salaried workers get 15 days' holiday, plus public holidays.

The main school and family holiday period is from mid-December to late January. There are two-week school holidays in April, July and September.

The Ministry of Education website shows details of school holidays in 2004 and 2005.

Public holidays for 2005*

  • New Year's Day Thursday 1 January
  • Day after New Year's Day Friday 2 January
  • Waitangi Day Friday 6 February
  • Good Friday 9 April
  • Easter Monday 12 April
  • ANZAC Day Sunday 25 April
  • Queen's Birthday Monday 7 June
  • Labour Day Monday 25 October
  • Christmas Day Saturday 25 December
  • Boxing Day Sunday 26 December
  • Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 December are also public holidays
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Shopping New Zealand has an excellent range of international and domestic shopping. Products include award-winning fashion clothes, outdoor clothing and equipment, craftwork and electronic goods. Goods and services tax (GST) of 12.5% is included in retail prices.

Shopping Hours

Shops are generally open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Some shops are open Saturday mornings and until 9pm on Friday or Saturday night. In cities, most shops are open seven days. Supermarkets are open seven days until late in the evening, and sometimes for 24 hours.

Where to go

The key to successful shopping in a foreign country is finding the right shops. Ask your New Zealand classmates, listen to the radio or look at newspaper advertisements, especially in local newspapers.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

New Zealand has an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, often available directly from the farmers. In the countryside you will often see produce for sale at farm gates. If unattended, just take what you want and put the right amount of cash into the container provided. It is called the "honesty system".

The dairy - a New Zealand icon

In the suburbs there are many "dairies" (New Zealand's word for corner stores), which stock groceries and are a handy place to pick up fresh milk, bread, ice-cream, postage stamps and newspapers.

Your rights as a consumer, when you are entitled to a refund, etc.
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TV, Radio & Newspapers

No matter where you live, television, radio and newspapers will keep you in touch with world events. These are also another great way to work on your English skills and learn more about New Zealand's fresh-thinking culture.

There are 4 free-to-air VHF national television channels and 1 UHF channel, plus regional television in many areas. There is also subscriber cable and satellite television. The television programmer timetable is advertised in newspapers and magazines and on the Internet, and includes ratings for programmes.

Some broadcast are in Maori, and local television channels usually have some programmes in other languages too, without subtitles. NICAM is used for stereo television. The video system is PAL/625. You can hire commercial videos from shops and libraries. Many of the newer video machines can play PAL, NTSC and Secam videos.


There are many different AM and FM radio stations, both national and local, including Christian, ethnic/community input, student radio, and stations specialising in sport, talkback, Maori and Pacific Island languages, and classical, rock or popular music.


Newspapers can be bought at a shop or delivered to your home. Most cities have their own daily newspaper, others are weekly or bi-weekly. Most suburbs also have a weekly local paper that is distributed free to every household and contains a lot of useful information about community events and services. Read the "letters to the editor" page to find out what New Zealanders are thinking and talking about.
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Transport & Travel

Distances between regions in New Zealand are short and there is good transport facility. In addition to domestic airlines, just about every town and city in New Zealand is linked to a network of coach and rail services (operated by InterCity, Mount Cook, Newmans and TranzRail), making it easy for students to access every part of the country.

Air Travel

See Air travel within New Zealand

Public Transport

Because New Zealand has low population density, its public transport is not as frequent as in some other countries, however in most cities, buses run at least every 30 minutes. Auckland and Wellington also have commuter rail services. Ten-trip and monthly passes or electronic stored value fare cards provide the cheapest fares.

Secondary school students are eligible for a discount on travel to and from school by bus. Some cities offer tertiary students discounts on public transport. Large institutions operate shuttle buses between different campuses within the same city.


As a cyclist, you must be aware of and obey the rules in the Road Code, including the need to use lights and reflectors and always wear a helmet. Ride near the left side of the road, not on the footpath. You will need a good quality lock for your bike.


To ride a motorcycle, you must be at least 15 years old and have a motorcycle licence. Both the driver and the pillion passenger must wear helmets.

Driving a Car

If you possess a valid overseas driver's licence or an international driving permit, you are permitted to drive in New Zealand for up to a year after you first arrive. After that, you will have to pass a theory test and probably a practical driving test to get a New Zealand driver licence.

Vehicles in New Zealand drive on the left side of the road. Make sure you learn the New Zealand rules for "give way" and "stop" and what to do at traffic lights. Different speed limits are applicable in different parts of the city and countryside and you can be fined for speeding. Any vehicle you drive must be registered and have an up to date vehicle inspection certificate ("Warrant of Fitness"). The Automobile Association and State Insurance both offer a roadside breakdown service.

Most cars run on petrol but some use CNG (compressed natural gas), LPG (liquid petroleum gas), or diesel. A second-hand car costs a few thousand dollars. Insurance and vehicle registration cost several hundred dollars. Remember to insure your vehicle.

Road Safety

Traffic in New Zealand drives on the left side of the road. When driving a car, you can be fined if you or your passengers are not wearing a seatbelt. Cycle helmets are compulsory for people riding bicycles and motorcycles. There are serious penalties for drunken driving.

Rental Cars

These are available to licensed drivers, but be prepared to pay a large bond if you do not possess a credit card.

The Land Transport Safety Authority has useful information about driver licensing and vehicle ownership.
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Pastoral Care & the Code of Practice

We believe it is important that students who come to New Zealand are well-informed, safe and properly cared for while they are here.

Code of Practice

The Ministry of Education has created the "Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students" which sets out the minimum standards for the welfare of students and the way advice is given to them. These standards are required of all education providers who have students enrolled on international student permits. The code applies to pastoral care and provision of information only, and not to academic standards, which are regulated in other ways.

The Code is continuously being upgraded.

The code ensures that:

  • High professional standards are maintained
  • Recruitment, financial and contractual dealings with international students are done ethically and responsibly
  • Students receive comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date information
  • Students receive information before making commitments
  • The particular needs of international students are recognised, especially those who are Susceptible because of their youth or lack of experience
  • Support services are sensitive to cultural matters
  • Appropriate accommodation is provided, with special measures to ensure the safety of students under 18
  • There are fair procedures for the resolution of grievances
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Most public telephones accept stored value cards, obtained from stationers and newsagents, with a minimum value of NZ$5. Some also honour credit cards, but very few accept coins. Calls to emergency services (dial 111) are free.

The country code for New Zealand is 64.

Within New Zealand, local telephone numbers have 7 digits.

Area codes (drop the 0 if calling from another country) are:
  • Northland/Auckland - 09
  • Waikato/Bay of Plenty - 07
  • Central and southern North Island - 06
  • Wellington/Kapiti- 04
  • South Island and Stewart Island - 03
Calls to numbers starting with 0800 are toll free. If you want to make a call to another country, dial 00 before the country code.

Toll Bars

Telecom New Zealand is the main supplier of residential telephone lines. Several other companies provide toll services. Local calls are free. Some houses have a "toll bar" on the telephone because previous homestay students or visitors have made expensive calls and not paid for them. This means you either cannot make any non-local calls, or must enter a PIN number first.

Mobile Phone

Text messaging and mobile phone calls are very popular with students. You can use global roaming on a mobile phone from your country, or buy a prepay phone or set up an account with Vodafone or Telecom once you are in New Zealand.

Prepay Phone Cards

These are available at newsagents and stationers. They are economical and popular, because they allow you to call anywhere in New Zealand or the world, from any telephone, by dialling the number on the card. When you have used up the minutes you paid for, just buy another card.


Stamps are sold at supermarkets, stationers and local shops. Besides the New Zealand Post, there are one or two other mail companies, each with its own stamps and post-boxes.

New Zealand Post is open Monday to Friday: 9:00am to 5:00pm. Post Shops may also be open on Saturdays and Sundays at some places. New Zealand Post shops sell a range of goods and services including stamps, stationery, and souvenirs as well as international courier and fax services. Do not worry if you cannot see a Post Office building - just look for a red and white sign like the back of an envelope on a shop that acts as an agent for New Zealand Post.

Mail is delivered to your street address, so if you move, you need to notify the Post Office. There is a free three-month re-direction service if you change address.


Large institutions and some small ones have student computer labs for email, or use a cyber cafe for a few dollars for 15 minutes. Email and Internet are often available at public libraries.

To connect a laptop computer in New Zealand you will need a RJ45 type plug, and an adaptor with a flat two or three-point power plug to connect to the power supply.


Courier companies are a good option for sending things within New Zealand or internationally because they track where the envelope or parcel is.


Your institution may be willing to receive and send faxes for you, or you can send them from New Zealand Post shops and some stationery and printing shops.
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Recreation Facilities

New Zealand offers a wide spectrum of things to see and do. All the major towns have cinemas, nightclubs and discos, restaurants, art galleries and museums. There are casinos in Auckland and Queenstown. Professional theatre companies operate throughout the country and pop concerts are frequently, often with artists. Are frequent New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the New Zealand String Quartet tour the country.

Year-Round Sporting Outdoors

The sprawling spaces and beautiful national parks, alongwith relatively mild winters, mean that New Zealanders seem to just about live outdoors. Children play on the beach and swim, even in winter, though adults leave that for special occasions, like the "Crazy Midwinter Swim" held in many places as a charity fundraising event!

New Zealanders' favourite sports are: swimming, rugby, cricket, cycling, walking, hockey, soccer, netball, horse riding, tennis, touch football, golf, basketball, badminton, bowls (lawn and indoor), yachting, volleyball, squash, cycling, mountain biking, trail biking, motor racing, skiing, shooting, rowing, fishing and aerobics.

You can also go kayaking, surfing, parachute jumping, swimming with dolphins, caving, visiting hot springs and, of course, bungy-jumping! Golf and tennis are much cheaper than in other countries - there are even public golf courses with very cheap green fees.

Fun Timetable

There is plenty to do, you just need to know where to find it. It is easy to access sporting and recreational activities, and also relatively cheap. Ask your friends or look in your local newspaper for detailed up-to-date information in the "What's On" section and maybe also the Arts page which lists all the exhibitions at local art, craft and pottery galleries.

Local and regional authorities provide free booklets or information on their websites, listing sports clubs and recreational facilities, including signposted bush walks, camping areas and so forth.

Free Events

In the cities, there is usually a summer fiesta. Entertainment includes bands, teddy bear picnics, night-time walks to see glow-worms, food and culture festivals and dance performances.

Orientation Week at tertiary institutions is another great festival of free entertainment.

Refer to public libraries to find out about these and other events.
Lonely Planet and AA tourist guides give a good overview of the type of activity available in New Zealand, too. Wine-tasting and vineyard tours are offered, and you may be able to check out some of the boutique wine and food producers in each region. New Zealand salmon, mussels, olive oil, nuts, cheese, sub-tropical fruits and Pacific Rim cuisine are renowned internationally -and rightly so.

Your Institution Information

Staff at secondary schools supervise a wide range of lunchtime and after school activities, including sport, theatrical and musical productions, orchestra and choir. Students at tertiary institutes run their own clubs to suit their interests from chess to caving to electronics to international friendship or religious groups.

Movies, Games and Televised Sport

Movies are available in most cities. There are video rental shops and electronic games centres even in small towns. Watching live televised sport on big screens in bars is a very popular activity.


Student discounts are often available for orchestra concerts and theatre performances, as well as outdoor adventure tourism activities.
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