New Zealand

What To Do After Arriving In New Zealand

August 5, 2016

So let’s say you make it to New Zealand – congratulations! You’re about to have the best experiences of your life. Of course, there’s always admin to deal with. It’s better to get this stuff out of the way immediately so you can start having fun.

Bank account

If you’re doing a working holiday, you’ll need a place to keep your money. New Zealand has a fantastic direct deposit and money transfer system set up. Transferring money to other people’s accounts is a breeze. There are a few banks in New Zealand to choose from, including BNZ, ANZ and ASB. I used BNZ and had an awesome experience. Plus their app is super easy to use.

You’ll need a form of ID (passport is probably easiest) and proof of address. Since I didn’t have anything mailed to me yet, my flatmate wrote a letter on her cable bill confirming I lived there. Easy peasy.

I slowly transferred money into my account by withdrawing large lump sums from my US bank account and deposited it into my New Zealand bank account.

IRD number

The IRD (Inland Revenue Department) number is the equivalent of America’s social security number. After you open a bank account, you will need to apply for an IRD number. You will fill out the nonresident/offshore application form – I did it in person at the IRD office but you can do it online as well.

You’ll need a form of ID, a copy of your working holiday visa, proof of address and your new bank account number.

Once they process your application, you’ll get your IRD number in the mail. I had to bring in my IRD to the bank once it arrived.

Cell phone

Make sure you unlock your cell phone before you leave home, otherwise, you won’t be able to use a new carrier’s SIM card. I had to pay the rest I owed on my iPhone from AT&T and they sent me instructions on how to unlock it. Contact your cell phone carrier for details.

There are two major services: Vodafone and Spark. I used Spark and loved it. I paid for the $60/month plan which included unlimited text and calls, 2.5 GB data and a Spotify Premium account.


Depending on where you are living, I highly recommend buying a car or scooter. I preferred a car so I could go on longer road trips. Plus, it can get quite cold in NZ so I needed something that enclosed me.

I found my car on Trade Me (the NZ version of eBay or Craigslist) – this will probably be your best bet. OR hop around to each backpackers/hostel to see if anyone is selling a car.

I had a limited budget so it took me about a month to find a decent car for under $1500 NZD. I bought a 1993 Honda Civic for $1,300 NZD from a guy who lived in a nearby town. He brought the car to Nelson and I took it for a test drive. It’s a good idea to have someone else you trust check out the car too.

new zealand car

Owning a car in New Zealand is a bit different than in the U.S. You will need to renew the vehicle license (often called rego – not to be confused with the registration though) every few months. You can do it online (they mail it to you) but I preferred to do this at the post office (you get the paperwork right away). The price depends on how long you want the license to be valid for. I can’t remember the exact price but six months was approximately $50-$100 NZD.

You also need to get a new ‘warrant of fitness’ (WoF) every six to twelve months depending on the age of your car. A mechanic will look over your car to make sure your vehicle meets the standard safety regulations. It was about $50-$60 for my car. You can find out more about the warrant of fitness here.

Before I paid the guy I bought my car from, I made him bring it into a shop to renew the WoF and ensure he wasn’t selling me a shit car. All was good so I paid him!

Both the rego and WoF need to be displayed in the front windshield. Make sure you have it all up to date or the parking nazis will get you!

One last thing, gas is outrageous in New Zealand. They pay by the liter and it was around $2 per liter, which is about $8 per gallon. Try to get a fuel-efficient car if you can.


New Zealand doesn’t have combined grocery and household stores like Walmart or Target. The Warehouse is the best place to get all of your household type of stuff and it’s fairly cheap. There are also K-Marts in some places as well??? I thought that was interesting. It’s fairly cheap which is nice. The most common grocery stores are Countdown, New World and Fresh Choice. Groceries are expensive. I eat fairly healthy so for a while I was spending about $150-$200 NZD on groceries per week (yikes).


Fitness is important to me so I had to have a gym membership. I signed up at Snap Fitness and loved it. Instead of group classes, they had a room with a projector and you could pick a class to take whenever you want. Other popular gyms in Nelson were City Fitness and MiGym. Another one is called Results but that is for the more athlete-types.

Curious about other aspects of moving to New Zealand? Feel free to send me a message!

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