With its stunning landscapes, wide variety of things to see and do, and friendly culture there’s no wonder why New Zealand is becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Last year alone approximately 3.8 million people visited New Zealand on holidays – and that number is growing each and every year!

But a holiday in New Zealand isn’t all about breathtaking beaches, stunning hikes, and adventure activities – there is a lot of planning involved too. For those from Canada and the United States, the entry requirements in 2019 are changing which involve applying for an ETA. But besides that, there are many other things you need to know and think about before heading to New Zealand this year.

New Zealand landscape view from an airplane

In this blog we are outlining all of the things Americans and Canadians need to know before visiting New Zealand in 2019 including the new entry requirements, things to pack, as well as what you need to plan and know about ahead of time!

New Zealand 2019 Entry Requirements

Composition with two Canadian passports

Photo: monticellllo / Adobe Stock

As of October 2019, there will be a change to entry requirements for many nationalities. Before this date, holidaymakers from 60 different countries could enter New Zealand without prior approval as long as they were visiting on a short holiday (no more than 3 months long.) But very soon this will no longer be the case.

As of October 1, 2019 people from these 60 countries (including people from Canada and the USA) will now be required to apply for an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). This is essentially an electronic “visa” that will allow you to enter New Zealand on a holiday. If you plan on visiting New Zealand after October 1 this year then you must obtain an ETA in advance.

ETA’s are applied for online and should be completed several weeks prior to your intended arrival date. Typically, they are approved very quickly (within a matter of hours) but always be sure to allow for complications and delays and apply well in advance.

An ETA costs $9-$12 NZD and will be available online from July 2019.

Airlines will be verifying that you have obtained an ETA before flying to New Zealand starting in October this year.

Besides the ETA, be sure to have proof of $1000 NZD per person per month of travel as well as a return flight. If you don’t have a return flight be sure to have extra funds available to cover this cost. While most visitors aren’t asked for this information on arrival, it is a requirement and it is best to be prepared just in case.

Other Things to Know Before You Go

Besides ensuring you meet the New Zealand entry requirements and have the new ETA, there are a few other things to think about before travelling to New Zealand including:

Travel Insurance

Skiers looking down from the Cardrona Ski Field near Wanaka, in

Photo: Simon / Adobe Stock

New Zealand is the land of adventure sports! Chances are that you will be enjoying your fair share of adrenaline-pumping activities while holidaying in NZ. In this case, be sure to get travel insurance that covers all types of activities just to be safe. Winter sports, water sports, bungy jumping, off-roading, and sky diving are all things to look for in travel insurance policies.

For Canadians looking to travel to New Zealand, acquiring the best travel insurance for Canadians will protect you from flight cancellation fees, major medical expenses, trip interruption fees, and much more. If you plan on interacting in adrenaline sports or even going for long hikes, a travel medical insurance plan might be a good option for you.

New Zealand does offer ACC (Accident Composition Corporation) which will allow anyone (including tourists) to visit the hospital for free for injury from any type of accident. However, it is best to also make sure you have travel insurance – better be safe than sorry! Please note that this does not cover illness-related health problems.


New Zealand has a very good health care system but with travelling to any foreign country, you should ensure you have your standard vaccinations for travel up to date. Some to consider getting before visiting New Zealand include are tetanus, diphtheria, chickenpox, polio, influenza, and pertussis.

New Zealand also saw an outbreak of measles in 2019 so it is recommended to make sure you’re vaccinated for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) before visiting just to be extra safe!

Money and ATM’s

New Zealand currency held fanned out in someones hand

Photo: enjoynz / Adobe Stock

New Zealand uses the New Zealand Dollar (NZD). $1 NZD equals $0.87 CAD or $0.66 USD.

Most businesses in New Zealand accept debit or credit cards. You can use your credit card from home in most restaurants, shops, and hotels. Alternatively, ATM’s are widely available and most will allow you to withdraw more than $200 NZD at one time.

Climate and Weather

New Zealand climate and weather

The weather in New Zealand is generally milder than the USA and Canada. While the winter can be cold, snow rarely sticks on the ground and is often only found up in the mountains. In the summer, temperatures range between 20-30 degrees Celcius. The weather in New Zealand is a drawcard for many vacationers as it is never too hot or too cold!

That being said, you should pack and be prepared for the season in which you are visiting. Winter is between the months of June and August. Fall is March, April, and May and Spring is September, October and November. Summer occurs during December, January and February.

Rain is possible all year round and can cause flooding or road closures from time to time. Earthquakes also happen in New Zealand so pay attention to local instructions and safety information.

Things to Pack for New Zealand

What to pack for your travels to New Zealand will depend heavily on the time of year you visit and the types of things you plan on doing. Besides packing clothing suitable for the weather conditions, you should bring the following items:

  • Insect repellent – There are mosquitos and while there is no risk of malaria, there have been cases of dengue fever. Sandflies are also common and these little guys don’t carry disease but they leave an annoying bite that can last weeks!
  • Sunscreen – The New Zealand sun is harsh! Even in the winter, you WILL get sunburned without sunscreen. Sunscreen is a must!
  • Rain Jacket – It can rain at any time in New Zealand. Being prepared for the rain will save you from getting wet and cold!
  • Shoes for walking/hiking – Even if you don’t plan on it (and you should!) you will likely be going on a hike or two while in NZ. There are some spectacular trails and sandals just won’t do.
  • Water bottle – You can drink the tap water in New Zealand. So, save the environment and yourself some money and avoid buying plastic bottles of water. Use a refillable water bottle instead!

Must-See Places in New Zealand

During your travels in NZ, there are a few places that are so extraordinary you just need to see them for yourself. When planning your NZ itinerary be sure the include as many of the following stops:

  • Auckland – New Zealand’s largest city and most likely your starting point for your trip. In Auckland, be sure to visit the Skytower, explore Mt Eden volcanic crater, and overall just enjoy this vibrant and bustling city!
  • Milford Sound – Often referred to as the “8th Wonder of the World”, Milford Sound is easily one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. Go on a boat cruise here to really enjoy everything this fiord has to offer.
  • Queenstown – The adventure capital of NZ! In Queenstown, you can go bungy jumping, skydiving, white water rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and so much more! A few days here are guaranteed to be exciting.
  • Christchurch – The largest city on the South Island offering some great points of interest including NZ’s steepest street, museums, hikes, and even the chance to go whale watching! There is so much to do in Christchurch!
  • Rotorua – On the North Island, Rotorua is the best place to go to explore geothermals, hot springs, and traditional Maori culture.
  • Bay of Islands – If you want beautiful beaches and islands then the Bay of Islands in Northland is where you should go! In the summer months, this is the best place to have a warm beach getaway.
  • Mount Cook National Park – Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. When you go to the national park you will get to do some amazing hikes with views of this gorgeous mountain. Going kayaking in Tasman Lake is also a highlight in the park.
  • Tongariro National Park – If you go on a Lord of the Rings tour then you will definitely visit Tongariro National Park. Here you will see Mordor for yourself!

Related: Check out all of our Lord of the Rings tour itineraries!

  • Franz Josef – The small town of Franz Josef sits not far from the west coast on the South Island. The most popular attractions in Franz Josef include visiting Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, going to the hot springs, visiting the West Coast Wildlife Centre to see kiwis!

Getting Around in New Zealand

One big decision you need to make before you head to New Zealand is how you plan on getting around! New Zealand looks like a small country on a  map, but you’ll want to travel and see several places during your holiday to make the most of it. You can choose to either rent a vehicle and drive yourself or go on an organized tour.

Driving Yourself

road to Mount Cook

Photo: john / Adobe Stock

Many people choose to drive a car in New Zealand on their holiday. If you plan on doing this you should get an international driving license before you leave home.

In New Zealand, people drive on the left-hand side of the road and the steering wheel is located on the right side of the vehicle. For Canadians and Americans, this can be confusing and hard to get used to. Be sure to drive slowly and pay attention to avoid accidents while getting used to this change.

The roads on the South Island, in particular, can be narrow and windy. Oftentimes there are no passing lanes for several kilometres on highways through the mountains. Snow and ice can also be present during the colder months.

That being said, road conditions are good and with a little help from Google Maps, you will never get lost. Driving yourself will give you the freedom to do as little or as much as you want whenever you want!

Guided Tour Around New Zealand

Kiwi sign near the road leading to the volcano Mt. Ruapehu, national park Tongariro. New Zealand.

Photo: Fyle / Adobe Stock

If renting a car and driving yourself in New Zealand doesn’t sound ideal then you should book an organized tour.

A guided tour means you don’t have to stress about driving, getting directions or even planning your holiday, you can just sit back and relax.

We offer both private guided tours as well as self-driven trips at The Road Trip. This means that no matter what you choose for getting around New Zealand, we will take care of the hard part (planning) for you and be available to answer any questions you might have along the way! Contact us today to plan your personalised and PERFECT trip to New Zealand in 2019!