Moving To New Zealand? 6 Important Things You Should Do First

Moving abroad for even a small amount of time is incredibly exciting, there are a lot of new experiences to have, places to see, foods to try, people to meet – the list goes on! Moving to New Zealand for us was even more exciting, it was something we had talked about since nearly the day we met! We were honestly surprised to learn just how many people were on a New Zealand working holiday visa or another New Zealand visa, we knew it was a popular destination but we weren’t expecting the sheer amount of nomads.

After spending our first few days in New Zealand it wasn’t hard to see why it was so popular (especially for backpackers – its endless hiking trails with sweeping vistas, campervans turned into mobile homes, incredible beaches and ocean inlets, nature and animals for days, Lord of the Rings filming locations, these are just a taste of why New Zealand is the best. Even now years after returning home Andy and I still talk about how quickly we would pack up our things and start moving to New Zealand again – potentially in a more permanent fashion than on a working holiday visa.

However, neither of us had moved abroad before so this was a whole new thing for us. Moving to New Zealand was not only a dream come true but somewhat of a logistical nightmare in terms of us not really knowing what we really needed to bring. Not just in terms of what to pack, that part is easy, but more in terms of what other things are most important to do BEFORE moving to New Zealand that makes it an easier transition.

So after a lot of thought about what we thought would have made life easier, we settled on a few main points. These things are important for any person moving to New Zealand to consider doing (or at least be hyper-aware of) before moving to New Zealand. Some of these things, especially number 4, can make or break your experience of certain cities when moving abroad, or just make or break your experience as a whole.

It’s important to remember that everyone has a different experience when moving to New Zealand so don’t compare yours to someone else’s. This should be exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time. You’re about to have the time of your life in one of the best countries in the world.

1) Research Places To Live

This was one of the biggest mistakes we made before moving to New Zealand on our New Zealand working holiday visa. Before we left we researched some of the coolest places to live in New Zealand, what we didn’t do was dive deeper into the details about living there, which in the beginning kind of screwed us over a bit. Like most backpackers moving to New Zealand meant heading directly to Wanaka or Queenstown.

What we didn’t realize was that by following the masses to Wanaka or Queenstown there would potentially be a shortage of work and/or housing. Some people we met had found work but couldn’t find housing while others had the opposite problem. Is it impossible? By no means, it can just be difficult in popular places such as these.

Different seasons can also affect how easy or difficult it can be to find work in some of the smaller more popular destinations as well. Which is exactly why we say it is super important to do a bit more in-depth research before moving to New Zealand. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a place you love but are quickly running out of money forcing the end of your journey to come a lot sooner than you expected.

It might even be a good option to start out in a larger city where work is readily available like Auckland, Wellington, or Christchurch and potentially make your way to smaller towns later on. This could help you gain a bit more experience and potentially network a bit to make finding accommodation and work easier. Who knows, you may even fall in love with some of New Zealand’s larger cities, we did much to our amazement.

New Zealand is very diverse not just in its landscapes but also in its cities and towns and the people who reside in them. Kiwi’s (nickname for the people of New Zealand) are some of the friendliest people who have met (potentially even more friendly than us Canadians) so you are guaranteed to feel welcome wherever you go but your interests may not be the same. So researching a place to live in New Zealand that fits your lifestyle, interests, and passions can be super important.

If you love surfing you may not want to live in a place like Dunedin or Whangarei, you may find Kaikoura is a better place to be. Is hiking or mountain biking your thing – then Rotorua would be a great place to go. Perhaps you are more into relaxing on a patio with a gorgeous view after a long day then maybe Wellington or Queenstown are the best places for you to consider when moving to New Zealand.

Doing your research on where you want to live will give you a better sense of where you may fit in and feel most comfortable. Find what suits you best but also remember you are free to relocate at any time, there is something for everyone when moving to New Zealand.

Before actually moving to New Zealand and telling your landlord goodbye, request a character reference letter from them. Get them to include information about how you were as a tenant and how good the tenant-landlord relationship was. This could potentially help you land a rental property a lot easier than the next backpacker who comes along.

Additionally, it could be helpful to also bring along a credit report statement so you can provide it to a potential landlord so they know they can expect to get paid on time. This gives you a lot more credibility as a renter and once again could make finding a place a lot easier.

If you don’t want to stay stationary perhaps consider buying a campervan and living out of that. You can find our guide for buying a campervan in New Zealand here and our tips for living in one here.

2) Get Your Personal Paperwork In Order

There is a lot of paperwork that can come along with moving to New Zealand. There are flight records, bank records, New Zealand working holiday visa paperwork, personal records like a character reference or credit report, and so much more. All of these documents either are required by the New Zealand government to enter the country or are useful when it comes to making moving to New Zealand a heck of a lot easier.

Before beginning the process of getting your paperwork together we recommend picking a tentative date on when you want to enter New Zealand. When applying for your New Zealand working holiday visa it is going to ask you for a date on when you plan on arriving in New Zealand. These dates will give New Zealand immigration an idea of when to date your visa and when it will expire.

A New Zealand working holiday visa is only valid for 364 days from the date you enter the country; however, there is only a certain amount of time you have to actually enter the country after our visa is approved. So having a more accurate date of when you actually plan on moving to New Zealand and landing in the country will help ensure your visa is as precise as possible.

Other pieces of personal paperwork you should bring with you (or in some cases may need):

  • New Zealand working holiday visa approval paperwork (you’re going to need this at the airport and immigration)
  • Flight itinerary
  • Police records (in some cases these are required upon entry into New Zealand or when applying for a visa)
  • Work reference letters or contact details for references
  • Resume or CV
  • International driver’s permit
  • Academic qualifications
  • Car insurance records (if you have car accidents or anything else)
  • In some cases marriage and birth certificates
  • Current bank statements (you have to have a certain amount of money when entering the country, they may also ask you to show them a live view of your bank records)

Most of these documents by no means have to be originals, they can be coloured copies. It is also important that your passport has at least two years left on it before you enter the country. We brought the majority of these documents with us (where they were suited to our situation because everyone is different) and carried around a document folder that held all our important paperwork so it was easy to find and access when needed.

3) Book Your Flights

camper van

Now that you have potentially already applied for your New Zealand working holiday visa and researched places to live and work, it’s time to book your flights. Booking your flights well in advance will not only allow you to better plan and research everything you should know before moving to New Zealand but it will allow you to resave the money you spent on a flight before landing in the country.

After we had received news back from New Zealand immigration that our visas were approved we booked our flights. We ended up being able to book our flights in February for our move date in July. This gave us plenty of time to save more money before actually moving to New Zealand and settling down a little bit.

Your visa will have a date as to when you can officially enter the country under your New Zealand working holiday visa, but you don’t HAVE to enter on that specific date. Flying out on a Sunday or Tuesday for us seemed to be the best option price wise for us, but being flexible on which date you want to fly in will help you save a few extra dollars on flights. On our visa, our initial arrival date was July 1st but after researching and booking our flights we discovered it was better for us to leave and arrive on July 5th.

After booking your flights print off your flight itinerary and add it to your documents folder, the border security upon arriving in New Zealand may ask for it.

4) Look Into The Job Market

buying a campervan

Applying for a job when you still live in another country can prove to be quite difficult. Employers won’t take your application seriously if your address is halfway across the globe. So instead of applying scope the market for jobs and see what is available where. Like we mentioned before the jobs in New Zealand heavily depend on the seasons. Avoid the hassle of not being able to find a decent job by doing some research before hand.

We made a few mistakes when we first arrived in NZ but that could have been avoided had we done a bit more research on the job market. There are also certain times of the year where it’s going to be a lot easier to find work. For example, in the fall it’s going to be easier to find work in Queenstown or Wanaka because the ski hills are hiring, but mid-winter it might not be as easy.

Having an employee reference letter from your previous job will also be a god send when you’re looking for work.Employers can’t just call abroad and check your references so having a letter handy could help you land that position.

5) Understand The Cost Of Living

New Zealand can be a very expensive country in a lot of ways so it’s vital to have a true understanding of the cost of living. After doing a bit of job research and housing research you should have a better understanding of how much housing will cost and how much money you can roughly expect to make. When we first landed after moving to New Zealand on our working holiday visa we were pleasantly surprised at how similar the cost of living was in New Zealand to Canada.

With that being said some costs were still higher so you can’t assume it will all be similar. The costs that we found were a bit higher in New Zealand than in Canada were mainly housing, for an average 900 square foot apartment here in Calgary we would expect to pay around $1200-1500CAD a month, in New Zealand, it is nearly $1800-$2200NZD a month. $1800NZD is equal to that of about $1600CAD, so rent is nearly $400CAD more a month in New Zealand!

Other things like fresh groceries and gas were also significantly more expensive (in some cases nearly double). So having a grasp of exactly what you can expect to pay month to month will be important when it comes to dictating just how much money you want to save before moving to New Zealand. You can find a great resource for comparing and researching the cost of living here.

6) Start Looking For A Vehicle (If Necessary)

If you plan on moving to New Zealand and working and living in a place like Auckland or Wellington you may not need a car right away. But if you are living somewhere more rural or plan on doing a lot of exploring you should look into buying a car.

Why do you want to do this early?

Because you may have to spend a few days in a larger city and buy a car before moving on to your final destination because it can be difficult to buy cars in smaller more rural areas. When we were looking at buying our campervan we started searching in Queenstown and Wanaka but later found that we were better off travelling to Christchurch and buying something there.


You’re now equipped with a few things to do before moving to New Zealand. Which means it’s time to start applying for those visas and booking those flights! Like we said at the beginning, just don’t stress about it. It should be an exciting time, not a stressful one. Everything works out in the end and no matter what happens always remember that you are going to one of the coolest and friendliest countries in the world!

Enjoy the process, the ups and downs.