Useful information on Living in New Zealand

Useful information on Living in New Zealand Header Image

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The Language Barrier in New Zealand

Language will not be an issue for British expatriates planning on living in New Zealand as 98% of its residents speak English. This is despite the country having three official languages. That being said, there are some differences in spelling and grammar. Also, the correct pronunciation of some common words may be difficult to grasp.

Weather & Climate

People travel from all over the world to experience the natural scenic beauty that New Zealand has to offer, especially in the summer. As it’s in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand’s summer season lasts from December to February. Summer temperatures average between 20 and 25°C during the day, and in the winter you can expect 10-15°C. You might think that the UK’s weather can be unpredictable, but in New Zealand it can go from sunshine to heavy rain in an instant. For this reason, you are advised to always carry sun cream, as well as a rain coat.

The high level of snowfall in winter makes the mountainous regions perfect for skiing, which is popular amongst both residents and tourists. During the summer, warm temperatures and sunshine last as late as 9pm. This will give you plenty of time to enjoy the many outdoor activities the country has to offer, even after work.

While living in New Zealand, you may experience an earthquake. This is because it is located in a seismic zone. There are also a number of active volcanoes in New Zealand which you need to be aware of. The local authorities and emergency services will be on hand to assist you in the event of a natural disaster, but we recommend you also familiarise yourself with the advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

British Embassy in New Zealand

Address:British High Commission
44 Hill Street
Wellington, 6011
Phone:(+64) (4) 924 2888
Fax:(+64) (4) 473 4982
Office hours:Local Time
Mon-Fri: 08:45 – 17:00

Emergency Services Contact Information in New Zealand

Emergency Service Contact Number
Police / Ambulance & Fire Services111


At the time of writing there are no recommended vaccinations for those visiting or moving to New Zealand, however it is still advisable to visit a GP before travel for medical advice. Your GP can administer the UK’s standard MMR and/or Tetanus top-ups if they are due, and may also recommend Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, or Hepatitis B inoculations if you are considered at risk.

New Zealand offers its residents one of the most comprehensive public healthcare services in the world. This system makes a lot of medical services available for free. These include treatment at public hospitals, x-rays, and laboratory tests. Dental care is free for school children only.

It’s important to understand that only long term expats, with work permits for more than 2 years, may be eligible for publically funded healthcare. Regardless of whether you are eligible or not, it is strongly recommended that you arrange private healthcare insurance. This is to ensure you’re properly covered for treatments you may require. It also gains you access to private healthcare providers.

Driving In Australia

Just like at home, you’ll be driving on the left hand side of the road in New Zealand, and the quality of driving is similar to that in the UK. This will help make New Zealand feel a little more like home.

The road infrastructure is generally of a high standard, however many of the highways connecting the cities are very narrow, winding, and hilly. It may take a while before you get used to them. The narrow highways can be very dangerous. Unfortunately, head on collisions are fairly frequent and drivers are often unaware of how dangerous some of the turnings can be. Because the travel distance between cities is vast, it can take a while for assistance to arrive too – so drive extra cautiously.

You can drive on your UK driving licence for 12 months after arriving in New Zealand, however it’s recommended that you acquire a local licence sooner rather than later.

Getting your New Zealand Driving Licence

In order to transfer your UK driver’s licence to a New Zealand one, you will need to visit any driver licensing agency with the following:

  • A valid UK driver’s licence
  • A current medical certificate, if required
  • Proof of passing an eye exam
  • A completed DL5 form (found here)
  • Evidence of identity and residency
  • The overseas licence conversion fee

Legal Requirements

The legal minimum driving age for people living in New Zealand is 16.

Driving insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand, instead a fee is charged when you register a vehicle. This fee covers the cost of medical claims and basic injuries but does not protect you against vehicle or property damages. We strongly recommend getting private car insurance to ensure you’re not at risk of having to pay out in the event of an accident.

Similarly to in the UK, New Zealand operates using a driving licence points system called ‘demerit points’. Once a driver gains 100 or more demerit points in a 2 year period, they will be suspended from driving. Driving offences and their demerit points can be found on the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) website.

The NZTA enforce very strict rules and regulations to improve road safety, and fortunately, they offer a factsheet to help expat drivers prepare for driving in New Zealand.

Drink Driving in New Zealand

The maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) allowed in New Zealand for anyone younger than 20 years old is 0, which means you can be charged for drink driving after a single drink. If you are older than this the BAC is 0.8.

If your BAC is measured to be above this you will face severe penalties. These include; an appearance in court, a high fine and demerit points on your licence.

Repeat offenders could face prison time and will receive a driving suspension, and will be on a BAC zero restriction for three years after the suspension is lifted. They may also need to install an alcohol interlock on their steering wheel that disables the vehicle if there’s any alcohol in your system. Find out more about drink driving in New Zealand here.