Health and Safety

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New Zealand is generally a very safe place to travel with a relatively low crime rate, few endemic diseases and a great healthcare system.

Visitors are still advised to take the same care with your personal safety and your possessions as you would in any other country, or at home. Take copies of your important documents (like your passport and credit cards), and keep them separate from the originals. You should also keep a record of the description and serial number of valuable items (like cameras, tablets and smart phones). And remember, in an emergency dial 111.

Keeping yourself safe

  • Carry a mobile phone and don’t hesitate to dial New Zealand’s emergency phone number if you feel unsafe or threatened - dial 111. Calls are free.
  • Travel with someone you know and trust whenever possible.
  • We recommend you don’t accept rides from strangers and don’t hitchhike.
  • If you're out at night, keep to well lit places where other people are present. Don’t take short cuts through parks or alleyways. Take a taxi or get a ride with someone you know.
  • Avoid accepting drinks from strangers and never leave your drink unattended.
  • Carry a basic first-aid kit for use in emergencies.
New Zealand
Bridge to Nowhere, Whanganui River, New Zealand

By Chris McLennan

New Zealand is a safe place to travel - it just pays to prepare, and take a few precautions.

Keeping your possessions safe

  1. Always lock your accommodation and vehicle and keep windows secure when you're not around.
  2. Store valuables securely, ideally in a safe at your accommodation. Never leave valuables or important documents in parked vehicles.
  3. Never leave bags, backpacks, wallets or cameras unattended in any public place, especially airports, ferry terminals or bus/railway stations.
  4. Don’t carry large amounts of cash or expensive jewellery.
  5. If withdrawing money from a machine, withdraw small amounts only - preferably during the day - and shield your pin.
  6. Don’t leave maps, luggage or visitor brochures visible in your vehicle. These are obvious signs that you are a tourist and may have valuables.
  7. If you are travelling by campervan, park it in designated areas whenever possible.

If any of your possessions are stolen or valuable items misplaced, advise local police as soon as possible.

Driving in New Zealand

Important things you need to know about driving in New Zealand.

Staying safe in New Zealand's natural environment

Most visitors come to New Zealand to enjoy our unique natural environment but visitors can underestimate the risks associated with the great outdoors.

A walk in a city park is very different to a walk in a National Park. Take the time to learn about where you are going and to seek advice from others, especially your local i-SITE or Department of Conservation (DOC) Visitor Centre on how to be best prepared.

  1. Cell phone coverage: Coverage is unreliable outside of the main city centres and if you are venturing into the bush or the mountains you are unlikely to get reception Consider carrying a personal locator beacon and a battery powered radio, especially if you’re travelling alone.

  2. Changeable weather: New Zealand’s weather can change extremely quickly and can be severe at times. A day that starts out sunny may turn cold, wet and windy. You must always be prepared for wet, cold weather if you are heading out into the bush, the mountains or onto the water. On days when it is sunny, remember that New Zealand’s clear, unpolluted atmosphere and relatively low latitudes produce sunlight stronger than much of Europe or North America, so be prepared to wear hats and sun block. Always check the weather forecast and be prepared for four seasons in one day. Check weather conditions and any alerts by DOC before you set out on a walk or hike. Treat all weather warnings seriously. 

  3. Challenging terrain: Don’t underestimate any “walk” outside of the main centres. You need to be reasonably fit to enjoy our bush, mountains and national parks. Check out the recommended level of fitness required for any walk before you head off. You also need the right clothing and proper footwear. A cheap raincoat will not keep you warm and dry in the bush or in windy conditions. Shoes that you wear on the street will not be good enough when you are walking on muddy tracks or climbing over rocks. 

  4. Tell someone where you are going: Tell someone your plans and leave a date for when to raise the alarm if you haven’t returned. Leave a detailed trip plan with the Department of Conservation (DOC) or a friend including a "panic" date, the more details we have about your intentions, the quicker you’ll be rescued if something goes wrong. You can find a handy Outdoor Intentions form on the AdventureSmart website.

  5. Be prepared for anything and everything: Being well prepared means considering everything above. You need the right clothing, footwear and equipment, and make sure you have enough food and water to cover you in an emergency. Follow all safety precautions as per the outdoor safety tips on the AdventureSmart website

  6. If lost, seek shelter and stay where you are. Use a torch/camera flash to attract attention at night. Try and position something highly coloured and visible from the air to help a helicopter search during the day.

For more information visit the AdventureSmart website.

Safety in the water

New Zealand’s extensive coastline and network of waterways provide ample opportunity for swimming, boating and fishing. However many people are unprepared for the potential dangers of the water.

We recommend that you visit Water Safety or AdventureSmart for advice on how to stay safe on New Zealand's beaches and waterways.

  1. If in doubt, stay out.
  2. Never swim or surf alone, or when cold or tired.
  3. Swim between the flags. Beaches with potential hazards are often patrolled by lifeguards, who put up yellow and red flags. Between these flags is the safest place to swim. Listen to advice from life guards.
  4. If you have children with you, watch over them at all times.
  5. Learn to recognise ocean rip currents.
Lake Taupo
Mine Bay, Lake Taupo

By Alistair Guthrie

Master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell carved Ngatoroirangi, his first ever rock carving, onto the cliff face at the southern end of Mine Bay.

How to get help?

The emergency telephone number in New Zealand is 111. It is a free phone call.

If you have an emergency and need a quick response from the Police, the Fire Service, Ambulance or Search and Rescue, dial 111.

There are Police Stations in all main towns and cities in New Zealand and in many rural locations. Contact details can be found in local telephone books.

Don’t hesitate to contact the police if you feel unsafe or threatened. Report any theft and crime to the police immediately.

Keeping Safe via Text Messaging

Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees offer a txt messaging service for visitors.

You can send updates about your location and travel movements via txt to number 7233 [SAFE]. These details are kept on a central database which can be accessed by police if necessary.

Each text message sent to 7233 will be acknowledged by an automated response, which advises you to call 111 and request police assistance if you are in danger.

Police and the New Zealand tourism industry encourage you to use this service as another way of letting people know where you are and what you are doing while in our country.

Accidents and health insurance

With a little care and common sense, your visit to New Zealand should be accident free. If you are injured here, you may need the help of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) - New Zealand's accident compensation scheme.

In New Zealand, you cannot sue anyone for compensatory damages if you are injured. Instead ACC helps pay for your care - and that means paying towards the cost of your treatment and helping in your recovery while you remain in New Zealand.

You still need to purchase your own travel and medical insurance because ACC does not cover everything:

ACC only covers treatment and rehabilitation in New Zealand, and usually you must pay part of the cost yourself.

ACC does not pay any additional costs resulting from an accident, for example delayed or curtailed travel costs, travel home, treatment at home and loss of income in your home country.
We strongly advise you to arrange your own health insurance. New Zealand's public and private medical/hospital facilities provide a high standard of treatment and service, but it is important to note these services are not free to visitors, except as a result of an accident.

Medication and vaccinations

Visitors bringing in a quantity of medication are advised to carry a doctor's certificate to avoid possible problems with New Zealand Customs. Doctor's prescriptions are needed to obtain certain drugs in New Zealand.

No vaccinations are required to enter New Zealand.