Arriving in New Zealand

The long flight is over, the plane has landed safely, parked and the doors have been opened.

When you arrive in New Zealand, you will need to go through an entry process. This will involve immigration, customs and biosecurity checks and this is where the questionnaire which you completed shortly before arrival comes in.

For many people entering a country the most daunting part of the journey has just arrived; Customs and Immigration.

New Zealand has a number of international airports and planning your entry through the most conveniently placed to where you are going to be staying is a wise choice. Be sure to check your airline flies into the airport you have chosen. You will find everything is well sign posted in the airport and you should have no trouble finding your way, but if in doubt follow the rest of the passengers on your flight.

When you arrive in New Zealand, you will need to go through an entry process. This will involve immigration, customs and biosecurity checks and this is where the questionnaire which you completed shortly before arrival comes in.

If you have any risk goods you no longer wish to keep, put them in the amnesty bins provided at the airport’s arrivals area or declare them on your Passenger Arrival Card. The bins are usually your last opportunity to throw away risk goods before entering the Biosecurity area. Failure to declare risk goods can lead to an instant fine or prosecution which is not the best way to introduce yourself to your new country.

It is normal for travelers to see and be questioned by people in uniform. You may also see inspectors accompanied by one a Biosecurity New Zealand Detector Dogs. These dogs are trained to sniff out any risk goods that you may be carrying. Your bags may also go through an X-ray machine and may be manually searched to identify any biosecurity risk goods. The X-ray units use a very low radiation level and are completely safe. They do not affect photographic film, medications, foodstuffs or people, including pregnant women.

The importance of correctly declaring any risk items cannot be over stressed.  New Zealand has strict laws to protect its agricultural industries from imported pests and diseases. If you bring in items such as food and plants, these must be declared to MAF officials. Making an incorrect declaration may result in an instant fine of $200. For more serious breaches, such as illegally importing plants, animal materials and foodstuffs, you can be fined up to $100,000 and/or five years in prison. Items that need to be declared include:

  • Food, and the products and ingredients used for preparing food
  • Plants and parts of plants (alive or dead), including cane, straw and rattan
  • Animals (alive or dead), or products from animals
  • Equipment used with animals
  • Camping gear, golf clubs, hiking boots, shoes, equestrian equipment and used bicycles
  • Biological specimens.

If you are in doubt about any items, declare them. There is no penalty for declaring items that cannot be brought into New Zealand.

Like other countries, New Zealand has strict security concerning drugs, firearms and other dangerous goods.

For most people clearing customs and immigration is a formality, albeit a stringent and perhaps daunting one. Once you have cleared immigration and customs and collected your baggage from the baggage carousel, thankful for those easy to see ‘identifiers’ on your baggage, you will move through to the Arrivals Hall.

The Arrivals Hall is where you could have someone meeting you and it is where you will find all the services necessary to get you to your accommodation or help you to find temporary accommodation.

Money exchange

You will find at least one Bank, with Foreign Exchange facilities, at all international airports within New Zealand.

Maps, city guides, accommodation

Free accommodation brochures, maps and city guides are available from self-service information booths. Hotel and motel bookings can also be made by freephone from the airport. Motels and backpackers in New Zealand have cooking facilities where you can make your own meals. In hotels you can usually make tea and coffee but can’t cook meals. All hotels have restaurants and there’s usually a good choice of places to eat nearby.


You can get to the central city by taxi, airport bus or a fixed price ‘shuttle’ van that will drop you off at your destination. Taxis have reliable meters that calculate the fares – bargaining and tipping are not practiced. The taxi driver can estimate the likely cost for you. Airport buses and shuttle vans (door-to-door) are significantly cheaper and just as reliable.

All cities have bus and taxi services. Only Wellington and Auckland have commuter train systems; there are no underground rail networks. There are no rail services from international airports at this time.

Information Centres

Free information on accommodation, transport, food, tourist attractions and entertainment is available from Information Centres. These are identified by a prominent ‘i’ logo.


A good range of fresh food is available from local supermarkets, and moderately priced cafes and restaurants are plentiful. Motels also have cooking facilities where you can make your own meals.


New Zealanders do not generally tip service people. However, tipping is appropriate in the more expensive restaurants and hotels – particularly if you have received unusually good service. A tip of between five and ten percent of the total bill is appropriate.

– Extract from the Living Guide – Immigration New Zealand

You are here! The dream is now a reality, after leaving the airport you found where you are staying without too much of a problem, your clothes are unpacked, you are standing at the window looking out over an unfamiliar landscape . . . . . . . so what’s next?  I’m so glad you asked.

One of the first things you will most likely want to do is phone or text ‘home’. It reminds you straight away, no matter how far the distance is between you, you are always as close as the nearest telephone. The next thing you need to do is relax.
. . . . Soon there will be a great deal of form filling, appointments, checking things, researching, so take a few moments and relax.