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Living in New Zealand

What You Should Know about Living Costs and More in New Zealand

Whether it is the friendly New Zealand and Maori ways, the efficient and dynamic working culture, or the country’s green stance rooted in their appreciation for nature, you will find many interesting country facts about New Zealand in this section that will help you with your relocation.

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The cost of living is one of the main aspects to consider if you are planning to move to New Zealand. Living in the country can be expensive, and you should prepare for high prices in general. Read on to get an idea of what life in New Zealand will cost, from expenses with housing, doctors, schools, and food to recreational activities and shopping locally

There are also many practicalities that may be overlooked which are equally important, such as the voltage used in the country, the type of outlets, main holidays, and where to find embassies or airports.

You may also find driving to be different from what you are used to. Besides driving on the left side, the narrow and winding roads in New Zealand add an extra layer of difficulty to driving in the country. Find out whether you can exchange your current license for a New Zealand license or if you need to take a theory and practical exam. We also cover the most common public transportations in the country and its costs, so you can find the best option for you.

Practical Information

  • Country Name: New Zealand, Aotearoa (Māori)
  • Government Type: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
  • Climate: Temperate maritime
  • Capital: Wellington
  • Official Languages: English, Māori, New Zealand sign language
  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD, $)
  • Time Zones: UTC+12, Summer UTC+13
  • Country Calling Code: +64
  • Driving: left side
  • Emergency Number: 111
  • Voltage: 240 V / 50 Hz
  • Recommended Vaccinations: routine vaccinations and measles

Which are the Public Main Holidays in New Zealand?

  • New Year’s Day: 1 January
  • Day after New Year’s Day: 2 January
  • Waitangi Day: 6 February
  • Good Friday: the Friday before Easter Sunday
  • Easter Monday: the day after Easter Sunday
  • Anzac Day (which stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp): 25 April
  • Queen’s Birthday: 3 June
  • Labor Day: 28 October
  • Christmas Day: 25 December
  • Boxing Day: 26 December

Main Embassies and Airports

If you need to visit your embassy or consulate, you can find a complete list of embassies and consulates in New Zealand.

There are six international airports in New Zealand:

A number of domestic airports also connect the country through domestic flights.

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Cost of Living

If you are wondering if it is expensive to live in New Zealand, you may find the average cost of living to be high. New Zealand tends to skew on the most expensive side when compared to other countries around the world, with prices comparable to those of the US and Northern Europe.

Living Expenses in New Zealand

The average monthly net salary in New Zealand is around 6,300 NZD (4,110 USD). Considering this average income, you should expect rent to make up the biggest part of your expenses, especially if you live in a city center.

Rent Prices (per Month)

Types of apartments Price (NZD) Price (USD)
One-bedroom apartment in the city center 1,500 980
One-bedroom apartment outside the center 1,200 780
Three-bedroom apartment in the city center 2,500 1,630
Three-bedroom apartment outside the center 2,000 1,300


Purchasing an Apartment (Price per Square Meter)

Types of apartments Price (NZD) Price (USD)
Apartment in the city center 6,900 NZD 4,500
Apartment outside the city center 5,300 NZD 3,450


Utility Costs

Utilities Price (NZD) Price (USD)
Electricity, heating, water, garbage, for an 85 square meter apartment 175 115
Mobile phone, 1 minute of prepaid mobile 0.45 0.29
Internet, 60 Mbps or more, unlimited data, cable or ADSL 85 55


On average, public transportation in New Zealand isn’t costly, especially if you opt for monthly passes.

Travel and Transportation Costs

Types of transportation Price (NZD) Price (USD)
One-way ticket, local transportation 3.50 2.30
Monthly pass 150 100
Taxi start 3.50 2.30
Taxi 1km 3 2
Taxi 1 hour waiting 60 40
Gasoline, 1 liter 2.20 1.45
Volkswagen golf, or equivalent new car 35,000 22,840
Toyota corolla, or equivalent new car 30,000 1,960


If you have children to care for in New Zealand, you may want to prepare for high costs of education—both kindergarten and private schools can be quite expensive.

Cost of Education (per child) 

Types of schools Price (NZD) Price (USD)
Private preschool (or kindergarten), full day, monthly fee 1,000 650
International primary school, yearly fee 18,700 12,200


As for healthcare costs, these can easily add up, especially when relying on private service, which is the case with dental care.

Healthcare Costs

Types of services Price (NZD) Price (USD)
GP consultation 45–55 30–35
Dentist consultation 65 40
Private health insurance, yearly 500–870 325–570


Food and Alcohol Prices

Here is how much it will cost to go grocery shopping in New Zealand for groceries such as food and alcoholic beverages.

Groceries Price (NZD) Price (USD)
Milk, 1 liter 2.70 1.70
Bread, 500g 2.25 1.50
Rice, 1kg 2.75 1.80
Eggs, 12 units 4.80 3.10
Cheese, 1kg 9.80 6.40
Chicken, 1kg 12.60 8.20
Beef, 1kg 17.15 11.20
Apples, 1kg 3.65 2.40
Banana, 1kg 3 2
Tomato, 1kg 5.15 3.35
Potato, 1kg 3 2
Onion, 1kg 2.50 1.60
Water, 1.5 liters 1.80 1.20
Bottle of wine, mid-range 15 10
Domestic beer, 0.5 liters 4.65 3
Imported beer, 0.33 liters 5.10 3.30


Restaurant Prices

If you plan on eating out at restaurants in New Zealand, you should expect prices around:

Types of restaurants Price (NZD) Price (USD)
Meal, inexpensive restaurant 18 12
Three-course meal for two people, mid-range 90 60
Meal at fast-food chain 11.40 7.50
Domestic Beer, 0.5 liters 8 5
Imported Beer, 0.33 liters 9 6
Cappuccino 4.50 3
Coke or Pepsi, 0.33 liters 3.15 2.05
Water, 0.33 liters 2.65 1.75


As for more leisurely activities, you may expect to find gym memberships for 60 NZD (40 USD) a month and a cinema ticket for 15 NZD (10 USD). Clothing prices are relatively average. One pair of good quality jeans will cost around 105 NZD (70 USD), a summer dress in a chain store will cost approximately 55 NZD (35 USD), and a pair of mid-range running shoes is typically around 140 NZD (90 USD).

Cigarettes are also notoriously expensive in New Zealand, which may explain why smoking is rare in the country. A pack of 20 cigarettes costs around 33 NZD (21.50 USD).

Average Cost of Living in Major Cities in New Zealand

Below is a ranking of the major cities in New Zealand when it comes to cost of living, from the most expensive to the cheapest. Auckland is consistently the most expensive city in the country and the one with the lowest purchasing power.

The most expensive cities in New Zealand are:

  • Auckland
  • Wellington
  • Queenstown
  • Christchurch

The cheapest cities to live in New Zealand are:

  • Whanganui
  • Rotorua
  • Palmerston North

Below is a table of the average weekly income and expenses per person in major cities and areas in New Zealand.

City or Area

Weekly Income after taxes

Weekly Expenses





520 730





600 590





480 660


Rest of North Island



520 580


Rest of South Island


520 600


Culture and Social Etiquette

Feeling at home in New Zealand shouldn’t be difficult. You will find New Zealanders to be friendly and sociable so integrating the community should come easy. The country has a notable appreciation for nature and meal time, around which most social interactions happen.

Who are the Kiwis?

  • The first curiosity you may notice is that New Zealanders are referred to and refer to themselves as Kiwis. The term is recognized internationally and has an endearing connotation. It derives from the homonymous national species of flightless birds, which is the national symbol.
  • Kiwis describe themselves as friendly but reserved, open but respectful. They are genuinely helpful and may have a hard time saying a clear direct “no”. Instead, you may hear a not in the form of a “not sure” or “not really”.
  • They are also relaxed about invitations and plans. Even though a New Zealander has said yes to an invite, it is not a guarantee that they will be present. You shouldn’t take this personally.
  • New Zealanders are also quite private, despite their outgoing nature. They do not generally care for sharing personal information, such as how much they earn, or being questioned about their marital status, talking about weight, and other matters that can be considered private. This is especially true about co-workers.
  • Also, consider that Kiwis like their personal space, and that standing too close may make them feel uncomfortable.
  • It is common for people in New Zealand to walk on the left side of the sidewalk.

Kiwi Etiquette and Customs

  • People typically greet each other with a handshake or smile.
  • Smiling is very important and very typical of New Zealanders, who will often smile to strangers.
  • You may use titles and surnames when meeting a New Zealander but expect to be called by your first name in a more familiar level soon after.

Social Interactions with Food

  • Sharing food in a relaxed atmosphere is a good way of socializing with Kiwis. This could be during picnics, barbeques, or hāngis, which are traditional Māori meals cooked in earth ovens. Whenever invited to social gatherings, bring a bottle of wine or a small gift, even if the host deems it unnecessary.
  • Dining situations are typically familiar and informal. These follow the continental way – the fork is held on the left hand, the knife on the right Once you have finished your meal, you place your fork and knife parallel to each other, with the handles to the right.
  • You will find New Zealand to have a drinking culture, but not partaking in drinking alcohol is not an issue. You can legally drink in New Zealand at the age of 18. Smoking, on the other hand, is not very common. You are expected to smoke outside, and it is considered polite to ask the people around you if they would mind you smoking around them.

Māori Culture and Etiquette

You will find many influences of Māori culture in New Zealand, which you should take into account.

  • It is common to say a prayer before eating, called the karakia.
  • You are often expected to take off your shoes when indoors.
  • You should refrain from sitting on tables or pillows.
  • You may also be greeted with the standard kiss on the cheek.
  • Māori may spontaneously sing traditional songs while speaking – these are often used as a way to close or enhance a speech.
  • Māori’s love of nature influenced the nation’s stand on environmentalism. There is an overall positive attitude towards the environment and its preservation that is common amongst everyone.

Business Etiquette and Negotiations

  • Food is a big part of the office environment. Morning or afternoon teas are common at work, and so are celebrations of birthdays or other team celebrations. It is expected for everyone to bring food to share, which is what is meant if you are asked to “bring a plate.”
  • You may also be asked out on Friday nights, to socialize with colleagues. This is usually reserved for the company, and family members are generally not present, but this will depend on the workplace.
  • When negotiating in New Zealand, expect the process to take time. Hard-sales tactics are not well-received. New Zealanders appreciate concrete figures and prices, and don’t bargain much. They expect value for their money.

Driving in New Zealand

Driving in New Zealand may take some getting used to. In general, you can expect the roads to be good. However, some of their long-distance roads (so-called state highways), can be quite narrow, with only two lanes. Some roads in more remote places may even be gravel roads, so don’t always expect a smooth ride if you are driving in less populated areas.

Rush hour affects the biggest cities as in any other location, but traffic in New Zealand is quite light for international standards.

Here are some quick facts and rules about driving in New Zealand:

  • The minimum driving age in New Zealand is 16, which is when you are given a learner license
  • The minimum age for obtaining a full license is 18
  • You drive on the left-hand side of the road
  • Not all railway crossings have active warnings
  • Seatbelts are compulsory in all seats for every vehicle
  • Using your phone while driving is prohibited
  • Roads can be narrower than what you may be used to—some two-lane streets may not even accommodate two vehicles crossing paths

Driving in New Zealand with a Foreign License

When you arrive in New Zealand, your foreign driver’s license is valid for one year. After that, you will need a New Zealand driver’s license. You can simply exchange your previous license if you meet the criteria. If you do not, you will need to take the theory test and the practical exam.

Can You Exchange Your License for a New Zealand License?

Some countries are deemed to have licensing systems similar to New Zealand. You can exchange your existing driver’s license if are from any of the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.

To convert your license, you will need to apply at a specialist overseas conversion site.

To apply, you will need:

  • Proof of your identity
  • Your foreign driver’s license and a translation if it is not in English
  • The application form for the conversion of an overseas license
  • Proof that your eyesight meets the required standard
  • A signature and a photograph, taken at the time of the appointment
  • Pay the application fee of 10 NZD (34 USD)
  • A medical certificate in case you have a medical condition that needs to be declared

How to Get New Zealand’s Driving License

If your driver’s license is not from any of the countries listed above, you will need to apply for a new license in New Zealand by taking the standard theory test and practical driving exam.

The application for getting a New Zealand driver’s license is also made at a specialist overseas conversion site. Here you will take the theory test after applying. Your application is then sent to the NZ Transport Agency, along with your foreign driver’s license, to assess its validity.

Once this assessment is completed and your application is approved, you are given a New Zealand driver license with a supervisor condition. You will only be able to drive with a supervisor in the car – this is a someone who holds a New Zealand driver’s license for at least two years. Your foreign driver’s license will not be valid anymore.

Lastly, once you receive your New Zealand photo driver license, you must return to a specialist overseas conversion site and book a practical test. Once you pass, you will be given a full New Zealand driver’s license without a supervisor condition.

Renting a Car in New Zealand

If you wish to rent a car in New Zealand, make sure you hold an appropriate driver’s license for the type of vehicle you choose. You must not allow anyone else besides you to drive the vehicle unless they are listed as authorized drivers.

You must carry the rental agreement with you and show it to the authorities when necessary. There are many popular car rental companies you can choose from, such as New Zealand Rent a Car, Avis, Budget, East Coast Car Rentals, Europcar, Hertz, or Thrifty

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Public Transportation in New Zealand

If you wonder how public transportation is like in New Zealand, you should know that it is mostly covered by buses throughout the country. Some cities like Auckland and Wellington have city-suburban rail services, but these are less common.

Public transportation in New Zealand is provided by private companies. The government does not directly provide transportation services—instead they set policies and invest in services that attend to the needs of the regional councils. This means the way these service providers operate varies greatly by city or region. For example, in Auckland, you can get a monthly pass that allows you to travel by both bus and train, called the AT HOP. Other cities, like Wellington, have a range of prepaid monthly cards, depending on the company you use.

Buses in New Zealand

Buses are the cheapest and most popular means of public transportation in New Zealand for both intercity travels and within main cities. Bus fares will start between 1 and 3 NZD (0,70 and 2 USD) in most cities in the country. Each city has its main service provider, so fares for both single tickets and monthly cards may differ depending on where you move.

You will find most intercity travels to be provided by Intercity and Naked Bus. Bus fares will cost 10 NZD (6.50 USD) and higher, and both companies have bus passes, which are valid for 12 months.

Trains in New Zealand

New Zealand has three main train lines, operated by KiwiRail. These lines connect bigger cities, which means trains are not common day-to-day transportation for New Zealanders. These are:

  • Auckland to Wellington (Northern Explorer)
  • Picton to Christchurch (Coastal Pacific)
  • Christchurch to the West Coast (TranzAlpine)

The cost of one train ticket would start at around 49 NZD (32 USD).

Taxis in New Zealand

You will find tax companies to be available throughout the country. You may phone a cap company or go directly to a taxi stand to catch a cab.

You may also rely on popular apps such as Uber, Green Cabs, or ihail.

Flights in New Zealand

There are two main domestic airlines in the country, Air New Zealand and Jetstar. Flying is common for longer intercity travels since most cities can be connected in an hour. It is also a common way of traveling between the North and South Islands.

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: July 01, 2019
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