Visitors to New Zealand

Backpackers in the bush in rural New Zealand. Photo copyright: Phil Petersen.

New Zealand is a relatively safe travel destination but we are not crime free. It is important you take the same precautions to look after yourself and your possessions as you would at home.

Here is some specific information to help make your stay in our country safe and enjoyable.

Keep yourself safe

The emergency number for fire, ambulance and police is 111. Calls are free.

There are police stations in all main towns and cities and in many rural areas.

  • Don't walk alone late at night and avoid unlit areas.
  • Don’t carry lots of cash, valuables or expensive jewellery with you.
  • New Zealanders are very sociable but you need to be sensible. Avoid accepting drinks from strangers and don’t leave your drink unattended.
  • Be aware of people around you when using ATMs (cash machines) and hide your PIN.
  • Hitchhiking or accepting rides from people you don’t know is not recommended. If you do decide to hitchhike, Police strongly advise you not to travel alone.
  • Make sure there is always someone who knows where you are going and when you should arrive at your destination.

Keeping your stuff safe

  • Always lock your accommodation or vehicle and keep windows secure.
  • Don’t leave valuables, maps, luggage, GPS devices or visitor brochures visible in parked cars or campervans, especially at scenic spots or trail heads.
  • If there is a safe at your accommodation, use it to store your valuables.
  • If you have to carry valuables in your vehicle, lock them in the boot (trunk).
  • If you have to leave your belongings in your car/campervan in plain view for a short time, try to have someone stay with the vehicle.
  • Keep a record of the description and serial numbers of valuable items such as cameras.
  • Don’t leave bags, backpacks, wallets, mobile phones or cameras unattended in public places, especially at airports, railway stations or ferry terminals.
  • Park your campervan overnight in a holiday park, Department of Conservation camping ground or other specially designated area. If in doubt, ask at the nearest i-SITE (official visitor information office).
  • Report lost or stolen possessions as soon as possible to the nearest police station.

Keeping safe around alcohol

  • The legal purchase age is 18. If you look 25 years or younger you might be asked for proof of age.
  • The only acceptable proof of age documents are a passport, a New Zealand driver licence or the Hospitality Association of NZ 18+ card.
  • If you use a fake proof of age document, or give/lend one to an underage person knowing they intend to use it to buy alcohol, you could be fined $250.
  • Most towns and cities have liquor bans in designated public places such as the central business district or around sports stadiums.
  • Drinking alcohol or having an open alcohol container in a liquor ban area could lead to a $250 fine or being arrested.
  • You can be fined for drinking alcohol on public transport, including taxis.
  • Intoxicated people, by law, cannot be served alcohol or allowed entry to licensed premises such as pubs, cafes, bars and hotels.
  • Licensed premises such as clubs and pubs must close at 4am. Supermarkets and bottle shops can only sell alcohol from 7am – 11pm.
  • If you do drink, get a friend to take you home or get a taxi (cab).
  • Look after your friends and make sure they get home safely after drinking alcohol.

Keeping safe on New Zealand roads

  • Drive on the left-hand side of the road and give way when you turn right.
  • Always rest before starting a road trip, especially after a long flight to New Zealand.
  • You are required by law to carry your driver licence when you’re driving.
  • Keep within posted speed limits – they are rigorously enforced by Police. Fixed and mobile speed cameras operate throughout New Zealand.
  • All drivers and passengers must wear a safety belt. Children under seven must be buckled into approved child restraints.
  • It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, except to make an emergency 111 call.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime. Penalties are severe and your vehicle could be impounded.
  • There is a zero alcohol limit for drivers under 20. That means if you drive after even one drink you can be charged with drink driving.
  • If driving slowly, pull over where it’s safe and let faster traffic pass.

Keeping safe in the great outdoors

Before you go out and enjoy the many adventures New Zealand offers, use Plan my Walk to help you prepare for your activities, such as day hiking and multi-day backcountry tramping. The NZ Mountain Safety Council website helps with key essentials from planning, packing, basic survival skills and navigation to help keep you safe. You can visit AdventureSmart to find the Land, Water and Boating Codes which have simple steps to help keep you safe.

  • Think ahead. People often get into difficulty because they overestimate their ability or underestimate the risks.
  • Plan your adventure and tell someone where you intend to go. Be prepared in case things go wrong.
  • Know your limits and don’t take unnecessary risks.
  • Always wear a life jacket when boating.
  • Check the weather and conditions before you go.
  • Take the right equipment, including communications so you can call for help. More information on communication devices for the outdoors is available from Mountain Safety Council, Coastguard and AdventureSmart.
  • Don’t rely on mobile phone coverage – while mobile phone coverage is good in urban areas, it’s unlikely you’ll have reliable coverage in the backcountry and in marine areas. Consider taking a distress beacon (personal locator beacon).
    You can buy or hire a distress beacon. If you accidently activate your beacon, please call Rescue Coordination Centre NZ on 0508 472 269 as soon as possible.
  • New Zealand’s nature is precious and many of our native species are endangered or at risk. Remember to care for land, sea, and nature when you are experiencing the outdoors.

More safety information is available in our 'Safety in the outdoors' page.

Outdoor intentions

When you use outdoors for recreational activities, safety is your responsibility. Tell someone your plans (outdoor intentions) as it may save your life.

Keeping your credit cards and identity safe

  • Be careful who you give personal information to.
  • Minimise the number of cards and ID you carry in your wallet.
  • Keep an eye on your credit card every time you use it and make sure you get it back as quickly as possible. Try not to let your credit card out of your sight.
  • Keep your credit cards in a purse or wallet close to your body where it can't easily be snatched away.
  • Shield your credit card number and PIN so that others around you can't copy it or capture it on a cell phone or other camera.
  • Report lost or stolen credit cards immediately.

Keep safe via text messaging

New Zealand’s mobile phone providers Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees Mobile offer a text messaging service for visitors.

You can text about your location and travel movements to 7233 [SAFE]. These details are kept on a central database which can be accessed on request by Police to help find you.

It’s also a good idea to leave detailed information about your travel plans with friends or family back home.

Useful websites