Once you have been in New Zealand for a while, you may decide to change your accommodation. The New Zealand Education website has more information on common accommodation options.
If you are under 18 years of age your education provider will assess available accommodation for you.
We strongly advise you to have an agreement signed with your accommodation provider/landlord or flatmates. All forms are available free from the Department of Building and Housing website. Tenancy information is also available in a number of languages.
This website also provides information on selected accommodation options in Invercargill and Queenstown.
New Zealand is a major producer of pasture-fed lamb, venison and beef. We also produce dairy products and there is plenty of fruit and vegetables. Bread and potatoes are staple foods rather than rice or noodles.
Tap water in New Zealand is safe to drink.
Breakfast is often informal and each person in a family may prepare their own. The midday meal is often cold food prepared at home and eaten at school or work. The main meal of the day is eaten in the evening.
New Zealand is a multicultural society with a large number of restaurants and cafes offering dishes from around the world. Establishments range from fast food and takeaway shops which may offer some seating, to casual cafes and restaurants, through to formal silver service dining. More formal establishments will expect a reasonable standard of dress from their patrons.
Depending on where you choose, you can eat out for as little as NZ$8 for lunch and NZ$12 - 15 for dinner.
It's important to keep in contact with your parents and family at home. You can do this in a number of ways.
SIT will provide you with access to a computer, an email address and (on campus) free internet access. Email and internet services are often available at public libraries as well.
New Zealand Post has an efficient local and overseas posting system. You can buy stamps at New Zealand Post shops, supermarkets, some dairies (small, local convenience stores), bookshops and petrol stations.
There are very few public phones in New Zealand. They operate on phone cards purchased from dairies and newsagents with a minimum value of NZ$5. Some also accept credit cards, and a few accept coins. Calls to emergency services (dial 111) are free. The emergency services are the Police, Fire and Ambulance.
Mobile (cellular) Phones
You can use global roaming on a mobile phone from overseas, buy a pre-pay phone or set up an account with a provider in New Zealand. In New Zealand, the caller pays the cost of a call to a mobile phone or landline number.
Pre-paid international phone cards
Pre-paid international phone cards are available at supermarkets, dairies, petrol stations and newsagents. Cards are available in a range of denominations, starting from NZ$10.
Personal finances are a private matter and not usually discussed in New Zealand, even amongst friends. If you are running out of money you should talk to a member of the International Team at your education provider. They may be able to provide you with advice on what you can do. You should also talk to your family.
New Zealand Currency
The New Zealand dollar is the currency used in New Zealand. Dollars are divided into cents; 100 cents = 1 dollar. Symbols: $ = dollar, c = cents. The following notes and coins are in circulation: notes - $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, coins - 10c, 20c, 50c, $1, $2.
Be careful how much money you spend in your first two months until you understand a little more about the costs you will face in the coming months. This is to make sure you have enough money left until the end of your studies. If you need help managing your money, talk to a member of the International Team at your education provider for budgeting advice.
Click here to calculate how the cost of living compares from your home country to New Zealand.
Nearly all the major banks have international student packages and provide information about their services in other languages. Many also have an international student advisor.
You should take a letter from your bank, some proof of your account, such as a copy of a statement, your passport and proof of your enrolment in a New Zealand education provider with you. Your education provider may already have an arrangement with a particular bank, which may make things easier for you.
Banks are usually open from 9:00am - 4:30 pm Monday to Friday but customers are able to access their accounts 24 hours using bankcards in ATMs. Banks are not open on Saturday and Sunday, or on public holidays.
Make sure you keep your bankcards and credit cards safe at all times. If you lose them make sure you contact the bank immediately to cancel them. Also let the Police know - sometimes lost property is handed in.
EFTPOS allows you to pay for purchases without carrying cash. EFTPOS is very popular with New Zealanders and is available in most shops, restaurants and businesses. You can often use EFTPOS to get cash out too.
Using a touch-tone phone, you can dial a free number for your bank and have access to your accounts over the phone, at any time.
You can also do your banking from a computer on the internet anytime. Banks provide secure access for this. Bank staff can set online banking up for you when you open your account.
Student discounts are offered on some public transport. Check before you buy your ticket.
Buses & Trains
In most places buses will be regular throughout the day but less regular on weekends. At rush hours the buses can get full, in which case it will not stop to pick more people up.
Bus timetables are often posted at bus stops and are also available on the internet. The Invercargill bus timetable is available on the Invercargill City Council website.
There is a network of long distance buses that travel throughout New Zealand.
Commuter trains operate in Auckland and Wellington, and there is a limited center city tram service in Christchurch.
Taxis cost more than public transport but can be good for occasions when several people are sharing the fare or when public transport is inconvenient or not available, such as late at night.
A regular ferry service operates between the North and South Islands, and between Bluff and Stewart Island.
You can travel by plane to most parts of New Zealand. Generally, you will need to arrive at the airport at least 30 minutes before your departure time. It is also important to take photo ID with you.
Under New Zealand law, you must wear a helmet when cycling, and you must have front and back lights on at night. Road rules apply to cyclists.
Private Vehicles, Driving & Road Rules
New residents and visitors should become familiar with driving in New Zealand. See the New Zealand Land Transport Agency’s website for more information.
You need to be 16 years old or over to drive a car, motorbike or other vehicle in New Zealand. All drivers must have a current and valid New Zealand driver licence, International Driving Permit, or overseas licence. You can drive on an overseas licence for 12 months. After that you need to apply for a New Zealand licence.
Carry your licence with you at all times when driving. Failure to produce your licence when driving will result in an instant fine.
For information on how to get a licence and license conditions, see the New Zealand Land Transport Agency’s website.
In New Zealand we drive on the left-hand side of the road and there are a number of different road rules that are important for you to understand before driving in New Zealand. The Police enforce the driving laws and there are penalties for breaking them such as fines, having your licence taken off you, your vehicle taken off you, or you can be sent to jail.
It is important that you understand the New Zealand Road Code and learn the road rules, traffic signs and signals for driving here.
It is highly recommended you complete a defensive driving course. These courses help drivers who already have some experience, to learn how to drive safely in New Zealand. Defensive driving courses are available in most towns and cities through the New Zealand Automobile Association.
There are four main reasons why people crash or die on New Zealand roads: driving too fast, driving after drinking alcohol, not doing up their safety belts and not giving way at intersections.
The maximum speed on open roads in New Zealand (roads outside of cities and towns) is 100km/h. This is the fastest you are allowed to drive, and you must follow any speed limit signs that instruct you to slow down. The speed limit in towns and cities is 50km/h, unless speed signs differ.
The amount of alcohol that drivers under twenty years of age are legally allowed to drink before driving is so small that it is safer not to drink at all. Driving while over the alcohol limit is illegal for which there are severe penalties, including having your licence taken off you, or going to jail.
You must always wear your safety belt, whether you are sitting in the front or the back of the vehicle. Drivers and passengers are responsible for their own safety belts. The driver is also responsible for making sure that children under 15 years of age are wearing their safety belt. Children under five years need to be in an approved child's car seat. There are fines for not wearing safety belts.
If you have an accident while driving and are not badly hurt, you must stop and check to see if anyone else is hurt. If someone is hurt, give first aid or find a phone and dial 111 for emergency services. You will also need to ensure that other accidents do not occur. If no one is hurt, you'll need to give your name and address (and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle you are driving) as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours after the accident, to the owner or driver of any other damaged vehicle and the owner of any damaged property.
If you can't find these owners, tell the Police about the accident as soon as possible and no later than 60 hours after the crash.
Owning a car
Think carefully before buying a car. Unfortunately some international students have had problems with driving or owning cars and some of them have been serious. Owning a car is a big responsibility and can cost a lot.
Once you own a car you need to make sure that it is licensed and has a warrant of fitness (WoF). If your vehicle does not have a current vehicle licence and warrant of fitness, you will be fined.
If you buy a vehicle, you will need vehicle insurance. Insurance fees are usually higher for people under 25 years and may also depend on your driving history and the type of vehicle you own.
If your vehicle is not registered and/or does not have a current WoF, or if you are driving without a valid licence, your insurance company will not pay out if you have an accident.
A range of shops (e.g. those selling clothing, and books etc) offer student discounts. You need to ask whether the shop offers a student discount before you make your purchase. If it does, you will need to show your student identification card to receive the discount.
Student discounts are often available at cinemas, concerts or shows, on public transport etc. This website provides a list of some of the discounts that may be available to SIT students.
Dial 111 in an emergency for Police, Ambulance or Fire.
New Zealand has an international reputation as a safe and friendly country but you should still take all the security precautions you would take in your own country or anywhere else in the world.
The laws operate to protect the rights of all people in New Zealand, including visitors and international students. New Zealand law may be different to your home country, but this is no excuse for not obeying it and not knowing New Zealand law is not an acceptable excuse.
Dial 111 in an emergency for Police, Ambulance or Fire.
If you need immediate medical help, the Police, or to report a fire, phone 111. The call is free. A person will ask you which service you need (Fire, Police, or Ambulance). Be ready to tell them what has happened and where you are. If someone is injured and needs to go to hospital, an ambulance will arrive and take them.
If you need urgent medical treatment, but are well enough to travel, you can also make your own way to an Accident and Emergency centre or hospital or ask a friend to take you, (refer to information on health services).
Choose your friends wisely. Most students who have been victims of crime in New Zealand were victimised by other students.
The main offences students have become involved in are fraud (including immigration and IELTS fraud), extortion and assault. There have also been cases of kidnappings, usually where students are taken to the nearest ATM and forced to withdraw money and then let go. Perpetrators of extortion and kidnapping believe that you will not contact the Police. The New Zealand Police are one of the most honest forces in the world and cannot be bribed by offenders. They treat such cases very seriously and you should contact them immediately. Do not try and resolve the situation on your own; it could get worse.
In New Zealand you are breaking the law if you hit, punch, kick or in any way assault another person, or have sexual contact without the other person's consent. Violence is unacceptable wherever it happens and whoever the victim is, even amongst family members. The New Zealand Police take all violence very seriously - call them if you need help (dial 111 in an emergency and ask for the Police).
There can be times, locations or circumstances when there are concerns in public places. Being aware of these, and doing things safely will reduce risks to your safety.
If you think someone is following you, cross the street, more than once if necessary, vary your pace and change direction, to confirm your suspicions. If someone is following you, go as quickly as possible to the nearest place where there will be other people. This could be a service station, fast-food outlet, or house with lights on. Call the Police immediately.
If you use drugs or drink more than a moderate level of alcohol, it will lower your awareness and increase the risk to your safety. Your ability to be in control and react to a situation can be affected.
Potentially unsafe situations are:
- Leaving a party or pub with a person you have just met
- Accepting a car-ride from a stranger or someone you have just met (e.g. at a pub)
- Walking home alone
- Driving after taking drugs or alcohol (this can be illegal)
- Other people who have taken drugs or alcohol can threaten your safety
There are several organisations in New Zealand concerned with public safety. The Police are there to help anyone at any time.
When you move into your accommodation, find out where your local Police Station is, and its phone number. You can go to your local Police station or phone them. Look in your local telephone book for the number, or go to: http://www.police.govt.nz.
The Police have access to a free telephone interpreting service called Language Line which is available in 35 languages. It operates from Monday to Friday 10am - 6pm. When you contact the Police, just ask for Language Line and your language. For further details, go to: http://www.languageline.govt.nz/.
If there is a crime, the Police will investigate and advise you about follow-up action. They will tell you about other support services that may be helpful, such as Victim Support, which helps people who have been the victim of a crime, accident or emergency.
Your local branch of the Community Law Centre may also be able to provide advice and assistance. These centres provide free advice on New Zealand laws and legal procedures. Many cities and towns have Community Law Centres; the phone number will be in your local telephone book.
You should also tell the International Office at your education provider as they will be able to offer support and may be able to help you when you are dealing with the Police.
Arrests & Court
If you are arrested, you have the right to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. If you appear in court, you will need a lawyer. There will be a lawyer at the court who will give you legal help, or you can hire your own lawyer. You also have the right to contact your Embassy and your family.
There are many local clubs or church groups you can join to do leisure activities in your spare time. Clubs include those on bridge, arts, sports, tramping and hobby groups. At polytechnics/institutes of technologies, colleges of education, universities and schools, there are a range of sports and interest clubs to join. Joining a club is a good way to meet New Zealanders.
- Bush Walking and Tramping - New Zealand is famous for its beautiful outdoor environment, and bush walking and tramping are enjoyable ways of experiencing it
- Fishing - New Zealand is blessed with a large number of excellent fishing spots and fishing is a popular recreational activity. Each year thousands of people go fishing and take large numbers of finfish, rock lobsters and shellfish
- Water Safety – New Zealand is surrounded by water, and many of our favourite activities take place on or in the water. Learn how to stay safe with information from Water Safety New Zealand
Students may apply to Immigration New Zealand to work:
- to meet course requirements if they are enrolled in a course that requires them to have practical work experience;
- if they are undertaking a full-time course of study in a recognised degree or diploma which takes at least two academic years to complete;
- when they have completed study
Where eligible to work (if the student permit states), students may:
- work 20 hours per week for tertiary students
- work up to 40 hours per week during the Christmas and New Year holiday period
Students enrolled in a postgraduate study course are also able to work for 20 hours per week.
You may need a 'Variation of Conditions' to your Student Visa/Permit, to work in New Zealand. Contact a New Zealand Immigration Service office to apply.
Student Job Search is funded by the government, students' associations and tertiary institutions and run by student associations, to help students find summer vacation and temporary or part-time work.
After you have completed your studies, you may wish to apply for a Work Visa, which allows you to work in New Zealand full-time. Contact a New Zealand Immigration Service office for more information.
The Employment New Zealand website is also a good resource if you have any employment questions or problems.
New Zealand residents must pay income tax in New Zealand on their world-wide income. The residence rules set out in the tax laws are different from the normal citizenship rules. You can be a resident for tax purposes but not hold New Zealand citizenship.
Any person, individual or business required to pay tax and/or wanting to work in New Zealand will need to get a tax number (IRD number) from the Inland Revenue Department. To download an IRD number application form go to the IRD website.
Most people who employ you will deduct your tax from your salary and send it to Inland Revenue for you. Some employers will offer you "cash in hand" for casual contract work and odd jobs. This is illegal.
For more help on tax matters go to the IRD website.
The Human Rights Commission was created to provide better protection of human rights in New Zealand. It works for a fair, safe and just society. They have information about discrimination, harassment and victimisation for:
For further information, refer to the Human Rights Commission website. Go to: https://www.hrc.co.nz/ . The Human Rights Commission operate an InfoLine, staffed from 8.30am until 5.00pm Monday - Friday, plus an automated service accessible 24 hours, seven days a week. All calls are confidential. The InfoLine service provides answers to general human rights enquiries, and provides advice on how to deal with disputes including matters of racial harassment. Call InfoLine toll free on 0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS (0800 496 877), or you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are good professional health services in New Zealand, including doctors, pharmacies, dentists and hospitals. The local telephone book has a section at the front that lists hospitals, medical centres (local doctor's clinics) and dentists.
You must have medical insurance. Having medical insurance to cover all your dental, medical, specialist and hospital costs is compulsory (from 1 January 2004) for all international students. Your medical insurance policy will be checked by your school or institution to make sure it meets the coverage requirements. SIT provides medical insurance for all our international students.
You can choose any doctor (General Practitioner or GP) or medical centre close to where you are living or close to where you are studying. You should go to see a doctor if you have a non-emergency illness. You need to call the centre or clinic and make an appointment to see a doctor or nurse. In the case of an emergency, you should go directly to the hospital.
SIT has our own student health services centre which you can use. Again, you will need to make an appointment to see the nurse.
Your medical insurance may cover the costs for visits to the doctor. Most GPs charge between NZ$30 and NZ$70 a visit.
Prescriptions, Medications and Diagnostic Tests
You, or your medical insurance, will also have to pay for any medicines that you need. A doctor writes a prescription for these and a pharmacy or chemist provides the medicine the doctor prescribes for you. The cost will depend on the particular medication you are prescribed. Charges will also apply to any diagnostic tests (such as blood tests) from a laboratory.
Dental care (except for eligible school children under 18 years of age) is not funded by the government. You or your medical insurance will need to pay for your dental and oral surgery costs. Dentists also operate an appointment system.
If you need to get your eyes tested or a prescription for glasses or contact lenses, you will need to see an optometrist. You or your medical insurance will need to pay for your optometrist costs.
Many hospitals, particularly larger ones, either have their own staff or a network of volunteers who will help with translation, hospital admission or any related needs. There will be charges for your care which your medical insurance should cover.
Accidents & Injuries
The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides 24-hour, personal injury or accident cover for New Zealanders, New Zealand residents who are temporarily overseas, and visitors to New Zealand, which means you get this cover while you are here. For more information, free phone 0800 101 996 or go to http://www.acc.co.nz.
- Health conditions and treatments - Find out about common health conditions, what to do if someone's had an accident, and more
- Sunburn and protection from the sun - Be safe – be SunSmart! New Zealand has some of the strongest levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Learn how to keep safe while still living life in the sun
- Healthline - is a free, 24 hour telephone health service. A registered nurse will assess your condition and recommend the best course of action. Free phone 0800 611 116
When you are away from home, it's great to have a special person who understands, cares and supports you in times of need. In New Zealand, relationships and sexual relationships are a personal choice and it is generally accepted that older students may have sexual relationships. This attitude may be different from that of your country, culture or religion and you should never feel pressured to do anything you are not comfortable with.
In New Zealand the age of sexual consent is 16, and it is illegal to have sexual relations with a person under this age even if he or she agrees. If you choose to have a sexual relationship during your time in New Zealand, you need to protect yourself, both from unwanted pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Contraception and sexual health are not issues to be embarrassed or ashamed about and can be discussed freely with a doctor or nurse.
Abortion is not considered a means of contraception. Abortion in New Zealand is only available under specific circumstances. It is not as easily accessible as it is in some other countries.
The Family Planning Association (FPA) provides sexual and contraceptive information, clinical services and education. If you make an appointment, you or your medical insurance must pay for your visit. The FPA produces the pamphlets Contraception Your Choice and Sexually Transmissible Infections in a range of languages. These pamphlets are free and available from an FPA clinic.
- Sexual Health
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
FPA clinics are listed in your local telephone book or go to familyplanning.org.nz to locate the FPA clinic closest to you. There is also a free information service available on: 0800 372 5463. Some FPA clinics may have interpreters available.
Relationship Aotearoa provides education and counselling for anyone having relationship problems with family, friends, partners, teachers and others. Call them on 03 218 2308 during office hours or email email@example.com.
In New Zealand, alcohol and tobacco smoking are legal but regulated; you have to be 18 or over to purchase them, and there are rules about where and when you can and can't drink alcohol and smoke.
Smoking is often not permitted in indoor public places, although some bars, restaurants, cafes and pubs have smoking areas. Since 2005 it has been illegal to smoke inside any clubs, bars, restaurants, theatres or public buildings. Smoking is permitted outdoors, however smoking is increasingly unpopular with New Zealanders, so if you smoke in public areas, try and smoke in areas where your cigarette smoke will not bother other people.
It is illegal to drink alcohol and drive (refer to `Cars and Driving'). In some cities it's illegal to drink alcohol in public places, such as the streets or parks, and many have alcohol bans over the New Year period when lots of people go out to celebrate.
You can buy alcohol in liquor stores and licensed beer and wine stores, including some supermarkets (although you cannot buy spirits at supermarkets). Alcohol is also sold in some convenience stores (e.g. dairies or petrol stations) but not from vending machines.
The minimum legal drinking age in New Zealand is 18 years. If young people wish to purchase alcohol or get into licensed premises they need to provide photographic proof of age. The acceptable forms of ID are a New Zealand or overseas passport, a photographic New Zealand driver licence or a HANZ 18+ card.
Although alcohol is widely consumed at social events in New Zealand, it's just as acceptable and quite normal not to drink alcohol. The choice is yours and if you choose to drink, you should do so responsibly (e.g. not drinking and then driving or hurting anyone).
In New Zealand there have been a few cases of 'drink spiking', where someone adds a tasteless, odourless and colourless drug to your drink without you knowing. These drugs are extremely dangerous and leave people with little or no memory of what has happened to them. To avoid this, you should always watch your drink being poured (alcoholic or not) and keep an eye on it at all times. If you think this happened to you, go to a doctor, student health service, or your health service provider immediately.
Illegal drugs include marijuana, 'magic mushrooms', LSD, ecstasy, methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin. Possession of any of these drugs is against the law and carries a penalty that may include prison. You should refuse drugs if they are offered to you. There are considerable risks in consuming them and they are illegal.
There are a number of places where you can go for help if you or someone you know needs help with alcohol or drugs. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau and they will refer you to a service that can assist you. You will find your local Citizens Advice Bureau in the phone book, or call them on their free phone number 0800 367 222. Some Citizens Advice Bureau have interpreters to help non-native English speakers.
Studying can be very stressful for any student. When you are studying overseas, language and culture differences can increase stress levels.
If you are worried, do not wait too long before you ask for help. Make an appointment to talk to a counsellor or doctor.
Sometimes medical insurance does not cover treatment for mental illness. You may be liable for any charges incurred from your treatment.
SIT has student counsellors available for consultations at no cost.
If you'd rather talk with someone over the phone, you can call Lifeline. Lifeline is a free, confidential and anonymous service for anyone needing to talk about personal problems. Some of the feelings or worries they can assist you with are:
- facing difficulties in a new country
- stress-related issues
- problems with relationships
- depression and worry
- grief and loss
- overcoming thoughts of suicide or self-harm
One service of Lifeline in Auckland is staffed by Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking counsellors and are available on: 0800 888 880.
The English speaking Lifeline is open 24 hours every day: phone free on: 0800 111 777.
Lifeline also has a brochure about these services. Your education provider should have a copy.
There are three main types of eating disorders. These are anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating. However, many eating disorders do not exactly fit into these three categories. Every person's pattern and experience of an eating problem is unique.
A person can be any size and have an eating disorder. An eating disorder is present when a person:
- is constantly thinking about eating or not eating
- feels out of control around food
- uses food to meet needs other than hunger
- becomes obsessed about food, weight and body shape
If you, or you think any of your friends have an eating disorder, there are a number of people who can help. Contact the SIT Health Nurse, or visit the Eating Disorders Association of New Zealand website for further information and directions for getting help.
There are many avenues for legal gambling in New Zealand, from casinos (where you must be 20 years of age or over) to sports betting, horseracing and buying lotto tickets.
You can contact the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand (PGF). PGF Asian Services have Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean speakers.
i-SITE Visitor Centres
Visit your local i-SITE Visitor Centre – in Invercargill this is in our Museum, located at Queens Park on Gala Street - for information about art galleries, libraries, cinemas and zoos in your area. These official Visitor Information Centres have good local knowledge including local events, tourist information and holiday accommodation.
Citizens Advice Bureau
Citizens Advice offices provide free advice on a wide range of subjects, including personal, housing, financial, vehicle and legal issues. You do not have to be a New Zealand citizen to use the service. Look for the phone number in the local telephone book or go to: http://www.cab.org.nz, for contact details and some information on commonly asked questions. You can also call free on: 0800 367 222. This number will automatically put you in contact with your local office.