Getting Ready to Study Abroad

Posted by:
14 Apr 2015

Your flights are booked, your new school has sent through your acceptance and you’re ready to go. Anticipation levels are high but what next? What should you be doing? What do you need to think about?

Over 14,000 international students travel to study at English New Zealand schools each year so we’ve put together a list of things to consider and pack before you start your study adventure in New Zealand.


1.      Travel Documents

Check that you have all the required travel documents before you leave!

Your passport needs to remain valid for at least three months past the date you expect to leave New Zealand. If valid, pack your passport away in a safe (but accessible place) as you’ll need to show this on entry to New Zealand.  You’ll also need it to complete your entry card. Along with your passport, pack your flight details and plane tickets.

Check you have the correct visa. Not everyone needs a visa, so check Can I study in New Zealand? at Immigration New Zealand (INZ) for further information if you’re not sure.  They’re the experts and their website will give you a lot of information.

If your main reason for visiting New Zealand is to study, then you should have a Student Visa.  The INZ website will give you information on what documents and evidence you need for a Student Visa application and what office will process your visa application. You can study short-term (up to 12 weeks on a Visitor Visa) if you are combining a short study course with a tourism experience.  

“Visa - If you are granted a visa outside New Zealand, your visa will give you permission to travel to New Zealand in accordance with the conditions of the visa (if any); and apply for entry permission.

If you are granted a visa in New Zealand, you have permission to stay in New Zealand in accordance with the conditions of your visa.

If you wish to visit New Zealand and are from a visa-waiver country, you’ll only need to apply for a visa on arrival, at the same time as you apply for entry permission.

Entry Permission
If you are a visa holder or from a visa-waiver country you apply for entry permission by completing the required passenger arrival card.  If you are granted entry permission, you will also be granted a visa.  You may stay in New Zealand in accordance with the conditions of your visa.”

You should also carry some information about your study including the emergency contact number for your school and your accommodation details.  If you have any problems when entering New Zealand ask to make a phone call to your school or homestay family so they can help you.


2.      Health and medical insurance

You will need to arrange suitable health and medical insurance before you leave your own country.  New Zealand's public and private medical/hospital facilities provide a high standard of treatment and service. If you have an accident while you’re in New Zealand you’ll be covered by New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) scheme. However, it’s important to note that general medical services and hospital expenses are not free to visitors so you need insurance cover.

When you buy a policy in your own country make sure it gives you adequate cover overseas while you’re studying. Your schools will also be able to make recommendations about New Zealand companies with international student policies.  One experienced company offering this type of policy is Uni-Care.


3.      Drugs and medication

If you have a condition that requires the use of prescription medication, ensure that you carry a doctor’s certificate that explains your need for the medication and its prescribed use. This will avoid potential issues at the border with Customs.

New Zealand has strict narcotics and drug laws – it is illegal to bring drugs into New Zealand without the appropriate authorisation. You should declare all medicines, including those brought at a pharmacy/chemist and traditional remedies.  You may not be able to keep traditional medicines, but this will depend on what they are made from.

When in New Zealand, some forms of medicine or pharmaceuticals are available over the counter (from a pharmacy) but you will require a doctor's prescriptions to obtain certain drugs in New Zealand, for example cold and flu medicines.


4.      Restricted or prohibited goods

At the border you will be subjected to bio-security controls. Due to New Zealand’s isolation as an island in the Pacific and being surrounded by sea, it is free of many serious pests and diseases that can be found in other parts of the world. Strict border controls are in place as a preventative measure and to minimise any threat to New Zealand’s agriculture and environment.

Make sure that your footwear is clear of any dirt or soil and that you declare any food, animal or plant products on entering New Zealand. There are reminders on the way to the Custom’s check so get rid of any food you may have had in your carry on luggage. If you don’t need it, don’t pack it!

It is really important that you read your arrival card carefully and that you answer each of the questions honestly. If you do not understand your arrival card, ask for help or for one in your own language. 

If you attempt to bring in food or any items that are not allowed, and you have not declared it on your arrival card, you will be fined and the items will be taken away). You may be required to pay for equipment or clothing to be fumigated if the customs officers think it is necessary. Note, some items such as meat, fruit, and honey are not allowed in at all due to the high risk associated with them.

You can check the list of prohibited items before departure.

You may also see some Customs Officers patrolling the airport with dogs. They are friendly and very well trained to smell prohibited items so an officer may ask you some questions if the dog indicates they can smell something in your bags.


5.      Driving in New Zealand

If you have a driver’s licence in your home country or an international driving permit (IDP) you can drive the equivalent type of vehicle when in New Zealand. There is a maximum period of one year from your arrival that you can use your home licence, after this you’ll be required to apply for a New Zealand driver’s licence.

When driving in New Zealand, you must always carry your licence with you. If you are considering hiring a rental vehicle at any stage during your stay, there is a minimum legal age of 25 years to consider.

The use of a motor vehicle is a great responsibility so make sure that you study up on the New Zealand driving rules (known as the “Road Code”) before you arrive. One potential key difference to your home country is that in New Zealand we drive on the LEFT side of the road.  There are also many rules that will be different to those in your home country.  Please make sure you know the rules in New Zealand so you keep yourself and others safe.


6.      Technology & electricity

If bringing some type of technology with you, such as a laptop or mobile phone, make sure you have the right adaptors. Electricity is supplied throughout New Zealand at 230 / 240 volts, 50 hertz. When considering technology equipment, you’ll need a flat three or two-pin adapter/converter to power your laptop or phone.

If you’re using a mobile phone, you should look into your provider’s charges around international mobile roaming. It may be more cost effective to leave your current mobile at home and pick up one in New Zealand – which can be relatively cheap without any hassle or you could get a new SIM card in New Zealand.


7.      Currency

It’s a good idea to have some New Zealand currency when you arrive. You may need it if you require transport to your accommodation. The New Zealand currency is the New Zealand dollar (NZ$).

You’ll be able to exchange currency at most banks and bureau de change kiosks – some of which will be located at the seven International Airports – Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin.

For more information on the New Zealand currency, check out our earlier article Behind the New Zealand Currency.


Have you travelled abroad for study and can think of something that should be our list? Leave a comment below.




Image Credits:

powerboard and plug, by grace_kat, CC BY-SA 2.0