Travelling to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa? Read this.

I am an avid researcher. A religious list-maker. I plan as much as I possibly can before leaving for a new destination to avoid feeling disorientated or unprepared when I arrive.

Before I came to New Zealand, I went through the usual routine: mapping out brief routes, researching on government websites, reading hundreds of blog posts, Pinning useful information onto my New Zealand Pinterest board.

Everything I read told me what to pack, how to get my visa and what a fantastic, unforgettable, life-changing experience I would have.

But nothing told me how to actually DO the working holiday. Nowhere could I find all the information, condensed into one place, on how to get an IRD number, how to get a job, how to find somewhere to live and so on.

So I did my best, gathering most of my information from backpacker Facebook groups and little-known travellers’ blogs, and decided to compile this blog post to share with others exactly how James and I managed to sort our lives out upon landing in Auckland on 9th May 2015. We haven’t been here long, but I believe that the first few weeks can be the most difficult when you move abroad as there is just so much to sort out, so I hope this post puts other WHVers’ minds at ease!

Please note, this post is based on our experience arriving in Auckland in May 2015 at the beginning of our Working Holiday. If you are planning on moving to Wellington, please read this post too!

Before you go

Step 1: Decide if New Zealand is right for you.

Before we had even made a firm decision to come to New Zealand, we looked into whether coming here would be the right choice for us. After the slight mishap in Cambodia, James and I knew we needed to earn some money to make up for lost costs. We could either do this in England, or go abroad.

New Zealand has been on our bucket list ever since we started talking about travelling while we were still studying at uni. We were – like so many others – drawn by its beautiful landscapes, its renowned hikes and its connection to Middle Earth! We had heard amazing things about it from friends who had visited the country, so we really wanted to incorporate it into our route. Originally we had planned to come to New Zealand after travelling around Southeast Asia… could our passports getting stolen actually be – dare I say it? – a blessing in disguise?!

We also needed to consider whether we could actually save up any money in New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa. It is one of the most expensive countries in the world, and we would obviously want to travel around both Islands while on that side of the globe. How did we know we wouldn’t be putting all of our eggs in one basket, and end up losing out financially?

Well, to put it bluntly, we didn’t. We always knew we would be taking a risk by coming to NZ – but doesn’t travelling anywhere always involve some sort of financial risk? We eventually decided to come to New Zealand partly because we didn’t want to stay in England to work, and partly because we were dying to see NZ!

Wanaka - Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand -
Roy’s Peak, Wanaka

Step 2: Decide on a plan-of-action.

This wholly depends on what your personal choices are regarding how you want to spend your Working Holiday. Because James and I were going to be arriving in Autumn, we decided we wanted to stay up north in Auckland throughout the colder months* where we could work to save up some funds for the rest of our trip. We are planning on buying a campervan and travelling the North Island then the South Island – we realise we will probably need to find work again at some point if our financial situation looks bleak!

*Don’t get me wrong, I would LOVE to visit Queenstown in the snow. But then I would want to ski, and unfortunately I don’t have enough money to do that right now.

Queenstown - Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand -
Queenstown from Bob’s Peak

Step 3: Get your Working Holiday Visa.

When we were 100% certain on coming to New Zealand, we applied for our visas online through the New Zealand immigration website.

For UK citizens, a 12 month Working Holiday Visa cost us $165 NZD each (equivalent to around £80 GBP). You can also apply for the full 23 month Working Holiday Visa, but we chose to apply for a year and will extend our visas if we want to stay longer.

You can also get your visa through a number of agencies online (a quick google search will bring up loads of companies) who take care of the paperwork for you, but understandably incur a fee for doing so.

Step 4: Download and print an IRD application form.

You will need an IRD number in order to be taxed the correct amount whilst working in New Zealand. Starting your IRD number application early is particularly important if you are planning on working in NZ very soon after arriving in the country, since it takes between 7-10 working days for applications to be processed.

To speed up the process, you can easily print off and fill in the IR595 application form while at home, and post it off as soon as you arrive in NZ. You will also need photocopies of two forms of ID – so have this ready too. I’ve written a whole blog post on how to get your IRD number – be sure to check it out before you leave!

Step 5: Rewrite your CV

Although not essential, it’s probably worth checking your CV is at least up-to-date before you start applying for jobs in New Zealand. Click here to read my guide to writing a New Zealand style CV.

In New Zealand there are two types of CV – the skills-based CV and the work-based CV. Unless you are looking to progress your career in NZ, you’ll need a skills-based CV. You can make it pretty broad, but it’s best to try to tailor it to a particular type of role. I have personally found that employers consider referees quite important and will almost certainly contact them, so don’t lie! I found this website very helpful when writing my CV for New Zealand.

Since I haven’t brought my MacBook with me to New Zealand, I brought a USB stick with a copy of my CV on it so I can visit an Internet café if I need to adapt or update it at a later date or if I want to print out more copies. I also emailed a copy of it to myself so I can attach it to emails from my phone.

Upon arriving

Step 6: Find a job

This is the part that differs for everyone depending on what sort of work they are looking for, their location, and their previous work experience.

As I said before, when we first arrived in Auckland, finding work was our number one priority. Others preferred to buy a car straight away and travel around for a bit before finding somewhere to work for a while, others had different plans still. The possibilities are endless and the choice is all yours.

Personally, I knew I wanted a 9-5 weekday job working in an office, primarily because I have previous work experience in office environments and secondly because I knew that admin roles tend to pay quite generously.

I registered with a few recruitment agencies based around the city centre and met their representatives for a chat, where I explained what type of work I was looking for and my availability. I was offered four administration roles and had secured the ideal placement within three days of starting my job-search. I am currently employed through Hudson and James found his job through Kinetic. We also spoke to a third agency called Quinn. You can read this post about how we found work in Wellington.

I feel I need to make it clear at this point though that I was very lucky: I arrived in Auckland in the low-season so there were less people looking for work, I had ideal work experience for the type of role I was looking for, and I’m a native English speaker – which seems to be a real asset in the business world…

From speaking to others, I got the impression that unless you are an English speaker or have a specialist qualification or trade, your job prospects are unfortunately going to be slightly limited. An Italian friend I met explained that he had easily found work as a pizza chef in an Italian restaurant, since he had done the same thing previously in Italy. However, another backpacker who only spoke limited English said that he had struggled to find a secure job and had relied mostly on agricultural work such as fruit picking to get by. He was paid based on how much fruit he picked, and would often be contacted in the morning to be told he wasn’t required to work that day. When I met him, he was working in a hostel as a cleaner for 6 days a week, in exchange for free accommodation.

The only reason I am explaining this is because I believe it is better to be prepared for these kind of situations before you leave for another country. Having to dip too far into your savings or return home early is never an easy decision. I am by no means saying that non-English speakers won’t get a job in New Zealand because I have met plenty of backpackers from across the globe who have paid positions in hostels, restaurants and bars, as well as in administration roles. I would therefore suggest that clarifying your level of English on your CV could be a really good idea. If an employer likes you, they would never discriminate simply if English is your second language.

As for where to look for a job in New Zealand, there are jobs across the country year-round but this understandably fluctuates depending on the season. A brief overview would be that Queenstown is good for hospitality work (particularly throughout the winter sports season), Christchurch has a lot of work in construction, there are plenty of fruit picking jobs year-round across the Islands (but mostly during summer), and the bigger cities are understandably better places to find office and administration roles.

My top tips for finding work would be:

  1. Make sure you have a strong CV (see Step 5).
  2. Bring a smart shirt & skirt or trousers with you to wear to an interview. It pays to make a good impression.
  3. Look for work in the right places: use websites such as Trademe and and sign up for job alerts. Consider signing up to a recruitment agency. Keep an eye out for adverts in the windows of shops and restaurants, check backpacker boards and in Facebook groups.
  4. Always be prepared for disappointment. If you’re temping, be aware that you could be let go or moved to a different role with little notice. Remember that with so many other backpackers out there, job posts can be filled easily, but there is always work available, you just have to look for it. Mostly, stay determined and work hard.  
Mount Cook - Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand -
Mount Cook

Step 7: Open a bank account.

You’ll need a bank account in order to get paid, and to avoid currency exchange fees it’s best to have an NZ one. There are loads of banks over here, the most common ones are probably ASB, ANZ, Kiwibank, Westpac, and BNZ. You can check out the different types of accounts online and compare what they offer – sometimes there are monthly fees involved and most banks charge at least $1 if you use a different bank’s ATM. I went for the ANZ Go account which has no fees. It was easy to set up – I simply took my passport and proof of address into a branch and had my eftpos card within 5 days.

Milford Sound, New Zealand - spinthewindrose.comMilford Sound

Step 8: Find somewhere to live.

This will completely depend on your budget and your own personal situation.

It’s probably best to book a hostel for the first few days after you arrive so you have somewhere to recover from jet-lag and orientate yourself. Hostels can be great long term too, and are always a favourite for backpackers because they’re cheap are have a lot of like-minded people staying in them. You don’t have to pay for bills or any up front costs such as bonds (which is basically a deposit). Lots of hostels offer discounts for long-stay travellers with a weekly rate instead of daily. Many have single, twin and double private rooms as well as the more cost-effective dorms.

Alternatively, websites such as Facebook and Trademe are good places to look for rooms, though you will probably need to contribute towards bill payments and pay a bond.

James and I chose to rent a flat through an estate agent called Impression Real Estate. If there is something I have learned whilst travelling, it’s that I like to have my own space – to put it bluntly, I am so over sharing a messy kitchen and being kept awake by drunken travellers. I’ve been there & done that at uni and it’s just not my thing anymore. Because our job contracts are for 2-3 months, we decided we wanted to live somewhere a little more homely and private for that time. We settled on a studio apartment located in Auckland’s city centre, which is only a ten minute walk from where I work (25 mins for James!). Whilst we do have to pay for our power bill and Internet, our rent is quite reasonable, we don’t have to pay for transport costs (which are pretty pricey!) and I can get my beauty sleep every night!

So there you have it

At this stage this is all the information I can provide about getting set up in New Zealand on your Working Holiday Visa. James and I are currently researching what to do when our contracts finish – as I mentioned above, we want to buy a campervan and travel around both islands. We are just deciding if we want to start in Auckland or would rather fly down to Christchurch and buy a car down there!

In terms of travelling around NZ, I realise there are lots of options available to us, but since we haven’t yet left Auckland, I don’t feel I can comment. Very briefly, there are tour buses such as Stray and the Kiwi Experience, cheap coaches such as the Naked Bus, you can hire a campervan or car with Escape Rentals or Jucy vans, you can buy your own vehicle and sell it on when you leave like we want to do, or you can even hitchhike.

Waiheke Island - Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand -
Matiatia Bay, Waiheke Island

Are you thinking of coming to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa? Or perhaps you have some tips on how to get things together upon arriving in NZ? If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

Please note, all the information provided is correct at the time of writing based on my own personal experiences and opinions. Photos are my own unless linked to source.

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  1. Thanks for this post, I’m travelling to NZ at the end of Jan 2016 on my own with a WH visa and I’m sort of freaking out..! I feel much calmer and more excited after reading this, so thank you!


    1. That’s great, I’m so glad I can help! Ah it’ll be nice and warm in January! Are you flying into Auckland? I’ve finished the working part of my WHV now and am onto the ‘holidaying’ part so will have lots more posts with useful info soon I hope! 🙂

      1. Ah Sydney looks amazing I’ve never been though! So excited for you starting your trip! Mine feels like it’s flying by! Any queries I might be able to help with just holler 🙂 x

  2. This blog is BRILLIANT. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and wisdom.

    I am planning to get over to NZ in September/October on a WHV and am just trying to decide…well…everything! Would you say it’s unrealistic to try and procure a job before coming out to NZ? I currently work in publishing, and would be looking to possibly do that kind of thing in a 9-5 role. I’m a real planner and the idea of turning up with no job is scary!

    1. Thanks so much! It’s great to hear that my blog is helpful 🙂
      Congrats on deciding to come to NZ! You’ll love it. No, I don’t think it’s unrealistic at all. Have a look on and for jobs – you’ll obviously have to think about where you would base yourself (a bigger city like Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland might be best). You could also get in touch with some recruitment agencies before you come over (just google ‘recruitment agencies auckland’ or wherever you’re looking to stay). There’s nothing wrong with being prepared!
      If you have any other queries just give me a shout! 🙂 Enjoy your time in NZ!

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I was traveling through SE Asia recently and have since returned to the States. However, I’m considering doing a WH in NZ. No better time than in your 20s! (not to mention past 30, the opportunity won’t be available). In the meantime, hope you enjoy the holiday portion of your WH!

    1. Thanks Matt! Hope you enjoyed your travels through Southeast Asia! Go for it – now is definitely the right time as you say! I’m sure you’ll love NZ, everyone does! 🙂

  4. Hi Abbi, your posts on NZ have been extremely useful; I can’t thank you enough for that! I’m slightly confused about finding jobs via recruitment agencies though – should I just apply via the website or would it be better if I were to arrange for a meeting with a representative?

    1. Hey Ann, thank you! It’s completely up to you. I think a good thing to do would be to email them your CV or apply online before you arrive in NZ, then when you arrive give them a call and ask to arrange to meet with them. I always find it better to speak to someone over the phone as they remember you better! Good luck! 🙂

      1. Thank you! I’m leaving in couple of weeks and I feel so nervous already. Hopefully I can pull this off.

  5. A very useful post!! Exactly the information I am looking for as have just received confirmation of my years working visa and booked to land in Auckland early December 2016.

    1. How exciting! Glad you found this post useful – if you have any queries just give me a shout 🙂 Enjoy your time in NZ!

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