The Essential Guide to the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa

20th June 2015

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 what to actually DO once I’d got my New Zealand Working Holiday Visa. 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 blogs, and decided to compile this post to share with others exactly how I managed to sort my life out upon landing in Auckland at the start of my New Zealand Working Holiday.


Before you go to New Zealand

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

Before I had even made a firm decision to come to New Zealand, I looked into whether it would be the right decision for me. I was travelling with my ex-boyfriend, and, after getting robbed in Cambodia, we both wanted to earn some money to make up for lost costs.

New Zealand has been on my bucket list for like, ever. Like others, I was drawn to its beautiful landscapes, its renowned hikes and its connection to Middle Earth! I had heard amazing things about it from friends who had visited the country, and had originally planned to come to New Zealand after travelling around Southeast Asia… could having my passport stolen actually be – dare I say it? – a blessing in disguise?!

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

To put it bluntly, I didn’t. I always knew I would be taking a risk by coming to NZ – but doesn’t travelling anywhere always involve some sort of financial risk?

Ultimate one month new zealand itinerary - spinthewindrose.com1

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 I was arriving in Autumn, I decided to stay in Auckland throughout the colder months whilst working and saving, in order to travel the country by campervan in the summer.

So, decide if you want to travel the country first before finding somewhere you like and working, or if, like me, you want to work first to save for your trip. You can’t plan this too strictly because your plans might change when you arrive. For instance, you’ll need to factor in the time it takes to find a job etc, or if you travel, you might end up running out of money sooner than you anticipated – more on that here. Either way, it helps to have a rough idea of what you want to do.

Related: A guide to moving to Wellington: How to find a job and somewhere to live

Ultimate one month new zealand itinerary - spinthewindrose.com1

Step 3: Apply for the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

I applied for my visa online through the New Zealand immigration website – it’s quick and easy to do, and I don’t recommend bothering with any agency who offers to do it for you, as you’ll simply be paying more for something you can easily do yourself.

When I applied in 2015, my 12 month Working Holiday Visa cost $165 NZD (equivalent to around £80 GBP). As of 12th December 2018, this fee is now $245 NZD (about £135 GBP).

If you are British or Canadian, you can apply for the full 23 month Working Holiday Visa, but you need to have a medical examination done to prove that you are in good health in order to have it approved.

I chose to apply for a 12 month visa and, after falling head over heels for NZ, decided to extend it to the full 23 months whilst living in Wellington.

You might also find useful: How to get a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa Extension


Step 4: Apply for an IRD number.

An IRD number is a tax number. 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. I vegan my application the second day I was in the country and received it within ten days.

To speed up the process, you can easily print off and fill in the required application form while at home, and post it off as soon as you arrive in New Zealand. 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!

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.

Depending on the type of work you are looking for, you may want to update your CV differently for your Working Holiday. You may even have multiple versions for different roles. There are definitely some must dos – and don’ts! – when writing your CV in NZ so be sure to check out my guide below.

If you don’t bring your laptop with you to New Zealand, bring a USB stick with a copy of your CV on it so you can visit an Internet café and adapt/ update it and print out more copies. I also emailed a copy of it to myself so I can attach it to emails from my phone.

Read my guide to writing a New Zealand style CV for your Working Holiday here

When you arrive in New Zealand

Step 6: Start the job search / begin your travels

This is the part that differs for everyone depending on what you decide to do with your Working Holiday.

Finding work was my number one priority when I arrived in Auckland; other backpackers decided to buy a car/campervan straight away and travel around for a bit before settling and working.

If you want to travel first, read this itinerary post to help you plan your route, and read this post if you are planning on buying a campervan in New Zealand. Another post I’ve written  about travelling New Zealand on a budget might also help you!

If you decide to find a job first, I’ve written a whole post on tips for finding and applying for jobs in New Zealand. At this stage, you might be feeling quite worried, right? Please don’t be. I won’t say that finding work is easy, but it’s definitely doable and there are many more options available to backpackers in New Zealand than you would initially think. If you’re headed to Wellington, this post will help you.

Related: Working Holiday New Zealand Jobs: Finding and Applying for Work in NZ

Pinnacles, Coromandel

Step 7: Open a bank account.

You’ll need a bank account in order to get paid from your job, and to avoid currency exchange fees it’s best to have an NZ one. You can start the process of applying for a bank account as soon as you arrive in New Zealand but will require a proof of address (note that some banks do accept a letter from a hostel), and your passport to open one.

There are loads of banks over here, the most common ones are 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 per transaction if you use a different bank’s ATM to withdraw cash.

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 (tenancy agreement) into a branch and I had my Eftpos card within 5 days.


If you want to transfer money from your home bank account to your New Zealand bank account, I recommend using TransferWise.

This is the cheapest place I have found to transfer money internationally – cheaper than Western Union and cheaper than a straight bank transfer. There is a small fee with TransferWise, but it’s nothing compared to what banks charge to do international payments.

I’ve used TransferWise multiple times to transfer money back and forth between my UK and New Zealand bank accounts – and I can’t recommend it more. It’s easy to use and the money usually only takes a few hours to be credited to your receiving account.

Related: Everything you need for your Working Holiday Visa to New Zealand

Milford Sound, New Zealand -

Milford 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 in New Zealand 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. When I moved out of my flat inAuckland, I stayed at Newton Lodge Hostel for two weeks until the end of my job contract and found that most of the other guests there were long-term stayers too.


Alternatively, websites such as Facebook and Trademe are good places to look for rooms with flatmates, though you will probably need to contribute towards bill payments and pay a bond (normally a few weeks worth of rent). The plus side of this is that you’ll meet new people – often locals! – and have your own space, without having to pay for the additional fees incurred when you rent your own place (connection fees, advertising fees etc.)

Renting an apartment

Another alternative is independently renting a property, but I would only recommend this if you are planning to stick around a bit longer. Some estate agents require a minimum of three, six, or even twelve months on a contract. You can enquire about this and they might be flexible; our place was advertised for six months minimum but our landlord was happy to accept four months. You also need to factor in that you will most likely need to pay for your own bills.

I chose to rent a studio apartment located in Auckland’s city centre, which was only a ten minute walk from where I worked. If there is something I have learned whilst travelling, it’s that I like to have my own space. I didn’t want to stay in a hostel, and, as I was travelling with my ex-boyfriend, having our own apartment seemed the best option for us at the time.

Related: A guide to moving to Wellington: How to find a job and somewhere to live

Now you are set to move to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa!

These are all the big, important must-do’s for making your Working Holiday as smooth as possible. I hope I’ve covered everything; leave a comment below if there’s any other advice or information I can provide.

Check out this page on the blog, which is dedicated to resources for your New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

And don’t forget to join my Facebook group which is dedicated to New Zealand Work and Travel!

You might also find the following posts useful:

Waiheke Island - Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand -

Matiatia Bay, Waiheke Island

Have you got your New Zealand Working Holiday Visa yet? If you have any questions, leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading and happy travels!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something from the linked site, I’ll earn a tiny (and I mean tiny!) commission at no extra cost to you, which contributes to running this blog.

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33 responses to “The Essential Guide to the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa”

  1. Racheln1 says:

    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!


    • 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! 🙂

      • Racheln1 says:

        Yes flying into Auckland from Sydney after visiting my sister! Ah great, looking forward to reading more about your NZ adventure! x

      • 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. jessticlé says:

    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!

    • 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. Matt says:

    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!

    • 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. Ann says:

    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?

    • 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! 🙂

  5. Sophie says:

    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.

  6. Paul says:

    I know this post is from a while ago, but I thought I would leave a couple questions here and maybe get your thoughts.

    I’m planning to star my working holiday journey next February (I’ll turn 28 then and have wanted to do this for many years). I know you said you got lucky arriving in low season, and I was wondering if you think arriving in February would be a mistake?

    Also out of curiosity would you mind sharing how much your flat cost a month? I understand if you don’t want to of course. I’ve looked on some websites to try to get an idea, and I did wonder if the prices listed on there would be in NZD or USD. (Some websites automatically change it because I’m located in the US, and I have no way to really tell)

    Thanks in advance for taking the time to read (and hopefully respond! haha) my comment.


    • Hey Paul! Yay for going to Nz! I miss it every day. I don’t think arriving in February is a bad thing. We arrived in Auckland in May which I think worked to our advantage, but we arrived in Wellington in February and found that recruitment agencies were just getting back into the swing of things after the Christmas break. So we were able to find jobs quite quickly.
      In Auckland we paid $350nzd a week for a studio flat excluding bills and internet. In Wellington we paid $260nzd a week for a room in a flat with 3 others, including all bills. Your best bet is to look on Facebook groups. Where are you planning on living? The group for Wellington is called ‘Flatmates Wanted Wellington’ but there are many more, just search for anything like room for rent etc and the name of the city you’re looking at. There will be a similar group for Auckland too. You normally pay your rent weekly or fortnightly in NZ as jobs pay weekly or fortnightly. Hope this helps! 🙂

  7. Amy says:

    Hi Abbi,

    My working holiday Visa was approved a couple of weeks ago but I’ve been finding it hard to get organized. I just wanted to let you know how helpful I’ve found your posts on NZ 🙂

  8. Lily says:

    This blog post is literally a God send! My boyfriend and I are going to New Zealand next January. I had such a laugh reading it because it seems me and you are exactly the same. Everything you said I could so relate! Feel relieved that I can get an office job or something seeing as I have receptionist experience…and I’m also so done with flat sharing and messy kitchens! Thanks so much for writing this 🙂

  9. Stephanie says:

    Your blog has been essential for me since I decided I would be going to NZ in the new year on my own working holiday visa – so many thanks for that!

    I had one question though, that I can’t seem to find the answer for – as a UK citizen, how have you handled health insurance/travel insurance whilst being in NZ? I believe there is an agreement between Australia and the UK in terms of healthcare, but 1.) does that extend to a 2 year working holiday visa, and 2.) does NZ have a similar agreement?

    Much like yourself, I like to plan things down to a tee so am hoping you might be able to shed some light on this for me!

    Many thanks, and keep up the amazing posts 🙂

  10. Seiya says:

    Hi Abbi,

    I am right now in New Zealand and as you, I am totally addicted to making list.
    Well when I prepared my stay here it got chaotic quite quick and I decided to let a organisation handle and prepare my stay.
    It was so nice just to sit back and know that the important things got managed for you, they send you possible flights, book you in a hostel for the first days (3 Nights) and in an intromeeting you get not only a nice introduction to what to do next (opening a bank account, …) but you also meet other work & travelers. After the first days I decided to buy a car with one of the girls I had meet there and start work & travel with her. It was amazing.
    But of course it is your decision if you want to go with an organisation or not 😉
    I know how excited I was when my Visa was approved and the day from my flight from Germany to Auckland 0.0
    And I am really looking forward to all the adventures in NZ.

    Greetings, Seiya

  11. Your blog post is very essential for every one. Specially for me because I am going to New Zealand next month. I hope that i will enjoy my holidays in NZ.
    Thanks for informative post.

  12. Lisa says:

    Hi Abbi, is there a buy and sell website for New Zealand that you would recommend? We are likely flying into Auckland or Christchurch but plan on staying in Wanaka while on the working portion of our working holiday!

  13. I loved reading this post! Very nice and helpful! I’m planning to go to New Zealand for a Work & Holiday visa this October/November. Not completely sure yet when exactly, but at least around that time. One question I have though; Is it necessary for you to find a job immediately as soon as you arrive? Do you need to show prove to the government that you’re working or is it open and free? My plan is to first travel a bit, find out where I like it the most and then settle somewhere for a while. I’m working on having my own online business now, so I hope the necessity of having a job to pay my life in NZ wouldn’t be that urgent. Is this allowed there too? In the requierements of the visa it doesn’t say that you have to have a job right away, but I just wanted to check if you might know more about this.

    Would be great to hear from you! Thanksss 🙂

    • Hi Nadine, you don’t need a job straight away. The beauty with the working holiday visa is that you can choose to work or holiday for as much or as little as you want. You don’t need to show the government anything at all. The tax company will know when you’re working because it’s linked to your IRD number, so no need to tell them either. Working on your own business is sketchy, as you’re technically working but not really.. from what I know it’s okay because your business is registered elsewhere not NZ. Additionally I’m not sure how anyone would know if you’re working on your own online business, so I should guess it’s absolutely fine.

  14. Jess says:

    Hello 🙂 my boyfriend and I are moving to NZ in September and naturally, I’m freaking out!! We would like to buy a car upon arriving in Auckland and travel down to Wellington where we will try and find work. How much money would you say is comfortable to arrive with and be able to do this? I know the government recommend $4200 but this seems a little low to me?! What was your experience and did this amount last before you found yourself a job? Your blog is super helpful and I’m probably missing something here!

    • Hey Jess, sorry for my delayed response. I would budget for your car separately from the money you’re arriving with. Allow up to $4000 NZD for your vehicle dependant on what it is you want to buy (car, van, self-contained or non-self contained) – see this post for info on buying a car

      I arrived in New Zealand with about £4000 GBP in my bank account, but in the first few weeks, I only spent about £1000 whilst looking for a job and finding a flat. We didn’t buy a car until much later on though, after working in Auckland for 4 months.

      How long do you envisage you will travel for, from Auckland to Wellington? Work out how long, and then I would budget around $50-100NZD per day dépendant on how cheaply you want to travel. I have a post about how I travelled on $40NZD a day. Factor in major attractions like skydives etc if you plan on doing them.

      Personally I spent a month travelling the north island but dependant on where you want to go, you might not want to spend as long. Happy to talk to you over Skype if you want to talk about where to go and what to see! ?

  15. Hello! Abbi, Thank you so much for this wonderful and helpful blog. Going to New Zealand is really one of my dreams. And, it’s a good thing because my sister resides in Wellington. Actually, I’m planning to apply for the WHV this February 2019. I just want to ask if some documents should already be attached during the online application process or can you just submit all these documents after the application? And, one more thing. I just want to clarify if I’m allowed to apply for the WHV this February 2019 even if I’m yet to graduate on June 2019? Your response will be highly appreciated. Thank you so much!

  16. Nicole Barrera says:

    Hi, Abbi! Your blog has a lot of helpful information that I loved reading! My boyfriend and I are looking into moving to NZ in 2021. I am a Health and PE teacher and he is a plumber. I feel our professions are accessible anywhere around the world, but of course the internet is SO overwhelming! We are thinking 3 years is a good time frame to live in NZ, but I have had a hard time figuring out which visa would be best. I read some on “skill shortage visas’ but would just rather speak with someone over the phone to make it much clearer. Did you look into other visas or know anyone who has done this?
    We also have a dog that we would fly over with us. I’ve heard it’s about $1k, but that is a non negotiable. Do you know what the school year looks like in NZ? In the US it is typically Aug-May with the holiday breaks in between those months. It’d be hard for me to move if their school year starts after Christmas, but I honestly haven’t found a solid answer.
    Any help is so appreciated!

  17. Hey Nicole, thanks for your comment – how exciting! I know a few people who have got a skills shortage visa – the professions they work in are IT and Beauty. Everyone else I know who has stayed in NZ started on the Working Holiday Visa and then had a contract offered to them – so they were ‘sponsored’ if you like. It might be worth you looking into the Accredited Employers list too – there’s a huge list on the Immigration website. The Immigration Website has loads of info on each visa and what’s required etc. The school year runs from February until mid-December. Their summer holidays are over Christmas and through January. Of course the exact dates vary slightly school to school but generally they follow this pattern. Hope this helps!

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I’m a travel-loving sustainability advocate, on a journey to live a low-impact lifestyle alongside seeing the world. I’m obsessed with my two dogs, secondhand shopping, and growing vegetables.