Working Holiday in New Zealand: Must-Do Things After Arriving

Uuteen seelantiin muuttaminen

Last time we wrote tips and instructions on how to apply for New Zealand working holiday visa. So what next when you have the visa and flight tickets in your pocket and the travel day approaches? In this post, we tell about our experiences and practical things that are compulsory for New Zealand working holiday travelers.

Our decision to go to New Zealand was very spontaneous and happened with just two months’ notice time. We didn’t handle many practical things beforehand as you can do most of the things only after you have arrived in New Zealand. But of course we clarified beforehand what compulsory things we must do. We also applied for a volunteering place in Auckland one month before arriving in the country.

Doing volunteering for the first two weeks was a perfect solution for us. In that time, we managed to handle all the practical stuff and started looking for jobs. Thanks to volunteering, we didn’t need to pay anything for the accommodation or food during this time. For doing volunteering, read our Workaway guide.

The compulsory things you have to do once you arrive in New Zealand naturally depend on your plans. Do you want to settle down and live in one place or go travel around? Not everyone wants to rent an apartment but you might need to buy a car instead.

If you want to work besides traveling in New Zealand, you must at least open a bank account and get an IRD tax number. We also highly recommend getting a local sim card. If you are lucky, you can get all these things done even in a couple of days but it’s better to reserve at least a week for them. After that, everything depends on your own plans. We wrote some tips based on our own experiences about finding an apartment and looking for a job in New Zealand.

living in new Zealand

Buying a sim card

Getting a prepaid card in New Zealand is easy and quick so you can get it done already on your first day. It is easier to handle all the other things once you have an internet access on your phone and you can call to different places.

We bought Skinny prepaid cards in Countdown supermarket. You can buy a card probably in any supermarket or kiosk. The card itself costs only 1 dollar. You can top-up money on the card online. A basic one-month package with calls, texts and 1 GB internet costs 16 dollars. You can also use a foreign payment card to top-up money on Skinny website so you don’t need to wait to get a bank card from a local bank.

Töiden haku Uusi-Seelanti

Opening a bank account

A New Zealand bank account is another thing that is good to get done as soon as possible after the arrival. You need a proof of a functioning bank account when you apply for the tax number. That’s why the sooner you get a bank account, the better.

There are several banks in New Zealand, for example ANZ, BNZ and Kiwibank. We opened accounts at Kiwibank and have been very happy with it. Opening the account was easy and the service was nice. Getting an account and a debit card at Kiwibank is also free of charge. The online banking and the bank’s own mobile application work faultlessly and we were also able to open a free savings account via the online bank.

You must normally book an appointment to the bank beforehand. When you want to open an account, you need to bring your passport, a copy of working holiday visa, your tax number in your home country (in case of Finland it’s the social security number) and a proof of your address in New Zealand. The last requirement is a bit tricky as the banks normally accept only an invoice or a tenancy agreement with your name as a proof. Not so many backpackers can provide that kind of proof right after arriving in New Zealand though.

We used the address of our volunteering place to open the bank accounts. The bank accepted a hand-written letter with names and signatures by our host that stated that we live at the mentioned address. You can also ask your hostel to write a similar proof letter.

We cannot guarantee though that all the banks accept this kind of procedure. Sometimes we feel like the things here in New Zealand get handled a bit randomly and the rules are a bit uncertain and depend on the current mood of the officer… Anyhow, this method worked well for us and that’s why we can also recommend Kiwibank for opening the account. We went to a small branch outside Auckland so could be that the service was more flexible than for example in the center of Auckland.

After opening the account, it takes about one week for the bank card to arrive via post. At the latest after getting the card, you can move to the next step which is getting an IRD tax number.

how to get started in New Zealand

How to get an IRD number

You need the IRD tax number to pay taxes in New Zealand so it’s compulsory to apply for it if you plan to work in New Zealand. Luckily getting the number is easy and quick nowadays as you can fill the application online on Inland Revenue website. The handling time is just two working days. Before the year 2017 you had to send the application via post and it took at least one week to get the decision.

For the tax number application, you need the visa application number that can be found in the first rows of your working holiday visa. Besides that, you need to attach a proof of an active New Zealand bank account. In practice this means an account statement with your name, account number and at least one deposit and withdrawal. We were able to save our account statements as a PDF file in Kiwibank online bank.

If you don’t have money on your New Zealand bank account yet, you can also attach a stamped proof issued by your bank that tells your bank account is active. For this, you need to visit the bank branch though.

Naturally, the money won’t just magically appear on your New Zealand account. But on the other hand, it’s good to have the tax number already when you apply for jobs. We solved the issue by transferring money from our European accounts. If you are going to transfer money to New Zealand, you should definitely not use a traditional bank transfer. The banks charge big fees and also use a bad exchange rate. If you transfer big amounts, the loss can be even hundreds of euros.

We have used Transferwise service already for several years to transfer money from a country to another. Transferwise is a popular and reliable online service that you can use to transfer money between different countries and currencies with a small free and a good exchange rate. If you register to Transferwise via this link*, you get the first transfer for free until 500 pounds!

When the tax number application has been handled, you get your IRD number via e-mail. You will need the number on the tax form that you fill for the employer while making a contract.

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Finding an apartment

Many backpackers decide to live in hostels while traveling in New Zealand. This is a good solution indeed if you only spend a short time in each place. If you want to settle down for a while though, getting an apartment is recommended not only because of the budget but also because of the comfort. When we came to New Zealand, we had been backpacking already for one year. As we decided to settle down in Auckland for several months, lodging in a dorm didn’t sound that appealing.

Living in New Zealand, especially in big cities, is expensive even compared to Finland. That’s why not so many people live in an own apartment but share the flat with several flatmates. If you look forward to saving money, it’s actually quite compulsory to live with flatmates. Of course this also offers a nice chance to get to know new people and cultures! We currently live in Auckland city center in a compact, under 40 square meter apartment with another couple. We pay 130 euros per week for our tiny room which makes about 520 euros per month. Besides that, we also need to pay for the internet, water and electricity that make almost 100 euros per month for two people.

The price of our apartment is actually from the cheaper end, especially considering the central location. Most of the time, the room rents are between 100-200 euros per week. Most of the rooms are furnished and we only had to buy bedsheets, pillows and a few things to the kitchen. If you need to buy any homeware, go to The Warehouse and Kmart that offer all the home stuff at an affordable price.

Unfortunately, the quality of the apartments is questionable despite the high prices. The building culture is quite English, the air circulation bad and mold is not uncommon. The houses are very cold in the winter as they rarely have a heating. Most apartments also have full-floor carpets that, to be quite honest, really suck. If you have any dust or mold allergy, you need to pay extra attention when choosing the apartment.

You can start looking for apartments in Facebook groups targeted for different cities. Other popular sites are TradeMe and NZ Flatmates. We got lucky in a Facebook group called Flatmates Wanted Auckland where we posted an ad with a picture and got a few offers. We went to see three different flats. Eventually, we could move to our current apartment with just one day’s warning.

If you want to live in a hostel, they normally offer discounts depending on how long you are going to stay. Many hostels also offer a free place to stay in exchange for work. One considerable option is also to do volunteering during your entire say so you don’t need to pay for the accommodation separately. If you are lucky, you can do both volunteering and work in a normal job at the same time which allows you to save money.

While renting an apartment, you should naturally check all the contract details and the condition of the apartment carefully. In New Zealand, you have to pay a bond that is normally equal to two week’s rent. Many landlords also want you to pay two week’s rent in advance together with the bond. This means that you need to have some savings to get started.

Auckland city

Job search in New Zealand

If you want to find a job quickly after coming to New Zealand, it is recommended to prepare your CV beforehand. You can find good instructions for a New Zealand CV on Careers NZ website. Referees are very important here you should definitely include two referees with contact details to your CV. There are lots of jobs in hospitality, on farms and on construction sites in New Zealand. For us, it took less than two weeks to find a job here in Auckland so we found the process quite easy.

You can start the job search in New Zealand by browsing at least these websites: Backpacker Board, Seek and TradeMe. There are lots of ads but also many applicants. An even more efficient way to find a job is to print the CV, go directly to the spot and introduce yourself. This works especially with hospitality jobs. The best situation is if you manage to get a direct contact with a company and can call the manager directly. Johanna got her restaurant job by sending a CV online. Jarkko again got his position at the construction site after he got the contact details of the company from his acquaintance and called the manager.

The minimum hourly salary in New Zealand is 15,75 NZD which is about 9 euros. We think that the salaries in New Zealand are actually not that great especially considering the high living and food costs. Many people have said that if you really want to earn money, go to Australia. Anyhow, it is possible to gather savings here as well if you are determined to do so. Regarding the experience and amazing places, New Zealand is a wonderful country to experience anyway. It’s still worth coming here to travel and get some international work experience.

Uudessa Seelannissa asuminen

Here are a few things to get started in New Zealand! At the moment, we have lived here for about two months and we have been mainly happy here. We already wait though that we get to travel outside Auckland and see all the most amazing places. We are planning to travel around by car later on so we will write about how to buy a car and drive in New Zealand.

Any other people behind the screen who live or have lived in New Zealand?


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