Kia Ora or Welcome to New Zealand. Whether you are coming to New Zealand for a short training course or to attend a longer study programme, we want your stay here to be a significant and enjoyable experience.

For many of you this will be your first time living away from home in a new country. There would be times you will feel lonely, lost and alone.

This guide is designed to help you prepare for your stay and give you practical advice about living and studying in New Zealand. It highlights some of the safety and security issues you need to be aware of and lists of organisations to contact if you need help.

By international standards, New Zealand is a safe country, with low levels of violence and street crime.

Much of the advice is common sense, but it can make a real difference! You can make yourself safe and protect your family, accommodation and belongings by following some of these simple suggestions.

The New Zealand government, especially the Ministry of Education, the Police and the community are working together keep all students safe while they are studying at school, college or university.

The staff at your learning institution are there to help you take care of yourself and settle happily into your local community. Police officers and some local community leaders can give practical advice about how to ensure your personal safety.

Taking the personal safety advice in this guide (and keeping your belongings safe when you arrive) should be one of your first priorities.

Please remember that the vast majority of international students enjoy a positive and rewarding experience in New Zealand; the suggestions that follow are intended to advise, to protect and keep you safe wherever you are at all times.

We hope that you find this guide helpful.
Coming to New Zealand

You are now ready to leave your country. You have packed your suitcase, said goodbye to loved ones and friends and are eager to make your dream come through. But before you leave, here are some important reminders as you prepare to come to New Zealand.

Before you arrive:
  • Take a photocopy of all the pages of your passport that show your details such as name, photograph, passport number, extension dates (if there are any) and its date and place of issue). Include all the pages that have any entry clearances or immigration stamps on them and pack this separately from your passport.
  • Make a note of the serial numbers of your travellers’ cheques and pack this separately from the cheques themselves.
Keeping your documents and belongings safe:
  • Take special care of your passport, itinerary and tickets and keep them with you in a safe place. Place them in an accessible place in your carry-on luggage where you can easily get them.
  • Carry cash, credit cards and travellers’ cheques in a safe place, such as an inside pocket, a money belt or a zipped bag.
  • Keep your travellers’ cheques separate from your passport.
  • Keep a copy of your home address and next of kin details in your wallet
  • If you can do so, avoid carrying items sent through you unless you actually see what is inside
  • Label your luggage clearly so that it can be forwarded to you if it gets separated from you during your travel. If you still do not have a New Zealand address put the name and the address of the institution where you intend to study.
  • Put a tight lock on all your belongings and keep them beside you in airports where you stop over.
  • Do not accept items from strangers who want you to carry it. Beware of people who ask for favours in exchange for large amounts of money. If they are insistent or are threatening you, walk away and report it to airport security otherwise call the attention of others.
Carrying money:
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash with you. Just bring enough to cover your immediate needs (about NZ$500). Bring a credit card, if you have one, to pay for things like rail tickets and hotel bills.
  • Your cash should include some coins and some small bank notes ($5 - $10) and coins ($1 - $2), so that you can use public telephones and ticket machines.
  • You can convert your money into New Zealand dollar notes and coins at any foreign exchange counter in major airports or banks.
Arriving in New Zealand

In the excitement of arriving in a new country, it can be easy to become distracted and lose items, especially as you get on and off planes, trains and buses. The following are some practical advices for when you first arrive in New Zealand.

Losing things:
  • If you do lose your passport contact the police and your Embassy immediately and give them your passport details.
  • If you lose your travellers’ cheques or credit card, report the loss to the police and the issuing organisation immediately.
  • If you do lose your luggage, report the loss immediately to officials of the airline or shipping line. At airports or seaports, check the ‘lost property office’ to see whether it has been handed in there.
Handling your luggage:

If you need to leave your luggage somewhere while you change money or make telephone calls, find an official ‘baggage /storage office’ (available at airports and at major rail and bus stations). For a small fee, you will be able to leave your luggage in a secure area or in lockers and collect your items later.

Leaving the airport:
  • From any major airport in New Zealand, you can travel safely into the city in one of the licensed taxis, air or shuttle buses, and suburban buses. Check with the Information Desk at the airport, who can give you all the options for getting into the city or to your destination. All airports have information counters. Never agree to travel with someone who approaches you inside the terminal building unless you have made a specific arrangement to be met by a taxi company.
  • Taxis that service the airport will have a company sign on top. If you are still concerned, ask the driver to show some evidence of being a licensed taxi driver (e.g., an official company ID) before you agree to travel in the taxi or get into it.

Keep the telephone number of your college or university handy. You never know when you will need to tell them about a change of plans or ask for help or directions.

About the Police and New Zealand laws

The police in New Zealand are friendly, helpful and not to be feared. They have a duty to protect everyone and can always be safely approached anytime. They are committed to crime prevention and work closely with educational institutions, their staff, the community and the students to promote student safety.

Registering your stay

Once you have arrived in New Zealand, the Immigration Service will register your stay in the country. A date is provided with which your stay in the country is valid. The International Student Services at the institution you are attending will have to record this as soon as you arrive. You will also have to inform them of your contact details and provide names of persons both in your home country and here in New Zealand, preferably someone living in the same city with you, that they can contact in case of an emergency. Make sure you return forms the International Office asks from you.

Protecting your well-being

If you do have anything stolen, are assaulted, followed or threatened, you can contact the police, who will always encourage you to report the incident. Do not worry about language difficulties as the police will find someone, free of charge, who speaks your language. You can tell your tutor, international support/welfare officer, your host family, security on campus, or someone you can trust who can contact the police on your behalf - or you can even do it anonymously meaning without identifying yourself.

Your local police station can also provide helpful advice about crime prevention. They also provide the official certificate an insurance company will want if you need to make an insurance claim for a theft.

In an emergency

In an emergency where there is a danger to life or a crime is in progress you can contact the police, fire brigade or ambulance by dialling 111 from any telephone. This call is free of charge but should be used only when there is real and urgent danger. When you call, ask for the service which is most needed (e.g., police please), and the other emergency services will be alerted if needed. Stay calm when making the call, and do not hang up. Give your name, address, town and telephone number to the operator answering your call. Answer questions slowly and clearly.

How to report a crime

To report a non-emergency minor crime (such as theft), call your local police station – you can find their number in the telephone directory. Alternatively you can ask someone you know and trust to make the call for you.

The Police also allow people to telephone anonymously with information about criminals or crimes. Just tell them what you know about a crime, not who you are.

  • If your bank card or credit card is stolen, report it to your bank and Police immediately so the cards can be disabled and you are not liable for charges you did not make.
  • If your mobile phone is stolen, contact the Police and the mobile company immediately to report it. This should help you avoid paying for calls you did not make and the phone could potentially be disabled.

    Vodafone: 0800 800 021
    Telecom: 0800 800 163. After hours, dial 120.
Laws in New Zealand

The laws in New Zealand may be different from those in your home country. This especially applies to the use of tobacco, alcohol and self-defence sprays.

  • You must not carry drugs with you of any kind (unless prescribed by a doctor), or use any illegal drugs, including cannabis or marijuana, ecstasy, LSD or amphetamines.
  • It is illegal to carry any sort of weapon including knives, self-defence or gas sprays, guns or stun guns.
  • You must be 18 or over to buy tobacco.
  • You must be 18 or over to buy alcohol.
  • Never buy anything that you think might be stolen, no matter how tempting the bargain.
  • It is an offence to falsely report the theft of property.

You can find a guide to New Zealand laws at

If you need legal assistance, there are a number of organisations that can help you:

  • Community Law Centres offer access to free legal information and advice. Find out more at This website has a list of the various centres around the country and their contact details.
  • You can also contact the Citizens Advice Bureau at, or on 0800 367 222. For a multilingual service, call 09 625 3090. They provide free, confidential and independent advice in bureaux across New Zealand. Advice is available face-to-face and by telephone on issues such as housing, legal difficulties and discrimination.
Racial discrimination and harassment

New Zealand’s population is increasingly diverse and made up of many religions and ethnic groups. New Zealand has a tolerant society that believes in respecting the rights of minority groups.

This belief is supported by law: the Human Rights Act (1993) works towards the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of equal opportunity between people of different racial groups.

If you suffer any form of racial discrimination or harassment, report it to your institution. They will have a formal procedure to help individuals who feel they have been discriminated against. You can also report it to the Human Rights Commission, who will provide information and advice to anyone who thinks they have suffered racial discrimination or harassment.

You can contact the Human Rights Commission on 0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS (0800 496 877) or find out more from their website at or email

New Zealand has an official Code of Practice For the Pastoral Care of International Students which all learning institutions need to follow. It spells out what standards and services need to be provided for international students while they are studying in New Zealand. If you want to see a copy of this Code of Practice or have questions or concerns about how you are being treated, see someone at the International Student Services at your learning institution.

Getting Around
Public transport

Public transport in New Zealand is reliable, relatively inexpensive and convenient to use.

Here are some tips on using it safely:

  • If travelling by bus, try not to wait alone at bus stops. When on the bus, sit where the driver and other passengers can see you. Arrange for others to meet you at the bus stop if you are returning late and have a long way to walk home.
  • If you can, take a taxi rather than walk the streets with a road map and your luggage.
  • If you travel by train, don’t sit in an empty carriage. Try to sit near groups of people in a well-lit area.
  • If you travel by train, store your luggage as close to your seat as possible, or where you can easily see it. If you use a luggage rack, check your belongings regularly, especially when a train stops at a station.
  • If travelling a long way by train, make sure someone knows which train you are travelling on and when you are due to arrive.
  • Check the time of the last train or bus home to avoid being stranded at night.
  • If you are lost, or in need of assistance when travelling by train or bus, find a member of staff and ask for help.
  • Do not open the doors until your transport home has completely stopped.
  • Try to avoid walking alone after getting off a train or bus. If you can, walk close to a group of people or arrange for someone to meet you.
  • Never walk across or touch railway lines – it is very dangerous and you could be badly injured or even killed.
  • To remain safe and alert don’t listen to personal stereos or have long conversations on mobile phones while you are walking.
Main websites for public transport

Auckland: (bus, train, ferry and cycle information)

Christchurch: (city and suburban bus services) (city and suburban bus service)

Palmerston North: (link to fare and timetable information for a city bus service)

Wellington: (bus, train and ferry information, also see Stagecoach)

National services: (national bus service) (national train service)

National road and city maps:

Using taxis

There will probably be times when you need to take a taxi during your stay in New Zealand, for instance, when you first arrive here or after a night out. If you don’t feel safe walking home, use a taxi.

However, you do need to be aware of some basic safety guidelines about using them. Here are some helpful tips:

  • If you need to use a taxi, ask your educational institution to recommend a taxi company and keep the telephone number handy – never use an unlicensed company.
  • If possible, ask the driver to estimate the fare before you get into the taxi in order to avoid misunderstandings when you get to your destination.
  • Although it is acceptable to sit in the front of the taxi, sit in the back of a taxi if it makes you feel safer.
  • It is appropriate to chat with taxi drivers, but, like dealing with any strangers, you should be careful about how much personal information you give out.
  • Have your cash ready before you reach your destination and leave the cab immediately after you pay the driver.
  • If you want, you can ask your taxi driver to wait until you have entered your house safely before he or she drives away.
Driving in New Zealand

As an international student you must make sure you fulfil the legal requirements and are aware of the New Zealand road rules and practices before you drive here.

You must have a licence that allows you to drive in New Zealand, issued or approved by Land Transport New Zealand. If you have a driving licence that was issued in your home country, or an International Driving Permit, you are allowed to drive in New Zealand for only one year.

However, if you still want to continue driving after living here for 12 months, you must apply for a New Zealand driver’s licence. To get a driver’s license you have to pass a driving theory and practical test. Driving without a New Zealand driver’s licence after living here for more than 12 months is illegal.

To drive a car or ride a motorcycle in New Zealand you must be 15 years old to hold a restricted licence, and 17 years old to hold a full licence. The Road Code is a government publication that provides a summary of New Zealand traffic law and has pictures of all the road signs used in New Zealand. You can buy this book at most good bookshops or AA centres or read it online at

There are several ways that driving in New Zealand is different than driving in other countries. New Zealanders drive on the left hand side of the road and overtake on the right. Sometimes you share lanes with other road users such as cyclists. Seat belts must be worn at all times. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone or send or read text messages while driving. You must not drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and you must observe all speed limits. Remember, pedestrians have the right of way when on pedestrian crossings. Special rules also apply when you tow a trailer.

Here are a few more tips to help you drive safely in New Zealand.

  • If you are going on a long journey, plan your route using main roads, and telephone ahead to let someone know approximately when to expect you.
  • Before you set off, check your tyres and fuel, and oil levels. Tyre weld is useful in case of a flat tyre in a remote area as it will mend a punctured tyre for long enough for you to reach a garage. Make sure you always have a spare tyre and the tools to change a tyre.
  • Always carry a good torch or flashlight and check the batteries regularly.
  • Handbags or briefcases are safer placed on the floor or behind seats rather than on the passenger seat. Don’t leave valuables in the car; if you have to, lock them in the boot so they are out of sight.
  • If you’re travelling in a car alone consider lock all the doors and keep the windows closed while driving.
  • Use a helmet at all times when riding a bicycle or motorcycle.
  • Special rules also apply when you tow a trailer.
Where to Stay
Finding accommodation

It is important for you to have suitable, safe accommodation while you are studying in New Zealand. Start making arrangements as soon as you have been accepted to your programme – this is especially important if you are planning to bring your family with you.

You should make sure you have some form of accommodation before you arrive in New Zealand, temporary or otherwise. It would be a good idea to register your accommodation or address with your Embassy or Consulate so you can be contacted in case of an emergency or disaster.

The institution you are enrolled in must provide you with accommodation, even if it is only temporary. You can get information about accommodation owned by private landlords from the accommodation office at your institution. Contact them as soon as you are accepted into your programme to find out what accommodation is available. Some institutions may have hostels or other accommodation located within or attached to the university you are attending. Here are some tips to help you find safe, private accommodation:

  • Ask the accommodation office at your institution, the support/welfare officer or the students’ union for advice and help. They may have lists of local accommodation to rent and may also have inspected it to check if it is suitable. They may be able to help if you have any problems.
  • Check whether the accommodation you are going to see is in a safe area before you move in. You can check with the Police, or people who live in the area.
  • If possible, take someone with you when viewing accommodation. If you are alone, leave the address you are going to and your expected time of return with a friend or colleague.
  • Find out exactly who might have access to the accommodation apart from yourself.
  • Be businesslike in your dealings with prospective landlords.
  • If you feel uncomfortable with anyone who is showing you accommodation, mention that friends know where you are and are expecting your return at a certain time.
  • Some useful websites about finding student accommodation in New Zealand are:
        
Looking after yourself and your belongings
Taking out insurance

Under New Zealand law, all international students are required to have insurance. Your Inbound Student Plus insurance policy complies with this law.

Safety at home

Being safe in your own home is very important. Here are some practical suggestions on keeping yourself safe at home.

  • Lock all outside doors and deadlock windows when you are at home and consider using or purchasing a safety chain or spy hole for your front door.
  • If you are female and live in a flat with a door entry system do not put ‘Miss’, ‘Mrs’, or ‘Ms’ in front of your name; just use your family name. If in doubt about a visitor, do not let him or her in.
  • If you live in a flat or a house with an outside light and/or a burglar alarm, make sure you use them. If the alarm can be set to cover zoned areas, set the alarm downstairs when you go to bed.
  • Every home should have at least one smoke alarm, preferably two, which should be tested regularly. These can be bought very cheaply from hardware shops and other retailers.
  • If you have a telephone-answering machine, don’t record a message saying: ‘I am not available’, as this reveals to the caller that you are a single occupant. It is better to say: ‘No one is available to take your call.’
  • If you ever receive obscene or threatening telephone calls or messages tell a member of staff at your institution or the police.
  • If you live in a shared house, don’t assume there is someone else in who will lock it up when you go out. Make sure you leave the house secure at all times (e.g., close and lock windows and doors and turn off unnecessary electrical devices).
  • If you are going away, tell someone you trust where you are going and when you will be back. Ask a friend to open and close your curtains/blinds in the mornings and evenings and take out your mail. Use a time switch for your lights and radios to make it look as if there is someone in; these can be bought from hardware shops and other shops.
  • Don’t leave spare keys outside or in a garage or shed. Keep house and car keys separate and out of sight in the house.
  • Leave keys in a safe place where you can find them easily in case you need to leave in a hurry, but don’t keep them near doors or windows.
  • If you do see signs of a break-in – smashed windows or open doors – don’t go in. Go to a friend or neighbour’s house and call the police. Do not touch anything when you do go back in as you could destroy valuable evidence.
Electric and gas fires, heaters and cookers
  • If you have stoves, fires and/or heaters in your accommodation, make sure that they are checked every year by a professional tradesman.
  • If you live in rented accommodation, ask your landlord or landlady to have stoves, fires and heaters checked.
  • Whenever you go out, make sure you turn off gas and electrical appliances, such as the stove, television and iron (but not refrigerator).
How to avoid being trapped by fire when inside buildings
  • Know the location of and, where appropriate, how to use fire exits, fire-assembly points, fire fighting equipment and first-aid facilities.
  • Know the procedures for emergency evacuation and follow them as necessary.
How to report a gas leak

If you smell gas anywhere, either in the house or in the street, call your gas company or the emergency services (111). If it is in your own house and it is safe to do so, turn off the gas supply and open the windows and doors.

Safety on the streets

Generally speaking, it is safe to walk on the streets in New Zealand, although you should avoid walking alone at night and use your common sense wherever you are.

  • When you first move into your accommodation, find suitable and safe routes to petrol stations, shops and telephone booths. Try to find routes that are well lit and busy.
  • Walk on the pavement, facing oncoming traffic. When crossing the road, remember that vehicles drive on the left in New Zealand, so they will be coming towards you from the right.
  • When walking alone, be brief when using a mobile phone and try to conceal it.
  • If you are returning home late at night, walk in a group or use public transport. Avoid putting yourself at risk by taking shortcuts, for example, through dark alleyways or parks.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash with you when you are out.
  • Always carry enough change and/or a mobile or telephone card to make a telephone call, or to get a taxi, should you need one.
  • If you feel you are being followed, cross the street (more than once if necessary), and if you are still unhappy move as quickly as possible to a public area, such as a restaurant or bar, and telephone for help. It is not necessarily the best idea to use the first telephone that you see if it is in an isolated spot.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers or leave your drink unattended in public places, as ‘spiking ’ drinks with drugs or alcohol is on the increase.
  • Consider carrying a personal attack alarm in your hand when walking at night in case you need it quickly.
  • Avoid confrontation – it’s better and safer to walk away if you are being provoked or hassled.
  • Be aware of others around you at cash point machines and try not to use them at night or in poorly lit areas. If you must use an ATM, go with a friend and leave as soon as you have your money.
  • Always memorise your PIN (personal identification number) to access your money from a cash machine. Never write down your PIN or give it to anyone else.
  • Have your keys ready well before you reach the door of your car or house.
  • If you live in halls of residence, make sure no strangers follow you when you walk through the main entrance.
Looking after your belongings

As you are now living on your own, you must learn to be careful and look after your belongings. Some are expensive and difficult to replace at the same time, your insurance cannot guarantee that it will repay your losses. Do not be negligent.

  • When moving into new accommodation, don’t leave luggage or belongings outside or in the open trunk/boot of a car or taxi.
  • Use an ultraviolet pen to mark your valuables with your name and student ID number (see your students’ union office for details). This will enable the police to return them if they are stolen and recovered.
  • Ask your support/welfare officer if they provide safe storage or consider purchasing a small personal safe to keep your passport, travellers’ cheques, wallet/purse and other valuables locked away.
  • Make sure your television, video and other valuables can’t be seen through a window and never leave cash or credit cards lying around.
  • If you go away on holiday, try to leave your valuables in storage (many educational institutions have a secure storage room) or with a trusted friend.
  • If you have a bicycle, always lock it up by its frame and wheel to a fixed object when you’re not using it. Mark it with your postcode so the police can return it if it is stolen and recovered.
  • Try not to use a computer case when carrying a laptop; use a less obvious bag to carry it in and think before using it – and displaying other expensive items such as watches and jewellery – in busy public places.
Useful Services

The following help lines and websites offer sensitive and impartial information and support by telephone and on the internet. Information and advice in most cases is free and confidential. Remember, these organisations are there to help you, so do not hesitate to contact them if you need assistance.

Alcohol and Drug Assessment and Counselling

A website with resources and links to help with alcohol and drug problems. or

Alcohol and Drug Helpline

Trained volunteers are available to give information about problems with drugs or alcohol - or just listen.
Telephone 0800 787 797 (10am – 10pm, 7 days)

Auckland Migrant Resource Centre

The Migrant Resource Centre can help new ‘Kiwis’ adjust with advice, support and a range of resources.
Telephone 09 625 2440

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

The CAB service helps people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice. Their advice is free and confidential, and they have local centres all over the country.
Telephone 0800 FOR CAB (0800 367 222) or 09 625 3090 (multilingual service)

Community Law Centres

Access to free legal information and advice.
This webpage lists the contact details for all the local centres in New Zealand.

Crime Prevention and advice

The Police website has useful information and resources about crime prevention and other issues like domestic violence, malicious telephone calls, neighbourhood support and more. The website can be read in many languages.

Health Advice

The Ministry of Health has health information and advice on their website.


Talk to a registered nurse about any health concerns free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Telephone 0800 611 116

Housing and Tenancy Issues

Tenancy Services, part of the Department of Building and Housing, has information about most aspects of renting accommodation in New Zealand.
Telephone 0800 242 243 (Department of Building and Housing)
0800 TENANCY (836 6262) or +64 4 238 4695 (from overseas)
Bond Information 0800 737 606

Immigration New Zealand

This website gives you information about the procedures and laws which govern the Immigration Service in New Zealand.
Telephone 0508 558 855 or 09 914 400 (Auckland)

Land Transport New Zealand

Full information on driving and traffic laws in New Zealand.
Telephone 0800 699 000 (General Road Safety)
0800 822 422 (Driver Licensing)

Language Line

This is a free telephone interpreting service for speakers of little or no English. Check that it is used by the government department you want to talk to. It runs Monday – Friday from 9 am to 6 pm.


This free, anonymous and confidential service has volunteers who will listen and provide a sounding board in times of personal distress or conflict 24 hours a day.
Telephone 0800 543 354 or 09 522 2999 (Auckland area)
0800 888 880 or 09 522 2088 (Chinese speakers)

New Zealand Union of Students’ Association

This organisation works for the welfare and rights of students in New Zealand.

Problem Gambling

This is a helpline for those who have concerns about their or someone else’s gambling. The service is available in a number of languages.
Telephone 0800 862 342

Rape Crisis (Auckland only)

Help for women who have suffered rape, sexual abuse, attack or harassment.

Samaritans (24 hours)

The Samaritans provide confidential support to individuals in emotional distress.
Telephone: check the local phone book for the local number

Student Accommodation

A directory of student accommodation and associated links.

Studying in New Zealand

This website gives general information on studying in New Zealand and other countries.

Translation Service

This service allows you to have important official documents translated. (services/translation service)
Telephone 0800 TRANSLATE (872 675)

Victim Support

An organisation that helps people cope with the effects of crime. They provide free and confidential support and information to help individuals deal with their experiences.
Supportline: 0800 VICTIM (842 846) (24 hours)

Women’s Refuge

Offers support and a place of safety to abused women and children.
Telephone: Crisisline: 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 84


Especially for teenagers and young adults, this service provides free, anonymous and confidential service for those who want to talk about personal issues 24 hours a day.
Telephone 0800 376 633 Text: 234