After more than two years, New Zealand is fully reopening its borders and welcoming back all international travelers.
The country is reopening on July 31, about three months earlier than previously announced.
Earlier this year, New Zealand’s borders were opened to Australians and citizens of 60 places that do not need visas to enter, including Singapore, the United States and the United Kingdom.
In 2021, New Zealand imposed some of the strictest pandemic restrictions in the world, including a lockdown caused by a single Covid case, extensive testing and several public health mandates.
Auckland, its largest city, was closed for 107 days, from August to December 2021, due to an outbreak of the highly contagious delta type.
Many restrictions have been lifted, but New Zealand’s entry requirements remain stringent. Here’s what you need to know before visiting.
With the exception of New Zealand citizens and Australians living in the country, visitors are required to provide proof of vaccination to enter, according to the government’s Covid information page.
Electronic and paper vaccination certificates are acceptable.
Travelers need to have a rapid antigen test on their arrival date – although it is not necessary upon arrival at the airport – and a second on the fifth or sixth day of their trip, according to the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
Masks are not required outdoors, but are required indoors, such as museums, supermarkets, and pharmacies.
Cheapest time to visit
Although inflation in New Zealand hit a 32-year high of 7.3% earlier this month, Navigate Travel said prices for tours, activities and accommodations are about the same, if not cheaper, than they were before the pandemic.
“(Holiday in) New Zealand is very cheap right now… Other than air travel, there has never been a cheaper time coming,” said Daniel Pinter, managing director of the travel agency.
Since the announcement in May that the country’s borders would fully reopen at the end of July, there has been a lot of interest from travelers to visit, Tourism New Zealand said.
“Online searches for international flights to New Zealand have increased by 39% since this announcement was made, compared to previous Covid searches,” said Greg Wavelbacker, Director General of Tourism Asia. He said more than 60% of that interest comes from Australia.
However, Pinter said demand for travel from Asia remains low, with most visitors from the region coming from Singapore.
Singapore-based travel agency Chan Brothers Travel indicated that the reason for this was a lack of flights.
“Demand for travel to New Zealand has been healthy since the border [reopened] For Singaporeans in May. However, given the availability of flights, we will notice that demand is outstripping supply,” said Jeremiah Wong, senior director of marketing communications for the agency.
Bigger expenses, longer trips
Wong said that after years of being denied entry to New Zealand, travelers are indicating that they want to spend more to travel for longer periods in the country.
“The eight-day New Zealand tour was a popular choice before the pandemic, but we’re currently seeing more interest and bookings for our 11-day tour that allows travelers to enjoy the scenery at a more relaxed pace,” Wong said.
Navigate Travel’s Painter shared similar sentiments, saying that travelers “want the ability to relax and not worry about things, but they also want to be able to get a lot of money for their money.”
The painter said that hiking in the country’s national parks, a scenic helicopter ride over the Franz Josef Glacier, and whale watching near the town of Kaikoura on New Zealand’s South Island are just some of the activities tourists shouldn’t miss.
Helicopter flight over the Franz Josef Glacier.
Peter Kolejak / Im | Im | Getty Images
After staying in Singapore for more than two years, Lu Mu Kin, 60, and her husband, 62, visited New Zealand for 12 days in May – just two weeks after reopening their borders to Singapore citizens.
They said that the locals are happy that the tourists are back in the country, and that they are welcomed with open arms in restaurants and other establishments.
“The places we visited in New Zealand were not crowded at all,” Liu said. “For many places of interest, there were only two of us.”
Liu and her husband have visited both the northern and southern islands of New Zealand, including Hobbiton – a popular destination for “Lord of the Rings” fans – the glowworm caves in Waitomo, the pie-shaped rock formations and the holes in Punakaiki.
Sherlyn Tan, 46, an HR professional from Singapore, is planning a trip to New Zealand with her family in December.
“We were looking for a place with warm weather, and New Zealand is one of the few countries that are warm in December,” Tan said.
She said she was looking forward to visiting the vineyards for wine tasting, eating fresh oysters at the oyster farms, and “enjoying the beautiful scenery that New Zealand is known for.”