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Pros and cons of living in New Zealand for a year abroad

new zealand flag graphic with map of country

Like everywhere in the world, there are pros and cons to living in certain countries, and New Zealand is no exception. A well-loved country to all who visit it’s no surprise so many young travellers choose to spenad a year abroad here.

This nation is a semi-tropical island in the Pacific ocean and it’s pretty much as far away from the UK as you can get. If you’re looking to travel to the otherside of the world, New Zealand is the place to be.

It’s a place with beaches within driving distance no matter where you are. It is also a place you’ll recognise from multiple tv and movie franchises.

As you might know, New Zealand is one of 8 countries that British citizens can get a working holiday visa.

Plus, it is one of the most popular travel destinations for tourists between 18 and 35. And by the end of this post you’ll be ready to book your ticket! Click here for a step by step guide on how to apply for your own working holiday visa.

Whether you’re embarking on your first (or final) gap year and considering New Zealand as your destination of choice, I want to be real with you. After spending 18 months living, working and exploring there I want to share with you the pros and cons of living in New Zealand for a year abroad.


Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you purchase something through my links I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you.


Pros of living in New Zealand

nz map

New Zealand is a small country

This makes it extremely easy to travel around and see the majority of the country if you are there for a year. With many places only a short drive away you can visit most corners of the islands with ease.

It’s no wonder why so many backpackers flock to this side of the world. This is the perfect destination for travel enthusiasts.

But don’t let the size of the New Zealand put you off living there, there’s still an abundance of unique landscapes and things to do here which is why this is in our pros list and not in the cons. It’s not the size that counts.

You can join the likes of the Kiwi Experience tour groups or rent/buy a campervan to get the full experience and see every inch of this nation.

Did you know? You can drive from the most northern tip of New Zealand in Cape Reinga to Bluff (south coast of south island) and the whole trip would take 29 hours!

equal rights poster

A forward thinking nation

This island nation was the first in the world to allow all adult women to vote – all the way back in 1893! People who live in New Zealand are known to be fair, just and are believers in equality.

This makes it a fantastic place for people to visit as tourists and workers know they will be treated fairly. It’s a country that is mostly liberal so you know the vast majority want equal rights for all.

If you believe in equal rights for all then this is high on the pros list, but if you’re bigotted then being about liberals in New zealand might add this to your cons list.

Check these posts out:

"stay safe" next to a coffee

Low overall crime rate

This might be due to the fact that New Zealand’s overall population is very low compared to other countries. So when you consider probability you’re going to have less crime. But I like to think that it’s actually because New Zealander’s are just extra nice people!

A place that has major crimes once in a blue moon and a country that is deemed very safe for locals and visitors. It ticks a lot of the boxes that solo female traveller’s can travel without being in constant fear. I’d say that’s worth keeping in the pros list when thinking about living in New Zealand rather than the cons.

multiple flags of different countries - pros and cons of new zealand
Photo by Jason Leung

Very multicultural

Since New Zealand is one of the world’s most popular working holiday destinations there are people from around the world all over the country. This is a very common destination for backpackers due to the ease of travelling around and friendly locals, so you’ll never feel unwelcome here.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you met other people from your home country while travelling along the popular backpacking routes across the islands.

People often say one of the biggest cons of living in New Zealand is meeting so many people with the same nationality as them, but I love meeting new people ragrdless where they’re from, so this gets put in the pros list!

pacific island view from plane - pros and cons of living in new zealand is being close to the pacific
View from my plane window between Auckland and New Caledonia

Close to the Pacific islands & Australia

Many people dream of heading to the pacific islands and soaking up the sun. But when travelling from the UK this is an extremely expensive trip based on flights alone.

One huge perk of living in New Zealand for a year or more is your close proximity to these island nations. Just a quick short-haul flight over the pacific ocean and you can experience that island lifestyle.

These destinations have some of the worlds most stunning beaches and you can easily see them for yourself. Beaches may not be everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday but if you’re heading to the pacific islands it’s probably one of the best pros in our list the only cons about visiting the islands from New Zealand is you might never want to leave..

one of the bungy platforms in new zealand
One of these mid

Adrenaline fueled adventure

It’s no surprise that New Zealand is home to many adrenaline pumping activities. If you’re trying to conquer a fear of heights or just love the feeling of falling then New Zealand has so many heart stopping moments for you to check out

The AJ Hackett Nevis bungee and the Shotover canyon swing are two popular daredevil activites for visitors looking for a quick thrill.

Not to mention there are multiple places you can experience skydiving over the stunning landscapes New Zealand has to offer! There’s an adventure out there for everyone.

karikari peninsula in new zealand
The stunning Karikari peninsula in Northland

It’s an island. There are lots of beaches

Almost anywhere you are in the country is only a short few hours drive from a beach. There are beaches everywhere in New Zealand and nice beaches too thanks to the Pacific ocean.

When you compare the beaches we have in the UK, the ocean alone makes the beaches more appealing. None of that brown english channel over here!

Although there are beaches all around the country, there are definitely some that are more popular than others. Two well-known beaches are the Cathedral Cove and hot-water beach. Both of which are located in the Coromandel peninsula.

Bobs cove lookout point
Me standing at the edge of Lake Wakatipu just outside Queenstown

Diverse landscapes

New Zealand is known for having a wide range of different landscapes across its small nation. Not only does the country have beaches all around the country, but it has many other unique landscapes too.

Active and extinct volcanoes, coral reefs, rainforests and mountains all within close proximity to one another. You really can hit the slopes on a volcano and the beach all in one weekend. You can’t do that in many other places!

These landscapes are one of the main reasons that New Zealand has so many great hikes. Check out these great hikes below:

no snakes in new zealand is this for the pros or cons list
If you’re scared of snakes then you’re in luck!

No snakes

New Zealand is one of the only countries in the entire world that doesn’t have any snakes. This is great for native wildlife and also for the many humans who have a fear of these slithering reptiles.

Snakes never evolved on the islands and snakes from neighbouring countries like Australia never made it across the ocean to make New Zealand their home. This means when you go out for a hike this is one less thing to worry about.

no predators in new zealand
Photo by Amber Kipp

No natural predators

On the topic of animals, New Zealand is also a nation with no natural predators. This means that not only are you safe from dangerous wildlife during your exploration of the country. But many of the nations birds never learned to fly.

Birds typically learn to spread their wings as a defensive mechanism to keep themselves safe and able to get out of harms way quickly. Without these predators the vast majority of the birds here never had a threat so evolved into flightless species.

A famous flightless bird you might know of is the national bird – the Kiwi.

lots of sheep on green fields

Minimal crowds

As we have already discussed, the population of New Zealand isn’t very big. This means that even during the peak months of the year when the most tourists come to visit, there are still not that many crowds- at least when you compare to the UK!

This makes being a tourist much less overwhelming and harder to lose your friends. Even when you go to some of the countries biggest attractions like Hobbiton, Wai-O-tapu and Fiordland among others, it won’t be swarming with crowds so you’ll be able to enjoy the experiences more.

There will be plenty of times when you’ll only see sheep, and not see humans for a while. But you’ll get used to it! After living somewhere as busy as London, it’s nice to be somewhere less hectic which is why this is in our pros list – the cons of less crowds in New Zealand are less people to help take your photo at a tourist site.

piha beach and clear skies near auckland - pros and ocns of living in new zealand
Clear skies over Piha beach near Auckland

Better weather in New Zealand

This does differ depending on what part of the country you are in, but compared to the UK, New Zealand has better weather for many more days in a year. The north of the country is much more of a tropical landscape with many more days of sunshine than you’d ever get back home in the UK.

The south island has all 4 seasons and you’ll definitely find some areas with snow in winter but it’s nothing like you’d expect in Canada (except there is pretty good skiing in and around Queenstown)!

hobbiton house
You might recognise this green door and hobbit house from the LOTR franchise!

Many high-profile movies were filmed here

If you’re a big movie fan you’d be pleased to know that many world famous movies were shot here. This means you can easily travel the country and pretend you’re in your favourite movies.

Many scenes are clearly recognisable since much of the natural landscape is used throughout. I mean, do you blame the movie directors? New Zealand is stunning!

A fan of Lord of the Rings? Check out these related posts!

snail
Photo by Phil Reid

It’s a slow-paced place

No-one is in a rush so the whole country has a calm aura about it. Even it’s most populated city Auckland is not chaotic like you might expect from large cities like Toronto and London.

This can make living here – even temporarily – more enjoyable. Nobody likes to rush and everyone wants to feel like they’re allowed to take their time. You can do exactly that in New Zealand – and everyone does!

maori entrance way to traditional village
Maori village entryway just outside of Rotorua

In tune with their indigenous culture

Māori customs are seen throughout New Zealand. Many of the place names throughout the country have traditional Māori names. Māori is even being taught in local schools throughout the islands so that New Zealander’s are familiar with both national languages of English and te reo (Māori).

This is completely different when compared to other countries with indigenous people and white settlers. Many of the hoistories of these countries wiped out the native languages almost completely.

christmas ornaments on the beach
Christmas ornaments on the beach in New Zealand summer

You can have a hot christmas

If you’re from the northern hemisphere like me, it’s safe to assume you are used to cold climates at christmas time. A pro to spending a warm christmas in the New Zealand summer is you could go out and spend some time outside without freezing your butt off.

You could work on your tan, spend some time in summer clothing, have a BBQ or spend the day at the beach if you really wanted to! So many choices when it isn’t 0 degrees and snowing outside!


Cons of living in New Zealand

roast dinner nicely prepared on table
Photo by Jed Owen

Hot christmas & hot roast dinner

So although having a hot christmas was in our “pro” list, it could also be seen as a negative point about New Zealand too.

Partly down to preference, many people who are used to christmas in the northern hemisphere don’t like the idea of a filling christmas dinner when it’s 30 C degrees outside. It just doesn’t seem right. Christmas dinner is the perfect dinner in cold weather – not when it’s so hot outside that all you want are summer cocktails!

"worth the wait" sign
Photo by Hannah Busing

Things can take a while to get done

We know that New Zealand is a slow paced and relaxing place. But because everything is so relaxed and slow paced, it can take longer than expected for simple tasks to be completed.

I found in comparison to the UK, hearing back from job opportunities takes much longer than back home. The same goes for banks and other government style businesses, they can take a longer period of time to get finished.

pile of new zealand currency - pros and cons of living in new zealand
Photo by Thomas Coker

They have a weak currency

When heading to New Zealand you’ll probably feel filthy rich when exchanging GBP to NZD since it almost doubles. For example, 2,000 GBP is very close to 5,000 NZD with the exchange rate although it does fluctuate slightly.

This can make you seem much richer than you actually are when earning money in New Zealand. Plus, when the end of your time in the country is over and you head back to the UK, your money will practically half exchanging it back the other way.

Quick math: That 10,000 NZD you saved? It’s actually closer to 5,000 GBP once exchanged.

If you do need to transfer money you can do so using this link for Wise (formerly Transferwise). I have been using them consistently since 2015 and highly recommend them: Transfer money using Wise

earthquake cracks in the cement - pros and cons to living in new zealand are the earthquakes
Photo by Shefali Lincoln

Located on a fault line

New Zealand is located on the edge of two tectonic plates, the Australian plate and the Pacific plate. The country is also on top of the alpine fault line.

This means that if or better yet, when, these two plates shift, there is a real risk of earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. The shift in land over the millions of years are what caused this diverse landscape in the first place and there is always risk of them moving again.

When this happens people in New Zealand need to be on high alert and safely get themselves out of the disaster zones. New Zealand having beautiful landscapes is on our pros list but the risk involved add this to the cons table too.

kiwi bird sign in new zealand - pros and cons to living in the country
Kiwi crossing sign in New Zealand

Kiwis are endangered so you might not see any

New Zealand’s national Kiwi bird is the endangered. This is due to their habitat being drastically cut down due to human intervention and creating new farming regions.

They have also been prey to common small predators such as stoast and ferrets. They are a protected species and are under the watchful eye of the Department of Conservation who have been moving groups of healthy Kiwi birds to protected colonies.

Sometimes these colonies are on the smaller islands of New Zealand.

diesel and petrol are paid defierently when you  are living in new zealand - pros and cons
Photo by Jennifer Latuperisa-Andresen

You have extra steps to take for diesel vehicles

New Zealand might be the only country in the world to have this rule. To put it simply, to make things easier for the farming communities and large transport operations if you have a diesel vehicle you must pay for your mileage seaprately.

This means your diesel is cheaper at the pump than you would normally expect, but you must pay for mileage separately through this government site and must try not to go too far over the limit for too long without buying new mileage.

This can become a nuisance if you travel long distances and can sometimes lead to being sold a vehicle with unpaid miles.

hourglass of sand
Photo by Kenny Eliason

It takes longer to get home in emergencies

Because New Zealand is so far away from our homes in the UK, it means that it can be much harder to get home in an emergency. This is both due to the price of flights as well as the time it takes to get home from here.

If you need to be home with just a few hours notice it simply is not possible. Even the quickest flights with short stop-overs take over 24 hours. Being far away from the UK is on the pros list due to close proximity to unique places, but one of the greatest cons of living in New Zealand is just how far away you are when you need to get home.

graphic showing how expensive and long it takes ot get home when living in new zealand - pros and cons

It’s harder to go on holiday off of the continent

Another reason New Zealand’s distance can be seen as a con is that if you decide you want a simple holiday during your year abroad, it requires a lot of time off in order to reach places.

Yes you have the luxury of being close to some stunning destinations but what if these are not the places you want to go? Africa, North America and Europe are all difficult to reach for just a 1 week trip.

sunscreen on a person's arm
Photo by Onela Ymeri

It’s very easy to get burnt

I know what you must be thinking “I don’t burn easily, I just tan”. Well let me tell you, even those who have been caught saying this have been caught out here. Sunshine is always going to be a part of the pros list, but the strength of the sun and chance of burning puts this one on our cons list for New Zealand living.

The hole in the ozone layer here means that the suns UV rays are much stronger than you will be used to – including on overcast days. Kiwi’s learn from a young age to “Slip, slop and slap” on their sunscreen to protect their skin.

It’s time to get that SPF 50 out!

peppers or capsicums in new zealand - pros and cons living in new zealand

Imported everything

New Zealand is known for having lots of sheep and growing kiwi fruit. But many other foods need to be imported. Because New Zealand is so far away (I know I’m like a broken record) it costs more to transport certain food types in the off-season.

This means that when you try to buy something in store it might be 4 times more expensive than usual when the item is not in season. Take bell peppers for example (named capsicums in New Zealand) they are $4 NZD for a whole bag in the regular season and about $6 NZD for just ONE in the off season.

Who knew peppers could be so expensive?!


Want some more New Zealand travel inspiration?


Silk New Zealand flag

Preparing for your move to New Zealand?

Ready to work in New Zealand? Follow our step-by-step guide on how to apply for the working holiday visa.

Need to book your flights? Head over to SkyScanner to compare flight itineraries, then book direct with the airlines!

Need accommodation during your stay in New Zealand? If you are after social places, then I highly recommend staying in hostels. Check out Hostelworld below for their collection of properties across the country!


Final thoughts

After travelling for 5 years straight, it was finally time to check out this diverse island. I had always wanted to visit. And what a time it was.

New Zealand quickly became one of my favourite destinations and I hope it becomes one of yours too. Plan your trip, book your flight and make New Zealand your home for your next year abroad.

I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did!

Hopefully this list of pros have inspired you and the cons haven’t put you off living there because New Zealand has so much to offer!

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