Tips for the Health-conscious Traveller
Don’t let something silly like “poor health” get in the way of having an amazing working holiday in New Zealand. In general, New Zealand is a super safe country, so you don’t have to worry about diseases around every corner. However, when being away from home comforts like your local doctors and pharmacy on a gap year or for an extended period of time, it’s important to be prepared with the appropriate health items you need. Of course, this differs from person to person, but as long as you consult your doctor before you leave your country, stock up on prescription medication, use common sense when travelling, and keep a first aid kit in your backpack, you should have covered all your bases for a healthy trip to New Zealand!
What Vaccinations Do You Need to Travel to New Zealand?
No special immunisation is necessary for travelling to New Zealand. It is always good to be up-to-date with the general vaccinations though, such as:
- Influenza: recommended if arriving in the colder months (May-October)
- Measles: you should already have that done since childhood
- Tetanus: it is recommended to re-vaccinate every 10 years.
Seek Medical Advice Before You Leave
Six to eight weeks before you travel, you should consult your doctor about any health concerns present in any stopover countries on your way to New Zealand and vaccinations that you might need. You should also ask your doctor about any ongoing health concerns present in New Zealand, not that we ever had any issue with that, but who knows.
Make sure to also ask about what medication you should pack with you on your trip. Your doctor is able to provide you with the advice you need for your particular circumstances and provide you with up-to-date travel health advice based on official sources. As a minimum, you should ensure that all your routine immunisations are up-to-date such as influenza, tetanus, measles or polio vaccinations.
Different countries have different rules on the types of medications you can bring into the county. If you need to take medications with you, check the regulations that apply to your stopover country if you plan on leaving the airport. For New Zealand, most rules can be found on the Medsafe website.
In short, you will need a reasonable excuse to bring medication in the country. If you are travelling with a large quantity of medication, ask your doctor to give you a letter explaining why you are carrying the medication. You may also need one from your pharmacist as well. All letters must be written in English or translated into English.
You will only be able to bring three months’ worth of supplies for each medication. No controlled drugs will be allowed in the country.
For more tips on prescription medications, see How to Get a Medical Prescription in New Zealand.
Get Medical Insurance
Getting travel insurance is necessary for covering the costs of those super-expensive medical bills in New Zealand, especially with the working holiday visa, as it a requirement of the visa. It might be another thing you have to pay for, but it’s worth it just in case:
- You need medical treatment
- You miss your flight
- You lose valuables like your passport or wallet
- The airline loses your luggage
- And more reasons here.
Our tip: choose a local insurer, such as OrbitProtect, who is a leading backpacker insurer in New Zealand.
For more medical insurance advice, don’t forget to check out the 14 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Medical and Travel Insurance.
While in New Zealand
Well repeat it one more time: New Zealand is very safe! Tap water is drinkable and, aside from the “travel bug”, we have no diseases rampaging the country. However, you should still use common sense, for instance:
- Carry medicines in your hand luggage in case your check-in luggage gets lost
- Wear a medical alert bracelet if you have any serious allergies or chronic illness
- During a long hike, if hygiene standards are a bit suspect, eat only food that has been thoroughly cooked and only drink water that has been boiled or purified using water purification tablets
- In areas with a lot of insects, like the Abel Tasman National Park, use insect repellent to avoid unpleasant bites and enjoy the hike
- If you have to see a doctor, make sure to obtain a full written medical report for your insurer or your doctor back home
- If you feel sick shortly after arriving in New Zealand, do tell your doctor which countries you have visited, including your stopover countries and what you have eaten during the stopovers
- If you feel sick shortly after coming home, this might be because you already miss New Zealand, so plan a trip back!
Travel First Aid Kit Checklist
For certain people and destinations, some items in your first aid kit are more important than others. Always ask a pharmacist or doctor which items you will need for your gap year in New Zealand. For now, here are some ideas:
- Anti-cramping medicines: relief of stomach ache and pain due to cramps or spasm
- Anti-diarrhoea tablets: relief from diarrhoea
- Antihistamine tablets: relief from allergy, rash and bites
- Anti-itch cream: applied to bites, inflamed skin and to treat eczema
- Antiseptic cream: to treat minor skin infections
- Butterfly closures: pull together edges of small wounds.
- Fluid replacement sachets: electrolyte replacement to treat and prevent dehydration
- Hand sanitiser: an alternative to hand washing and a good preventative against colds, flu and tummy bugs
- Insect repellent: provides protection against mosquitoes, sandflies and other insect bites
- Multivitamins: boost intake of vitamins when dietary intake is poor
- Nasal spray decongestant: relieves nasal congestion, particularly if travelling by plane
- Pain relief medicines: relieve different types of pain including toothache, headache and backache. Also reduces symptoms associated with fever
- Plasters (bandaids): for minor cuts. Also, blister treatments and prevention if hiking
- Sunscreen: protect against sunburn. Be sure to also purchase something for your lips as well as face and body
- Water purifying tablets: make contaminated water safe to drink.
For more information on what to pack, see The Ultimate Packing List for an Extended Trip in New Zealand.
It is important that you keep up to date with any health issue that may arise. If anything major happens, the media in the country will cover it, so stay in touch with the local news.
If you are worried about travelling in New Zealand, don’t be. Here is a bunch of helpful articles that should reassure you: