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How to Prepare to Study in New Zealand

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What You Need to Prepare for Your Study Abroad Experience

This is it! You’ve been accepted to enrol at a New Zealand university, whether it is through a study abroad programme, student exchange or for a full-time course, so shit’s about to get real! To help you prepare to study in New Zealand, we have put together this complete guide to preparing to study in New Zealand. We’ll go through all the nitty-gritty preparation needed for a study abroad experience in New Zealand to make sure you don’t forget anything important!

Studying abroad is one way to make your university degree stand out from the crowd. Studying in a different country allows you to build on life skills while contributing to your qualifications. As a modern English-speaking country, New Zealand is the perfect place to study abroad.So it’s time to get your visa, book your flights and pack your bags for the adventure of a lifetime!

Quick Packing List for New Zealand

  • Passport with a student visa and plane ticket
  • At least NZ$500 in cash in New Zealand currency
  • Evidence for Immigration such as sufficient funds, return travel ticket and travel insurance
  • Contact details and paperwork of your university
  • Sufficient clothes for the season you will be in New Zealand (for more info, check out What Clothes to Pack to Travel in New Zealand
  • Your laptop/phone with chargers and New Zealand adaptor
  • Medication – if you need prescribed medication, you can have up to three months worth of medication. More will need to be accompanied by a letter from your doctor in English. For more information, check out How to Get a Medical Prescription in New Zealand.
  • Toiletries
  • Any mementoes to help with the homesickness

For a detailed packing list, take a look at What to Pack for a Gap Year in New Zealand: Predeparture Checklist. Plus, for more things to know about moving to New Zealand, check out the 20 Essential Must-Dos BEFORE Moving to New Zealand.

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Get a Visa to Study in New Zealand

Once you have been accepted into a study abroad programme, student exchange or full-time course in New Zealand, you need to sort out your study visa.

Requirements for a Student Visa

For a student visa you will need the following:

  • An offer of placement from an approved New Zealand education provider
  • A valid passport
  • Evidence that you have “sufficient funds” to support yourself for your length of stay – usually NZ$15,000 for a year
  • Evidence of an outward travel ticket from New Zealand or enough money for one
  • Accommodation guarantee if you are under 18
  • If you are going to be in New Zealand for more than a year, you will need a medical certificate, chest x-ray and police certificate.

There are many types of visa that will allow you to legally study in New Zealand, depending on the length of your studies, whether you are an exchange student or a fee-paying student. For more information, check out Which Visa Do You Need to Study in New Zealand?

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Find Student Accommodation

Where are you going to live during your studies in New Zealand? To relieve the stress, sorting out accommodation before you arrive in New Zealand means you have somewhere to go to as soon as you arrive in New Zealand. However, you may prefer to look at accommodations with your own eyes before committing to accommodation. After all, it’s going to be your home for the next few months. Either way, you will need to pay a deposit before you move into your accommodation, so getting this paid not only secures your accommodation but is one way to prepare to study in New Zealand. Here are your accommodation options:

University-managed Accommodation

Usually referred to as Halls of Residence, university-managed accommodation is usually in the form of student flats and are usually on-campus. You can apply for Halls of Residence accommodation before you arrive in New Zealand through an online application of your chosen university’s website.


Live with a Kiwi family while you study in New Zealand. Rent is usually paid weekly or bi-weekly to your host family in exchange for a room and sometimes meals with the family. You can stay with them for the duration of your studies or a minimum of about two weeks. Homestays can be organised either before or after your arrival through various homestay agent websites or through your university.

Renting a House/Apartment

This is less easy to organise before arriving in New Zealand, so if you want to do a houseshare/flatshare while you are in New Zealand, you will need to be in New Zealand to view the house and do all the necessary paperwork. For a full guide on renting a room in a house or flat in New Zealand, check out Find a Flat in New Zealand and 6 Resources to Find a Room to Rent in New Zealand.

Temporary Backpacker or Motel Accommodation

A great option to get affordable temporary accommodation while you look for something more long-term is staying in a backpacker hostel or motel. Some universities can help you with this, while others might not be able to. Many hostels and motels offer weekly rates in either a bunk room (cheap options) or a single room (more expensive). For more information on hostel life, check out How to Live in a Hostel and What it’s Like to be a Long-Termer in a Hostel.

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Book Your Flight to New Zealand

Once you know your accommodation plans and your orientation dates, you will have a better idea of when to book your flight to New Zealand. To save money on your flight booking, be flexible with your travel dates, for instance, travelling mid-week is usually cheaper than travelling at the weekend. Plus, you will need to decide whether you will get a return ticket, one-way ticket or open ticket. The benefits of each are stated in Flight to New Zealand: Return Vs. Open Return Vs. One Way.

For more tips on how to get an affordable flight, see How to Book a Cheap Flight to New Zealand.

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Get Your Travel Insurance

In order to study in New Zealand, you must have travel insurance that is approved by your chosen university. While some universities work with insurance companies to provide their own travel insurance, it’s best to compare the market before deciding on a travel insurance company. Going with your university’s recommended travel insurance provider is the easiest and safest option, as you know that your university will approve it for meeting their requirements. However, be sure to compare the price of your university’s insurance with other insurance providers that are likely to offer similar approved policies to make sure you are getting the best deal. For example, Orbit Protect is a New Zealand-based insurance company providing dedicated comprehensive International Student Insurance including medical care, medical evacuation, loss of deposits (including tuition fees) and property.

What Your Student Travel Insurance Should Cover

  • Check with your university what their travel insurance requirements are, but to give you a general idea, insurance policies usually need to include the following:
  • The insurance begins the day you travel to New Zealand, while you are in transit to and from New Zealand and while you are in New Zealand for the duration of your studies
  • Applies for trips out of New Zealand (you can usually apply for additional insurance if this is not the case with your existing policy)
  • The insurance company must be a reputable and established company with an excellent credit rating no lower than BBB
  • You are covered for emergency 24/7 seven days a week
  • Your insurance must include but is not limited to: general practitioner visits, prescriptions, hospitalisation (public and private), optical cover, and emergency dental cover
  • There should be no excess applied to medical claims – the insurance covers 100% of the cost
  • Covers the costs (unlimited) of repatriation, the cost for medical professionals to accompany you to your home country if you become seriously ill, or you are seriously injured or killed
  • Covers the costs of two guardians/parents’ return flights to New Zealand (up to NZ$50,000) and their accommodation and living expenses (up to NZ$50,000) if you become seriously ill or die in New Zealand
  • The insurance covers the costs of repatriation of body or funeral costs (up to NZ$100,000)
  • Covers the cost for you to return to your home country to complete your studies if your immediate family are seriously ill or die (up to NZ$50,000)
  • Personal liability cover in case of accidental damage to property (up to NZ$2,500,000)
  • Covers the costs of consultations with a medical professional for mental illness (up to NZ$10,000)
  • The insurance covers tuition fees lost due to unforeseen events and not recoverable from any other source (up to NZ$50,000)
  • Personal possessions covered (Up to NZ$3,000 per item)
  • Covers costs incurred by travel delay (Up to NZ$2,000)
  • Covers costs incurred by missed transport connection (Up to NZ$2,000)
  • Provides cash benefits to you if you are hospitalised in New Zealand during the period of study (up to NZ$10,000).
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Get Your Money Sorted

One of the conditions of your visa is to have access to “sufficient funds” for your time in New Zealand. The amount of travel funds varies depending on what type of visa you have. Arrange to have access to these funds either in a bank account or on a credit card. Remember to tell your bank at home that you will be going abroad and ask how to access money while you are abroad.

To make managing your money easier and avoid the high exchange rates, opening a New Zealand bank account is the smartest way to pay for things while you are in New Zealand. You can start opening an account even before you arrive in New Zealand. Find out more in How to Open a New Zealand Bank Account.

When you arrive in New Zealand, it’s best to have about NZ$500 cash on your for initial expenses and just in case opening your bank account doesn’t go smoothly.

If you are a fee-paying student, remember to pay your tuition fees before arriving in New Zealand.

Budgeting for Expenses and Getting a Job

Finally, you will need to budget for your expenses while you are studying in New Zealand. Remember, most student visas allow you to work up to 20-hours a week and full-time during holidays if you need to. For information on finding work, take a look at How to Quickly Find a Job in New Zealand.

To help your budget and give you a general idea on expenses, here are the estimated costs for a student living in Wellington for one year:

  • Accommodation (including utilities and power) – NZ$8,500
  • Food (including eating out and groceries) – NZ$3,000
  • Personal expenses (clothes, experiences, clubbing, etc.) – NZ$3,000
  • Textbooks and other university supplies – NZ$1,000

For more information on how to save money while studying in New Zealand, take a look at the 11 Backpacker Tips to Save Money on Food and 11 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Those Dollars Further.

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Do Any Necessary Paperwork with Your University

Your New Zealand university will let you know what they need from you to prepare for your studies in New Zealand. Make sure that you supply all the outstanding documents that have been asked for by your university. You may also need to apply for a student ID, notify your university’s international student office of your travel arrangements to and from New Zealand. A common requirement is a qualification to show that you understand a certain level of English. However, you can gain these qualifications once you are in New Zealand, which is usually the best place to learn or improve your English.

Some universities may offer an arrival collection so they can pick you up from the airport/bus/train station when you arrive in New Zealand, and take you to your pre-arranged on-campus accommodation. You will need to submit an application form if this is the case.

Make sure you have submitted your enrollment form so that you are aware of our orientation date, which is compulsory for international students.

Finally, make sure that you make digital copies of important documents like your passport. It might also be worth printing things like a Receipt of Payment letter, Offer of Place letter, copies of accommodation application and Arrival form for your university.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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