Are Tourists Safe in New Zealand?
Good news! New Zealand is generally a very safe place for tourists. It’s not riddled with unusual diseases and doesn’t have a million animals that can kill you. In fact, there are no deadly animals, unlike New Zealand’s Down-Under-brother, Australia. If you do get into bother, however, there are very capable medical facilities.
Crime rates in New Zealand are low too but it’s always smart to use common sense to look after yourself and your belongings. Common sense and some outdoor safety awareness will be your best friend for staying safe in New Zealand.
We’ll go through basic safety tips in this guide to travel safety in New Zealand. Quick and painless!
By the way, for tips concerning health and what to do if you’re ill in New Zealand, check out Travel Health Tips for New Zealand: Vaccinations, Medication & More.
What is New Zealand’s Emergency Number?
In New Zealand, the emergency phone number to contact the Police, Ambulance and Fire services is 111.
For other useful numbers to jot down, check out Important Contacts & Telephone Numbers for Travelling New Zealand.
Environmental Hazards in New Zealand: The Sun
New Zealand has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, just after Australia. That’s because the hole in the ozone layer is above Australasia, which gives New Zealand some of the strongest levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This means you will start to burn within 15 minutes of being in the strong New Zealand sun.
Apply high-factor suncream (SPF 30+) regularly when exposing your skin to the sun, especially in summer. Even on a cloudy day or at higher altitudes in winter, that sun can get you! Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and heat stroke.
What is Heat Stroke and How Do You Treat it?
Overexposure to the sun can lead to heatstroke. Symptoms include exhaustion, confusion, headache and vomiting. To avoid, wear high-factor sunscreen, reapply every three hours or straight after swimming, and drink plenty of water. If symptoms occur, move out of the sun immediately and try to cool the victim down by wrapping a wet towel around them. See a doctor as soon as possible.
Learn more about the weather in What is the Weather Like in New Zealand?
Environmental Hazards: Beaches and Rivers
Whether you’re going for a swim or taking part in one of New Zealand’s awesome water activities, it’s important to not drown… Very important.
New Zealand Beach Safety
Some of New Zealand’s busiest beaches are patrolled by lifeguards in summer. Swim between the flags on these beaches.
Rip currents can pull swimmers and surfers out to sea quickly. If you get caught in a rip, don’t panic and don’t swim against the current. Let the rip carry you until the current lessens, then swim parallel to the beach until you can swim back. If you get tired or panic anyway, put your arm up high out of the water with your fist clenched to signal for help.
Finding Safe Swimming Beaches
When looking for a beach to swim at, it is worth reading up on the beach or asking at the local information centres for “safe swimming” beaches.
Life Jackets on Boats
If heading out on a boat, make sure you wear a life jacket and follow the Boating Safety Code in New Zealand as outlined on the AdventureSmart website.
New Zealand River Safety
Don’t underestimate the power of rivers: choose your swimming spot carefully. Never go swimming alone. If looking for a jump spot, get in the water first to check the depth.
For more safety tips for New Zealand rivers, check out the river safety advice given by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council.
Environmental Hazards: Alpine Environments
One of New Zealand’s main appeals is the alpine landscapes, but going into these alpine environments yourself requires some precautions.
New Zealand Ski Safety
The ski season can be pretty awesome in New Zealand. It’s more awesome when you’re not a danger to yourself and everyone around you! A few snowsports safety tips to follow include:
- Wear appropriate ski gear (ski jacket, salopettes/ski pants, helmet, gloves, ski socks and base layers)
- Stay in control by knowing your ability. You need to be able to stop and avoid other people before hitting the slopes
- People in front have the right of way
- Obey the signage in the ski area
- If involved or witness an accident, stay at the scene to identify yourself to ski patrol.
Check out more tips on the Snow Safety Code by AdventureSmart.
New Zealand Hiking Safety
Hiking (or tramping, as Kiwis would say) is a great way to explore the land and yourself – if you want to get deep about it. But you should always be prepared by taking the right clothing and equipment with you, checking the weather, sharing your plans and choosing a trip that your whole party can handle.
There’s so much to cover on the subject that we have a whole guide to Outdoor Safety When Hiking in New Zealand. Check it out!
What is Hypothermia and How Do You Treat it?
One of the biggest risks of being in alpine environments (or anywhere outdoors in the cold, for that matter) is getting hypothermia. Hypothermia is when the core body temperature drops to 35°C (95°F) or below. Severe cases can lead to unconsciousness or death.
Signs and symptoms of hypothermia include deterioration of hand/eye coordination, speaking unclearly, and tripping or falling without reason.
If anyone in your group has the above symptoms, you need to:
- Find shelter from the wind or rain
- Replace any wet or damp clothes with dry ones
- Get them into a sleeping bag
- Give them a warm sweet drink (in cold temperatures, it’s worth taking a thermos with you on your hike)
- Place them in the recovery position
- Start CPR, mouth to mouth resuscitation if breathing stops
- Call for help.
Environmental Hazards: Natural Disasters
Being on the Pacific Rim of Fire, New Zealand is prone to earthquakes, which creates a risk of tsunamis, and, less frequently, volcanic eruptions. There are also risks of landslips (landslides), usually caused by heavy rains or earthquakes.
The most common natural disaster in New Zealand is earthquakes. However, most earthquakes are rarely felt and only a few are ever devastating enough to be classed as a “disaster”. Since 1815, New Zealand has been struck by over 100 notable earthquakes, only 14 of which had recorded fatalities.
For more information on New Zealand’s earthquakes and what to do if there is one, check out our guide to Earthquakes in New Zealand.
Since 1840, there have been 10 tsunamis in New Zealand recorded higher than 5 metres (16 feet). Tsunamis can follow earthquakes, so it’s important that if you feel an earthquake while you’re in a coastal area, move inland immediately. The country has tsunami protocols in place, especially in coastal areas.
New Zealand is a country of volcanoes. Most are dormant or extinct while a limited few are still active. The volcanic eruptions that are the most likely to affect visitors are when hiking on or visiting active volcanoes, like Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu.
Sirens and warnings on speakers in the villages closest to Mt Ruapehu will tell you what to do in the event of a volcanic eruption (get to high ground and away from rivers and valleys).
The volcano that has had a fatal eruption in recent history, White Island, is no longer open for visitors.
You can look at volcanic alert levels on geonet.org.nz and reconsider going onto any volcanoes that are at alert level 2 or higher.
Water Hygiene in New Zealand
New Zealand has an abundance of safe drinking water from taps and drinking fountains, while food is prepared and/or packaged to a safe standard. On the other hand, when out in remote areas, like hiking trails or campsites, for example, the water supply isn’t always safe to drink.
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in New Zealand?
Absolutely! Tap water is safe to drink in New Zealand, so bring your reusable water bottle and go nuts!
Is the Water From Streams and Rivers Safe to Drink in New Zealand?
The giardia parasite is widespread in New Zealand’s waterways, so it is not recommended to drink from streams and rivers if you’re unsure of the water quality. This also goes for water supply at remote campsites and huts, such as Department of Conservation campsites.
To avoid water-borne diseases, boil water for about 10 minutes before drinking it. Water purifying tablets and Lifestraw bottles are also effective ways of preventing diseases.
Giardia: Symptoms and Treatments
The symptoms of giardia are intermittent bad-smelling diarrhoea, abdominal bloating and wind. Effective treatment is available, usually tinidazole or metronidazole.
Theft in New Zealand: How to Keep Your Belongings Safe
New Zealanders and other travellers tend to be decent human beings, but there is a risk of theft in New Zealand and some cases of tourists being targeted. Just use common sense to keep your belongings safe in New Zealand. A few simple ways to do this are:
- Don’t leave valuable items on display, whether in your car or in shared accommodation
- Lock bags/backpacks in the boot (trunk) of your car, so they are out of sight
- Don’t leave your bag unattended in a public place
- Keep a record of the description and the serial number of valuable items
- Report stolen items to the nearest police station.
- Keep your passport and important documents and their copies separate. Oh yeah, make copies of important documents!
For a few safety items you could pack for your trip to New Zealand, check out the 10 Things to Keep Your Stuff Safe When Travelling in New Zealand.
Frequently Asked Questions About Safety in New Zealand
If your question about safety in New Zealand hasn’t been answered, you might find your answer here or at Travel Health Tips for New Zealand: Vaccinations, Medication & More.
Is it Safe to Hitchhike in New Zealand?
Hitchhiking is legal, popular and relatively safe in New Zealand. Like anywhere, however, there are some untrustworthy individuals you don’t want to get in a car with. The New Zealand Police recommend that if you do decide to hitchhike, they “strongly advise you do not travel alone.” For more information, head to our guide to Hitchhiking in New Zealand.
Is New Zealand Safe for Females?
New Zealand is especially safe for females. Not only are females valued in society (for example, New Zealand was the first to grant females the right to vote and have three women in leading roles in Parliament simultaneously), but it is safe and very popular for solo female travellers. We talk more on the subject in Can Females Travel Alone in New Zealand?
Are There Dangerous Animals in New Zealand?
Dangerous animals in New Zealand are rare but do exist. However, they are usually only deemed “dangerous” if provoked. For example, there are venomous spiders like the white-tailed spider, redback spider and katipo spider. You probably don’t want to try and wrestle a sea lion, seal or shark either.
Are the Roads Safe in New Zealand?
Roads are relatively safe in New Zealand as long as you stick to the New Zealand road rules and drive to the conditions. Respect if there are any road closures or restrictions, perhaps due to snow, landslips, etc. Check out the New Zealand road rules in our complete guide to Driving in New Zealand: Everything You NEED to Know.
Do You Need a Vaccination to Visit New Zealand?
Yes, you need a COVID-19 vaccination to visit New Zealand, which we detail further in Travel Health Tips for New Zealand: Vaccinations, Medication & More.
Do You Need Insurance to Visit New Zealand?
No, you do not need insurance to visit New Zealand. However, it is mandatory for certain visas, like the working holiday visa and student visa. See How to Choose the BEST Travel Insurance for New Zealand for more advice.
Is New Zealand Safer Than Australia?
With lower crime rates and no animals that are likely to kill you, New Zealand is much safer than Australia.
Did We Mention?
Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll
Again, common sense comes into play! Here are some health and safety reminders when it comes to alcohol, drugs and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs):
- Don’t drink and drive! There are laws against all that
- There are the occasional reports of drinks being spiked, so be aware of your drink at all times and don’t accept drinks from creepy strangers
- It is against New Zealand law to use, possess or sell any illicit drug
- Wear a condom to protect yourself from STDs including HIV.
That’s it on our overview on the question, “Is New Zealand safe?”. For more New Zeland safety tips, and travel tips in general, check out Travel Health Tips for New Zealand: Vaccinations, Medication & More and the 31 Tips for Travelling in New Zealand.