Travelling safely in New Zealand is no different to travelling safely anywhere else in the world. As long as you are aware of the risks and take sensible precautions, you can travel safely, even alone anywhere. What you may not be aware of are some of the more common risks that travellers in New Zealand may encounter. This article lists some of these risks.
1 Know what to do if you are in a very unsafe situation and need to contact the emergency services. CALL 111. Mobile phone coverage is generally good, but there are vast areas of New Zealand that are isolated and not covered by mobile phone networks.
- If you are heading out into the Wop Wops (New Zealand term for boondocks), never travel without telling someone where you are headed and when you expect to arrive.
2 Use the roads safely. In New Zealand, vehicles drive on the left, unlike the US procedures. When walking, look both ways when crossing the road and use controlled crossings where possible.
- Don’t dawdle on controlled pedestrian crossings. You won’t have much time to cross, and frequently turning vehicles get a green light to turn while the pedestrian crossing light is still flashing red. Wear a helmet if you cycle, it’s the law. Don’t ride a quad bike on the public road.
3 Drink and eat. Tap water is safe to drink across New Zealand, unless expressly marked otherwise. Rivers, streams and lakes are not appropriate sources of drinking water, but can be utilised in emergencies if proper precautions are taken.
- Purchased food is no more or less likely to give you food poisoning than food purchased in the US, UK or Australia, provided that you store and prepare it appropriately. There are many edible native plants in New Zealand and at the shore seafood can be harvested providing you obey local bylaws. If seafood from a beach is not fit for human consumption, this will be sign posted.
4 Make sure your tetanus vaccinations are up to date, if you intend to be adventurous! There are no communicable diseases that the average traveller needs to worry about. Malaria is not present, and dengue fever or yellow fever shots and the like are not required.
- If you have a weakened immune system, consult your doctor before travelling. All travellers over 16 need to consider the health risks of holiday romance.
5 Use Sunblock. The sun is powerful in NZ, and you can be easily burnt on a cloudy day, even in early spring (September) and late Autumn (May).
6 Consider crime rates and be careful. According to the Global Peace index, New Zealand is the third most peaceful country in the world. Murder is uncommon in New Zealand, but less serious crimes are common. Be aware of the risk of being mugged, having your pocket picked and having unattended belongings stolen in tourist destinations.
- In rural areas, where there are few people around, it’s not uncommon for ‘gear’ (such as fishing rods or backpacks) to be left by the owner while they hike off to do something else. This is risky and is discouraged, but since it does happen, it is suggestive of the common Kiwi attitude to crime in rural areas. If you see any gear left behind, leave it alone rather than stealing it; you don’t want to be a criminal. Be sensible about not being a target for criminals.
- There are also gangs in New Zealand. There are mostly motorcycle gangs, but gang violence is more common amongst rival gangs or gang members. Some gangs are criminal, but the crime is more commonly drug or theft related than anything else. Tourists are very infrequently victims of gang crime. You are far more likely to be injured in an RTC as a tourist than be the victim of gang violence.
7 Swim safely. NZ beaches can have dangerous riptides and tidal surges. Only swim where it is safe to do so, and obey signage and any instructions from life guards. If it doubt, don’t swim at all.
8 Be very aware of the weather. Understand that the weather can change very rapidly in many of the valley and mountainous regions of New Zealand. Be prepared for these changes.
- Always dress appropriately and carry warm clothing with you, unless you can guarantee that you will not get cold. Even experienced trampers get lost, so take care when tramping or hiking. Stick to the paths and tracks unless you are confident of your ability.
9 Appraise yourself with current guidelines on what to do in an earthquakes.Earthquakes occur in New Zealand. ]
10 Take care around railway lines. Train crossings may not be the same as you are used to so don’t take any chances, especially with vehicles, around train tracks.
11 Look out for rock fall warning signs. Paths, tracks and roads can be at risk of rocks falling into them, especially in a valley. Obey signage, sometimes no stopping is advised for example, and listen and look for falling rocks or land slides.
12 Be aware of what you don’t need to worry about, so you are not being overly cautious.The only dangerous wild animals you are even slightly likely to encounter are wild pigs.
- If you are in wild pig country, chances are you’re hunting and the pigs have more to worry about than you. Stags are universally dangerous during rutting season. Take care around deer and be aware of the potential danger.
- Some spiders in New Zealand bite, but none are fatal. Be aware that you could have a serious reaction to any spider bites if you happen to have an allergic reaction to it. Poison Oak does not commonly grow in New Zealand. While rain forest foliage can be dense, there are no plants that can seriously injure you in the course of a conventional hike. There are some thorny shrubs that can attach to clothes, skin or hair but they can be harmlessly removed as long as you do so carefully and even if you do get scratched, that’ll be all it is, a scratch. Bats live in some parts of New Zealand, and they do not suck your blood. There are no snakes in New Zealand at all, venomous, poisonous or otherwise.
- Unlike the Northern Hemisphere, Summer is from December to March, Autumn is from March to June, Winter is from June to September and Spring is from September to November.