New Zealand aptly caters to budget-conscious travellers, adventurous backpackers, luxury seekers, millennial explorers and just about every other globetrotting type out there. For those on their gap year, that means won’t need to fret about spending too much money on things like accommodation – you’ll find plenty of backpacking hostels scattered across the country. Just be savvy when it comes to budgeting for food and drink as well as local activities and you should be all good to go.
Leaping off the Queenstown bridge that brought commercial bungee-jumping to life. Seeing all the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit filming locations from up close. Going on a multi-day hike at some of the most challenging and diversified terrains. With so many bucket list-worthy attractions to share, it’s fair to say that a New Zealand gap year will make for quite a memorable experience.
New Zealand has special agreements with several countries in place, enabling travellers aged 18-30 (or 18-35 in selected places) to visit on a working holiday visa. This entitles you to spend up to a year – or longer if you have a Canadian or UK passport – exploring the country at your own leisure while you earn some cash and add an invaluable amount of work experience to your resume.
Whether you’re an outdoorsy person who would be happy to work on a farm, an avid skier who would like to earn some coin while exploring the local resorts, or someone with a solid background in customer service and hospitality, there are quite a few ways to make money during your gap year. Check out this list to get a better idea of jobs, paid or otherwise, working holiday travellers can get while in New Zealand.
We’re not just talking about visiting a zoo. New Zealand has quite a few predator-free islands, nature reserves and environmentally friendly experiences that offer a glimpse of native critters in their natural habitat. The Otago region, for instance, is quite well-known for its penguin, fur seal and Royal Albatross colonies. Other places in the North and South Islands might give you a good perspective of migrant whales, rare dolphins and endemic bird species.
New Zealand is composed of dormant and active volcanoes, rocky and white-sand beaches, lush forests, epic mountains, mirror-like lakes and many other incredible forces of nature. We could spend hours delving into each of these awe-inspiring landscapes – or you can simply spend some time viewing them in your own terms. The latter definitely sounds more appealing.
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, is surrounded by islands, parks, nature reserves and cool hiking spots. The capital Wellington has all of this, and is also within a quick ferry ride to the South Island’s Queen Charlotte track at the Marlborough Sounds – which is quite popular with hikers and cyclists alike. Christchurch is within close driving distance to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, Arthur’s Pass National Park, and eco-friendly towns like Kaikoura and Akaroa. Basically, there will always be something naturally amazing to tap into, no matter where you end up staying.
New Zealand is globally renowned for its efforts to preserve its indigenous Maori culture, language and customs. Not only will you get to see this in action in everyday interactions, but travellers can also learn about this important aspect of the local culture through various cultural experiences across the country. These usually comprise traditional welcoming ceremonies, story-telling, local history, plus a hangi meal at the end.
Not that your standard precautions don’t apply – you’ll still need to lock up your valuables and be aware of dangerous areas, for instance – but New Zealand tends to be a lot safer than many other parts of the world. Crime rates are generally low and you won’t find any wild animals that will put your life at risk. Safety is one of the top reasons why this is such a good place to travel solo too, and a lot of backpackers feel safe enough to hitchhike their way across the country.
A year in New Zealand will introduce you to a melting pot of cultures, backgrounds and customs. Auckland in particular is quite cosmopolitan, so you’ll definitely meet people from all corners of the globe there. Staying in a hostel will also enable you to mingle with many like-minded travellers, while working and volunteering locally will also expose you to the unique characteristics that make Kiwi culture so interesting.
For the traveller coming from an English-speaking country, New Zealand is a less intimidating gap year option as it doesn’t require you to learn a new language. Those who hail from a country where English is not the native language also benefit from this: a year in Aotearoa will help them put their linguistic skills into practice. Regardless of which situation applies to you, it is a sure thing that you’ll eventually embrace the local slang, the occasional use of Maori words in everyday conversations (it is an official language, after all) and even that characteristic Kiwi twang that we all know and love.