New Zealand had one of the world’s strictest Covid lockdowns. Now the borders are fully open again


After more than two years, New Zealand fully reopens its borders and welcomes all international travelers back.

The country will reopen on July 31, about three months earlier than previously announced.

Earlier this year, New Zealand’s borders were opened to Australians and citizens of 60 visa-free places to enter, including Singapore, the United States and the United Kingdom.

In 2021, New Zealand had some of the world’s strictest pandemic restrictions, including lockdowns triggered by a single Covid case, extensive testing and numerous public health mandates.

The largest city of Auckland was on lockdown for 107 days from August to December 2021 due to outbreaks of the highly contagious delta strain.

Many curbs have been lifted, but the requirements to enter New Zealand remain strict. Here’s what you need to know before visiting.

The rules

With the exception of New Zealand citizens and Australians living in the country, visitors are required to present a vaccination certificate to enter, according to the government’s Covid information page.

Both electronic and paper vaccination certificates are acceptable.

Travelers should take a rapid antigen test on their arrival date — although not necessary upon arrival at the airport — and a second on the fifth or sixth day of their trip, according to New Zealand’s Department of Health.

Masks are not mandatory outdoors, but are required indoors, such as in museums, supermarkets and pharmacies.

Cheapest time to visit

Despite New Zealand inflation reaching a 32-year high of 7.3% earlier this month, Navigate Travel said prices for tours, activities and accommodations are the same, if not cheaper, than they were before the pandemic.

“(A holiday in) New Zealand is very cheap at the moment… Other than air travel, there has never been a cheaper time,” said Daniel Painter, the travel agency’s director.

Since it was announced in May that the country’s borders would fully reopen at the end of July, there has been a lot of interest from travelers to visit, according to Tourism New Zealand.

“Online searches for international flights to New Zealand have increased by 39% since the announcement, compared to searches before Covid,” said Gregg Wafelbakker, Asia’s general director of tourism. More than 60% of this stake comes from Australia, he said.

Painter said, however, that demand for travel from Asia remains low, with visitors from the region mainly coming from Singapore.

Singapore-based travel agency Chan Brothers Travel indicated that a shortage of flights could be the cause.

“Demand for travel to New Zealand has been healthy since the borders” [reopened] to Singaporeans in May. However, due to the availability of flights, we are seeing demand outpacing supply,” said Jeremiah Wong, the agency’s senior marketing communications manager.

Bigger expenses, longer trips

After years of being locked out of New Zealand, travelers indicate they are willing to spend more to travel in the country for extended periods, Wong said.

“An eight-day tour of New Zealand was a popular choice before the pandemic, but we are currently seeing increased interest and bookings for our 11-day tour that allows travelers to see the sights at a more relaxed pace,” Wong said.

Navigate Travel’s Painter shared similar sentiments, saying travelers want “the ability to relax and not worry about things, but they also want great value for money.”

Painter said hikes in the country’s national parks, a scenic helicopter ride over the Franz Josef Glacier and whale watching near the town of Kaikoura in New Zealand’s South Island are just some of the activities tourists shouldn’t miss.

A helicopter flight over the Franz Josef Glacier.

Peter Kolejak / Eyeem | Eyeem | Getty Images

After more than two years in Singapore, Lew Moe Kien, 60, and her husband, 62, visited New Zealand for 12 days in May – just two weeks after the borders reopened to Singaporean citizens.

They said locals were delighted to have tourists back in the country, and were welcomed with open arms at restaurants and other establishments.

“The places we visited in New Zealand were not crowded at all,” says Lew. “For many of the sights, we were just the two of us.”

Lew and her husband visited both the North and South Islands of New Zealand, including Hobbiton – a popular destination for “Lord of the Rings” fans – the glowworm caves in Waitomo and the pancake-shaped rock formations and blowholes in Punakaiki.

Shirleen Tan, 46, a human resources professional from Singapore, is planning a trip to New Zealand with her family in December.

“We were looking for a place with warm weather and New Zealand is one of the few warm countries in December,” Tan says.

She said she looks forward to visiting vineyards for wine tasting, eating fresh oysters at oyster farms and “enjoying the beautiful scenery New Zealand is famous for”.

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