It’s no secret that Aussies love to visit our neighbours across the Tasman. In fact, from 2015-2016, 1.3 million Australians visited New Zealand for all things sun, sport and scenery. And what better time for it than Christmas in New Zealand?
Whether it’s going to the cricket, enjoying a barbecue at the beach or taking a road trip around the beautiful South Island, New Zealand has so much to offer in its summer months. However, as any beach-going backpacker can confirm, the New Zealand summer still has its dangers.
Australia’s strong relationship with New Zealand means visiting Australians are granted free emergency medical treatment, (under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement) if they have an accident or fall sick while visiting. This means that some travellers aren’t bothering to protect themselves with travel insurance.
Unfortunately, Christmas time in New Zealand poses a few more serious risks than sunburn and awful tan lines, and unprotected Aussies have learnt the financial consequences the hard way.
Below we outline the diverse risks when travelling to New Zealand in summer, and why visiting without travel insurance can be a costly mistake – especially when it starts from just $15 to buy a TravelCare policy!*
Do I need travel insurance for New Zealand?
The simple answer is yes; Australians should always protect themselves with travel insurance even if they are only heading across the ditch.
While Aussies visiting New Zealand are currently entitled to emergency medical treatment under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement, the astronomical expense of air evacuation back home won’t be covered, so you could be left with a huge bill while you recover.
But it’s not only emergency evacuation that can financially devastate unprotected Aussies overseas. For example, a broken leg can require an unwanted and expensive upgrade to business class flights, or prevent you from departing at all. Unsuspected trip extensions can prove incredibly costly, especially in New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations.
Blood tests, ambulance rides and GP visits aren’t covered by the reciprocal agreement. Then there’s accommodation extensions, connecting flight cancellation fees and new tickets, which will also be up to the traveller to pay for. Not to mention the potential of non-health related problems like delayed flights, lost luggage or even theft.
In short, Aussies should protect themselves with travel insurance for their New Zealand summer holiday. The peace of mind alone will be worth it.
What are the risks for Australians spending Christmas in New Zealand?
A kiwi summer holiday should be high on the bucket list for all types of travellers. The sun-lovers will want to hit the unspoiled beaches, sport fans can head to the cricket, foodies will relish the spectacular restaurants and vineyards around the country, and nature lovers will no doubt want to make the most of the spectacular great walks like the Milford Track or the Tongariro Crossing.
But even these must-do summer activities present dangers that travellers should protect themselves against.
Unpredictable New Zealand weather
New Zealand’s weather around Christmas and New Year’s eve is notoriously unpredictable, with many campers being rained out last year. Although a bit of heavy rain might not be enough to dampen the holiday spirit, it is worth preparing for, especially if you’re camping or staying somewhere a little more remote. Some holiday towns are only accessible by one road and these can easily be cut off by flooding if the weather decides not to play nice. If you get stranded and miss your flights home, replacement airfares aren’t cheap!
On the flipside, when the sun is out it’s known for its ferocity, largely due to the hole in the ozone layer directly above the country. Although New Zealand doesn’t reach the same high temperatures as Australia, the sun can be deceiving. Even on a cloudy day, sunscreen is a key thing to remember!
Perhaps more importantly, New Zealand also has its fair share of natural disasters, including the recent earthquake that struck the South and lower North islands. This really ruined holiday plans for those staying in Kaikoura, who needed emergency air evacuation as the town was completely shut off. Major landslides buried roads, and those roads that survived ended up with deep cracks or even broken up into multiple pieces.
Aussies visiting New Zealand over Christmas or further into summer should take the weather seriously. Keeping an eye on websites like Metservice is a great way to stay ahead of any impending storms. No matter how good the forecast is, though, always take a raincoat, some warm clothing and a basic first aid kit with you, especially if you’re camping. Chances are you won’t need it, but it’s better to have that gear with you just in case, rather than suffering from hypothermia or pneumonia.
Drownings in New Zealand
On average, 77 people drown in New Zealand waterways every year. This includes beaches, lakes, rivers and harbour locations, with most deaths occurring in Gisborne and Northland.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of all drowning deaths occur in the summer months. Most of these drownings occur offshore or at beaches, but rivers also play a large role in drowning statistics. Some of the most popular holiday activities in New Zealand take place in, on, or around the water. Whether it’s fishing, kayaking, surfing, or swimming, the water is a key feature and water safety needs to be taken seriously.
As we can see from the statistics above, drowning deaths are common and dangers aren’t always very obvious. Some beaches in New Zealand can be quite rugged and rough, with severe currents and serious rips a common feature. Swimmers should:
- Only swim at patrolled beaches, between the red and yellow flags as dictated by the lifeguards.
- Never swim alone.
- Never swim while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Remember your insurance won’t cover you for accident or injury that occurs while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Always check the depth of the water before entering. For example, before jumping into a lake you should always be sure you won’t hit the bottom or obstructed dangers like tree branches. Use a long stick to do a depth test before entering.
- Don’t swim in the very early morning or evening, or outside patrolled hours.
Driving on New Zealand’s roads
One of the most popular ways to enjoy New Zealand’s beautiful scenery is to take a road trip, which is easy for Aussies as our licences are accepted across the ditch too.
Plenty of visitors to the country hire campers and head off on an adventure, free to enjoy the country at their leisure. Only problem is, New Zealand’s roads are often challenging to navigate, with plenty of tight mountain passes and many main highways being only one lane in each direction. Then there’s the other hazards such as livestock on the roads.
Accidents involving tourists on New Zealand roads have become so common they’re even looking at introducing laws around it, where incoming drivers have to take a driving test before being able to hit the roads in a hired vehicle.
If you are planning on embarking on your own New Zealand road trip vacation, you’re in for a treat! Just make sure you keep your eyes on the road and brush up on the road rules over there before you head out.
Whatever way you want to enjoy Christmas in New Zealand, the options are endless and so is the fun. With these tips you can be sure to make your time across the Tasman a festive success.
*The $15 price advertised is for TravelCare, Single Journey, New Zealand plan, 2 days individual cover for ages 0-54.