New Zealand is an attractive travel destination but crime has been on the rise. Does this mean that you have to avoid visiting this beautiful piece of Earth?
Is New Zealand safe?
This question seems to be the topic of the day and a question that is both on the tongues of locals and tourists.
Let me ask you this: Is New York safe? Is the neighborhood you live in safe?
The fact of the matter is that nowhere on Earth can be seen as safe in this day and age. You need to be vigilant wherever you are and wherever you go. This also applies to New Zealand!
Crime, violence, and disregard for authority has been on the rise in the past few years. The crime rate has risen particularly in and around larger cities such as Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.
It is particularly bad in South Auckland, but crime takes place everywhere in the country, not just in the big cities.
This article is not meant to scare you with the reality of the world we live in but rather to inform you about how to keep yourself safe in New Zealand.
New Zealand is not safe compared to a decade ago
The way New Zealand is today is not the same way New Zealand was 18 years ago. When I visited New Zealand for the first time back in 2001, I came here as a solo traveler.
As a young female tourist, I was not afraid to drive all over the country, stay in cities and towns I hardly knew anything about, or go for long hikes like, for example, in the bushes of Mount Taranaki and get lost – or almost.
Today, I am much more careful about going for a hike alone or in the bushes because times have changed.
On the other hand, I’ve traveled all over the world, alone. I can assure you that all those places I visited were 100% foreign to me. I did not know a single person wherever I went but was still not afraid to explore those locations.
It’s simply because I had thoroughly done my homework and had taken the necessary security measures to keep myself safe.
I had done such a good job of it that everywhere I went people thought I was a local, and when I was asked about it, they refused to believe I was a foreigner!
You can do the same when you come to New Zealand.
How to keep yourself safe in New Zealand
Preparation is the name of the game.
To stay safe, you must prepare yourself both mentally and physically before visiting any country: mentally as in knowing what to do when something bad happens, and physically as in knowing how to defend yourself if someone attacks you.
While I don’t have a black belt in martial arts, I have read a couple of books on the subject, practiced self-defense techniques, and mentally gone through possible scenarios.
But most importantly, plain old common sense and being present and alert will go a long way toward keeping you safe in New Zealand.
10 Common sense safety tips for New Zealand
Below you will find ten tips for staying safe in New Zealand.
Tip 1: Tell someone where you are going
If you are like me and do not like to bother people, leave a note behind in your motel room listing your plan for the day so that someone can find it if you do not return.
Kiwis (i.e., New Zealanders) are very friendly and helpful people who will raise the alarm if you go missing.
And trust me, people have gone missing in New Zealand.
If you do not want to tell anyone where you are going, you could also consider renting or buying a beacon, registering it, and then taking it with you so that you have something to raise the alarm if something happens to you. You can read all about beacons at beacons.org.nz.
Tip 2: Do not go for a walk late at night
While you could drive at night, I do not generally recommend walking at night all by yourself as a woman.
Alcohol abuse is more common at night than in the day and unpleasant interactions may take place due to alcohol intoxication.
In addition, homelessness is a rapidly increasing problem in New Zealand, especially in bigger cities like Auckland and Wellington, so it is not unlikely to be bothered by homeless people who live on the streets, especially at night.
Tip 3: Do not leave valuables in your car
If you stopped or parked your car somewhere, do not leave any valuables in your car.
This may seem a bit paranoid, but even when I stop to fill up the car tank, I usually take my valuables along with me when I go into the gas station’s shop to pay.
Tip 4: Lock up your car and motel room when you leave
This goes hand in hand with the do not leave valuables behind tip.
While locking up does not guarantee that someone will not break in, you will be making it harder for them to do so.
Always think in terms of obstacles. How many obstacles can you put in the way of an intruder to make it harder for them to get what they want to get or do what they want to do?
Tip 5: Lock up your car and motel room as soon as you’re inside
While I have heard of some carjacking incidents here in New Zealand – although joyriding is more common – it would not surprise me if a couple of years down the road it becomes more common.
All countries eventually tend to catch up where crime is concerned.
In any case, lock up as soon as you are inside.
Tip 6: Remain alert at all times
Always be aware of what is going on around you. Do not let something or someone catch you by surprise.
There have been incidents where people have been caught off guard when loading groceries into their car. Either purses were snatched at that time or cars were stolen in broad daylight.
Always look around you and trust your instincts. If you sense something is wrong, do not think you are paranoid.
Tip 7: Try to radiate confidence at all times
Carry yourself with confidence: stand tall, pull your shoulders back, keep your chin up, and make eye contact.
Muggers generally look for easy targets. Don’t look like you’re an easy target!
Tip 8: Do your homework
If you’re going for a walk, know how long the walk will take, carry enough water and food, research what kind of terrain you will be entering, and take a map and compass along with you.
I can honestly say that I learned this the hard way. After my first experience with running out of provisions and getting lost, I now always carry enough food and water, a map, and a compass (on my watch) along with me.
Another vital piece of equipment is a whistle. Your vocal cords can get tired when you scream and you can lose your voice, but it is unlikely you will run out of air when blowing a whistle to call out for help. Another option is to learn how to use your fingers to whistle.
If you are planning to go somewhere remote, consider carrying a beacon (see tip 1).
Tip 9: Mentally go through scenarios and find possible solutions
This is a difficult one, but try to prepare yourself mentally for anything that could happen. Go through as many scenarios as you can and ask yourself, “If this happens, what would and should I do?”
The view from one of 5 scenic lookouts in Queenstown
People say that you cannot mentally prepare yourself for situations, but I’ve proven time and again that you can.
One incident I will never forget is a close bear encounter I had in Alberta, Canada.
I was alone and had I not prepared myself prior or read all of the tips on how to deal with bears, I would not have been able to remain calm or alert others of the imminent danger.
By the way, we don’t have bears here in New Zealand.
Tip 10: Diversify the places where you keep your money
This last piece of advice comes from my late mother who always said, “Do not keep all of your money in one place.”
In addition to carrying some cash, carry credit cards and traveler’s checks, and keep them all in separate places.
Know the emergency number (111) to dial and the location of any police stations in or near the places you’ll be visiting.
Never pick up hitchhikers!
Final words on staying safe in New Zealand
Do not be afraid to visit New Zealand, but don’t be negligent either of the dangers. New Zealand is like any other country in the world, so take the same safety precautions you would take in any other country in the world.
Enjoy New Zealand and its people when you visit. It’s one of the most gorgeous countries in the world.
This article falls under Travel Guide.
Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details
directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.