Traveling New Zealand alone
Get 10 tips on how you, as a female traveler, can prepare for solo travel in New Zealand, and get the inside scoop on how I myself travel New Zealand alone.
Perhaps you may be wondering whether traveling alone in New Zealand is such a good idea or whether it is safe for a young woman to travel alone in New Zealand, which is why I’m taking the time now to write this article.
And as I write this article, I’m speaking from personal experience, because I’ve been there.
First I’ll give you a list of things you can do if you’re planning to travel alone to and in New Zealand.
Then I’ll tell you a bit about my own personal journey traveling alone as a young female in New Zealand.
I’ve also included two photographs from my first solo trip to New Zealand.
While I was traveling alone, I did book activities, such as for example a glacier walk at Fox Glacier, where I got to meet other people and be part of a group.
But first, let’s take a look at the tips…
10 Tips for female solo travelers to New Zealand
Here’s a list of tips I’ve successfully used as a solo traveler to/in New Zealand but also elsewhere in the world.
1. Study New Zealand before you arrive
As you’ll read later on in my own story of traveling alone, when I arrived in New Zealand, I knew exactly what to expect and where to go.
I didn’t have to ask anyone anything, because I had done my homework. You can do the same.
Most airports have their own websites and provide maps. The major airports in New Zealand are located in: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, and Queenstown. These airports get international flights.
By studying airport maps for example, you can easily get an idea of how and where you’ll be walking, where to pick up your luggage, where to get something to eat, where to catch a taxi, etc. etc.
The key is to gather as much information as you can before you arrive so that you can pretend you’re a local when you’re here. New Zealand is so culturally diverse that nobody will notice that you are not a local if you act like one.
This should build your confidence and kill any fears you may have, because most of the time we fear what we don’t know.
I’ve literally studied all of the countries and places I’ve visited in my life. So much so that everywhere I went, locals thought I was also a local. You need to try to blend in with the locals, not stick out as a foreigner, because the latter will make you an easy target.
Study all of the locations you’ll be visiting. You can find a lot of information by searching the Internet.
If possible, buy a road map of New Zealand before you arrive and start looking at where the places you’ll be visiting are located.
If you’ll be doing walks, go to the Department of Conservation’s website and look up information on the walks.
2. Avoid remote and deserted places
It is always better to have other tourists or groups of people hanging around than it is to walk or be somewhere all by yourself, especially if it is somewhere you don’t know.
Guided glacier walk at Fox Glacier on the South Island
So if you choose to go for a walk, choose a popular walking track – one that other tourists or hikers are also likely to be doing – instead of a remote and deserted one.
3. Familiarize yourself with walking tracks
If you’re going to do a walk somewhere, know what kind of terrain you’ll be entering. Carry enough food, water, a rain coat or jacket, and warm clothing with you. Know how long the walk will take. Carry a map and compass and know how to use them.
And don’t forget to let someone know – a motel owner or person where you’re staying – where you’ll be going and when you expect to be back, so that they can raise the alarm, that is, call the police, if you go missing.
If hiking is something new to you, you may want to join a hiking club in your area and do some walks in your own country first before you come over.
4. Follow your gut instincts
If a situation seems life threatening to you, it probably is. Trust your innermost feelings, act upon them, and get out of dangerous or threatening situations as quickly as you can.
5. Do not hitchhike
Hitchhiking is not safe anymore in New Zealand. A few hitchhikers have lost their lives in the past.
The opposite is also true: do not pick up any hitchhikers, because you don’t know who you’ll be carrying in your car.
6. Lock up your car
While this is not a guarantee for thieves not to break into your car if you’ve rented one, it is the most sensible thing to do when you’re going for a walk somewhere or have even briefly stopped and are a few meters away from your car.
In addition, never leave valuables in your car. This includes laptops, iPhones, digital cameras, or anything else that can be stolen and exchanged for money.
And as soon as you’re in your car, lock all of the doors and turn up the windows. This might seem a little bit paranoid, but I’ve used this method everywhere I’ve gone – so not only in New Zealand – and have never been carjacked.
I do the same with hotel and motel rooms, by the way. As soon as I’m inside, I lock up.
7. Know how long your drive will take
Some places in New Zealand do not have an abundance of gas (petrol) stations. So if you know that you’re going to go for a long drive, fill up the tank before you leave.
You can easily get a rough idea of how long a drive will take by making use of the North Island distances and South Island distances pages here on my website.
On the West Coast for example, you can drive for miles and miles without seeing another car or petrol station or even a house.
8. Stop and ask for directions but not always
If you get lost, stop and ask for directions. You need to be careful, though, where you stop and whom you ask. Trust your instincts on this one.
If you get lost at night, look for a well-lit petrol station, stop, study your map, and try to figure out where you are.
Another way of not getting lost is renting a car that has a GPS navigational system. I’ve never rented one, because I can read maps, but it might be something to look into if you have difficulty reading maps.
9. Diversify the money you are carrying
Do not only walk with a credit card and a bank card, but also carry cash, and perhaps also travelers checks.
In addition, find out from your bank whether you can use their cards in ATMs here in New Zealand. Not all cards work in all ATMs.
There is nothing more unpleasant than your transactions being declined because the technology used by your foreign bank card is incompatible with the ATMs here in NZ.
And finally, don’t put all of your money in one place.
10. Be alert to what is happening around you
If you’re walking somewhere, be alert to anyone who might be following you. If you think somebody is following you, find a public place with lots of people, stop walking, and wait for that person to walk past you.
If anyone attacks you, scream for help. New Zealanders are very social people who are not afraid to take action if someone is being hurt.
I’ve listed a few other tips I’ve not mentioned here in the article 10 Tips for staying safe in New Zealand.
My personal experience with solo travel in New Zealand
I first came to New Zealand in 2001 as a young female tourist. I had been wanting to visit New Zealand ever since I was 12 years old, so I made it the number one destination on my – at the time – long list of places I wanted to see.
Unfortunately, when I had mustered up enough money to visit New Zealand, I couldn’t find anybody to accompany me nor was I able to make anyone who had time and/or money enthusiastic enough for this beautiful country.
So I was left with two options: stay home and never see any of the countries I wanted to see, or go it alone. Needless to say, I chose the latter.
Once I had decided to do what I wanted to do, I cheerfully started planning my trip. Yes, I arranged everything from flights to car rentals, ferry transfers, scenic flights, etc. etc. I basically became my own travel agent and still am till this day – it’s a fun thing to do.
When the day arrived, I packed my bags and my brother dropped me off at the airport. That was the start of my journey.
To say that I was not afraid would be a lie. As I sat at the airport waiting to board my plane, I suddenly became aware of what I was about to do: embark on a journey all by myself to the other side of the world no less!
But for me, at that moment, there was no turning back. So that sudden instance of realization and fear left me as soon as it had hit me.
I can remember talking to a stewardess on the airplane, and all she kept saying was that I was brave to do what I was going to do.
I can remember going through Kuala Lumpur airport and acting like I had often traveled through that airport and that it was totally familiar to me.
And then I remember arriving in Auckland and walking straight to the shuttles as if I were living in New Zealand and knew exactly where I had to be.
And there lies the trick to going anywhere alone: You have to be thoroughly prepared and know what to expect, and then carry yourself with confidence, not fear of the unknown.
That trip to New Zealand was the first trip I ever went on alone. When I got back, I was a totally different person.
Colleagues even asked me where I had been to and what had happened to me because I looked different.
Little did they know… the following had happened to me:
- For the first time in my life, I drove on the left side of the road, and found out that it is not difficult to drive in New Zealand.
- I got lost in the bushes on Mt. Taranaki, ran out of food and water, but eventually found my way back to my car.
- I was dropped off by a water taxi and then hiked 9 hours straight in Abel Tasman National Park to get back to my car. I almost did not make it back before dusk and was crippled the following day.
- I lost my ice stick in a crevice on Fox Glacier and the alpine guide told me not to go after it.
- I got a flat tire (or tyre if you’re British) in the middle of nowhere and had to change it myself. By the way, that was the first time in my life I changed a car tire.
[Photo: Alpine guide at Fox Glacier on the West Coast (51 KB)]
And the good thing is: I would not change anything about that trip or what happened to me during that trip, because I learned from it and grew. I had serious fun three weeks long.
My solo trip to New Zealand made me grow as a person. It gave me the boost of confidence I needed to begin traveling all over the world, alone.
Today I can say that I’ve seen all of the places I’ve wanted to see in my life before my 33rd birthday, and I did it all because I took that first step to travel to New Zealand alone. I often call that trip my trip to total independence.
Times have changed, but today I still travel all around the country alone. I still hike alone, go to remote places alone (for example, to see Lord of the Rings scenery), drive alone, and climb mountains alone (for example, Mount Roy in Wanaka).
If I have done it and still do it, so can you. Don’t be afraid of coming to New Zealand and going at it alone, but do take the necessary precautions.
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.