Pinterest Facebook Instagram
seasonal work backpackers

New Zealand Health Service

As holiday destinations go it doesn\'t get much safer than New Zealand. This is a country blissfully free of snakes or wild animals which might cause injury or harm (although some back country folk will tell you the wild pigs are not to be messed with). On top of that, the standards of public and private healthcare and facilities are exemplary.

However, accidents and illnesses can happen to anyone at anytime and although the healthcare might be of a high standard it is not free in most cases. This is also true for Kiwis themselves who are entitled to government subsidised healthcare but still have to pay for all kinds of medical treatment to varying extents. This is an important point to note with regard to reciprocal health agreements which are held between New Zealand and the UK and are explained in more depth further on.

Here we explain the systems to you and what you need to know with regard to healthcare while you are in this wonderful country whether you are playing or working. 

Before You Leave

Vaccinations – There are currently no vaccinations required for travel to New Zealand. However, if you are likely to be working – particularly outdoors and in farming or gardening capacities - your doctor will probably advise you to get up to date with tetanus shots.

Prescription medication - If you will be bringing a sizeable amount of prescription medicines into New Zealand you are advised to get a doctor's certificate to avoid problematic hold-ups and potential confiscations at customs.

Travel insurance - Because medical attention in New Zealand for overseas visitors typically has costs involved it is strongly advised that you take out comprehensive travel insurance. This also applies to UK citizens who, although benefiting from the reciprocal health agreement scheme, will still fall well-short of total costs cover.

There are more companies than you can shake a stick at who are scrambling to sell backpackers travel insurance which means lots of deals and competitive prices. For more information on travel insurance you can read our guide here.

If you are intending to travel to New Zealand on a visa under the Working Holiday Scheme you will need to check the small-print of any policy carefully as some insurances are automatically null and void if you undertake any work – both voluntary and paid. If in doubt contact your insurance company rather than paying for something which is useless to you. For more information on travel insurance you can read our guide here.

Sun Protection - It's a cloudy day in Kiwiland and you're used to being out in the sun for long periods so you can scrimp a little on the sun protection – right? Wrong! Australia and New Zealand sit underneath a hole in the ozone layer. This means being outside can fry you to a crisp even in the most overcast conditions and even if you have a whole glowing tan going on already from your beach time in Thailand. You have been warned.

New Zealand Healthcare and Medical Attention for Visitors

For Australian and UK citizens - New Zealand currently has reciprocal healthcare agreements with both Australia and the UK. PLEASE NOTE – this doesn't mean you get free healthcare but rather, you are entitled to the same publicly-funded subsidised benefits as a New Zealander. 

Not all medical related services are publicly funded, however the following are covered under the public health system:

  • Free public hospital treatment, including 24-hour accident and emergency services
  • Most laboratory tests and x-rays, unless made at a privately run clinic
  • Subsidised prescription medicines

In order to qualify for medical, hospital and related subsidised treatment under the reciprocal agreement, UK citizens must fulfil ALL of the following criteria:

  • they must be ordinarily resident in the UK
  • their stay in New Zealand must be temporary
  • they are in need of medical treatment which has been deemed by a doctor to be an urgent necessity
  • any condition being treated must have arisen AFTER arriving in New Zealand or have been acutely exacerbated after arrival

Dental Treatment

Dental treatment of any kind for over 18s is not subsidised which means both routine and emergency treatment will have to be paid for in full unless you have a travel insurance policy which covers you.


New Zealand has an 'Accident Compensation Scheme' which means many medical and hospital costs for visitors to the country for the treatment of injuries resulting from accidents are covered.

However, as always, the advice is still to make sure you are covered from every angle under your own travel and health insurance policy. The ACC doesn't cover for illness, disrupted travel plans or emergency repatriation (getting you home).

Seasonal Jobs Backpacker jobs Seasonal Work for backpackers Backpacker seasonal work Self Containment certificate in Auckland
Most Read Articles
Converting overseas driving licence
Check out our guide to how you convert your driving licence to a NZ one.
Fruit Pick Your Way Around NZ
Travelling can be expensive so why not supplement your travels with a bit of seasonal fruit picking work
New Zealand's Best Festival & Events
Ahhh.....where to begin? There are hundred's to choose from but here are a few of our favourites...
NZ Best Beaches - North Island
You are spoilt for choice, but here are a few of our favourite spots.
New Zealand ID cards
Lucky enough to look under 25?! Then you might want to think about getting yourself one of these.
Auckland on a Budget
If you know where to look there are loads of cool things you can do and places to stay in Auckland that won't break the bank.
Unique Activities To Do - South Island
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing the most spectacular, thrilling or awe-inspiring activities...but here are just a few of our favourites.
Rotorua on a Budget
If you are running low on travelling funds then check out our guide to grabbing a bargain in Rotorua.
Best Beaches - South Island
With so much amazing coastline on the South Island its always going to be hard to choose what the best beaches are, but here is our pick of them.
Unique Activities To Do - North Island
With so many activities on offer in the North Island it can be tricky choosing something truly memorable to do.