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Travellers Backpacker
Although arriving by sea into New Zealand is possible should you happen to own a boat, be best buddies with some rich yacht-owner or be prepared to work your passage as boat crew, most visitors arrive by plane.

Getting to New Zealand

Flights to New Zealand are scheduled from every continent and typically arrive at the international airports of either Auckland in the North Island – which has by far the heavier traffic - or Christchurch in the South Island. If you are flying from Australia you can add another 15 or so regional airports to the possible arrival airport list. In real terms, this means of course you can buy flights to say Wellington or Dunedin for example but by the rules listed above they will stop either somewhere in Australia or at Auckland/Christchurch first.

Prices vary vastly and quite what you will pay depends on a whole range of factors perhaps most significantly influenced by the time of year. Typically speaking flights around Christmas are the highest which is fairly true of destinations worldwide anyway. Otherwise, the highest priced flights are during New Zealand's summer which is December to February. Prices drop in spring (September – November) and autumn (March – May) and are generally at their lowest during the winter months of June – August which works well should you want to fit some skiing into your trip.

We probably don't need to tell you – the further ahead you book the better your deal tends to be.

The cheapest flights are those which tend to create the most inconvenience for passengers such as those with multiple stops or long layovers. However, if you are interested in visiting other countries besides New Zealand you can take advantage of this, increase your stop to a few days or more and make it work in your favour. You will usually have to speak to the airlines directly to arrange this but often there are no extra costs involved.

Many airlines will also offer an 'open jaw' ticket which makes it possible to fly out of a different airport to the one you flew into and the cost is sometimes the same so it is worth making enquiries if you don't want to double back. is a great place to start your flight search because it allows you to be non-specific and enter 'New Zealand' as a destination. The search results will then bring up your options. Additionally, if your flight dates are flexible you can search whole months and even the year to find your cheapest options. Skyscanner also provides lists of all airlines travelling to New Zealand from each departure country and gives information on the airlines which serve each regional airport in New Zealand. Good if you want to head somewhere other than Auckland or Christchurch either as a connecting flight on landing or later.

Airlines Flying Into New Zealand

Current operators which fly to New Zealand are:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Emirates
  • Air China
  • Korean Air
  • American Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines Philippine Airlines
  • ANA
  • Qantas
  • British Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Thai Airlines
  • China Eastern
  • United
  • China Southern
  • Virgin Atlantic


Of course which airlines are possible for you flight will of course depend on your departure country and airport. All of the airlines listed above are potential possibilities if you are departing from the UK.

Should you be thinking of opting for a one-way ticket you might want to think again. Anyone entering New Zealand for tourism purposes or on a working visa is usually required to show proof of onward travel from the country or risk refusal of entry.

Round the World Tickets

If New Zealand is not your only destination you might want to consider a multi-stop or RTW ticket. If you are good at sticking to planned dates and know exactly what you want to do when, these can be an economic choice with several operators – such as STA Travel – offering a range of ready-made, off-the-shelf choices.

However, backpacking is a lot about going with the flow. Things meet people......quite what you had in mind back home when you planned the trip might be very different to what you want when you actually get out there having adventures. Unless you pay premium RTW prices flight changes are typically charged at extra – sometimes LOTS extra. You might want to factor this into your sums because sometimes paying for legs of a trip separately can be cheaper in the long run. Homework required here.

Stewart Island
Stewart Island

Internal Flights

Getting from A to B in New Zealand by plane is a very real option, even for the most budget conscious thanks to a choice of operators. The leading budget airline serving the domestic New Zealand market is Aussie owned Jetstar – a Qantas owned subsidiary. Cheaper seats are sometimes also possible with Virgin Australia – formerly Virgin Blue – which was once all about the budget market but now directs its products more towards the business market.

In a direct bid to compete with the budget airlines, Air New Zealand introduced their 'Grab a Seat' service which equates to mega-cheap flights, almost always under NZ$100 and sometimes way under. Their reverse auction feature – where auctions may last only minutes – offers specific seats on specific flights. Watch the prices fall and should you be the first to place a bid you'll get the seat for that price. Mega bargains are to be had over and again but you have to be prepared to commit some time to it.

Some of the harder to get to destinations – such as Great Barrier Island, Stewart Island and the Marlborough Sounds - are also served by a variety of smaller Kiwi owned operations. These include Barrier Airlines which fly to the Great Barrier Island out of Auckland (as well as to Kaitaia, North Shore Aerodrome, Tauranga, Whangarei and Whitianga) and Stewart Island Flights, which operate three times daily between Stewart Island and Invercargill.

Sounds Air currently serves the route from Wellington to several South Island destinations which include Picton, Nelson and Blenheim as well as Taupo and Westport with new routes being added all the time.

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