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Safety in New Zealand

A country's safety record is a major factor for many tourists. After all, most people want pleasant surprises on vacation, and that usually means traveling to safe destinations. There is, of course, a niche group of thrill-seekers who enjoy venturing into countries with complex social and criminal situations. If you're not one of those adrenaline junkies, New Zealand might be perfect for you. For many years running, our country has consistently ranked among the top five most peaceful nations according to the Global Peace Index. This prestigious ranking considers both internal safety for residents and the level of aggression a country projects outwards.

Safety in New Zealand. Tours to New Zealand. Guide in New Zealand.

Over the 40 years from 1980 to 2019, the crime rate in New Zealand has more than halved. This includes a significant decline in even the most serious crimes, such as murder. In 2019, there were only 53 homicides committed, mostly on domestic grounds. (Note that New Zealand has a population of around 5 million, not 4.8 million.)

The biggest concern for tourists is theft from cars and houses. Be vigilant and avoid leaving valuables, especially documents, in unattended vehicles. I've been living in New Zealand for 5 years now, and while there was one unpleasant incident of theft from tourists in my experience, it's important to note that there are many stories of lost items being returned, including documents and money. This highlights the honesty and friendliness of most New Zealanders.

Here's a personal anecdote: Unfortunately, one of my tourists had their bag stolen from a parked minivan in Auckland, near a local attraction. The thief broke the rear window and took their money and documents. Thankfully, the culprit was caught three months later and forced to repay the damages. However, it certainly caused a lot of inconvenience.

Overall, New Zealand is a very safe country with a low crime rate. By taking some basic precautions, you can ensure a worry-free and enjoyable vacation.


Speaking about tourist safety, we can't ignore road fatalities. While there were 353 road deaths in New Zealand in 2019, this actually shows a slight decrease from 377 in 2018. Left-hand drive can be a challenge for new arrivals, but speeding and driving under the influence remain the biggest causes of accidents.

The maximum speed limit on most New Zealand roads is 100 km/h (62 mph). However, two specific highways near Hamilton and Tauranga have a limit of 110 km/h (68 mph). Speed cameras are common on major highways, especially approaching cities. In rural areas, you're more likely to encounter police patrol cars with radar.

New Zealand police are generally friendly and helpful. However, it's still important to follow traffic rules to avoid fines. Even minor speeding violations (as low as 5 km/h over) can be penalized. To avoid delays, pay any fines promptly online at Here's why prompt payment is important: Unpaid fines can lead to a "debt to the Crown," which restricts travel to New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, and other Commonwealth countries with the Queen of Great Britain as head of state. When receiving a fine, request a physical copy from the officer instead of mailed notification. If the fine goes to your rental car company, they'll deduct the amount from your credit card, likely adding a processing fee.

Safety in New Zealand. Tours to New Zealand. Guide in New Zealand.

Toll Roads in New Zealand

New Zealand has relatively few toll roads, which are clearly marked with large signs as you approach them. These signs provide information on how to pay the toll or how to avoid the toll road altogether.

Toll payments can be made online at within 5 days of using the toll road. There are no toll booths on the roads themselves.

The toll for a standard passenger car is NZD 2.40, which is a nominal fee. If you do not pay within 5 days, a NZD 30 penalty will be added to the toll amount. The penalty will then be sent to your car rental company, who will likely add their own processing fee. As a result, the total amount you owe could increase by 25-30 times the original toll.

Hiring a Driver-Guide

If you are hiring a driver-guide in New Zealand, ensure they have a Passenger Endorsement, which is a special license required for carrying paying passengers. If your guide does not have this endorsement, it could significantly impact your plans. If you are pulled over by the police, your unlicensed guide will not be able to continue the tour.

Additionally, the vehicle you are traveling in with the driver-guide must have special certification from the New Zealand Transport Agency. This requirement does not apply to rental cars that tourists drive themselves.

Safety in New Zealand. Tours to New Zealand. Guide in New Zealand.

Be especially cautious on ocean beaches with multiple breaking waves. These areas may have rip currents.

If you have the misfortune of experiencing an accident in New Zealand, dial 111 immediately. This is the emergency number for ambulances, police, firefighters, and rescue services.

All individuals in New Zealand, including tourists, are covered for accident-related injuries by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), a government agency. This means medical expenses from a road accident will be covered by ACC. However, for illnesses, you'll need to pay for medical care upfront and then file a claim with your travel insurance company. Don't skip travel insurance – it can save you from significant financial burdens.

Wouldn't you know it, I recently found myself needing a New Zealand ambulance for the first time in my life. True, my injury debut wasn't a broken arm or leg, but a crick in the neck. Turns out, sand dune boarding can be quite dangerous – a small mound transformed into a serious springboard. I flew head over heels, mentally bidding farewell to my spine (thankfully, I didn't lose consciousness).

Bystanders were quick to respond, and an Australian doctor happened to be nearby. Within 10-15 minutes, I was able to walk down the mountain myself, albeit with a significant amount of pain in my neck and back.

From the hotel, I dialed 111. The operator asked a series of questions that seemed a bit excessive for the situation. However, the ambulance arrived within 50 minutes. The paramedics were attentive and cheerful – a woman in her mid-30s and a man in his late 50s, both clad in crisp dark green uniforms. They examined me, took my vitals, and transported me to the hospital in the nearby town of Kawakawa. The ambulance interior was impressively equipped with the latest technology. The male paramedic sat beside me throughout the ride, chatting and answering my cautious questions while his partner drove.

At the hospital, they quickly transferred me to a gurney. Nurses rushed to my side, followed by a doctor. The examination was understandably painful, and tears streamed down my face. Thankfully, the Italian nurse with the endearing accent held my hand comfortingly throughout the process.

Safety in New Zealand. Tours to New Zealand. Guide in New Zealand.

They performed blood and urine tests, then fitted me with a very uncomfortable neck brace. Thankfully, I kept my phone with me and was able to call my husband, who arrived shortly after. They allowed him to see me without asking for any identification.  By the way, they didn't ask me for any ID either; all my information was taken verbally.

This hospital only had X-ray facilities, so they decided to transfer me to the neighboring town of Whangarei, which had an MRI scanner. Unfortunately, I had to wait for three hours until an ambulance became available. During this time, I was kept in a private, spacious cubicle. When the ambulance arrived, I couldn't reach my husband, who I'd asked to wait in the parking lot. Thankfully, the nurse went out to find him and call him on my behalf.

The ride to Whangarei took 40 minutes, but the actual MRI scan only took 10 minutes! Afterwards, they placed me back in a cubicle to wait for the results. My husband stayed with me the entire time. After another 10 minutes, the doctor returned and explained that while the MRI didn't show any bone damage, they needed a specialist radiologist to confirm this definitively. This meant another 2 hours of waiting, most of it spent sleeplessly. In hindsight, I should have taken the pain medication they offered earlier to help me sleep. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, a relieved doctor arrived with the news: everything was clear, and I could go home! They provided me with prescriptions and a report for my insurance company. What a relief!

Summary of Impressions:


  • Quick and professional examination using advanced medical equipment (MRI scan).

  • Caring and friendly staff at both the ambulance service and hospitals.

  • Efficient system with minimal bureaucracy.

  • Free at the point of care: Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) covers medical expenses for accidents.

  • Clean and well-maintained facilities.


  • Long wait for an ambulance.


New Zealand offers a very safe environment for travelers.  The lack of dangerous wildlife adds to its appeal. You can expect a peaceful and relaxing vacation here. I wish you a safe and pleasant trip!


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