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What You Need to Know Before Traveling to New Zealand

By SammyK on Wed, Nov 26th 08 at 12:06AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

We've been to three countries so far and have not had trouble crossing any of the borders. Until today.

New Zealand - also known as "Middle Earth" is one of those hot-spot destinations that most young adventure-seekers like myself are naturally drawn to. Who wouldn't want to visit Frodo's hometown?

But this morning as we waited in the customs line, a customs official announced, "Make sure you have your passport ready as well as your proof of an exit flight."

Exit flight? We hadn't bought plane tickets to the next country yet.

Assuming that an "exit flight" was some New Zealand term for "ticket stub", I didn't worry about it too much. But then we were asked to present our proof of exit flight. We didn't have one. In response they said, "That's bad news for you."

Apparently, you can't enter New Zealand on a normal 3-month visa without purchasing your ticket out of New Zealand. Nobody told us that.

So we were escorted through several high-security rooms in the immigration section of the airport until we reached a room with nothing but two chairs, a desk, a computer and a telephone. They sat us down at the table and said we needed to purchase a ticket out of New Zealand.

We had no problem with that since we really needed to do that anyway, so we booked a flight with Air New Zealand to Sydney, Australia, printed out the receipt and handed it to the officials. They left the room with the receipt and we sat in the room alone getting ready to head out.

An official came back in and told us that since we weren't Australian citizens, we didn't have a right of visa or something like that and we needed to somehow prove we had tickets to a country that we did have a right of visa. In our case, that'd be the United States.

But wait - we aren't going to return to the States until September 2009.

That means that we had no way of proving that we were going to a country that was guaranteed to not kick us back to New Zealand. And that means, we had only two options. 1) Get deported to Argentina or 2) Buy a plane ticket back to the States.

Option 1 is just plain stupid. Option 2 is not an option. So we created a third option. Buy every plane ticket we needed up until September 2009 when we are to return to the States.

That's a lot of plane tickets. And that is also a lot of money.

Thankfully the good people at STA Travel have a location here in Auckland that we were able to call up and book all the rest of our tickets at student prices.

But we ran into a little problem - the price of the tickets was so much that our credit cards were being rejected. Then I suggested that they break up the payments into smaller charges. It worked for my card, but not for William's for some reason.

The only option we had for William was to charge William's tickets on my card as well. So I bought all the tickets for the rest of the year for both me and William. Ouch. My poor bank account.

After about 3 and half hours trying to buy all the plane tickets for the rest of our year-long journey, the customs officials were starting to get annoyed with how long it was taking and gave us an "official 15-minute time limit".

We were still on the phone with STA Travel after the 15-minutes was up. Right as they were going to pull the plug on us and... I guess deport us or something, we got the ticket confirmation in an email which is what we needed in order to stay in New Zealand.

So several thousand dollars poorer, we crossed the border into Middle Earth.


Benny Lewis wrote on November 27th 08 at 01:06AM
That's horrible! I would have thought the RTW ticket would have covered you for that... and especially that a backpacker friendly country like NZ would get it!
Unfortunately, I've also learned the hard way that "Nobody told us" will not get you out of situations like that. Before you go to any country you need to go to that country's embassy website for the States and see if you need any innoculations or if there are any visa issues, etc.
You started in south America, which has a lot of countries "officially" with the exit ticket rule, but straight-out ignore them...
Well, the most important thing is that you are good now! You may be low on cash but you were going to spend that money anyway ;)
Keep us up to date on your adventures! Buenos Aires misses you :D
Ryan wrote on November 27th 08 at 08:14AM
I guess Frodo and his friends really need to be protected by a bunch of crazy Americans. Happy Thanksgiving guys and have a wonderful time exploring Middle Earth.
Patrick & Rachel Hugens wrote on November 28th 08 at 05:12PM
I'd mentioned to William before about WWOOFing in NZ. It's a great way to meet locals.

Patrick & Rachel
Michael wrote on November 29th 08 at 07:50AM
A RTW ticket is suppose to cover this rule. Do you guys have a RTW ticket??? I've never heard of this one before.

Also, coming from South America, NZ and AUSTRALIA are now asking for a medical check for TB. I just applied for a WORKING HOLIDAY VISA in AUSTRALIA and had to pay for a TB test and send them. Later on, I got approved for the visa. Rules are getting more strict......not less when traveling around the world.

But I'm still curious about your previous TICKET ARRANGEMENTS??? Don't you have RTW tickets?
SammyK wrote on November 29th 08 at 02:21PM
@Benny Lewis: Thanks for the advice. And I miss Buenos Aires too. :(

@Ryan: Yeah, Frodo is a pansy.

@Patrick & Rachel Hugens: Thanks! We'll check it out for sure.

@Michael: We do now! We were just buying the tickets one at a time because it was more flexible and plus we could do it cheaper that way. Oh well.
AF wrote on December 21st 08 at 11:40AM
Aw, you guys are cute. Most countries don't allow you in without a ticket out. The US is infamous for this. They want to make sure that you aren't going to stay there forever. It totally makes sense what immigration did to you. You are just lucky that they gave you the chance to buy more tickets. Some countries(like our good ol' US of A) would just have deported you back to where you came from without a question. So those Kiwis were super nice to you American boys.
Julie wrote on May 21st 09 at 11:08AM
I know that hindsight's 20/20 and you did the best could at that moment, but you could've just bought a fully refundable ticket back to the US and then changed it once you were in NZ.
kevo wrote on June 30th 09 at 04:52PM
good to know... thanks I'm in the purchasing of major airfare right now. such a pain.
DiannaBananna wrote on October 16th 10 at 02:18AM
I am an American living in OZ for the past year who waited until the last day of my visa to travel to New Zealand ... without an exit ticket. Seriously, they said I would have to buy a ticket to the US since it's the only other place that I was legally allowed to enter, but that I'd have to wait for it to be confirmed, a process that would take longer than I had before my plane was taking off. Needless to say, I'm now in OZ illegally and I'm going to meet with an immigration officer on Monday so I can get on my new flight to NZ monday night. If I'm not deported of course. I wish I read this about 6 hours ago. I kinda get why so many Americans never travel. VISA regulations suck!
artphilly wrote on December 29th 10 at 04:09PM
Hopefully this will clear things up.... I simply checked on the NZ Embassy's website before buying my ticket to NZ. I wanted to make sure I didn't need a visa, as was the case with OZ.

Immigration Act 2009
The Immigration Act 2009 came into force on 29 November 2010. The new Act modernises New Zealand’s immigration laws. However, it does not make major changes to the criteria under which people apply to travel to and stay in New Zealand.

Visit the Immigration New Zealand website for details of the changes.

As New Zealand and the USA have a Visa Waiver Agreement, a US passport holder:

with return air tickets., or holding a valid onwards ticket to a country the traveller has a right to enter
who has a passport valid for three months beyond the date they are leaving NZ
who has proof of sufficient funds for the duration of the visit, and
is only wishing to visit for the time granted on arrival
You may visit New Zealand as a tourist for up to three months without a visa. (If the intention is to stay longer, you should apply for a visitor's visa.)

US citizens travelling on valid "regular" US passports do not have to pay fees for visitor, work, or student visas.
SammyK wrote on December 30th 10 at 02:24AM
@artphilly - thanks so much for the info! Researching a country a little bit before visiting makes a huge difference. :)
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