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Already open to US travelers, New Zealand has more reopening plans for summer

May 12, 2022
6 min read
New Zealand
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Editor’s note: This is post has been updated with new information.


After spending the last two-plus years in virtual isolation from the rest of the world, New Zealand is once again open to travelers from the U.S. and numerous other countries. The country announced plans this week to reopen to the entire world earlier than expected — within the next couple of months.

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Home to some of the world’s most stringent COVID-19 protocols during the pandemic, New Zealand sealed off its borders with practically ironclad entry restrictions. While the move kept the virus from running rampant in the country during a good portion of the pandemic, it also was devastating for New Zealand’s tourism sector.

Earlier this spring, though, the reopening began. After welcoming vaccinated Australian visitors, New Zealand took a major step at the start of May by allowing entry of vaccinated visitors traveling from visa-waiver countries, including the U.S.

While the COVID-19 entry requirements remained strict, it was still exciting to see some tourists booking trips to a country that is – for many – a bucket list destination.

(Photo by wnjay_wootthisak/Getty Images)

This week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country will open up further this summer. Beginning July 31, New Zealand’s borders will open to the rest of the world – months earlier than expected. With this change, the government will also simplify some of its immigration procedures, particularly for workers, because New Zealand businesses have found skilled labor to be a “major constraint” as the country reopens, Ardern said.

Related: How to get to (and stay in) New Zealand on points and miles

The impact of the two-year border closure and the staffing challenges amid reopening appeared to be front of mind as Ardern announced the summer measures this week. She noted the measures are intended “to address the immediate skill shortages in New Zealand and speed up the economic recovery from COVID-19.”

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New Zealand health officials did not announce any changes to its strict health restrictions like vaccination and testing, so if you’re planning or preparing to travel to the country, anticipate that you’ll have to follow the protocols.

As tourists again plan trips to New Zealand and airlines reinstate long-haul flights, there remain some important protocols you’ll need to follow.

Uploading information

In order to travel to New Zealand, you’ll have to fill out a Traveller Declaration, which is the country’s online portal for sharing personal information and health data.

The screenshot below shows some of the information you’ll want to have handy as you fill out the form. The data includes your passport information, emergency contact and flight details as well as pandemic-era provisions like your testing, vaccination and recent travel history.

(Screenshot from travellerdeclaration.govt.nz)

In order to travel to New Zealand at this point, you must be fully vaccinated.

Predeparture testing

As you head to New Zealand, you’ll have to go through a series of three different tests. The first test is a predeparture test.

This can include a PCR test taken within 48 hours of departure, or a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours.

Again, you’ll upload your results as part of the Traveller Declaration form online.

Post-arrival testing

Upon arrival in New Zealand, you’ll be given a “welcome pack” after going through customs. This pack will include two rapid antigen tests for you to take during your first few days in the country.

New Zealand health officials will require you to report the results, even if they’re negative.

The expectation is that you’ll take the first test on the day you arrive, or on your first full day in the country. The second of the two tests should be taken on your fifth or sixth day in the country.

Tourism fee

Since it was a moot point over the last couple years, tourists may have forgotten that several months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand became the latest country to implement a sort of "tourist tax," which the country calls its International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy.

Under the levy, visitors from most other countries will have to pay 35 New Zealand dollars (about $24) to enter.

It’s important to note that the country’s top tourism official spoke earlier this year about the likelihood that officials will raise that fee in the future.

So, if you’re planning travel to New Zealand a few months or a year down the road, expect a potential increase in cost.

Milford Sound on New Zealand's South Island. (Photo by wootthisak-nirongboot/Getty Images)

Current CDC health status

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently ranks New Zealand at Level 3 on its Travel Health Notices, indicating "high" levels of COVID-19 spread.

Keep in mind, though, that the agency ranks many of the world’s most populous countries at Level 3, including virtually all of Europe as well as the U.S.

Related: My dream trip to New Zealand on points and miles

Bottom line

Closed off for most of the last two years, New Zealand is continuing on its reopening trajectory. After taking a major step forward this month by allowing travelers in from visa-waiver countries like the U.S., the country is planning to open its borders to the rest of the world by midsummer.

As you plan to travel, keep a close eye on the country’s COVID-19 protocols, including the specifics of its testing protocols, since New Zealand continues to operate under a strict, three-test series.

At the same time, tourists who have long hoped to make it to New Zealand can celebrate the fact that travel to one of the world’s most beautiful countries is back.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023