A Working Holiday in New Zealand: How to Find Somewhere to Live

10 mins read
Job Seeker advice job seeker working holiday Working Holiday Visa

Welcome traveller. Your journey has no doubt been long and arduous – post-COVID international airports are no joke, am I right?! You’ve said farewell to your family, travelled across oceans to reach the ‘land of the long, white cloud’, and now you wish to lay down your weary head, in a place you’ll come to call home. For now.

Whether you’ve arrived in New Zealand on your Working Holiday or another kind of visa, finding a place to live in a new country is no small task. But fear not – I’ll be your trusty guide! In this blog, I’ll cover a lot of helpful information about the kinds of accommodation available in New Zealand, what you should consider when looking, and how to actually find a place you can call home.


Where are you heading? Picking your base location

I won’t outline the pros and cons of the various cities, towns, or destinations in New Zealand – that’s up to you! Where you want to begin your working holiday adventure will depend on your personal tastes and interests (or maybe where your bestie has ended up), and all the options are great in their own way.

If you’re not sure, I suggest visiting the Tourism NZ website, thinking about the kind of travelling you want to do, what you’d like to be near to, and what locations are likely to offer the kinds of jobs you’re interested in (see last week’s blog all about finding a job). You’ll soon have a list of viable options!

Instead, I think it’s more helpful to outline the things you need to consider when looking for a place to live, and the different types of accommodation that might work better during each of the different stages of your Kiwi adventure.


What do you need in a home?

Your list of ‘things I need in a home’ will probably be different to mine, but based on my own experience, here’s what I reckon you need to think about:

  • How long will you stay? Are you planning to travel straight away? Then short-term accommodation is fine. Already done some exploring and now need to earn cash to fund your next trip? You might need somewhere longer-term. The duration you want to stay in one spot will impact the type of place you look for.
  • Do you need public transport? This one’s a biggie. New Zealand is pretty reliant on private transport, i.e. everyone has a car! There’s public transport in the main urban centres, but outside of that – not so much.  If you don’t have a car then you’ll need to consider distance from your accommodation to the bus/train/ferry, the frequency of services, and of course, the cost.
  • Do you want local amenities? Would you like to be near shops, pubs, the gym, or the library? Do you like things a bit lively, or do you prefer peace and quiet? Your preferences will impact what living options are available to you.
  • Do you need it to be furnished? This one’s pretty straight forward: if you don’t want to have to buy a bed, fridge, or washing machine, you’re automatically going to rule out some options. Furnished accommodation is much more common in the city centres, but not very common elsewhere (even in the suburbs around the city).
  • Do you want heating/cooling? I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog; lots of older NZ houses aren’t built for the cold (or heat!) and don’t have central heating, so if you’ve come from the UK, Europe, or the US, this might take some getting used to. That said, most of NZ has a pretty mild climate, but if you like to stay toasty in winter or frosty in summer, then look for a place that’s newer, has an air conditioner/heatpump, or is fully insulated.
  • What type of space do you want? We’re talking house vs apartment vs room. If you want a large, shared living area and a decent outside space, you might want to find a proper house. But if you want to live alone, in a city centre, or with only a small household, then an apartment might be the right choice for you.
  • Who do you want to live with? Are you keen to meet local Kiwis? Would you prefer to connect with fellow travellers? Or are you happy to do your own thing? Identifying the types of people you’d like to spend time with will help you decide what type of accommodation to choose.

Hopefully once you’ve answered these questions you’ll know what to look for. Next, it’s handy to consider what stage of your Kiwi experience you’re at.


Stage 1: New to New Zealand

Hostel or Backpackers

I genuinely believe that staying in a hostel (or ‘backpackers’ as they’re commonly known here), is the perfect way to begin your time in Aotearoa, and here’s why:

  • Affordability

Hostels are often a fraction of the price of a ‘proper’ hotel, with the most budget-friendly option being a bed in a big shared dorm room, with communal bathrooms and facilities. Most hostels also offer single-sex dorm rooms, smaller shared rooms (e.g. 4-6 people), or single rooms (though these can sometimes be just as expensive as a hotel room but you still have to share amenities). I’m a huge advocate for staying at a backpackers even if you can afford to stay somewhere more expensive, because there are other benefits too…

  • Location

Most backpackers are located in city centres, which is exactly what you need when you’ve just arrived. All the shops, places to eat, and transport links are close by, and things tend to be more walkable than if you stay outside of the central city. This also means backpackers are often really close to the business district and work opportunities, depending on the type of work you’re looking for of course. Even if you’re travelling around first, there are normally hostels and backpackers in popular tourist destinations, so you can hop from one to another.

  • Community

Backpackers and hostels have really evolved over the last few years and offer lively communal spaces, activities, tours, and hosts who can help you out with local recommendations. They tend to be super social places, with a diverse crowd of people who all have something in common with you – they’re also here to explore! You’ll meet fellow travellers and new arrivals of all ages, nationalities, and walks of life. You’ll probably even meet people who are finishing up their Kiwi adventure, and will be able to share their experiences and useful tips and advice with you.

I suggest booking a bed in a backpackers for at least the first 5-10 days of your trip (if not longer) while you get settled. If you’re super organised, you can reserve your space well before you arrive, and you may be able to use the hostel to verify your address in order to set up your NZ bank account and get work ready.


Not your thing?

If you really don’t think a backpackers is for you, don’t worry! Aside from booking a hotel room, there are a few other short-term accommodation options for when you first arrive in Aotearoa. Try out the holiday house booking platforms where you can find options to suit your budget (Book a Bach, Holiday Houses), and the ubiquitous Airbnb is active in New Zealand too.


Stage 2: Somewhat Settled

Shared Accommodation

Once you’ve found your feet, connected with some like-minded travellers, and perhaps found a job, it might be time to fly that backpacker nest and find a different type of home. In New Zealand, sharing a rental home (or ‘flatting’ as Kiwis refer to it) is an ideal next home base.

Shared accommodation in New Zealand is normally a room in a ‘flat’ (house or apartment) with shared common areas, anywhere from the central business district to the suburbs or countryside. It’s a great way to meet new people (Kiwis normally call them ‘flatmates’, not often ‘housemates’), and moving in can be as simple as stuffing everything into your backpack and lugging it to your new room! The rooms are often furnished, but to varying degrees, so it pays to check what’s included.

The best ways to find shared accommodation are Trade Me flatmate listings, Facebook groups such as ‘Flatmates wanted in Auckland’, or specialty sites like Roomies. Rental prices vary lots depending on the location, so a room for a single occupant in a flat share could be anywhere from $140 per week to $450 per week. My hot tip is to make sure you find out if bills are included in the rent, or if they’re extra, as this can make all the difference to your budget!


Stage 3: Living Like a Local

Rental Property

Perhaps you’ve done quite a bit of travelling over the last few months and now you’re planning to just work and live for the next little while. Maybe you’ve even found a great group of friends and you now want to move in together. If so, it might be time to find your own property to rent. Again, this might be a house or apartment, but as always, online is where you should begin your search. The most popular places to find a rental home are Trade Me, Realestate.co.nz or Oneroof.

The other option is to directly to the property manager (real estate agents who look after rental properties and usually have a number of listings). Nationwide, some of the most well-known are Bayleys, Harcourts and Ray White, but a bit of investigation on your own, and in the location you are interested in, will yield plenty of results.

It’s worth knowing that finding your own property to rent does come with more admin and responsibilities (like paying rent and possibly buying furnishings like a fridge), but it also comes with rights. Make sure you’re clear about what’s expected from you if you’re officially a tenant, visit this government run site for impartial and legally current information.


Congratulations! You’ve found a home

That’s it for my quick guide to finding somewhere to live in New Zealand. Like many countries, Aotearoa has its share of property drama, but as with all my advice, the underlying theme is a) think about what you need and want, and b) get organised and start planning! Using this approach you will soon find somewhere lovely to live, without an issue.


Next week I’ll talk about a BIG one for travellers and new migrants to New Zealand alike: how do you meet people?? Are the Kiwis actually as friendly as everyone says? Where does one go to make new friends? I’ll meet you back here next week to answer these questions and more.

Gemma Hill
Principal Consultant

A bit about me In 2016, I arrived in New Zealand from the UK and my recruitment journey began. With experience in people focussed industries like healthcare and hospitality across the UK and…

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