Read these 10 tips on how you as a young female traveler can prepare yourself for solo travel in New Zealand, and get the inside scoop on how I myself as a female traveled and still travel New Zealand alone.
Perhaps you may be wondering whether traveling alone in New Zealand is such a good idea or whether it is safe for a young female to travel alone in New Zealand, which is why I’m taking the time now to write this article.
And as I write this article, I’m speaking from personal experience, because I’ve been there.
First I’ll give you a list of things you can do if you’re planning to travel alone to and in New Zealand.
Then I’ll tell you a bit about my own personal journey traveling alone as a young female in New Zealand.
I’ve also included two photographs from my first solo trip to New Zealand.
While I was traveling alone, I did book activities, such as for example a glacier walk at Fox Glacier, where I got to meet other people and be part of a group.
But first, let’s take a look at the tips…
Here’s a list of tips I’ve successfully used as a solo traveler to/in New Zealand, but also elsewhere in the world.
1. Study New Zealand before you arrive
As you’ll read later on in my own story of traveling alone, when I arrived, I knew exactly what to expect and where to go. I didn’t have to ask anyone anything, because I had done my homework. You can do the same.
By studying airport maps for example, you can easily get an idea of how and where you’ll be walking, where to pick up your luggage, where to get something to eat, where to catch a taxi, etc. etc.
The key is to gather as much information as you can before you arrive, so that you can pretend you’re a local when you’re here. This will build your confidence and kill any fears you may have, because most of the time we fear what we don’t know.
I’ve literally studied all of the places I’ve visited in my life. So much so that everywhere I went locals thought I was also a local. You need to try to blend in with the locals, not stick out as a foreigner, because the latter will make you an easy target.
Study all of the locations you’ll be visiting. You can find a lot of information by searching on the Internet.
If possible, buy a road map of New Zealand before you arrive here and start looking at where the places you’ll be visiting are located.
If you’ll be doing walks, go to the Department of Conservation web site and look up information on the walks.
2. Avoid remote and deserted places
It is always best to have other tourists or groups of people hanging around than walking or being somewhere all by yourself. Especially if it is somewhere you don’t know.
So if you choose to go for a walk, choose a popular walking track instead of a remote and deserted one; one that other tourists or hikers are also likely to be doing.
3. Familiarize yourself with walking tracks
If you’re going to do a walk somewhere, know what kind of terrain you’ll be entering. Carry enough food, water, a rain coat or jacket, and warm clothing with you. Know how long the walk will take. Carry a map and compass and know how to use them.
And don’t forget to let someone know (a motel owner or person where you’re staying) where you’ll be going and when you expect to be back, so that they can raise the alarm if you go missing.
If hiking is something new to you, you may want to join a hiking club in your area and do some walks in your own country first before you come over.
4. Follow your gut instincts
If a situation seems life threatening to you, it probably is. Trust your innermost feelings and act upon them, and get out of dangerous or threatening situations as quickly as you can.
5. Do not hitchhike
Hitchhiking is not safe anymore in New Zealand. A few hitchhikers have lost their lives in the past.
The opposite is also true: Do not pick up any hitchhikers, because you don’t know who you’ll be carrying in your car.
Photo: Alpine guide, Fox Glacier, West Coast, New Zealand
6. Lock up your car
While this is not a guarantee for thieves not to break into your car (if you’ve rented one), it is the most sensible thing to do when you’re going for a walk somewhere or have even stopped briefly and are a few meters away from your car.
In addition, never leave valuables in your car.
And as soon as you’re in your car, lock all of the doors and turn up the windows. This might seem a little bit paranoid, but I’ve used this method everywhere I’ve gone (so not only in New Zealand) and have never been carjacked.
I do the same with hotel and motel rooms, by the way. As soon as I’m inside, I lock up.
7. Know how long your drive will take
Some places in New Zealand do not have an abundance of gas (petrol) stations. So if you know that you’re going to go for a long drive, fill up the tank before you leave.
On the West Coast for example, you can drive for miles and miles without seeing another car, or petrol station, or even a house.
8. Stop and ask for directions, but not always
If you get lost, stop and ask for directions. You need to be careful, though, where you stop and who you ask. Trust your instincts on this one.
If you get lost at night, look for a well-lit petrol station, stop, study your map and try to figure out where you are.
Another way of not getting lost is renting a car that has a GPS navigation system. I’ve never rented one, because I can read maps, but it might be something to look into if you have difficulty reading maps.
9. Diversify the money you’re carrying
Do not only walk with a credit card and a bank card with a Cirrus logo, but also carry cash, and perhaps also travelers cheques.
In addition, find out from your bank whether you can use their cards in ATMs here in New Zealand. Not all cards work in all ATMs even if they have the Cirrus logo. There is nothing more unpleasant than your transactions being declined, because the technology used by your foreign bank card is incompatible with the ATMs here in NZ.
And finally, don’t put all of your money in one place.
10. Be alert to what’s happening around you
If you’re walking somewhere, be alert to anyone who might be following you. If you think somebody is following you, find a public place with lots of people, stop walking, and wait for that person to walk past you.
If anyone attacks you, scream for help. Kiwis are very social people who are not afraid to take action if someone is being hurt.
I’ve listed a few other tips I’ve not mentioned here in 10 Tips for staying safe in New Zealand.
I first came to New Zealand in 2001 as a young female tourist. I had been wanting to visit New Zealand since I was 12 years old and I made it the number one destination on my – at the time – long list of places I wanted to see.
Unfortunately, when I had mustered up enough money to visit New Zealand, I could find nobody to accompany me, neither was I able to make anyone who had time and/or money enthusiastic enough for this beautiful country.
So I was faced with the following two choices: 1. Stay home and never see any of the countries I wanted to see, or 2. Go at it alone. Needless to say, I chose option 2.
Once I had decided to do what I wanted to do, I cheerfully started planning my trip. Yes, I arranged everything from flights, to car rentals, ferry transfers, scenic flights, etc. etc. I basically became my own travel agent, and till this day I still am – it’s a fun thing to do.
When the day arrived, I packed my bags, my brother dropped me off at the airport and that was the start of my journey.
To say that I was not afraid would be a lie. As I sat at the airport waiting to board my aircraft, I suddenly became aware of what I was about to do: Embark on a journey all by myself, to the other side of the world no less!
But for me, at that moment, there was no turning back. So that sudden instance of realization and fear left me as soon as it had hit me.
Photo: Glacier walk, Fox Glacier, West Coast, New Zealand
I can remember talking to a stewardess on the airplane, and all she kept saying was that I was brave to do what I was going to do.
I can remember going through the airport of Kuala Lumpur and doing like I had often traveled through that airport and that it was totally familiar to me.
And then I remember arriving in Auckland and walking straight to the shuttles as if I were living in New Zealand and knew exactly where I had to be.
And there lies the trick to going anywhere alone: You have to be thoroughly prepared and know what to expect, and then carry yourself with confidence; not fear of the unknown.
That trip to New Zealand was the first trip I ever did alone. When I got back, I was a totally transformed person. Colleagues even asked me where I had been to and what had happened to me, because I looked different.
Little did they know… the following had happened to me:
And the good thing is: I would not change anything about that trip or what happened to me during that trip, because I learned from it and grew. I had serious fun, 3 weeks long.
My solo trip to New Zealand made me grow as a person. It gave me the boost of confidence I needed to begin traveling all over the world, alone. Today I can say I’ve seen all of the places I’ve wanted to see in my life (before my 33rd birthday) and I did it all because I took that first step to travel to New Zealand alone. I called that trip "my trip to total independence".
Times have changed, but today I still travel all around the country alone. I still hike alone, go to remote places alone (for example to see Lord of the Rings scenery),drive alone, and climb mountains alone (for example to the top of Mount Roy in Wanaka).
If I’ve done it and still do it, so can you. Don’t be afraid of coming to New Zealand and going at it alone, but do take the necessary precautions.
Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.