If you think “Fortress Australia” was bad, wait till you get a load of New Zealand.
New Zealand shut its borders back in March 2020, and as recently as February this year, was talking about admitting tourists only from July, with a 10-day quarantine on arrival. Needless to say no tourist was ever going to agree to that, and thankfully common sense prevailed with the reopening brought forward to May, sans quarantine.
While most people might prefer to see New Zealand in summer, there’s a certain beauty to late fall/early winter conditions too. So I’ll be heading over as soon as the borders open next week, and exploring the following places in South Island.
- Days 1-3: Queenstown
- Day 4: Te Anau/Milford Sound
- Day 5: Queenstown
- Day 6-7: Wanaka
- Day 8: Mount Cook
- Day 9: Lake Tekapo
- Day 10: Christchurch
Here’s the game plan.
|🇳🇿 Journey to Middle Earth|
Travel to New Zealand: Pre-Departure Checklist
|✈️ Checklist for travel to New Zealand|
|NZ Travel Checklist|
As a reminder, New Zealand reopens its borders to nationals of visa-waiver countries from 2 May 2022, with a general opening expected to take place from October 2022.
International travellers will need to satisfy the following requirements.
|🇳🇿 New Zealand Visa-Waiver Countries|
|1. Citizens only|
2. Residents with HKSAR or British National–Overseas passports only
3. Citizens only
4. Citizens only
5. Only if you have a Macau Special Administrative Region passport
6. If you have the right to live permanently in Portugal
7. If you are a permanent resident
8. If you are travelling on a UK or British passport that shows you have the right to reside permanently in the UK
9. Including USA nationals
An NZeTA is valid for unlimited entries over a two-year period, and costs:
On top of this, an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) of NZD$35 must be paid at the time of applying for an NZeTA, so the total cost will be at least NZD$44 (~S$40).
The NZeTA app is simple enough to use, and I was particularly impressed that when I scanned my passport, the system recognised that I had an APEC Business Travel Card. My records were updated automatically, and I didn’t have to pay any fees.
The MileLioness does not have an APEC card, so she applied via the usual route. This involves scanning your passport, taking a selfie and confirming your personal details. Approval for her was instant, but YMMV.
AMEX, Mastercard and Visa are all accepted for payment, and be sure to pay with an AMEX-issued card if you want to earn points (since it’s likely a government MCC).
NZ Traveller Declaration
|NZ Traveller Declaration|
All arrivals to New Zealand by air (regardless of age) must complete a New Zealand Traveller Declaration prior to check-in. This is free of charge; beware of lookalike websites that levy a fee!
Completing the declaration requires:
- Flight number and date of arrival to New Zealand
- Passport details
- COVID-19 vaccination certificate or exemption
- COVID-19 pre-departure test results
- Contact details in New Zealand
- Emergency contact
- 14-day travel history
You can start a Declaration 28 days before departure. However, since pre-departure test results must be provided, you won’t be able to submit the Declaration until 24 hours before departure (assuming you’re using an ART). Partial progress can be saved and continued later, via a code sent to your email.
We recommend you start your declaration as soon as possible and complete all steps except uploading your pre-departure test. Your declaration will be automatically saved and a link will be emailed to you.
-NZ Traveller Declaration
If you’re like me, your declaration will look like this right up until your complete the pre-departure test.
Successful completion of the NZ Traveller Declaration generates a Traveller Pass with a QR code, which you’ll need to show at check-in and upon arrival in New Zealand.
Pre-departure and on-arrival COVID-19 test
Travellers to New Zealand must present a negative result from one of the following COVID-19 tests:
- A supervised rapid antigen test (ART/RAT) administered within 24 hours before your first international flight to New Zealand.
- A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test administered within 48 hours before your first international flight to New Zealand.
- A supervised loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test administered within 24 hours before your first international flight to New Zealand.
Supervised antigen tests are acceptable, which are available from S$12 (plus the cost of your own ART kit) in Singapore.
A list of approved ART kits in New Zealand can be found here. The following approved kits are sold in Singapore, so I’d recommend using one of these for your pre-departure test:
- BD Kit for Rapid Detection of SARS-CoV-2
- BIOCREDIT COVID-19 Ag Home Test
- FlowFlex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test
- PanBio COVID-19 Ag Rapid
- Standard Q COVID-19 Ag Test
In addition to pre-departure testing, New Zealand requires visitors to conduct self-testing:
- On arrival
- On Day 5 or 6 (the day of arrival is Day 0)
Travellers will receive a pack of ART kits on arrival in New Zealand, free of charge.
No isolation is required before/after either test. Results from both tests (whether positive or negative) must be reported via a link that will be sent upon completing the Traveller Declaration.
You must report both RAT results, whether you test negative or positive.
You will receive an email from the New Zealand Ministry of Health after you complete your traveller declaration. Follow the instructions in the email and report your results using the link in the email.
You can also call the COVID-19 Test Results Line and leave a message with your result.
Call: 0800 432 010
|✈ Journey to Middle Earth: Flights|
Arrive: 1220 (+1)
|Cost: 124,000 miles + S$142|
While I’m only intending to explore South Island, I have to fly into Auckland first because the Christchurch flight doesn’t operate daily.
From Auckland, I’ll connect to an Air New Zealand flight to Queenstown (cash ticket), rent a car, drive up to Christchurch and fly home from there.
For the flights to and from Singapore, I paid 124,000 KrisFlyer miles and S$142 in taxes per person in Business Class. Those are Saver prices, mind you, and not easy to find. Advantage awards start from 90,000 miles per person, and even those are spotty for the next few months. Safe to say, we won’t see New Zealand appearing on Spontaneous Escapes anytime soon…
SQ285/298 are operated by A350-900s; for a review of the Business Class experience on this aircraft, refer to the posts below:
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge Changi
I was hoping that the new SilverKris First Class and KrisFlyer Gold Lounges would have opened by the time I take this trip, but no luck. The latest intel says we’re looking at a late May opening at best.
In the meantime, all the demand has to be soaked up by the SilverKris Business Class Lounge, and I understand the crowding situation has deteriorated significantly since my visit in November 2021. During peak periods, seats are impossible to find, showers have multi-hour waits, and guests are sometimes turned away at the door and sent to the neighbouring SATS Premier Lounge (which while decent is nowhere near the calibre of the SilverKris).
This will be my first visit to the SilverKris lounge during the evening rush (all my other visits so far have been in the morning), and I’ll share some insights into the situation where possible.
Air New Zealand Domestic Lounge Auckland
When connecting from Auckland to Queenstown, I’ll be able to visit the Air New Zealand Domestic Lounge, courtesy of my Star Gold status. This lounge was refurbished in early 2020, and looks pretty impressive for a domestic facility with a barista station, ample views of the runway and showers.
Air New Zealand Lounge Christchurch
Singapore Airlines uses the Air New Zealand Lounge at Christchurch Airport, which is surprisingly difficult to find reviews for online. I guess it’s up to me to add to the body of knowledge on this!
New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of points options outside the major cities, so most of the hotels I booked are off-network (except Hotel St. Moritz, which is part of the Accor chain).
In case you’re interested:
- Queenstown: Kamana Lakehouse, Hotel St. Moritz
- Te Anau: Aden Motel
- Mount Cook: Aoraki Court Motel
- Wanaka, Lake Tekapo: Airbnb
- Christchurch: Airport Christchurch Motel
I don’t intend to review any of those, but would be happy to give a one paragraph summary if anyone asks.
I’m doing a one-way rental from Queenstown to Christchurch, and booked a mid-size SUV with Apex Car Rentals at NZ$587 (~S$533) for 10 days.
I wouldn’t say Apex was my first choice, but the cost is significantly less than what other agencies were asking for (~NZ$900+ for one-way SUV rental), and the Queenstown outfit scores decent enough ratings on Google with an average of 4/5.
This rental comes with a NZ$2,000 excess, and since my Singlife travel insurance policy covers S$1,500 of rental car damage, I don’t plan to purchase any additional coverage.
If your rental doesn’t come with insurance, I’d recommend skipping the options offered by the agency and just buy a plan from a 3rd party insurer like Worldwide Insure.
|⚕️ Testing: Singapore-New Zealand Travel|
|🇸🇬 Singapore||24h before departure (ART)||From S$12|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||On-arrival (ART)||FOC|
|🇳🇿 New Zealand||Day 5 or 6 (ART)||FOC|
Singapore has scrapped pre-departure testing for all fully vaccinated travellers, effective 26 April, so all that’s necessary is to comply with New Zealand’s testing regime.
As mentioned earlier, this involves 3x ARTs, one of which (pre-departure) is supervised, and the other two (on-arrival, post arrival) unsupervised. Since New Zealand distributes test kits on arrival, the total testing costs will be less than S$20 for most people.
Returning to Singapore
Returning to Singapore is simpler than ever before, thanks to the launch of the Vaccinated Travel Framework (VTF) and the scrapping of pre-departure testing. All fully vaccinated travellers only need to complete an SG Arrival Card– that’s it!
There is no need to take designated flights or apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass.
For the full rundown, refer to the article below.
New Zealand will be opening its borders to Singaporeans and nationals of other visa-waiver countries from 2 May, and if you’ve been itching to visit, stay tuned for this series of reports!
Anything else you’d recommend seeing, given the itinerary I have?