New Zealand border opening: 14 things you need to know before you go

Nau mai, hoki mai, tourists and backpackers of the world. We're stoked to have you back.

A lot has happened in the two years since you've been gone, and New Zealand is a bit of a different place now. So we thought we'd put together this handy guide to fill you in on some of the key changes.

Here is everything you need to know about us now.

There are five million of us.

New Zealand's population hit this significant milestone in March 2020. Ever since, our preferred collective noun has been "the team of five million".

Please note this achievement combined with plummeting sheep numbers also means you can no longer make fun of our sheep to people ratio (a mere 5:1).

Sheep farming, New Zealand two lambs looking back on hill country farm. SunJul30NewZealand - Wairarapa, NZ - Andrew Taylor Credit: iStock

No more baaaad sheep jokes, please. Photo: iStock

Our lockdowns were stricter than your lockdowns.

COVID-19 is naturally going to be a major topic of conversation when we meet again. But before we get into some sort of lockdown-measuring contest – just putting it out there that ours were almost certainly longer and harder. We couldn't even get takeaways under our level 4!

Please be especially gentle with Aucklanders, who spent a whopping 107 days in the most recent lockdown. Whatever you do, don't suggest meeting up for a picnic – it's very triggering for them.

We have a new favourite show.

If you're lucky enough to be visiting in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak, do join the nation at 1pm to tune into the latest episode of the Covid media briefing, starring Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield (remember this name – you will hear it a lot) and a rotating cast of special guests, such as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.


The latter special guest is known for conducting his press conferences in Shire-like settings.

And some new favourite expressions. image for Traveller. Single use only. A “Spread Your Legs” mug is the perfect Kiwi souvenir.

A 'Spread Your Legs' mug is the perfect Kiwi souvenir. Photo: Roberth Kitchin/Stuff

Watching the 1pm briefing doubles as a good opportunity to pick up some Kiwi slang. For example, you don't go for a walk, you "spread your legs".

We don't like freedom campers.

Gone are the days when you could come to New Zealand and merrily "s... in our waterways", as Tourism Minister Stuart Nash so delicately put it. We have rules now! Like you can only stay on council land if your campervan has a loo onboard.

Never mind that we Kiwis had to be reminded to "poo in a loo" during our outdoor explorations – clearly you guys are the dirty ones.

We don't like influencers, either.

The moment you attempt to post your "hot tub backshot" or "summit spreadeagle" photos on Instagram, Tourism New Zealand will have you arrested.

And definitely not DJs.

We will never forget that raving rascal who first brought Omicron to our fair, previously-COVID-free shores.

But we're obsessed with unruly tourists.

Aside from the above exceptions, the best way to ensure an enduring legacy in New Zealand is to behave badly – think littering, stealing from shops, and threatening locals. The nation was so transfixed by the actions of a group of British travellers in January 2019 that there is now an opera dedicated to them.

Everything is really expensive.

Supplied image for Traveller taken by Stuff writer. Not for re-use. Cheese rolls in New Zealand

Cheese rolls are now a delicacy. Photo: Alan Granville

A block of cheese will now cost you close to $20 in New Zealand, making Southland's famous cheese rolls our culinary equivalent of caviar.

The Power of the Dog is the new The Lord of the Rings.

The Power of the Dog Film stills

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Power of the Dog. 

Middle-Earth is so 20 years ago; now we're all about the American West. Adjust your sightseeing plans accordingly.

Snowboarding & skiing is so hot right now.

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Zoi Sadowski Synnott of Team New Zealand poses with her gold medal in the Women's Snowboard Slopestyle and Silver medal for the Snowboard Big Air on Day Twelve of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the Main Media Centre on February 16, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Zoi Sadowski Synnott with her gold medal in the Women's Snowboard Slopestyle and silver medal for the Snowboard Big Air. Photo: Getty Images

Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and Nico Porteous got us our first-ever Winter Olympic golds in Beijing, and we couldn't be prouder.

We have a cool new cycle trail.

The Lake Dunstan Trail opened last year, and has blown away expectations – just be sure to watch out for killer rams along the route.

Air New Zealand has new snacks.

Throughout the pandemic, our national carrier has remained focused on the important issues – like what inflight snacks the people want. Following an extensive trial, the airline added popcorn, crisps, muesli bars and chocolate to its traditional cookie offering.

And we have new sweets, too.

Buy pineapple lumps for the people you love, and feijoa lumps for the people you hate.

Our bird of the year is not a bird.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the long-tailed bat/pekapeka-tou-roa on your travels.

Siobhan Downes is a Wellington-based journalist.