Are you planning to move to Auckland? What is it like to live in New Zealand?
In this Expat Interview, Jac shares her experience and practical tips for newcomers. You’ll learn useful information to prepare for your new life in Auckland, such as the cost of living in Auckland, how to find apartments and jobs, and other practical tips.
What is it like to live in Auckland?
Auckland—New Zealand’s largest city—is a wonderful place for expats. Nestled between two sparkling harbors and rainforest-covered mountain ranges, it’s hard to imagine a more scenic setting for a city.
While Auckland has all of the amenities you’d expect from a cosmopolitan city (good food, culture, and nightlife, to name a few!), it’s also an excellent spot for outdoor enthusiasts.
Within a short distance from the city, you can relax on a stunning beach, hike in the bush, or sail to one of the nearby islands.
I left California and moved to Auckland in 2016, and I have always considered it the best decision of my life! After living in Auckland, I moved to the country’s capital city—Wellington—before settling in my current location, Queenstown. It’s been fun to jump around the country to try living in different cities.
Auckland is a good place to start living as an expat in New Zealand because it’s got it all: plenty of jobs, an international community, a variety of apartments to choose from, amazing cafes and restaurants, and countless weekend trips close by.
How to prepare for moving to Auckland?
Before moving to Auckland, you will first want to ensure you have the applicable visa sorted before entering the country. The best way to determine which visa you’ll need is by visiting the official New Zealand Immigration website.
The New Zealand Immigration website also has a super handy tool called NZ Ready to help you plan your move to New Zealand.
I recommend completing the NZ Ready questionnaire and following the checklist that’ll populate once you’ve answered all the questions. It’s honestly a lifesaver!
The cost of living in Auckland
I’m going to be honest here: living in Auckland (and in New Zealand in general) is expensive.
Many people rent a room in a house with others (flatshare) to save on housing costs. If you do choose to flatshare, you can expect to pay much less for a room in a house, and you’ll also split the cost of internet and utilities with your flatmates. Flatsharing is extremely common in Auckland, especially for people in their 20’s and early-mid 30’s.
I have always rented my own apartment with my partner rather than flat-sharing, but I did want to mention the option for anyone looking for a more budget-friendly lifestyle!
|Rental price (one-bedroom flat)||$2,000+ per month (but note that rent prices are usually quoted per week in New Zealand)|
|Utilities (Electricity, Gas, Heating, Water)||$220|
|Prepaid cell phone plan||$20-$75, depending on how much data you’d like|
|Transportation||$215 for a monthly bus/train pass; if you’re planning to drive everywhere, petrol is currently around $2.99 per liter.|
|Average meal/ person||$25 for a meal and coffee at a cafe; $50+ for dinner and a drink at a nice restaurant.|
|Total||$3,045 – $3,200|
What salary do you need to live in Auckland?
I think you’d need a monthly salary of at least $4,500 per month (as a solo person) to have a comfortable lifestyle in Auckland.
This could be less if you share a flat with flatmates or if you walk everywhere rather than drive or take the bus/train.
Where to live in Auckland? – The best areas to stay
The Auckland CBD (city center) is a popular place for apartment living. There are lots of apartments in the city center, and you’ll be within walking distance to heaps of places to eat, drink, shop, and socialize.
There are also a lot of wonderful suburbs close to the city center that have a more “neighborhood” feel.
My favorite Auckland suburbs are Ponsonby and Grey Lynn. Both have an excellent array of shops, eateries, and lovely green parks.
When I first moved to Auckland, I lived in Grey Lynn, and it was such a wonderful place to be. I would live there again in a heartbeat!
Other nice suburbs are Mount Eden, Parnell, and Westmere.
My main tip is to find somewhere to live that’s close-ish to where you work. I loved being able to walk to work in Auckland, as I didn’t have to deal with commuter traffic and parking.
If you’re planning to live in Auckland short term or aren’t quite sure how long you’d like to stay, I recommend finding a furnished flat. It can get really expensive trying to furnish a flat from scratch.
How to find apartments in Auckland?
When you first arrive in Auckland, I recommend booking an Airbnb for at least a couple of weeks, to begin with. That way, you can explore the city and see which neighborhoods you like best before applying for a long-term apartment rental.
Finding a long-term rental will also be easier when you’re already in the city.
It’s a good idea to have some prior rental references you can put down on your rental application, and you’ll likely need to show proof of income as well.
I should also note that some apartments do not come with their own “whiteware” (a refrigerator, washing machine, etc.). The apartment listing will state whether or not whiteware is included. I recommend finding a place that comes with whiteware because it’s both expensive and annoying to have to get your own!
Transportation in Auckland
Public Transit in Auckland
Auckland has a good public transport system, with buses, trains, and ferries all being options for getting around the city, suburbs, and surrounding islands.
Walking + e-scooters & e-bikes in Auckland
While Auckland is a sprawling city, the city center is quite walkable. I tend to get everywhere on foot! It can be hilly, so you’ll want some comfy shoes to get around.
Another popular option is to grab an e-scooter or e-bike from either Lime or Beam—you’ll spot them all over the city.
Ridesharing apps in Auckland
Driving yourself around Auckland
That being said, my partner and I bought a used car within our first month of living in Auckland. I recommend that you do the same if you want to explore more of New Zealand while you live in Auckland.
Weather in Auckland
Auckland has a subtropical climate with warm, humid summers and cool, rainy winters (although rainfall can happen year-round). During a typical year, the weather usually ranges from 8°C to 23°C.
You’ll definitely want a good raincoat and some sturdy, water-resistant shoes in Auckland, as the weather can go from sunny to rainy in a flash!
Also, it’s important to always wear sunblock when you go outside, even on cloudy days—the sun is extremely strong in New Zealand, and you can get sunburnt even when it’s not sunny outside.
Practical information for living in Aukland
111 is the emergency number for Police, Fire, and Ambulance.
I suggest finding a GP (General Practitioner) when you first arrive in Auckland. Usually, you’ll want to enroll with a GP who has a clinic close to where you live. You’ll need a GP referral for non-emergencies requiring a hospital visit.
That being said, you don’t need a GP referral if you have an emergency that requires you to visit a hospital.
The Auckland City Hospital is New Zealand’s largest public hospital, and it’s located right in the city center. Other hospitals in the greater Auckland region include the North Shore Hospital and Waitakere Hospital.
Phone and internet providers
The three major mobile phone companies in New Zealand are Spark, Vodafone, and 2 Degrees.
Those three companies also provide internet services, although there are many more internet providers in NZ, too—I’d say those are just the most common ones.
I have a phone plan with Spark, while my partner has a phone plan with Vodafone, and we’ve found that I tend to get better service across the country.
We have a home internet plan with Vodafone and haven’t had any issues with it.
The three main supermarkets in New Zealand are New World, Countdown, and Pak ‘n Save, and you’ll find all of these in Auckland in many different locations.
Many people would say that Pak ‘n Save is the cheapest of the three, although I think it can vary. You’ll likely shop at whichever supermarket is most convenient to your neighborhood!
My personal favorite Auckland supermarket is a specialty store called Farro Fresh; it’s a gourmet supermarket with several locations around Auckland, and you can find lots of fresh produce and local products there. It can be expensive, though, so I tend to go there for a few special things rather than my entire grocery list.
A Costco supermarket has recently opened up in Auckland, and it’s also been quite a hit.
You’ll also find numerous Asian supermarkets dotted all around Auckland. One of my favorites is the Lim Chour supermarket on Karangahape Road (“K” Road); you can often find produce for much cheaper prices there than at the other supermarkets in town.
For better or for worse, Amazon hasn’t come to New Zealand yet. That does limit your online shopping options a bit, but there are still plenty of places to shop online.
You can also sometimes order items from the Australian Amazon website, and many sellers will offer free shipping to New Zealand.
If you’re looking to shop in person, you’ll find all of the main “high street” stores on Queen Street.
I don’t particularly love Queen Street as it’s quite commercialized and busy. Still, I do recommend Mecca for cosmetics, Hikoco for Korean beauty products, and the Commercial Bay shopping center at the bottom of the street.
There are multiple Westfield malls in Auckland as well, and there’s also the massive Sylvia Park shopping center.
For a more local, boutique shopping experience, I recommend visiting the Britomart area, K Road, or Ponsonby Road. There are many great shops in all of those spots— from designer stores to quirky vintage boutiques and everything in between.
What do you like about living in Auckland?
When I lived in Auckland, I loved how easy it was to explore the North Island on weekends. My partner and I would regularly hop in the car on a Friday night after work and road trip to the Coromandel, Northland, Rotorua, or so many other great places.
I also loved the vibrant international food scene and the beaches close to the city.
What do you dislike about Auckland?
One thing I don’t love about Auckland is the traffic. Commuting hours are the worst for traffic, and it can also be awful getting in and out of the city on summer weekends and holiday weekends in general.
I recommend finding accommodation within walking distance to work to avoid commuter traffic and planning your weekend excursions to avoid peak traffic times.
What are the best things to do in Auckland?
Besides eating and drinking your way around the city, I think the best things to do in Auckland are in the city’s outdoor spaces.
My #1 favorite thing to do in the city is to take the ferry to Waiheke Island. Waiheke is full of gorgeous beaches and wonderful wineries, and you can easily while away a whole day or weekend there.
In the city itself, I recommend walking along the beautiful Westhaven Path, which will take you along the Auckland waterfront and Westhaven Marina.
Another top thing to do is to hike up Mount Eden for sunset. Mount Eden is a volcanic cone, and the views from up there are some of the best in the city.
If you have access to a car, I also recommend exploring the nearby Waitakere Ranges. You’ll find rainforest walks, black sand beaches (including Piha Beach), and gorgeous waterfalls there. It’s a stunning, wild place that you won’t get tired of visiting.
Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved here? How did you deal with that?
It might sound silly, but I struggled with getting comfortable driving on the left-hand side of the road! I had always driven on the right, so it was an adjustment.
I think the best thing to do is to 1) wait a while before you start driving and let yourself get used to being in Auckland first, and 2) practice driving with someone who’s a more confident/experienced driver. At least, that’s what has worked for me!
Is it easy to make new friends in Auckland? Where to meet new people in Auckland?
I’ve met most of my Auckland friends through work. I’d say it really helps to find a job you like at a company with values you care about because you’ll connect more with the people there.
If you work from home, you might need to put in a bit more effort to meet friends. You could join social groups on Facebook or Meetup or consider living in a flatshare with housemates you’ll want to socialize with.
Where are your favorite cafes in Auckland?
I love Bestie Cafe on K Road. They’ve got a bright, cheery space and make delicious breakfasts.
Another favorite is Daily Bread for a ham and cheese croissant and flat white—they have multiple locations throughout the city, but their Ponsonby location is the one I visit the most.
Where are your favorite restaurants and bars in Auckland?
It’s so hard to choose favorites because Auckland has a lot of great restaurants and bars. But if I had to pick, I would say either Coco’s Cantina or Gemmayze Street on K Road.
As for bars: I’m a big craft beer fan and always enjoy a visit to Brother’s Brewery in Mount Eden. Conch on Ponsonby Road is a lovely spot for a drink and snack, too.
For a drink with a view, Dr. Rudi’s rooftop bar is fun—you’ll get to enjoy your beverage while looking out at the Auckland Viaduct Harbour, which is filled with fancy yachts.
Tips for finding a job in Auckland
As a starting point for finding a job, I recommend checking out careers.govt.nz. They have helpful tips for getting your CV in order and also have a large list of job vacancies and recruitment websites.
One of the best websites for job-hunting in Auckland (and New Zealand in general) is Seek. You’ll find thousands of jobs on there, so it’s a good place to start.
If you’re having trouble finding a job on your own, you might want to go to a recruitment agency. There are lots of different recruitment agencies to choose from. I recommend simply googling “Auckland recruitment agencies” and doing some research on which ones seem to be the best fit for you, as some specialize in specific careers.
Personally, I found it easier to find a job once I was already in Auckland. It made it much simpler for me to do interviews, and employers often seem to want employees who are already in the country.
What have you learned from living abroad?
Living abroad in New Zealand has been an eye-opener in terms of having a good work-life balance. While there are workaholics everywhere in the world, I’ve found that most New Zealanders tend to have a much healthier lifestyle when it comes to work vs. free time.
In general, I’d say that people in NZ tend to work to live rather than live to work. This was a big change for me after growing up in California’s super-busy Silicon Valley. I will never go back to commuting in a car for 2-3 hours a day in traffic. Let’s just say that!
I’m a Californian who’s lived in New Zealand for over 6 years (I thought it would just be for a year, but I love it so much that I’ve never left!).
After living on the North Island for 5 years, my partner and I now live in Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island, where we spend our free time hiking, skiing, and kayaking.
The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.