Expat Guide To Living In Wellington, New Zealand
Are you planning to move to Wellington? What is it like to live in New Zealand?
In this Expat Interview, Pamela shares her experience and practical tips for newcomers. You’ll learn useful information to prepare for your new life in Wellington, such as the cost of living in Wellington, how to find apartments and jobs, and other practical tips.
What is it like to live in Wellington, New Zealand?
Wellington city is the capital of New Zealand, and in the last couple of years, I’ve made it home. I moved here from Midwest USA and became captured by the vibrant culture and scenic coastline, the thriving food scene, and coffee accolades.
Although considered a small city, Wellington is abundant in activity. Festivals are year-round, and its diverse population yields a range of art galleries and boutique shops. It strikes the right balance between urban and quietude, its bustling city center ringed by green spaces and endless walking trails.
After extensive exploration, I know Wellington inside and out. I hope the answers below provide some clarity on whether this coastal gem would make the right home for you.
How to prepare for moving to Wellington, New Zealand?
Wellington is relatively easy to move to. The coastline is one of the best features, so bring your swimsuit and plenty of sunscreens.
You’ll also need a good pair of walking shoes. The best way to experience the city is by foot, though there’s also a public transport network. Familiarise yourself with the Metlink bus and train service. The website is handy for mapping your journey from one place to the next.
Lastly, bring a nice outfit. Wellington’s dress code is casual, but you may want to feel cute when you frequent its various dining establishments and dabble in the delectable food scene.
The cost of living in Wellington, New Zealand
Although Wellington ticks many boxes, from safety to beauty and entertainment, it is not the cheapest city to live in. The quality of living is high, though it can come at a price. But it’s not impossible. You’ll need to dig for the best deals and manage your budget well.
In Wellington, op-shopping (secondhand shopping) is very popular and economical. You’ll find many secondhand shops around town, and it’s also common to hunt for secondhand goods on websites like TradeMe and Facebook Marketplace.
It’s helpful to have a budgeting sheet to track your spending and continuously save. You’ll definitely want some extra cash in your pocket so you can experience Wellington’s food, coffee, and beer culture.
|Rental price (one-bedroom flat)||$350-$500/week|
|Heating (if related)||$80-100/month|
|Prepaid cell phone plan||$35-55/month|
|Transportation||Get a Snapper card for cheap public transport! It amounts to $2-$4 per trip.|
|Average meal/ person||$30-50|
|One beer||$7-12 Craft beers are worth the price!|
What salary do you need to live in Wellington?
You will be comfortable at $70,000+ in a single household (a single person without children).
Where to live in Wellington? – The best areas to stay
Wellington is a relatively safe city. Some of the best areas include the CBD (central town), Mount Victoria for its Edwardian homes and proximity to the city, Hataitai for its trendy vibes, or Brooklyn for its quirky town.
Newtown is a more affordable area with a vibrant center. And Thorndon is one of the oldest suburbs in Wellington if you have a higher budget.
How to find apartments in Wellington, New Zealand?
No matter the landlord or property agency, all properties end up on TradeMe. There, you can sort through all properties on the rental market, filter by budget and facilities, and use a handy map for locations of interest.
Transportation in Wellington
Wellington is not a large city; the best way to experience it is by foot. However, Metlink is the city’s clean and (mostly) reliable network of buses and trains. Check out the Metlink website to map your journey from one place to another.
Other alternatives are taxi services or Uber, though they are definitely more expensive.
Weather in Wellington
The weather in Wellington is mild, though it can be a tad unpredictable. Wellington is the windiest city in the world, and the worst of it comes in spring (November-December). And although the winters aren’t too cold (it doesn’t snow in Wellington), the wind can be brutal and nighttime temperatures drop drastically.
Summertime is mostly sunny and pleasant, though Wellington doesn’t get as hot as the likes of Auckland or Northland.
Practical information for living in Wellington
The emergency line in New Zealand is 111.
The Wellington after-hours clinic is on Riddiford St, and it’s open 24/7. Otherwise, any pharmacy will see you for any minor health issue (for example, when I arrived, I had a UTI, and a nurse and pharmacist looked after me at the nearest pharmacy).
Supermarkets are New World or Countdown. For organic or artisan foods, visit Moore Wilson’s or CommonSense Organics.
Streets to note:
- Cuba St for quirky shops, boutiques, and small dining establishments
- Willis St and Lambton Quay for high-end shopping
- Courtenay Place for pubs and entertainment
Good and bad things about living in Wellington
What I love about Wellington is its bustling city center. Any day of the week, crowds gather in pubs, cafes, and restaurants. It’s a very walkable city, so many of us forge into town after work. There’s always something to do, and new small businesses are constantly popping up everywhere, keeping city life fresh.
Another great thing about living in Wellington is that it’s the gateway to the South Island. Ferries leave the port every day toward Picton, making the South Island accessible by car, perfect for a camping trip.
What I don’t like about Wellington is that it can get quite pricey if I’m not careful! I love a good splurge on shopping or dining, but it adds up quickly.
What are the best things to do in Wellington, New Zealand?
As mentioned, there is heaps of shopping and dining in Wellington. The city has more cafes per capita than New York City, and the coffee culture is serious business.
Wellington also has many natural spaces. Take the iconic Cable Car up to the Botanic Garden or meander the many trails of the Town Belt. With its many coastlines, Wellington is also teeming with beaches.
Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved to Wellington? How did you deal with that?
To be honest, Wellington was such an easy move. New Zealand systems are simple and easy, so it didn’t take much to set myself up with everything I needed.
I would say the most challenging thing was finding a job because New Zealanders operate on relationships, and I didn’t have any when I moved here! But once I learned the tricks (see below for tips on finding a job), that fell into place easily too.
Is it easy to make new friends in Wellington? Where to meet new people in Wellington?
Yes! It’s so easy to make friends in Wellington. As mentioned above, New Zealanders operate on relationships and networking. And Wellington is bustling with open-minded people. You’ll encounter people from all walks of life with quirky fashion styles and a range of backgrounds.
I recommend joining a community. If you like yoga, join a yoga studio. If you like entertainment, make yourself a regular at music or comedy joint. Coupled with the people you’ll meet at your job, you’ll be surprised by how quickly your network grows.
Where are your favorite cafes in Wellington?
My favorite cafe in Wellington is Customs. It’s right next to an art gallery, and my friend group makes a habit of sipping on divine coffee every Sunday morning while people watching.
Another gem is Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli in Lyall Bay. This neighborhood is gorgeous with its large beach and surf vibes, and Diamond Deli never disappoints with its cabinet of freshly-made delectable eats.
Where are your favorite restaurants and bars in Wellington?
Such a hard question! Wellington’s food scene is impressive, and it’s hard to pick just a few. To name a few, what come to mind are Mother of Coffee on Left Bank (incredible Ethiopian food), Loretta on Cuba Street, Majestic Cuisine for yum cha on the weekends, and Jano Bistro for fine dining on a special night.
For a complete guide, check out my post on the most romantic dining spots in Wellington to experience the city’s culinary scene.
Tips for finding a job in Wellington.
If you’re looking for a job in hospitality, make sure your CV outlines your past hospitality experience. Then print out several copies, walk into establishments and hand them out. Let the staff know to give it to the Manager. Look out for signs that say the establishment is hiring… there is a huge shortage of staff after the pandemic, so you won’t have trouble finding a job!
If you’re looking for higher-paying desk jobs, I highly recommend signing up with a contracting agency like GBL or Beyond Recruitment. They will sit with you and dissect your skills, strengthen your CV, and book interviews for you. An agency is what got me through the door at a decent salary and resulted in permanent employment down the line.
What have you learned from living abroad?
The biggest lesson I learned from living abroad is that the world isn’t as scary as we think it is. Blame it on the media or our stifling culture, but I learned many of us underestimate our abilities to problem-solve. Living abroad has its challenges, but it’s not as difficult as some might believe.
Most countries have a strong tourism infrastructure, ready to receive you and get you set up. People are kind and willing to help.
It’s important to stay organized and use common sense to stay safe. Make lists so you don’t feel overwhelmed, and take it one day at a time. But you’ll be surprised how quickly you settle.
Focus mainly on building a community around you. Homesickness is real, and there’s no better cure than being surrounded by friends, people you’ll grow to trust and who will become your strongest bonds.
Living abroad is incredibly rewarding and will boost your confidence in every way.
Restless soul and lover of prose, Pamela Edmondson is a travel writer and photographer based in New Zealand. With a camera in hand and too many notebooks, she hunts for solitude in nature and brings voice to mother earth through her evocative style of storytelling. Her website, Nut Brown Rose, unpacks slow travel, sustainable tourism, and conscious living with a focus on well-being. She has lived an interesting life and takes small steps every day toward healing and falling in love with the earth beneath her feet. You can follow her adventures on Instagram.
The opinions expressed here by Expatolife columnists are their own, not those of Expatolife.