Aoraki / Mount Cook with snow covered mountains in the background

If Australia’s seemed like a tourism “long shot”, you clearly haven’t focused much on New Zealand. A virtually air tight border has kept even many citizens from returning to the Pacific Islands, and outsiders haven’t had a chance for years.

According to New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, that’s finally changing — and there are dates.

New Zealand pursued a “zero covid” strategy for much of the pandemic but a new managed risk strategy based on high levels of vaccination has the country looking to reemerge.

A five step reopening plan has been unveiled, with hard dates for opening borders to all travelers, from all categories.

New Zealand Unveils 5 Step Tourism Reopening Plan

New Zealand took a while to start talking about reopening, but once they started, they managed to stay consistent. Jacinda Ardern has reaffirmed a five step plan to reopen the country and now has dates to back up each step.

The tl;dr version is that tourists who could previously enter without a formal visa will be able to enter once again “no later than July”, and everyone else who requires a visa should be allowed in by October.

Here are the five steps to New Zealand’s travel reopening plans, as described by the PM.

Step 1: Fully vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia can return home from the 27th of February.

Step 2: Fully vaccinated citizens from all other countries are able to arrive from 13 March. This applies to critical and skilled foreign workers.

Step 3: Up to 5,000 international students will be allowed into the country on 12 April.

Step 4: Australians and all other visitors who can normally travel visa-free to New Zealand are able to travel to the country no later than July.

Step 5: Beginning in October, Step 5 includes all other visitors and students who normally require a visa.Jacinda Ardern, PM, New Zealand

Aoraki / Mount Cook with mountains in the background

“No Later Than July”

New Zealand appears to be taking a level headed approach to these reopening plans, with some level of accounting for “things happen” along the way.

Accordingly, a formal date for visa-free tourists hasn’t been set, but a hard line of “by July” has. It could be sooner, it could be right on. If followed, this is an exciting timeline which would see the country open in time for peak winter in the Southern hemisphere and be fully rolling in time for New Zealand spring and summer.

a blue passport with gold text on it

What Measures Will Be Required?

It’s all but assured that visitors will be required to be fully vaccinated as a condition of entry. Beyond that, little is known. Early reopening plans still involve a level of isolation, but it’s likely that these could be dropped ahead of tourist arrivals, or shortened.

We’ll update this article with any further details about what protocols will exist for entry, including whether any covid-19 testing will be required. Many countries have recently dropped covid-19 testing requirements as they look to reinvigorate travel.

New Zealand: Time To Book?

New Zealand’s latest news will send airlines scrambling to add back service, assuming that these long awaited goals will stick.

This can be a fantastic time to book, particularly since schedules may change and that gives customers wiggle room to change flights.

Padding in a bit of safety for the unexpected, November and December are incredible months in New Zealand, particularly on the South Island, where rugged terrain rivals — or beats — mountains, lakes and outdoor activities elsewhere. If you haven’t been to Queenstown, you simply must.

New Zealand is finally reopening, and the latest timelines appear official enough to start getting excited.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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