Getting ill whilst you’re travelling is no fun and dealing with illness on the road can make even the most cheerful, bouncy traveller turn into a grouch. But thankfully finding a doctor in New Zealand is quite easy.
I’m going to share with you my experience of seeing a doctor and experiencing the health system in New Zealand. I’ll also give you an overview of how seeing a doctor in New Zealand works, plus tips on where to go for help if you’re ill.
New Zealand’s Healthcare System
First of all, I’ll explain the New Zealand healthcare system briefly.
New Zealand’s healthcare system is quite different to the completely free NHS system in the UK or subsidised Medicare system in Australia. There are no reciprocal health agreements with other countries and no free healthcare in New Zealand.
This came as a little surprising to me as I come from a country that has a completely free healthcare system in place (the NHS), that all it’s residents have access to.
I’ve also travelled and lived in Australia and experienced their Medicare publicly funded healthcare system, which gives access to free or lower cost healthcare (free if your home country has a reciprocal agreement).
Publicly funded healthcare is only available to eligible residents and citizens of New Zealand. As a traveller in New Zealand, you won’t be eligible for publicly funded healthcare, so you’ll always pay top dollar to see a GP or Doctor.
The exception being if you have a work visa for more than two years or you can show proof of continuous work visas equaling more than two years, otherwise you won’t be classed as eligible.
Visiting a Doctor in New Zealand
If you’re ill or sick in New Zealand (and it’s not an emergency) you should visit a Doctor or a Medical Centre.
You will have to pay a fee to see a doctor, because you can’t register or enroll with a Doctor’s Clinic or a Medical Centre unless you’re eligible – a NZ resident, or on a visa that’s two years or longer.
As a traveller you’ll always be seen as a ‘casual patient’ and you’ll have to pay ‘casual patient’ fees every time you see a doctor.
Because Doctor’s Clinics and Medical Clinics are privately owned in New Zealand, they set their own costs. Casual patients pay a much higher cost than enrolled patients.
I got ill whilst living in Matamata in the Waikato and went to the local medical centre. Although I’ve had the 23-month Working Holiday Visa, then a 1-year Work Visa, then another 1-year Work Visa after that, I was still denied the lower price. Because although I’ve held work visas for almost 4 years, they weren’t continuous.
When I got ill with a sinus infection in the small town of Te Aroha, the local doctor’s clinic wouldn’t even see me, because their policy was only to see enrolled patients.
So I had to travel to the next town (Matamata) just to get a doctors appointment.
As I didn’t have a car, I had to get a ride there with someone I lived with who worked in Matamata. But he left for work at 5am in the morning. That was not a happy day!
How much does it cost to see a Doctor?
The majority of travellers who come to New Zealand are usually only on a 1 or 2 year (23 month) Working Holiday Visa, so you won’t be eligible for publicly funded healthcare’ – as the length of those visas are never over two years.
So you’ll always pay the higher ‘casual rates’ to see a doctor. And they can be very high, even higher at weekends or out-of-hours.
Ask for a receipt for any medical treatment or GP consultation so that you can use it to claim your money back with your travel insurance provider.
Expect to pay around:
- $80 – $95 NZD to see a doctor as a ‘casual patient’ within normal business hours
- $100 – $120 NZD to see a doctor as a ‘casual patient’ out-of-hours
Where to find a Doctor in New Zealand
Here are some useful links to the main Doctor’s Clinics and Medical Centre’s in the main cities of New Zealand, most of which I’ve used myself. Just look under ‘casual patients’ for the prices you would pay:
Auckland CityMed Doctors – 8 Albert Street, Auckland. (Pharmacy, x-ray facility and lab tests available on-site).
2nd Avenue Health Centre – 19 2nd Ave, Tauranga . (Pharmacy, urgent walk-in clinic and x-ray facility on-site).
The Doctors Bayfair – 42 Girven Road, Bayfair. (Pharmacy and urgent walk-in clinic on-site).
Courtenay Medical – Symes de Silva House, 97–99 Courtenay Place. (Has dentist, physio and lab tests in same building).
AMC – Accident and Urgent Medical Centre -17 Adelaide Rd, Newtown/Mt Cook.
Walk-in service, no appointment necessary. Open every day 8am – 11pm.
- When you don’t think you can wait to see a doctor
- When you are a visitor or traveller to Wellington
- When you aren’t registered with a doctor or GP
Doctors on Riccarton – 183 Riccarton Road, Riccarton
Moorhouse Medical Centre – 3 Pilgrim Place, Christchurch City. (Has pharmacy, x-ray facility and urgent walk-in clinic on-site).
QMC – Queenstown Medical Centre – 9 Isle Street, Queenstown. (Has urgent walk-in clinic, sexual health clinic and travel clinic on-site).
How to find other health resources or medical help in New Zealand
These are all useful numbers to have saved in your mobile phone before you go to New Zealand.
In the case of an emergency, always call 111 which is the emergency service number in New Zealand.
Healthline is a free telephone health advice service for everyone. The number is free to call (even from mobiles) 0800 611 116. You can get free advice from trained, registered nurses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call Healthline if you are:
- Feeling unwell but don’t know if you need to see a doctor
- Needing some medical advice about someone else
- Travelling and need to know where the nearest pharmacy or doctors clinic is
Mental Health Helplines
Mental Health is important too, if you need to talk to someone, call one of the numbers below anytime for support from a trained counsellor:
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE)
Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865
You can also free call or text the 1737 service anytime, to talk with a trained counselor for free.
Other Helplines in New Zealand
Rape Crisis – 0800 883 300 (for support after rape or sexual assault)
OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) Sexuality or Gender Identity Helpline provides confidential telephone support
Seniorline – 0800 725 463 A free information service for older people
Skylight – 0800 299 100 for support through trauma, loss and grief; (9am–5pm weekdays).
Going to hospital in New Zealand
If you have an accident whilst you’re travelling in new Zealand, don’t worry you won’t be left bleeding in the street, if you have no money.
Accidents are covered by something called ACC. It stands for Accident Compensation Corporation and it’s New Zealand’s no-fault personal injury or accident cover.
Everyone in New Zealand is covered by ACC’s no-fault scheme if they’re injured or in an accident, no matter whose fault it was.
It doesn’t matter if they’re working or unemployed and it also includes visitors and travelers to New Zealand.
So yay for that!
So if you’re injured or are in an accident, either go to the Accident & Emergency at a hospital, or a health professional at a medical centre.
The health professional will treat you, then help you fill out an ACC claim form and they’ll also send it to ACC for you.
If you had to pay a cost for this initial health professional’s visit, you’ll be able to claim this back later once ACC has accepted your claim, so keep your receipt for the doctors/hospital visit.
ACC can help you with the costs of:
- Treatment costs
- Prescription medication costs
- Compensation for lost earnings
- Help to get back to work
- Transport to and from treatment
ACC only covers accidental injury in New Zealand, so if you need healthcare for other reasons, such as illness, you’ll have to pay – every time.
The best way for backpackers and working holiday visa holders to avoid healthcare costs and to cover yourself for illness and injury, is to have travel insurance.
I use World Nomads travel insurance and I really recommend them. They provide really comprehensive cover that covers you for a tonne of adventure activities, most which other insurance companies don’t cover.
I have also used Essential Travel, which is cheaper but doesn’t cover as much. Essential Travel is for UK citizens only.
Getting ill when you’re travelling sucks. But getting ill and having to spend a heap of your travel budget to pay for it sucks even more. Be smart and protect yourself.