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The basics
New Zealand: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Auckland

Auckland is often mistaken for New Zealand’s capital, and for good reason. This is a buzzing, global city with all the natural wonders that New Zealand is famous for.

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Auckland is the cultural and economic heart of New Zealand, with its community of over 1.6 million people accounting for almost a third of the country’s population. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the world in terms of quality of life, with the 2017 Mercer Quality of Living Survey placing it in the top three globally. 


The QS Best Student Cities 2022 report ranks Auckland as the 31st best city in the world to study, making it the highest-scoring city across New Zealand. This bustling metropolis is located between two oceans, with various islands and sparkling bays offering endless opportunities to explore. Whether you want to ride the waves on a sailboat or simply see them from the terrace of a harbourside restaurant, the city is almost unbeatable for waterfront living.


Auckland is an international city that attracts business, arts, culture, and innovation from around the world. Thousands of international students enjoy exploring the city’s many eateries, galleries and museums, night markets and cultural events in their downtime. With a comfortable subtropical climate and a constant supply of cool ocean air, Auckland is the perfect place for you to enjoy life all year round. 


The region around Auckland is rich with the natural wonders that New Zealand is famous for. An hour from the city, you could find yourself wandering under a dense rainforest canopy, surfing waves on black sand beaches, or a guided tour around award-winning wineries or getting up close to native wildlife.


What is Auckland like?


Location and demographics

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and stretches across a land bridge between two large natural harbours, connecting the city to the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea on either side. It’s at the northern end of the country’s North Island, separating the ‘winterless’ Northland Region and the rest of the island to the south. The city enjoys a subtropical oceanic climate with mild winters.


Auckland is home to the highest concentration of Māori people anywhere in the country. Together with significant Pacific Island and Asian communities and a cosmopolitan mix of other cultures from around the world, Auckland is a hugely diverse city.


Culture and history 

The area where you now find Auckland has always been a population centre. Many Māori people living there for generations before the arrival of European settlers. The land that forms modern Auckland was bought from the Māori, and in 1840, it became the capital of New Zealand. The city’s magnificent harbours allowed it to flourish as a centre for trade and production, and today Auckland is the beating heart of New Zealand’s economy.


Discover more about the university culture in New Zealand


Which universities are in Auckland?


Auckland is a hub for world-class higher education in New Zealand, with two universities placing among the best worldwide according to QS World University Rankings 2023, and many other universities and colleges offering a range of programmes.


The University of Auckland is the highest-rated university in New Zealand, according to QS 2023, ranked 87th globally. It hosts more than 7,000 international students from more than 120 countries worldwide and has a reputation for excellence, across teaching and research. The university has five different campus sites, one of which will allow you to study right in the heart of the city.


The Auckland University of Technology (AUT) is rated in the top 500 in the world according to QS 2023 and is the second-largest university in New Zealand. The university is particularly known for its strong industry connections, with over 5,000 partners around the world who provide employment opportunities, course input and more. Students from over 140 countries come to study at AUT and gain career-boosting qualifications. On top of these globally renowned institutions, you’ll be able to choose from several other great universities or colleges to find the perfect qualification in Auckland.


Discover more universities in New Zealand


What does Auckland offer students?


What transport is there? 

Despite being the largest city in New Zealand, you won’t have any trouble getting around Auckland. The centre of the city is compact and great for walking, with many attractions and neighbourhoods within a short distance of each other. The city is served by an efficient network of buses and ferries, allowing you to skip across its rivers and harbours.


What about entertainment and food?

It’s no surprise that Auckland dominates the New Zealand food scene, with the country’s top chefs and street food gurus bringing their best at every price level. Fresh local produce and a strong Māori heritage come together to form a truly unique range of dining options, along with all sorts of exciting global influences. You’ll never run out of cafes, restaurants, and eateries to explore. Entertainment is no different, with the city’s 1.6 million population enjoying everything from pubs to nightclubs, international sports events, and vibrant festivals all year round.


Explore some of the things you can do in New Zealand


Is there accommodation?

You’ll be able to choose from a range of accommodation options for your studies in Auckland, whether you’re an undergraduate, postgraduate, or short-course student. The major universities offer catered and self-catered options on campus – ideal if you want to get to class quickly or be close to the student social scene. Or, finding private rented accommodation elsewhere in the city can be a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture, meet new people or save money. Your university can often help you find the perfect place.


Are there public services for students? 

The New Zealand Government runs the International Student Wellbeing Strategy, which supports several services and projects designed to help overseas learners settle in and thrive during their time there. Post-study work permit visas are also available to students who complete an eligible qualification in the country.


How much does it cost to live in Auckland?


The general cost of the city

It’s no surprise that as the largest and one of the liveliest cities in New Zealand, choosing Auckland as your student home will come with a higher price tag than elsewhere in the country. However, studying in Auckland is slightly cheaper than in other large cities on that side of the world, like Sydney.


Are you looking for a scholarship? Discover the top scholarships in New Zealand


Student budget

As a single international student living in Auckland, you might expect to spend somewhere between NZD 350 and NZD 750 per week. This includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other living costs. Your budget will vary depending on your living arrangements, lifestyle, activities, and where in Hamilton you’re living.


Read more about how much it costs to study in New Zealand.


Financial requirements

The New Zealand Government asks that international students demonstrate that they have at least NZD 15,000 accessible for the first year of their studies, or NZD 1,250 per month of their studies if the course is 36 months or less. An equivalent value scholarship, sponsorship or financial guarantee from a family member is also accepted. You’ll also need to purchase mandatory health insurance, costing NZD 200 to NZD 700 a year.


Learn more about tuition fees in New Zealand


What are the main attractions in Auckland?


Visitors to Auckland will find themselves in one of the most unique cityscapes in the world. The city is a bustling metropolis that weaves itself across a narrow stretch of land between glittering ocean bays and is surrounded by dozens of dormant volcanoes.


One of the city’s most famous sites is Maungawhau, otherwise known as Mt. Eden, which is home to a rich Māori history and remains a place of spiritual significance. Joining a ‘hikoi’ or Māori walking tour will allow you to learn about the area’s indigenous culture while looking into a 50m deep dormant volcanic crater and taking in the magnificent city views.


If those views aren’t enough, the 328-metre Auckland Sky Tower is a star in the city’s skyline and offers unbeatable views across the city and the Hauraki Gulf. Sunrise and sunset here aren’t to be missed.


A huge range of beaches, surf spots and quaint coastal towns can all be found within a short drive from the city. Famous for their black sand, you’ll be able to find the perfect waves for learning to surf or mastering the sport – or simply enjoying the incredible sunsets before heading off for fish and chips or a night in the city! Auckland is a city that comes alive after dark, with several night markets and street food fairs popping up across the city every week. 


Auckland attracts world-class academia, business, technology, and culture from around the world, making it a great choice for students studying in New Zealand. With great nightlife and incredible local geography on top, it’s clear to see why you might join thousands of other students in choosing it as your base. You can find your perfect academic path in New Zealand using our course matcher tool