Trail running in NZ? Tips for Navigating NZ customs

I had originally written this post whilst sitting in the terminal at Melbourne Airport patiently waiting for my 11:55PM Jetstar flight to Christchurch to begin our 4th New Zealand trail running adventure. But for some reason the internet ate it, so here we are again!

With the NZ trail running season kicking of in Rotorua at the start of the month with the Tarawera Ultramarathon, people from around the globe are descending on the long white cloud for races from coast to coast.

As a series of islands, New Zealand is fiercely protective of their natural ecosystem and agricultural industry, as they should be, which means regulations at the border are strict. Hopefully these tips will make the process a little less stressful for those hoping to hit the trails this year.


I would have thought this went without saying, but if you don’t want to wait around while officers duck off to clean your shoes and poles (and frankly anything else that has been in contact with the wild or farmed environments) or worse have your gear prohibited from entering the country (expensive gear meet rubbish bin!) then its best to make your gear look as new and sparkly as possible.

Don’t be fooled, they will check your shoes!


Don’t try anything new on race day right? Well the NZ government aren’t very sympathetic to that as a reason to bring food into their country. All food must be declared and available for inspection, including your race day nutrition whether that be baggies of strange white powder or sports gels.

Make sure you check the ingredients of everything you are planning to bring in to make sure they are not on the banned list (hello honey). A full list can be found here


Personally I pack everything I need for my race in my carry on bag because I’m paranoid that I’m going to spend 12 months preparing for a race and then my shoes don’t arrive at their destination.

But I appreciate this isn’t for everyone.

If you don’t want to be one of those people whose intimate items are being flashed and thrown about the airport for hundreds of strangers to see, I recommend investing in some packing cells. Personally I have these from Kathmandu but many companies make them.

I’m a bit meticulous when it comes to pre-race packing and have everything labelled so I don’t forget anything. This also helps if the officers want to open your bag. You can easily open your bag, pull out the required cell and grab the item that needs to be inspected.

Happy trails folks.