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MIQ New Zealand | Our Experience and What to expect in Managed Isolation

by kimberley

Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), a term that we have only become aware of since the pandemic began! We recently completed a stint of MIQ when returning to New Zealand in November 2021. Whether you shall be going through this soon, or whether you are just interested in the phenomena, this post will focus on our experience and what to expect in Managed Isolation in New Zealand.

*MIQ in New Zealand has been a highly controversial and debated topic. For the purposes of this post, we shall not get into the politics of it nor express our views on whether we agree or disagree with it. This is purely an account of our experience in MIQ and what you can expect.

So in short, what is MIQ?

MIQ is regularly reviewed and frequently changes according to the progression of the pandemic, making it impossible to keep this post updated. We will provide a quick overview, however, the most recent details are found on the NZ Managed Isolation and Quarantine website. 

When the pandemic began, the New Zealand government closed their international borders and implemented MIQ in April 2020. Since then, only certain eligible categories of people have been able to enter New Zealand (e.g. kiwi citizens/residents/some visa holders) and they must all go through MIQ. 

Whilst the duration of isolation has changed over the last year, essentially, the requirements have remained the same. Eligible individuals who have managed to secure an MIQ slot,  are taken to a government selected hotel to isolate for a number of days as soon as they arrive in New Zealand. Here, they undergo multiple PCR tests before being released into the community – provided they test negative of course!

The period of MIQ was reduced from 14 days to 7 days, followed by 3 days home isolation in Nov 21, just before we travelled (yay for us). Since the news of Omicron (Jan 22), MIQ is now a full 10 days in a hotel without a period of home isolation.

Securing an MIQ slot

MIQ spaces are limited. All eligible individuals must secure a slot and receive a ‘voucher’ to be able to board their flight to New Zealand. This process has changed over the last year. Currently, the dates of new MIQ room slots are released in batches. Individuals enter a ‘virtual lobby’ and are assigned a random number. The lower the number, the higher the chance of being able to secure a slot. Once a date has been secured, individuals have 48 hours to book their flights and confirm this with MIQ. A voucher is then issued which is basically your golden ticket to enter New Zealand.  


Participating MIQ hotels are located in Auckland, Rotorua, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch. You do not get to choose which hotel you go to. You are only informed of the hotel once you have touched down in New Zealand. E.g.  you could fly into Auckland, and be taken to Rotorua or even flown to Christchurch. 

Cost of MIQ

The criteria for those having to pay for MIQ has also changed over the last year. It all depends on the date that you left New Zealand and how long you are planning to stay after returning. The amount also differs between citizens/residents and those on temporary visas.

Now without any further ado, let’s jump into our experience and what to expect in managed isolation!

Getting to New Zealand

We booked our flights from London Heathrow to Auckland with Singapore Airlines. We had never flown with Singapore Airlines before, but they were incredibly attentive. There were only about 20 of us on board. It was probably also the only time we would fly to New Zealand and have a row each to ourselves.

We ideally wanted to complete MIQ in Auckland. We read that you were more likely to be allocated a hotel there if you arrived late at night. We booked the flight which landed at 11pm, and it worked for us! 

Once we landed, we were taken through multiple check points (health questionnaire/checks, PCR/covid vaccine checks, border control and biosecurity), with each person requesting to see a lot of the same information. Our advice here is to not pack away any of your documentation. After snaking our way through the airport, we were finally advised that we would be completing our MIQ at the Novotel Airport Hotel in Auckland, and were loaded onto buses. 

You do not need to collect your hold luggage as this is taken care of and delivered directly to your hotel door; luxury!

Our Hotel

When we arrived at the hotel a short 5 minutes later (practically round the corner to our delight), we were greeted on the bus by a member of the army. They stood behind a plastic sheet with a microphone; a bit like a tour guide with added protection. They gave us a brief overview of how MIQ would work and what was expected of us. A particular highlight was being informed that if we mingled with others outside of our bubble, they have the discretion of extending our stay. Mm, no thanks!

Further checkpoints continued. We again snaked our way through the hotel to reception, staying 2 metres apart from other bubbles, with our feet firmly placed on the stickers provided. We selected our meals for the following day and answered further questions, before finally being handed a little goodie bag with various snacks and the best gift of all, our room key! 

Completely exhausted, we finally made our way to our room which was a pleasant surprise. It was modern and clean, albeit a little on the small side, but for 7 days we could manage. Then the door shut behind us and reality hit; we would only be leaving our room in the next 7 days for PCR tests and exercise.

We were provided with multiple booklets on arrival which ran through the process of MIQ and the steps taken once we could leave e.g. how we were getting home (rental car, family/friends picking us up etc) 

PCR testing, blue bands and exercise

We were tested 3 times in MIQ, on day 0/1, day 3 and on day 6. They only take nasal swabs (as opposed to the throat, so gag-free) but the first was a bit of a shock. We had heard that they practically tickle your brain, and that is no word of a lie. The nurses however were incredibly empathetic and tried to be gentle. 

Once we received a negative result from the day 0/1 test (which arrived 24 hours later – we were texted our results), we were awarded our blue bands; a very exciting moment. This means that we were allowed 45 minutes of outdoor exercise in the car park, each day. Here, exercise means walking around a lap of the car park in one direction (if only they mixed that direction up every once in a while…) What. A. Treat. 

Every evening at 6.00pm, we could call reception and book a time. We chose 3.00pm every day as it felt like it broke up our day. 

Whilst exercise was strictly walking only, you could book a specific morning running slot if you wished. 

Health Checks

Every morning, we would receive a text asking us to complete a questionnaire about how we were feeling, both physically and mentally. This would be sent to the nurses/health team at the hotel, who would then contact you if they had any follow up questions. You could also contact them via reception should you need their assistance.


On our first day, we were handed a menu and requested to make our choices online within the hour of arriving. I was incredibly impressed with the variety of options, with each meal offering a meat or veggie option. As standard, the meals also included extras such as a side salad or a pudding, and they also gave us plenty of fruit (just maybe too many satsumas). You needn’t worry about going hungry here! 

We had heard others having issues with their food arriving luke warm/cold but we never had that problem. The only complaint I had with the food was that sometimes it arrived very early, e.g. 11.30am for lunch some days!

All food came in cardboard boxes with plastic knives/forks. I would recommend packing your own cutlery and even a plate if possible, as eating like this after a while got quite frustrating. 

Alcohol and food delivery

You could order alcohol directly from the hotel, limited to 6 bottles of beer or 1 bottle of wine per room per night. We had a mini MIQ win when we ordered some beer but they didn’t actually make a record of it, so (when we went to pay as instructed) they ended up giving them to us for free!

Food orders were permitted from the local supermarket and the hotel would deliver these to your door. You could also order alcohol this way but the limitations per room still applied. We made an order from countdown for a variety of extra snacks which we thought we would need to help get us through isolation, but we were fed so well that we hardly touched them. 

Keeping busy

We tried to stick to a schedule each day to make the days go faster and to shake the jet lag. Admittedly, the highlight of our day was hearing the rustle of brown food bags being put down outside our door, followed by a knock to tell us we could collect it. When we weren’t stuffing our faces, we watched movies/a lot of tv (Masterchef the Professionals), played our Switch and video called our family/friends back in the UK. 

An added bonus of being next to the airport, was that we could also watch the planes take off and land from our window without the noise! The sunsets were pretty spectacular too, when Kimberley managed to stay awake for them.  

Make sure to bring an HDMI cable so that you can plug your laptop into the TV and watch from a bigger screen. 

Leaving MIQ and plans for home isolation

Halfway through MIQ, we were asked about our plans for the home isolation segment. As we arrived late, we were told that we could either leave 3 hours earlier or stay one more night. We chose the latter.  Since we had no permanent home, we rented an Airbnb for a week in the Tauranga region. At the time, the Auckland border was in place which meant you could only leave Auckland in exceptional circumstances.  They wrote us a letter confirming we had completed MIQ and were considered a ‘low threat’. We were then required to hand this to the staff at the border, who waved us through; easy peasy.

Freedom (well almost) never felt so good! The last step was to take one final PCR test in the community on day 9. Whilst at home, this was the only reason you could leave until you received your negative text. We went to a local drive through testing centre and were advised that it could take up to 5 days to receive our result! Not exactly the extra 3 days of self-isolation that we were expecting. However, Oli received his result 24 hours later and after a sleepless night for me (Kimberley), I rang the helpline the following morning who advised that mine was also negative.

And the first thing we did with our freedoms you ask? Ate ramen and dumplings!

Our experience summed up

We would be lying if we said the process leading up to MIQ didn’t cause some of the worst anxiety we have ever had. With so many hoops to jump through, we were constantly worrying about the what ifs. We had also read a few horror stories about some of the hotels which others had experienced. 

However, as soon as we finally touched down in New Zealand (after a very long 30 hours later), and we walked through the door to our hotel room, a huge sense of relief washed over us; we had finally made it! Looking back, we can also honestly say that the experience was so much better than we had anticipated. We somewhat enjoyed being ‘looked after’ for the week. Not having to think about what to eat, or having to cook. Being able to play the Switch or binge watch tv series, guilt free. 

We understand that the MIQ experience can vary greatly between people, depending on which hotel you are sent to. Luckily for us, the Novotel Airport hotel was exceptional and we could not fault any of the staff. Whilst this is still a serious operation that they are running, the staff were always friendly, helpful and made us feel at ease. 

For anyone reading who shall be going through MIQ at some point, we hope this paints more of a picture of what you can expect in managed isolation. We our happy to answer any questions about our experience  – good luck! 

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