Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set to take first trip overseas since COVID hit

The Prime Minister is set to take off on her first trip overseas since COVID arrived on our shores more than two years ago.

She's off to Singapore and Japan with a jam-packed schedule made even more high stakes with the hefty COVID restrictions.

The Prime Minister's recently been saying haere mai. Now she's about to say ma te wa.

The PM's off on a post-pandemic OE after checking on her passport.

"I think mine were all expired," Jacinda Ardern said.

All sorted now. Good job because there's quite a bit to do.

"There is a lot rammed in and that's for good reason - we want to get great bang for buck for New Zealand from this trip," Ardern said.

The first stop on the four-day trip is Singapore for official meetings with the President and their Prime Minister at the Istana, a gala dinner at the epic Gardens by the Bay and a trip to the port.

Then it's onto Japan to decorate pavlovas with Zespri, hit up a renewable energy event, meet the new president, check out Cookie Time, show off Kiwi rugby and promote New Zealand at the embassy.

"As you can see from the programme there's a lot of activity," Ardern said.

All that while jumping through logistical COVID hoops including a super sensitive PCR test to get into Japan which could leave the PM stuck halfway.

"It is a possibility but no I'm not anxious about it - it's just a reality of travel," Ardern said.

Of course, she'll actually have to make it to Asia first, getting there in one of our notoriously shoddy Defence Force 757s.

"Even with commercial airlines from time to time you'll have disruptions."

All this effort is worth it for Ardern after two years without overseas grip and grins.

"Nothing beats face-to-face, especially when you're looking to build relationships," Ardern said.

Especially given how much the geopolitical landscape has changed. China will be top of the agenda for the meetings.

"I always seek the views from my counterparts then share from our perspective that we're in an increasingly contested region that does put pressure on the region," Ardern said.

Ukraine and the global response to it are also front of mind.

"It's not the case that what happens in Europe is relevant only to Europe," Ardern said.

But this trip won't just be about the PM. In tow are a team of top delegates, including the CEOs of Fonterra and Zespri, also keen to spread the word New Zealand's open again.

"It's a chance to promote New Zealand, to demonstrate we're reconnecting and that we're back in business," Ardern said.

Because it's been a heck of a long two years spent sealed off.

"Now's the time to get out and about," Ardern said.

This trip is 'go go go and will see the Prime Minister using her international stardust for the COVID response to promote Aotearoa as a safe place to visit.

There'll be international interviews and photo ops, pavlova cuttings and Ardern even catching up with her old exchange student.

The Prime Minister's massive year of travel starting with a bang - and a fair few COVID tests to boot.