You're Visiting New Zealand? Let's Begin Here...
My New Zealand journey began with a desire to do what I really love...travel! After finding a working holiday visa, I arranged travel, reached out to everyone I knew who had ever uttered the words "New Zealand," and began planning my trip. This is a collective body of knowledge from what I was generously given from multiple people as well as the discoveries I made along the way. I now pass it on to you.
Packing light is often a good general rule, but it is easier to do here than most places. Because it's a casual country (aside from the office), you can get away with layering and rotating the same casual clothes. This is an "outdoors" culture, so active wear is often the norm.
Birkenstocks were my go-to walking shoes. Paths are well cared for, so it's not necessary to have massive hiking boots, unless you're doing the Tongariro Crossing or other big walks/climbs. Even so, you can hire boots or any additional equipment you may need.
1 pair of sneakers/trainers to run around in wet and cold conditions.
Ballet flats, for working ladies.
Again, it's casual here, with the exception of offices. Keep it minimal. Aside from your basics...
1 nice top/shirt is enough for a night out. NZ is casual for everyday wear.
Work is a definite exception and I found it to be more conservative than I'm used to. That said, office clothes are simple enough. I needed a pair of black pants, a handful of tops to rotate, and a pair of ballet flats. Rotate, wash, and repeat.
1 Long sleeve light-weight shirt is important during the summer when you're outside, possibly getting wet, but mainly to protect from the sun. I took a thin, black shirt which I wore during my very hot Mt. Cook hike as well as Kayaking, and it protected me better than having to repeatedly apply S.P.F.
Wind proof rain jackets and warm vests are good layering options (visit Costco for these items if you can), but I never needed anything more than one of each, along with a sweater and cardigan. Winter and southern locations may mean you need something more.
One warm hat is perfect and doesn't take up much room.
Sun hats are compulsory in summer. Big and floppy is great, as well as a baseball cap.
Scarfs are really helpful. I recommend both summer (light weight) and warm winter scarves, depending on how long you're here/time of year.
Sunscreen is a must. The sun is more intense because of the very thin ozone layer.
Sleeping bags are unnecessary. They're bulky, and I never found that I needed one. If you're wwoofing, there may be a rare need for one, but generally I'd say leave it.
Packing Pods would have been helpful, since I was here over several seasons.
Cars are bought and sold like it's no big deal. Keep in mind that they drive on the left hand side of the road. Being in Wellington (the capital city) allowed me access to public bus and train transportation, but cars do come in handy. Kiwi's are often generous and may allow you to use theirs if you have a valid driver's license.
Some car rental places need drivers to move cars from Wellington to Auckland or vice versa, which is a free option. I didn't ever need a car (because I chose a bus tour), but I found kind people who would let me hitch a ride when places were slightly out of walking or bussing distance. Cars can be very handy here, and necessary if you don't choose a tour.
Kiwi Experience is one of a few bus tour companies, and I had a blast on this one! It's an affordable option for travel with mostly young people, but there were travelers of all ages, ranging from 18-72. It's a fun way to see lots of places and meet people from all over the world. Book your pick-ups early if you visit during Peak Season (December-March), and double-check pick-up times. Even the best plans sometimes don't work, but there are solutions!
Stray is a more expensive version of Kiwi Experience, goes to slightly different places, has smaller busses, and is generally a slightly older (30's an up) crowd of passengers than KiwiEx. They also have Asian tours. It sounded equally great, but it depends on what you want and what your budget allows.
Contiki is for 18-35 year olds, and honestly, I don't really know much else about them.
Jetstar is very cheap, no frills, but has great deals.
Air New Zealand often has amazing deals getting in and out of NZ. I recommend signing up for the newsletter so you can hear about flash sales.
My Wellington map lists restaurant and points of interest.
Working and Visas:
Bunac is where I found my NZ work visa, and they make the process as seamless as possible. I found them to be incredibly helpful and professional, and had previously used them for work in the UK. Their NZ age requirements are less restrictive than the typical immigration sites, making it possible for me take advantage of this opportunity.
Immigration websites will help you determine if you're eligible to work in the country. Generally, you must be 18-30 years old and if you fit the demographic, it's a much cheaper option than Bunac.
Helpx is a good resource for finding work, or simply finding where you want to help and direct message the farm/lodge to see if they have job vacancies. I loved my work-stay at The Pear Orchard Lodge.
This is a good way to make a decent hourly wage and meet lots of people.
Here's a comprehensive list of agencies also in Wellington.
Madison recruitment was recommended to me.
The Big Idea has creative jobs.
Writer Finder lists freelance writing jobs.
Fairfaxmedia is another option.
Wellington has a comprehensive site full of information on the city as well as concerts, activities, etc.
VicDeals is a Facebook group with flats for rent and cheap things to buy.
BBH is a place to find better-than-average accommodation, along with discounts on activities, the Inerislander ferry, and other perks. Check the rating of the hostel before booking and rate afterwards -- these boutique hostels appreciate on your feedback.
Budget Travel has some links and ideas for upscale, less-expensive options all over the world.
*General accommodation warning*: The time of year matters. Some areas have a very limited amount of beds (Arthur's Pass), so book early during Peak Season (December - March).*
House sitting is a great option. I reached out to some friends before leaving and found a few options that set me up for a seamless entry into the country. Specific sites/links can be found on my Tips page.
Hostels and Backpacker accommodation are very common and used by families and people of all ages. Prices typically range from $25NZD to $35NZD and both dorm and private rooms are usually offered.
Airbnb is also a good option for short and long-term stays.
Hostelworld is a great resource for world-wide accommodation.
Wifi isn't great. It's often limited, code and time restricted, and you may be bumped off unexpectedly. Don't count of good wifi. That said, I was able to find decent spots most of the time in Wellington and a houses. Cities on the South Island are even less consistent.
Mobile Phone carriers are decent. Make sure your phone is unlocked if you want a local sim card. 2degrees has free sims, but choosing a plan can be confusing. I recommend visiting a store to get a better idea of your options.
What's App is really helpful in communicating with global numbers over wifi.
*Customs Info. When entering the country, make sure your equipment is clean. Do not bring fruits, or you will be fined $400NZD, but if you forget, there are a million signs upon arrival.*
I'm repeating myself here with the sunscreen because I didn't initially understand the thin ozone layer issue. Hats, sunscreen, light scarfs are all very necessary, at least in my case.
Seasons are of course opposite of the Northern Hemisphere, so keep in mind the differences because activities such skiing are only available from around June to end of September.
Peak Season is December - March
Low Season is June - September
Shoulder seasons are March–May and September–November.
Current Conversion rates are always a good thing to check before you go.
If you're on a working holiday visa, you will need proof of funds when applying and possibly when entering the country.
These basics should give you a decent idea of some essentials...and non-essentials. Starting in Auckland, you can follow my path of numbered entries on the Map page, or choose any city for my experience, along with links and ideas to get you going. Enjoy!
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