03.06.2010 - 03.06.2010
Traveling about New Zealand
Tips and Tricks
Well, that was it for me. and this one is for you. If your are traveling to New Zealand and your're currently planning your trip, you may be looking for some inside information. And I have just the thing! I don't expect you to find everything as useful or relevant. It really depends on what kind of traveller you are. I'm a planner, me, so I imagine you'd also want as many tiips and tricks as you can gather. So, here goes.
Know your limit
This pretty much goes for everything. From walking tracks to the amount of sleep a night, from dirty hostels to managing your budget. It even goes for luggage; I've soon found out that backpacking was pushing my limit, so I went ahead an bought myself a big trolley. Of course, that meant I was the joke of the backpackers for the rest of my journey, but it brought me much peace of mind. It's all about making your trip as comfortable and as pleasant as possible. I've found it particularly important with tramping tracks; if your party or people in your hostel are all going for a daytramp to a summit, or for a five-day hike into the wopwops (kiwi slang for 'the middle of nowhere'), just decide for yourself whether you're up for it, and -more importantly- whether you want to.
The Kiwis and their visitors
Kiwis are very friendly and always cheerful and helpful. They love their country, and will love people who share it. And the travellers you'll meet will also have the most wonderful stories and plans. Get inspired!
Kiwi Experience bus
I haven't had any experience with this bus, thanks to a friend who had also warned me in advance. It has a nickname: the Sexbus.
Advice: get a Flexipass of the Intercity bus. It is a tad more expensive, but if you are spending that much time travelling by bus and if you have to rely on is as your primary form of transport: it's well worth it.
With a Flexipass, you buy hours. Depending on the length of each journey, Intercity will deduct the time off of your pass. Depending on how many hours you buy on your pass, one hour of travelling with cost approx. $10.
If your are travelling with Intercity: book via the free phone number, I've heard bad stories about trying to book travels online.
It sometimes pay to occasionally check for cheap deals online.
And occasionally check cheap online deals with Nakedbus or Atomic Travel, as well, for instance.
InterIslander / Bluebridge
It is expensive to travel between the two main islands. The two companies have roughly the same prices, they do depart from different terminals in Wellington, though – so check your map. It can cost you approx. $70 one-way, travelling from Wellington to Picton. Check cheap deals online. For $20 extra, you get a special pass which allows you access to a small lounge where you can get free coffee/tea, juice and biscuits and where you can away from screaming kids, if it is peak season.
If you can: book the InterIslander with your Intercity Flexipass. It will deduct approx. 4 hours off of your Flexipass, which in most cases is the equivalent of $45.
It may be handy to check the number of beds in the dorm/share room (some of them can have up to 12 beds!) and the total number of beds in the hostel.
Base hostels in particular are large and filled with party people, so be aware of that. I haven't had the best experience with Base hostels. Unless you are a party person, you may prefer the smaller hostels that have less people that come to New Zealand to party and get drunk and more people who enjoy travelling, trekking and tramping.
For groceries, Pak 'n Save is probably the cheapest, but it's usually found outside the city centre. Other options are Fresh Choice, Countdown, New World, and Woolworths. I've probably forgotten a few, but these are the largest. You'll find them. Easily. If you're really on a budget, avoid dairies (convenience stores); they are not there to sell stuff, they're there to rip you off! ;-)
For clothing, Hallensteins (men) and Glassons (women) are your best options for basic, cheap-ish clothing (similar to H&M) You can also check out the Warehouse for basic stuff; they sell lots of things, including foods, clothing, books, sports equipment, toys, electronics, etc.
For books, check out Whitcoulls or PaperPlus. And of course pop into the second hand bookstore found in almost every town/city. Most of them sell and buy books.
Stuff to buy or to bring that could come in handy
Apart from basic needs such as a small first-aid kit, sunscreen (30+) and daddy's limitless creditcard, there may be a few other things I can definitely recommend to take on your travles. Depending on your plans, you may find these items more or less useful. Obviously.
Okay, this may be my best tip ever. And according to me, this may be the best tip ever. I'd like to claim that I invented this system. If only for the fact that my travel agent told me she had never heard of anyone using this system. And it is an ingenious system indeed. If I may say so. :-)
Okay, here's the thing. I'm assuming you are taking a digital camera with you on your journey. If you are planning to use an analogue camera, than this entire paragraph is not for you. (My everlasting respect is, though... stick to your old cam! Don't you just love the analogue click?? I know I do.) My idea is this: invest in a external harddrive of 80 or 160 GB. This will allow you to empty your camera and back-up your pictures, without having to buy/send CD's or DVD's. I found it absolutely fantastic. Every pc in any library or Internet cafe has one or two USB ports, so you can just load your pics from the card to the harddrive. I had a camera with a 1GB memorycard, so I could transfer my pictures almost 160 times. After five months of travelling, I had used less than 14 GB, though...
Of course you could load them to an online picture site, but you may risk losing the quality of your pictures. Plus, you may have to buy storage space, which could become increasingly costly.
Camelbak / Platypus / watersystem
Most of the tramping tracks in New Zealand are 2-3 hours, with longer tramps of 4-6 hours, and the day tramp can keep you busy for up to 8 or 9 hours. So, if you are likely to walk the tracks you find on the map, especially the multi-day hikes, invest in a watersystem like Camelbak. Put it in your backpack, you will have 2 litres of water with you at all times, ready to drink without having to stop and open your bag. It is an easy way to take care of yourself; during those longer tramps, you may not drink enough water if it is not easily accessible. If at the end of your tramp your Camelbak has reached vaccuum state, you know you have drunk 2 litres of fluid. Which is a good thing. Doing tramps becomes so much easier with such a watersystem. I actually think that I could not have done any of the longer tramps without it.
If you are staying at backpackers/hostels, where you have to share a room, you will looove this item. It may be handy for finding your way about the room and in your bag at night, as well as for reading. Inevitably, it will look pretty ridiculous on your head, but at least you have your hands free to muck about in your bag or to turn the pages!
Budget Backpacker Hostels is a chain of diverse hostels. You can stay at the hostels with our without BBH membership, but I can definitely recommend it. The card costs $45, but it is also a $20 phone card, plus, with the $3-5 discount on each single night at a BBH hostel, you will soon benefit from the $25 card. (If you do the quick math: after approximately 8 nights and you'll be breaking the bank!)
The BBH booklet is good to carry around with you and can be found in every hostel. It has all the BBH hostels, addresses, phone numbers, ratings (!), and small maps. It also gives an idea of the size of the hostel, its facilities, and -of course- the sizes and prices of the rooms.
Any hostel can be a BBH hostel, which means that you can find and stay in the type of hostel that you prefer. Most hostels will have made-up beds, or will provide you with linen for a surcharge, if you don't have a sleeping bag.
Free! Resealable plastic bags
You can find them in the bigger supermarkets. Keep an eye out for the containters with nuts, dried fruits and candy that you have to scoop yourself (commonly known as Allison's Pantry). They have resealable bags for that, on which you have to write down the number of the product you've just scooped. It's these bags that you may want to grap a couple of: the small ones are fantastic for lunchpacks. You can grab the bigger bags and use them for leftovers of your dinner and storing them in the fridge. (Write your name on it, thought... They've got a designated writing space anyway!)
One more thing: they are also brilliant to keep your toiletries or your adapters together. I've used them for everything! (I've used about 20 of them when going on a 3-day canoe trip over the Whanganui River: no chance my flashlight, socks, or undies got wet!)
What a bizarre way to end my final blog entry, but there's really not much left to say, or write.
If you have any comments, please feel free to contact me. I'd also love to hear what your plans are for your trip, or what your experiences were with your NZ travels!