Its been three months now since I arrived back home after my six months backpacking adventure in New Zealand. My friend and I had no idea what we were getting into and therefore ran into all kinds of problems. So many things came up that I wish I had known before so today I will share with you what we had to learn the hard way.
But lets start at the beginning. We decided to go to New Zealand after finishing high school because we didn’t want to study just yet. Neither of us was very interested in detailed planning so we didn’t make any ”masterplan“ for our trip (not really making our mothers happy with that). We did, however, get to a point where we had to plan something at least. Finding flights that matched our needs was really hard so we decided to go to a travel agency that had specialized in backpacking. Although that provided us with some advantages (10kg extra luggage and a stopover in Hong Kong without planning anything), this was also our first major mistake.
From the beginning on we knew that we did not want to book with any ”work and travel agency“. However, STA, the travel agency we used to book the flights also offered an easy hostel solution in HK and a ”starter pack“ helping you with some of the bureaucracy in NZ. Except for the flights, everything they did was simply not worth it. The hostel in HK was horrible, the free airport transfer in Auckland was nonexistent and introduction event was not half as detailed as this blog post. Also, the mail keeping service ended up throwing away my paycheck. I can not recommend booking with an agency, you can find out pretty much everything you need to know on various blogs with a focus on Work & Travel.
Deciding what we would bring to New Zealand was the next major step. We both went for an ”outdoor-urban hybrid“ – we had backpacks, sleeping bags and micro fabric towels alongside nice jeans, shirts and sneakers. Although I think the contents were perfectly fine (since we were both, camping and running around cities), the backpacks weren’t all that necessary. We already knew that we wanted to travel in a car so the only time I actually used my large backpack was in Abel Tasman. For a full list of all the things I packed head over to my Backpacking Essentials article.
Another essential part when going to a foreign country is money. What if you ran out of cash? How expensive are the exchange fees? If you do Work & Travel like we did, you have to open a New Zealand bank account and eventually you will also have money on that account. In the beginning, however, we were in the same situation like everyone else. I can only speak about Germany here but most countries have at least one bank that has contracts with a NZ bank to offer you free withdrawals (Deutsche Bank for me). You don’t even have to bring any cash then as you can simply get money at the airport. Also, New Zealand is on an excellent level in terms of electronic payment so if you have access to an international credit card make sure to have it with you!
You are now prepared to board your flight to New Zealand. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions! Read part two here!