What’s mine is mine once again

After a very easy 20 minute meeting, I now have a fully accessible New Zealand Bank Account, Visa card and bank card (all in one). This has been such a remarkably simple process – I was able to partially open an account online, from Canada. This gave me an account number, transfer agent to ask questions to, and most importantly, allowed me to do a bank transfer from Canada before I even left. So my money was sitting here waiting for me when I arrived, I just needed to meet with my transfer agent here in New Zealand, provide 2 pieces of ID, sign a few papers and off I went. It still is startling to me how easy New Zealand has made everything to pick up and move here – I imagine havine thousands of kilometers of ocean around you on all sides before any major landmass helps a bit, as the worry of illegal immigration would be pretty low I imagine. While I imagine the problem still exists, it certainly doesn’t seem to be a concern from what I can see. They seem more than pleased to allow me into their country and have made everything so darn easy!

It’s alternating between rain and sunshine again today, so I’m currently hiding out from the showers. This allows me to start looking at my next major hurdle – buying a car. All it has to do is get me from point A to B, so it’s going to be cheaper than anything I’ve had previous. Given my mechanical ineptitude, this could be disatrous. I also seem to be on a bit of a downward slide in terms of the car I have – I thought I was supposed to have nicer cars as I got older?

 

Range of costs

So far I’ve noticed that New Zealand certainly does tend to the upper end of expensiveness, especially compared to Canada. I know we in Canada love to complain how much more expensive things are compared to the States…well, we have it pretty easy it turns out. That being said, there are a few things working in New Zealand’s favour (their dollar is worth less than ours, their minimum wage is higher). Plus, one thing that I really like – they have a sales tax much like Canada, but all their prices shown are tax inclusive! This is one thing I wish Canada would move to, it makes things 100x easier when pricing out.

What I’ve noticed so far:

Transit, Sushi, Mobile Internet and Cell phone plans are much cheaper in NZ than in Canada. I’ve opted for Mobile internet rather than struggling to find cheap/free wifi, and at $25NZD/month for 500MB, it’s fairly reasonable and usable throughout New Zealand. Compare that to what you have to pay in Canada for similar ($30CAD+/month for 500MB, considerably more if using prepaid like me), and it’s a definite bargain. Sushi simply is due to demand and competition – there are a TON of sushi places here. I’m not lacking for my tasty raw fish, and $5-10NZD will easily constitute a relatively decent, filling sushi dinner. $10CAD won’t go very far in Canada when it comes to sushi. As for Cell Phone plans…well, Canada is considered one of the most expensive mobile phone providers, and for good reason. One huge perk here in New Zealand – while I have similar minutes to what I’d get in Canada, incoming calls, regardless of where they come from, are *always* free. Canada and the US are pretty much the only places that charge you for both incoming and outgoing calls. I didn’t know that until just now! On top of that, there is no ‘roaming’ nonsense in NZ – regardless of where I am in New Zealand, my rate is the same.

That being said, there are many things MORE expensive here that I’ve seen. Pretty much universally, food is expensive. Fast food, snacks, milk, cereal, bread, you name it, it’s mostly all more expensive. On the ‘considerably more’ category, I’d put stuff like bathroom stuff – toothpaste, shaving cream, shampoo and the like seem to be obscenely expensive (I’d say twice as much as in Canada). And I was looking at the prices in their supermarkets, corner stores are even more. Luckily, someone had mentioned to bring a bit of extra toiletry supplies, so I’m decently well stocked there. The aforementioned wifi in cafes is also noticeably more expensive, as are tourist activities – I’ve taken a peak at a few things, and many start around $100NZD here in Auckland – for a large group day tour, that seems *expensive* (I’ll just be walking myself anyways). I’ll save up my money for the activities anyways (rafting and the like seem more reasonable for their prices).

Oh, and as for different (and yes, these are the genuine article, not a knockoff).

Baffling!

Death by Transit

I’ve only been honked at once so far (and I don’t think they honked just because I look sexy covered in layers of clothing), but I’m pretty sure the roads here will be the death of me. Not that the traffic or drivers are all that bad (not that I’ve noticed at least), just that there is constant traffic, and they all drive on the wrong side of the road. This is Ponsonby Rd, near my Hostel:

In my little world, this is how I still see traffic:

Doesn’t that look much better? I think so. I know how to avoid getting run over by these cars. The ones here in New Zealand? Seems to be a daunting task so far. Driving my own vehicle soon should be…interesting (read – potentially terrifying for myself and others).

So, rather than learn, I’ve instead taken to public transit as a means of getting around (also to rest my limpy leg). Thankfully, Auckland has an outstanding public transit system. It’s somewhat confusing at first (there seem to be several different metro bus companies or just all use different names? I’m still not 100%), but the buses are frequent and inexpensive ($1.80NZD, or about $1.50 Canadian). They also have a train system similar to GO Transit in the GTA for the longer trips. I took one yesterday out to the suburbs in search of a cheap retail environment (more on that in the next post…).  

Again, very convenient and useful. After finding some groceries and a laundry bag, I took the train back and found dinner. After a tasty sushi dinner, I decided to take the bus back to the hostel – and ended up walking all the way back because I never did find the proper bus stop (turns out I can’t read a map sometimes).

Going Live

Alright, I think I have this web page set up properly now, and with a few pieces of content to boot! Time to send the emails and go live! And then never update the site again. 😛

Nah, hopefully I’ll be pretty good about updating regularly, though the limited internet available my hinder that for now. I have found one free source though – the public libraries here in Auckland have wifi, though it’s pretty slow. Likely because the place is packed with people who, like me, just want simple internet access (for free). Now to start downloading movies…(not going to happen – they limit each computer to 100MB/day).

If you’ve got any comments or suggestions about the site or the content, drop me a line!

Arrival

Not too shabby!

So I’ve made it! That’s the view from right beside my hostel, looking towards downtown Auckland. Today’s my first full day here in New Zealand. I arrived yesterday around 6am, but yesterday is still more of a blur than anything. The flight from Los Angeles was uneventful, and I did manage to sleep a bit. Getting in at Auckland, I was curious to see what customs/immigration would be like for me. I had all my papers for my working holiday ready just in case – my passport, working holiday visa letters, proof of funds (the visa stipulates $4200NZD proof of accessible funds), and hostel papers. Upon getting up to the customs agent, he scanned my passport, asked how long I would be staying (1 year), stamped my passport and sent me on my way. I get hassled more coming back into Canada, that was so remarkably simple.

First things first, before leaving the airport I took out some cash. It looks like there won’t be any issue for me to adjust to their cash – multicoloured like Canada, and the $20s are even in a similar shade of green. Once flush with money, I found the city bus to take me downtown. From the nearest stop I could find I walked about 20 minutes to my hostel and checked in.

Finally being free of my large backpack, I felt free and full of energy (this wouldn’t last…). I headed downtown, a 30 minute stroll. It began to rain. It began to sleet and hail. I remember this weather from Canada…the sun came back out shortly after, and I had found shelter in a cafe, with the hopes of checking in online – this was where I made a disturbing discovery. Free wifi in New Zealand is a very foreign concept! Where as we (and really, any other country I’ve been to…including Latin America and Ecuador) enjoy free wifi in many spots (most often coffee shops), nearly EVERYWHERE in Auckland requires you to pay to use the wifi. Evil evil evil!

The rest of my first day was fairly uneventful, hobbling around the downtown core. I managed to injure myself last week hiking in BC, and my leg it seems hasn’t fully healed as I aggravated it again. Argh. I did manage to set up my cell phone with a new number. Yay me! And then I fell asleep at 730pm (thankfully, in my bed at the hostel).

Direct Flights are great!

When you can get them. I’m certainly not going to complain though in my situation – my flights were nearly free thanks to points, but the routing just is a bit odd:

Direct? Not quite

My flight plan is thus: Nanaimo-Vancouver-Phoenix-Los Angeles-Auckland!!!! Air New Zealand does operate direct flights from Vancouver to Auckland, but only on certain days and none were available to me via Aeroplan. So, I took this option. On the big plus side, we flew over the Grand Canyon, a definite perk, before landing in the scorching wasteland that is Phoenix – 41C right now, before humidity…okay, there is no humidity in the desert.

Regardless of how I travelled, the first flight was required, and really, the most fun. It’s a short little sea-plane hop from Nanaimo to Vancouver, and drops me at Vancouver’s airport. Well, nearby, since the plane lands in a nearby inlet. The airport is right on the coast though, so it’s only a short shuttle ride to the airport. Once I got there, I was the only person waiting for an US Airways flight – nobody was available to check me in. Turns out I was just a bit before the 3 hour normal wait period. Shortly after I arrived however a person came to claim my bag and check me in. And off I went (to security).

Another interesting peculiarity of flying this way is having to connect through the States – going from Canada to the US, I actually went through US Customs before boarding the plane. I think this was the first time I got to experience this (other times, coming into the US from other counties, you clear customs upon landing in the US), and while at first being a bit odd, once I got off my flight in Phoenix I grew to appreciate it – I walked off the plane and didn’t have any more security checks to worry about! It was rather nice and civilized.

And that’s where I sit currently, Phoenix’s airport. This thing is monstrous (and kind of dark/muddled), I took about 40 minutes to wander around one of 3 terminals here, and then went to find lunch. Chose spicy Mexican, which may end up being a mistake considering I have another 19 hours of travel or so: 3 more hours here in Phoenix waiting, a short 1 hour hop to Los Angeles, 2 hour layover there, and then, finally, my 13 hour long haul to deliver me to Auckland! Almost there!

Preplanning Expenses

While I am not planning anything past touching down and spending my first week in Auckland, there still has been a lot of time spent on making sure I have everything I need to GET there, and be ready to go once I arrive. Overall I do plan to keep track of my budget on a month to month basis, simply for curiosity on my part and because others may find it useful. Just in case such a trip becomes a possibility for someone else!

My trip begins July 23rd, and I’ve spent the last week organizing and setting up the various things I feel I need to make the most of my time down there.

Details:

Working Holiday Visa – This is the first and most important item to make this all happen – Getting accepted into New Zealand’s Working Holiday Program. The time it took was actually pretty minimal – About 30 minutes to fill out the online application, and I got accepted shortly afterwards. No interview, no detailed paperwork, nothing. Easy as could be, and the first step was done. $140NZ

Flight – I guess the most sizable initial cost for most people would be the flight to New Zealand. One way tickets often run $800+. Here, I cheated and used my Aeroplan points to book a flight for minimal cost. There are direct flights available from Vancouver, but my points were best used flying through the states to keep taxes down. $100CAD

Backpack – I bought a new backpack for this trip, the Osprey Farpoint 70. I was looking for something durable, lightweight, easily openable/lockable, and had a good detachable daypack. It took me a while, but the Farpoint fit everything I was looking for. $250CAD

Farpoint 70
Farpoint 70

Travel Insurance – Proof of Travel/Emergency Medical insurance is mandatory for entering New Zealand, and there are a lot of options to choose amongst. Thankfully, there are companies in New Zealand that offer it specifically for those travelling on a working holiday visa to New Zealand. I chose Orbit-Protect for the simplicity and low cost. Hopefully, it won’t be used at all! $300NZ

Bank Account – While I’m not required to have one, a New Zealand Bank Account comes in handy if I want a job that pays me money – so working on farms likely won’t require one, but a job in a city would. Plus, having locally accessible funds keeps the cost to me down, I won’t be charged for currency conversion constantly and won’t have to keep an eye on currency conversion rates. So I opened an account with Bank of New Zealand, which was the only bank in New Zealand that I could find that allowed me to open an account before I arrived. This was very convenient, as I was able to transfer money easily to the bank from here in Canada. The account still isn’t fully accessible – I have to go into their downtown headquarters in Auckland to finish setting things up, but most of the difficult stuff is already complete. Free!

Mail Service – One thing for setting up the bank account and getting my IRD number (sort of like a Tax ID number) is I need a mailing address. This is something else that isn’t too hard to find in New Zealand thanks to the abundance of backpackers. The service I chose here is offered through a backpacking website, who coordinates with a hostel in Auckland to handle mail and forwarding as necessary. As I only plan to need a mailing address for the first couple of months, I chose the shortest term time available, 6 months. $27CAD

And that’s about it for pre-planned expenses. Many of them are upfront costs that will last me throughout the year, and by paying up front I get them out of the way and I’ll be able to more easily settle right in somewhere in New Zealand and start enjoying the country sooner, rather than later.

The Issue of Money

One thing I’ve been asked by quite a few people is regarding money. Namely, how I’m going to afford this kind of trip. Realistically, adding the working holiday part into New Zealand should allow me to stretch my budget considerably, assuming I do find work (and I think I will). But even without factoring in supplemental income, I should have more than enough to live and travel for over a year on my savings alone.

The amount of money to budget for these kinds of trips is all over the place once you do some internet searching. Some people will do a round-the-world trip on as little as $10,000 for the entire year, all expenses in. Others will spend $30,000-40,000 in one year. One large determining factor is where you spend the majority of your time – if you are in Europe, Japan, North America or Australia/New Zealand, your costs are going to be orders of magnitude higher than if you spend a lot of time in India and China. Another large factor is how bare bones you make your trip, whether you experience some of the ‘must do’ things when you are in certain countries, such as hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, bungee jumping in New Zealand, or 100s of other touristy things that cost extra.

I’m looking at somewhat middle of the road. At least for the first year, being in New Zealand will be a bit of an extra strain on my savings. New Zealand isn’t a cheap country to live in, but several things will be working in my advantage: The Canadian dollar is strong right now, so I’ll get a bit of a boost when I transfer my money, my travel costs should be minimal since I won’t be flying once I reach Auckland, simply bus or car travel, and I plan to live on farms/smaller communities as much as in larger, more expensive cities. From what I’ve read about people doing Work Holidays in NZ, a budget of between $3000-5000 is more than sufficient for a year, and if successful in finding some good jobs, that money may hardly be touched.

Anyways, on to the dollar amounts. Being the planner I am, I’ve got considerably more saved up than what I plan on needing. Ideally, whenever I get back to Canada, I won’t be flat broke this way. But who knows. It breaks down like this:

Immediate Cash – $10,000 – This will be the money I’ll transfer to New Zealand for all my day-to-day and travel expenses. Considerably more than I plan on needing, but I’d rather to have more than less.

Short Term Savings – $20-30,000 – The majority of this is in the wonderful TFSAs that the Canadian government set up a few years back. For the tax free savings accounts, my actual input is $15,000, and the account has made nearly $5000 in profit/interest so far. They are medium risk Mutual Funds, but I got in at a good time for most of them, allowing pretty good growth. I don’t plan on touching these until I need them, which would likely be once I leave New Zealand to continue travelling around the world. Hopefully I’d be able to return to Canada with at least $10,000 left, but who knows? That’s a long ways away.

Long Term Savings – This is my ‘retirement’ account. Kind of funny to think of, considering I won’t be actually inputting anything into it for quite some time now. But, they are high risk investments that should continue to grow while I’m away. I won’t touch these unless I absolutely, absolutely have to. No real need to put the savings amount currently here, since I don’t plan on using it, as I would like to still have something saved for 30 years from now.

So I plan to have around $40K accessible to myself when I travel. I’d say the average for a year of travel that I saw pegged costs around $20K/year. I should (and hope) to be able to last 2 years myself, and with the first year being balanced working around New Zealand, I think this should be a reasonable and achievable goal. But, it’s hard to say until I actually start travelling what the costs will REALLY look like.