I keep finding myself reminiscing back on my trip to New Zealand. Even though it was only a short two week trip I found myself bloody loving the place; it is so similar to Australia, yet so different. In these moments of reminiscence I think of certain aspects of the trip and NZ itself that I did not expect or found exciting so I thought to write it all down for the world to see and for me to be able to clearly remember as I grow old and forgetful. Here we go: 10 NEED-TO-KNOWS BEFORE A TRIP TO NEW ZEALAND!
1. The sun is up FOREVER
Legit. The first night in New Zealand I remember lying in my bed at Tanoa Aspen, Queenstown trying to briefly recover from our flights when I realised the time was 8:30pm. I got up and opened the blinds and it was still as bright and light as the time at 12pm! I could not believe it! Just ask my traveling partner Holly. I did not stop being amazed at this simple little insignificant thing for the whole time period that I was in Queenstown.
2. Be ready to be struck by beauty around every corner
It is actually really funny, as soon as we flew into Christchurch to catch our connecting flight to Queenstown the first thing I saw as soon as we entered New Zealand airspace were sheep (literally, sheep everywhere!). Another thing I noticed were these yellow ferns absolutely everywhere. I later learned that they are called Lupinus Arboreus, native to New Zealand particularly around the Central Otago region.
New Zealand in general is breathtaking. There is beauty everywhere you look. I suggest heading to Queenstown first because you see the full force of the New Zealand flora, architecture, lakes, snow-capped mountains and green landscape.
3. This place is relatively cheap!
I found the cost of living to be the factor of New Zealand that was most similar to Australia. The price of activities, food, souvenirs and essentials mirror Australia’s cost. This made my first overseas trip so much more simpler because it was accurate with Australia’s dollar and I found it easier to control how much money I spent. Overall, I think I spent about $2000 extra when I was actually in New Zealand; this included public transport (taxis and buses), adventure activities, sightseeing, food and beverages, nights out and souvenirs for myself and my family.
4. Top notch public transport system
The point is pretty self-explanatory. No matter where you are in New Zealand there seems to be public transport close by except for the ‘wild places’ such as Milford Sound, but even then, there are buses that take you out to these wild places on day trips. We rode the buses and taxis the most and again, the price is very similar to Australian public transport.
5. You’ll be greeted with every season in one day
Wake up in the morning, it’s freezing. You dress in jeans, jackets, scarfs, gloves and boots and your warm as can be. Then it hits 11am and its time to take off the gloves, scarf and jacket. By 1pm, you were wishing you wore shorts and thongs because of the sweltering heat. But by 6pm it starts cooling down again. I visited in november the peak tourist season which was their Spring and I sure am glad that I did it then because I can’t imagine how cold it would get in their Winter!
6. Gloves are a must
Funny story. The night before I left for NZ I was trying to make my suitcase lighter. In amongst all this stress and panic I figured that I wouldn’t need my pair of gloves so I stupidly left them sitting on my lounge room floor. When I landed in Christchurch, I was wishing that I could teleport back to my lounge room floor, pick up my gloves and teleport back to the airport.
Holly and I spent most part of our first day in Queenstown looking for a cheap pair of gloves. The cheapest we found were $25 gloves that were made out of proper wool or something like that and because I’m naturally a tight-ass and we were trying to watch our money spending I said no to these and for the whole two-weeks I braved the cold mornings and frosty night with freezing hands. Reason number #15625 why Racquel’s a idiot.
7. This is the thrill-seekers land!
I made a pact with myself that I would do an adventure activity out of the ordinary that I would probably never have done at home. And I had my mind set on doing the Canyon Swing. Contiki is an excellent tour company to do New Zealand with and I recommend them 10/10 but there is one significant fact that I got really pissed with them about. Holly and I going the tour 3 days after the rest of the people on our tour met. We were unaware that our tour started 3 days earlier in Christchurch for a couple of $100 dollars more. So when it came to choosing our activities in Queenstown half of the choices including the Canyon Swing were booked out. Essentially, Holly and I had to choose the activities that were least popular in Queenstown which sucked ass might I say.
In the end I didn’t get to do the Canyon Swing but I did get to do the Skytower walk in Auckland and wasn’t that an adventure in itself! It was insane. We were walking 192 metres above the ground, 360 degrees around the tower, on a platform that was 1 metre wide with no handrails. We had harnesses on but fuck, you still didn’t want to talk the wrong step or you’d be hanging off the side of the tower. That was my top thrill-seeker activity! In addition I also kayaked and jetboated the Shotover River, canoed through the Waitomo glowworm caves and did so much more that i’ll remember for a lifetime.
8. Customs and airport security is insanely strict
When we landed in Christchurch we had to fill out this security and customs form where we had to declare anything that we had that was considered a national security threat in New Zealand. I had never been overseas before so this was all new to me. One of the options on the form was shoes that had touched dirt and other plants in a foreign country; so that was basically all the shoes I had. Holly and I declared it just to be safe but I reckon the customs lady thought we were total bell-ends because you didn’t really need to declare shoes.
It’s just funny like that. And then she asked us all these questions about where we were coming from, how long we were staying, where we were staying, what were our travel purposes etc. Their strict mate. But I guess they kind of have to be.
9. The locals are top people
Every one of them. So incredibly lovely. I did not come across a rude New Zealander the whole time I was there. Our tour guides Soki and Pat were lovely and so welcoming. Everyone that we casually met, from the lady at Cookie Time in Queenstown to the ferry staff on the boat that took us from the South Island to the North Island, to the flight attendants on our Air New Zealand flights.
10. Unusual wildlife is everywhere
Nearly every place that we went, particularly Queenstown, Franz Josef and Waitomo, it was so lovely waking up to the wildlife around us and all the birds chirping. When we drove through Arthurs Pass we spotted a couple of Kea Birds up close. When we were in Franz Josef we had all day entry into the Kiwi bird enclosure to see Kiwi birds. The wildlife is so amazing and unique. If I were to go back to New Zealand again, I would definitely visit a zoo and place more of a emphasis on exploring the native wildlife.