Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wrapping up New Zealand – NZ travel tips

We're back to catching up on the blog. This was written on 9/5/09 as a summary of NZ:

All of our lodging was done in hostels, so no comment on things like hotels or camping. If you are looking to stay at hostels, New Zealand has tons of options, with prices generally ranging from NZD 20-30 for a dorm bed. Our primary guide to selecting hostels was BBH, which has short descriptions and rankings for member hostels in each location. We found the ranking to be very representative of the experience, so using BBH as a guide is a pretty good indicator. If you plan on staying for a while, you may want to consider getting a BBH membership, which generally reduces hostel prices by NZD 3. The cost of membership is NZD 45. Do the math. If you do stay at hostels, make sure to inquire about backpacker discounts at various activities. For example, we saved NZD 10 at the sky tower in Auckland by showing our hostel key.

Our favorite hostel on the trip was The Last Resort in Queenstown, mainly because of the friendly atmosphere, perks (free wifi, breakfast, towels, and bedsheets) and super friendly atmosphere. Other notables were the Global Village in Greymouth and The Bug in Nelson.

We did most our our transportation by bus. We found nakedbus.com to be the best deal, but make sure to book earlier rather than later, as prices increase with time. We learned that lesson when prices were adjusted upwards within 30 minutes of our initial check. In the south, Atomic shuttle can have good deals, and they generally partner with nakedbus. If you book directly thru Atomic shuttle, they will apparently do custom pickups and drop offs, so if you have tons of stuff, it may be worth the extra cost.

When flying, Jet Star had some great deals.

Car rentals are fairly reasonable. As noted in previous blog posts, consider flying south and trekking north. There are tons of deals from Queenstown and Christchurch for one way rentals to Auckland, as rental companies try to relocate vehicles northward. We got one from Wellington for NZD 14 per day. If you get a rental on the south island to the north, make sure to inquire about the ferry cost, as it can be significant. On some deals, they will actually pay for the ferry. Alternatively, you may be able to drop the car off on the northern tip of the south island and pick a different car up on the southern tip of the north island or vice versa.

For long trips, some people buy a car or camper and then sell it at the end of the trip. We didn't do that, but it may be of interest to some.

The ferry is nifty, especially on a beautiful day. The TranzAlpine train was nifty as well, and they have special deals in the winter.

Stuff to bring
We both brought a netbook (Asus eee900 and eee901), which were very handy for Internet access, skype, taking notes, and backing up pictures. They are cheap, small, and light. Highly recommended for anybody traveling for a prolonged period of time, altough you do have to be careful not to spend too much time on the computer, as that kinda defeats the purpose of traveling in my book (this is Swiss.) Some hostels have free wifi, and we found a bunch of libraries that offer free wifi as well. I guess it just depends how connected you want to be, but if internet access is desired, this is probably one of the best options short of having an international dataplan on your smartphone.

Power strip - We didn't bring one, but wish we had. Most hostels had limited outlets, and it makes it much easier to charge multiple things at once. You will also only need only one converter for all your gadgets if you bring a US powerstrip.

Ear plugs – Handy when spending time in enclosed areas where people are snoring and/or just generally loud. They can be bought, but cost between $3-5 per pop. Get to know somebody who works in a manufacturing environment, and I'm sure they'll be happy to bring you some from work. Alternatively, I would think you could buy some in bulk online. I have a hard time paying $3 for a piece of foam.

Phone - We didn't buy a SIM card as they were rather expensive given the amount of time we were spending there. Skype works very well where internet is available. There are also plenty of pay phones.


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