12 August 2014

Welcome to Middle Earth

While hitchhiking is still going strong in New Zealand many are instead choosing to make use of the cheap bus and even airfares to get from A to B.
Here are some links to help you explore the possibilities:
Some cities and regions have embraced the cycling community providing sections of streets marked for cyclists, like Wellington and Hastings in the North Island.  Others have widened pathways to provide for pedestrian and cycle traffic besides.  Which is all well and good for in-and-around town, but long-haul touring is not for the faint-hearted as you share the road with traffic sometimes traveling as fast as 90/100kph.
A new cycle can set you back thousands with most road/touring bicycles averaging between $2000 and $4000; but you can buy second hand bikes and after the initial cost you provide the 'fuel'.
There are four main national bus lines, who do direct fares and hop-on-hop-off tickets.
Direct fares are those which you are in one place and want to go to another - you pay only for that particular route on that particular day.
Hop-on-hop-off tickets are when you pay a set capped price for the opportunity to travel x number of routes within a time frame, but as you choose.  So a 5-fare in 14 days ticket would allow you to travel 5 different routes within 14 days when it suited (as long as there is an availability of seats).
Intercity Flexitrips  or regular fares
Both Intercity and Naked advertise $1 fares (if you can get them).
This definitely could be a viable option for the independent traveler, and while new models can range anywhere between $8000 and $25000 most fall under $14000; second hand ones might be an economical option.
Be aware though that you will need to have a valid motorcycle license separate from your car license.
A scooter varies in price between $2500 and $9000, is much slower (top speed 50kph) but does not require a motorcycle license if under 50 cc.  (It is classed as a moped on the NZ drivers license system).  Second hand scooters are listed here.
Your on-going costs would be petrol and insurance; and possibly a little maintenance.
The main national carrier is Air New Zealand, only challenged by competition in certain main centres.  As a result they hold the monopoly on internal airfares.
Having said that you might, and that is a slight might, be able to take advantage of their grab a seat fares as long as you are flexible to travel on certain days and plan a little into the future.
The prices can be as low as 1/3 of the regular lowest fare.  These fares probably suit the person traveling in one direction (and a few weeks out) rather than someone wanting a return flight, as there is no guarantee that you will get both fares for the discounted amount.
Kiwi Rail run three train routes in the North and South Islands.  Currently a one-way adult fare from Auckland to Wellington (Northern Explorer) by day is $99, with children $69, and deals for families too.
Then there is the 4 1/2 hour crossing of the South Island from Christchurch to Greymouth (Tranz Alpine); and the 5-hour summer-season-only Christchurch to Picton trunk line (Coastal Pacific).
The cheapest we could get for a family of 7 being 3 adult fares and 4 children was $438 on the Tranz Alpine.  I guess one could justify this amount if taking the train got you from one place you were to another that you needed to be.  It seems however a little on the expensive side for a half day activity for a family.  If though we were visitors to NZ I think it would be justifiable as you'd take in a lot of scenery in such a short time frame.  You could even land in Christchurch, take the Tranz Alpine to Greymouth, hire a rental to get you south to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, return up the west coast via Punakaiki to Picton and catch the ferry to Wellington to traverse the middle of the North Island on the Northern Explorer all in 3 days if you timed it just right.  Economical and interesting routes that let you see a bit of both islands with the added advantage that you didn't have to do all the driving.
The main nation-wide rental car companies are:
If you are flexible you may be able to score re-location rentals, where a company needs to get their vehicle back to a certain point within a certain time so they offer it at a very cheap rental or sometimes free.  Look for 'relocation deals' on the above websites. 
There are many, many companies that operate within towns, and regional areas, so here are those who advertise in the Yellow pages too. 
For the Kiwis reading this, did you know that several councils have banded together to promote day-to-day carpooling within their local areas as an idea via the Let's carpool website
As New Zealand is made up of 3 main islands in a vertical line (between the 165th and 176th E meridians), there are ferries that can take passenger and vehicles from one to the next.  We've written about the 2 that run between Wellington and Picton through the Cook Strait.  The other is between Bluff at the southern point of the South Island and Oban, on Stewart Island across the Fouveax Strait.



There you have it folks a basic round-up of possible modes of transport for exploring both land and sea.  This list is by no means comprehensive but includes the main providers we know of. (Let us know if you think we need to add others).  It is also aimed at one or two people, or visitors more than locals - with a family your mileage may vary - with ours it's the reason we drive our van.

05 August 2014


Hitchhiking is legal and still popular in New Zealand despite a few tragedies over the years.

The NZ Police do not officially endorse it; but there are some guidelines for the keen:

  • Hitchhike in pairs especially if you're female
  • Let someone know where you are going
  • Stand in a well-lit place if you are waiting for a ride
  • Stay off the road itself

The NZ Police have a downloadable 2-page guide to keeping safe for visitors to New Zealand (not just about hitchhiking so worth a quick read), that includes some traveling times and distances, police stations and i-sites too.


As for letting someone know where you are going, if you don't have a person in New Zealand that you keep in contact with on a day-to-day basis, there is a 24/7 service that is available to all users of the 3 major cellular telephone providers (Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees) called SAFE text.

Simply text your intentions or what you are doing to 7233 (SAFE); it is archived for 3 months (Vodafone) - 12 months (Telecom and 2degrees) along with the time and date and can be retrieved by the Police if necessary.  The text is free but they are NOT monitored nor can they store images or videos.  If it is an emergency you should still phone 111.

[Vodafone and 2degrees even offer this same service to their customers using their network SIMs overseas - roaming charges apply.]


For those up for a read before you arrive, check out New Zealand resident, Joe Bennett, former Briton, wrote about his adventure hitch-hiking around New Zealand in "A land of two halves"

Or this uncensored young male perspective by another Briton traveling from Wellington to Gisborne and return, for the Rhythm and Vines music festival.


Note that if you are the outdoorsy or adventure type there is an extra safety net for you in the form of an Outdoors Intentions sheet.

You can download the sheet, fill it in and send it to a trusted contact; or email to the same.

Or fill it in online directly with a monitoring service, who will confirm your details before and after your activity.



If perhaps you are looking for a cheap alternative to hitchhiking, there are often buses and airfares going at a good price if you are quick and can plan to be flexible (yes I know it sounds like an oxymoron!). 

29 July 2014


When you're visiting a new country there will always be comparisons made to what it's like back home, not in the least what things cost.

You can use the grocery prices we posted in our Cost of Living post to compare to what you know you pay.


An interesting community called Expatistan is collecting costs from around the world to draw comparisons of the cost of living between each town. 

From their current data, this is what they say are the differences between living in one of the top 7 countries (& Germany) from whence New Zealand receives the most visitors, and living in New Zealand itself.


  • Australia is 9% more expensive
  • China is 29% cheaper than living in NZ
  • United States of America is 7% more expensive
  • Japan is 26% cheaper to live in
  • Singapore is 31% more expensive than NZ
  • India is a whopping 74% cheaper 
  • Korea is 16% cheaper
  • Germany is 13% more expensive than in NZ


With the growth of this project the data will get more and more accurate, and more helpful for budgeting overseas travel.  It contrasts with other data like the Cost of Living Index at Numbeo though.  So while one may be technically more correct (for those resident long-term), the other seems possibly more humanly correct (for a traveller).


Not-withstanding here are some major currency exchange rates for easy reference:

    How much NZ$1 would buy overseas 2l of milk NZ$2.99
Australia (dollar)   0.90962 2.72
China (yuan)   5.29276 15.82
United States (dollar)   0.85539 2.56
UK (pound)   0.55372 1.66
Japan (yen)   87.1195 260.49
Singapore (dollar)   1.06246 3.18
India (rupee)   51.4039 153.70
Korea (won)   878.138 2625.63
Euro   0.63659 1.90


For those new to foreign exchange, the first column of numbers is what one New Zealand dollar would change to, to spend overseas in those countries.  ie one NZ dollar would change into €0.64 in Europe.   

The last column is what the cost of 2l of milk currently can be purchased for in New Zealand ($2.99) and what that converts to in the above currencies.


A popular foreign exchange rate calculator online is xe.com or download one of the many applications for your cellular phone: Android or Iphone.


While this is over-simplified, the complex version would take into account that the charges for good and services are related to the local wage, interest rates and so many other financial indicators that sometimes we simply can't compare apples with apples.

Here is a video that I found useful in getting my head around the complexities in a simplified way!!
Last but not least New Zealand has 10, 20, 50 cent coins, as well as $1 and $2 coins.  Paper notes come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100.  You can see a few of these in the What's our Budget? post.