So you’re looking to ditch your current hometown & explore all the wonders that Middle Earth, aka New Zealand has to offer? Well, I can’t say that I blame you! I was lucky enough to call New Zealand home for 12 months last year and it was by far the best thing I ever did.
Maybe you’re accustomed to picking up & leaving home to places unknown and far away, or maybe this is your first big trip overseas. Whatever the case might be when it comes to wanting to head abroad there are always going to be a few important things to get taken care of right away, and I’m here to give you the low down on those pesky “adult life” things you should take care of before heading to magical land of Frodo & Gandalf.
First Things First – The Visa
There are a few different visa’s for New Zealand depending on what you want to be doing and how long you want to stay. I’ll be giving you a break down of the ‘Tourist’ & ‘Working Holiday’ Visa’s. These guidelines may be different depending on what country you hail from, to ensure you have all the details best to check out New Zealand Immigration page here.
Being a Canadian a visa is required to enter into New Zealand even if just for a holiday. This visa permits you multiple entry (you can come & go) into the country for a maximum of 9 months in an 18 month period. This visa can be applied for online in a few short steps and comes with a price tag of $165.00. However should you be from anywhere outside of Canada the fees & steps may be different, but you can use the “Fee Finder” on the immigration website to calculate the cost for your nationality. In order to gain entry to New Zealand with this visa you will also be required to show proof that you will be leaving the country (in the form of a plane ticket) and substantial funds to support yourself for the time you are in the country (in the form of bank statements). While I myself have not been asked by immigration for any of these documents I still made sure to have them, better safe than sorry.
Working Holiday Visa
This is the visa that I applied for and was granted for my year in New Zealand. Again the process may differ depending on your home country so please visit the New Zealand Immigration website here. Applicants must be between 18-35 years old (some countries have the age limit set at 30) and once granted the visa is good for 12 months upon entry into the country. This visa can only be applied for once in your life as well (sadly) and sponsorship is one of the only ways for Canadians to remain in NZ after the 1-year visa has expired. You can apply for this visa online as well and in a few short minutes your application will be submitted to immigration and you’ll hear back anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks on whether or not your application was successful. This visa is electronic and you won’t require a paper copy for your passport, when you arrive at the airport it will already by electronically visible to airport staff through means of your passport.
So now, you’ve got your visa – WELL DONE! Now, it’s time to get planning.
North VS. South
Time to decide where you think you’ll want to base yourself out of. New Zealand is split into 2 smaller islands, North & South, and they could not be more different from one another.
The North Island is home to incredible black sand beaches, tropical towns along the ocean, amazing surf and the one & only Hobbiton. While the South Island boasts insane scenery that rivals that of any Canadian province, lakes blue as can be stretching on for miles & just about the most adventurous activities you could want in a place. While New Zealand is heaps smaller than Canada or it’s South Pacific sister Australia, a year was still not long enough for me to get to experience everything I wanted to, which is just another excuse for me to make a trip back. That being said if you believe you’ll be using the entire 12 months on your visa to experience NZ then your options are pretty much endless.
I arrived in Auckland, one of the largest cities on the North Island, and after speaking to some friends was under the impression I wouldn’t stay long. People are going to have varying opinions, and while I am usually not a lover of big cities while traveling, Auckland was where I spent the majority of my time when I wasn’t traveling around. Calling the city of nearly 1.5 million people home for 6+ months while working to fund trips around the North & South Islands I was lucky enough to explore all the North had to offer and I’m so happy I decided to stay in Auckland. With some incredible beaches, treks & weekends getaways with in a few hours drive it was a fantastic base for me.
Summer VS. Winter
New Zealand has reverse seasons to those of us who live in North America. So during our cold, snowy winters they are experiencing a gorgeous summer. And while we’re all frolicking on beaches & catching rays, New Zealanders are dealing with snow or rain depending on which island you look at. I myself left Canada mid-July for New Zealand, and was greeted with fairly decent weather, albeit not overly warm it was still warmer than a Canadian winter. I did however spend the whole year and did witness a proper North Island winter, which is wet. Yep, virtually no snow falls on the North Island but man does the rain ever fall – just a heads up! Weather can be a big deciding factor for a lot of people when they travel, so be sure to take that into consideration whether you’re wanting to arrive on the North or South Island as the climates are incredibly different.
If you should be so lucky to be one of those people who has enough money to buy a round trip year long New Zealand adventure knowing you won’t have to worry about work, then to you I tip my hat! I however, had spent 2 months in Central America prior to arriving in NZ and although I wasn’t broke, I knew that in order to see as much as I wanted to I would need to find a job sooner rather than later. So once I got myself settled into the hostel and spent a few days touring around visiting the sights it was onto the job hunt for me. I’ve never been one for the server/bartender lifestyle, I just don’t have it in me, so I was left to explore different avenues. I used the internet in a big way job hunting, search engines like SEEK, INDEED & TradeMe are used country wide for employers looking for anything from dog walkers, to IT support techs, to bar staff & even nannies. From there I branched out and back to basics going into different shops handing my resumes out, but left feeling a bit discouraged after a few days of nothing feeling like it would come through. Which is when I met a girl in the hostel I was staying at who asked me if I had tried recruitment agencies. I hadn’t and to be honest it wasn’t even something that came to mind, but the more I spoke to her about it the more I figured I would give it a shot, and truth be told it was great. I signed up with a few different agencies (Madison, Randstad, Robert Walters to name a few), brought in my resume, filled some forms out, completed some computer testing (word, excel, data entry etc) and they said they would contact me when jobs came available that suited my skill sets. Awesome right? Takes away the hassle of job searching on your own, which is true, but I wouldn’t recommend relying 100% on recruiters to find you work just in case. I had some great gigs working for great companies doing jobs I had never done before, gaining even more experience than I could have imagined being a backpacker, but in turn, I also had some awful gigs I’d rather not repeat. If it’s something you haven’t thought of before, I’d say give it a go, you could find yourself working somewhere amazing! I had a few temporary week-long positions before I managed to find myself working at the hostel I was calling home, something I felt really comfortable doing as I have a large background in hotels. Spending your shifts talking to people from all over the world, helping them plan out parts of their trips? It’s a pretty sweet gig and definitely another avenue I’d highly recommend, some hostels even have options to work in turn for accommodation instead of a wage. While I myself was making a wage, I did have some coworkers and friends who worked for accommodation and then had another job on the side to save more money for their travel fund. All of these things are not uncommon, and the opportunities become even more endless should you want to work in a bar or restaurant as well.
Home Sweet Home
So where do you think you want to lay your head at night after a long day at work? The options vary – hostel, apartment, house share, tent, camper van? Which do you think would suit you best? During my year in New Zealand I called a hostel an apartment and a house share home. The hostel was where I first stayed when I arrived in Auckland and it quickly turned into a place I knew I wanted to stay, during the winter in NZ travelers seems to diminish due to the cold or rainy weather, but there are a few people who wind up there & stay straight through. Which was the case with the hostel I called home from July until October. It was a smaller hostel, housing about 50 guests when fully occupied and had the charm of an old Victorian house, with about a dozen other “long term” residents we all became fast friends & insta-housemates before long. Sunday dinners, movie marathons, weekend adventures? We did it all, and when the busy season started up again we all went our separate ways, except me & my housemate who managed to find a sweet little apartment in the city together. Prime location, fully furnished & a good view? What more could you ask for? We did a lot of searching (TradeMe) before finally applying for the apartment and we both wound up paying about $200/week +utilities each. Just to clarify, rent is paid out weekly because your wages are (usually) paid out once a week so it makes sense. After 6 months in the apartment it was time to say goodbye and onto the South Island for about a month of travel before coming back up to the North Island for my last few months where I lived in a house share (for about $150.00/month utilities included) with some friends.
And there ya have it, the basics of New Zealand. The visa process, the islands, job & house hunting. No matter what visa you decide to apply for, where you end u living or whether you work or not New Zealand is an incredible country! The people are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met, the landscape changes at a moments notice (as does the weather) and I make no promises but if you’re anything like me you’ll fall in love over & over again every time you visit somewhere new.
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