New Zealand on a Budget
The realm of outlandish mountains, unique nature and hobbits! I bet everybody is dreaming of visiting New Zealand at least once in a while. But a lot of people are stopped by either the price or the lack of knowledge about how to organise such a trip. Libor, who has journeyed New Zealand for 4 months on a budget, shares his tips.
Hi Libor, thanks for agreeing to tell us about your experience! So how have you decided to go to New Zealand and was it difficult to organize?
I’ve wanted to go to New Zealand for a long time, but it’s quite financially demanding. So my solution was to combine travelling with some part-time work in New Zealand. Agriculture and tourism are two important sources of revenue for the Kiwi land. Both are seasonal, so New Zealand encourages the influx of part-time workers for these periods of time. New Zealand government has thus initiated Working Holiday Visa for some countries. Check out on their web page if this applies to your country and what are the requirements. For some countries, there is only a limited number of this type of visa per year, and sometimes they run out of them pretty soon. The stay permit is issued for a year, but if you work for half a year in agriculture, they prolong your stay by 3 months more. Of course, there is also a possibility of getting another type of visas, but that would be a different story.
Great, so you can go work and then have some time for travel! How much time do you need to earn enough for traveling around?
Hard to say, it depends a lot on your skills and luck and how much you like comfort in your trips. I recommend balancing out work and travel: if you don’t have much time, better spend more than you earn, but don’t miss any of the awesome New Zealand sights! Assuming you have a year and work for minimum wages, I’d say you’ll make your budget brake-even if you spend about 9 months working and about 3 travelling.
Ok, so what’s the best time to look for a job in New Zealand?
As I’ve said, agriculture jobs are seasonal, and the best chances of being hired are in summer and autumn, which is approximately from December to May. The demand depends on what region you are in and what they are growing. It’s best to buy a car and migrate with the picking season. Extra hands are also needed in off-seasons, for example, wine-culling needs to be done in winter, or you can find a job at some ski resort! If you go for a year, I recommend working from summer till winter and travel around in spring (September – November), as there’s not much work, not many tourists and already warm enough to sleep in a van. You can start from the milder Northern Island and move to the Southern when it gets warmer.
Nice idea for a sabbatical year! And how do you go around finding a job?
Most of the search happen online, of course, one of the most popular web pages is www.seasonaljobs.co.nz, where you can sort the offers by region, required skills and duration. I recommend getting a New Zealand sim card ASAP when you arrive, as most of the employers prefer to call instead of writing emails. It’s also a nice idea to prepare CVs. Yes, yes, you need a CV even for an apple-picking job! It’s great if you have some reference to a similar job in your CV, but if you don’t, then, at least, mention helping your granny in the garden when you were young! Sometimes companies are picky if they get a lot of CVs, but sometimes if you’re at the right place at the right time, the only requirement is to have two hands, and you’re hired.
If you’re looking for a job in the city, for example as a waiter, housekeeper or kitchen hand during the tourist season, it’s a good idea to print some CVs to leave them in the places that are hiring. You can print for a small fee in any library. With free Internet, electricity and sometimes coffee, libraries are friendly havens for travelers. Here you can polish your CV, browse for jobs and housing and many more.
You’ve mentioned buying a car. Is it necessary?
Yes, it will make your life so much easier! A car can make a difference between getting a job and not getting a job, as it allows you to move to the regions in need of extra hands. It’s also very handy for travelling, as it allows you to stay out of the most touristic places and go at your pace, visiting some off-beat locations. If you get a van, you save on accommodation, as you can use the extensive system of camping grounds and sleep in your car. The more posh camping areas have such comforts as hot shower, electricity, a washing machine, a stove, and some even a swimming pool! You would want to stay on them from time to time to tend to your hygienic needs, but most of the days you can look for DOC (Dept. of Conservation) campgrounds, which are less comfortable, but are cheap, some even free. Of course, you can also park illegally, but I can’t advise that, as we’ve gotten fined for that once.
Is it difficult to buy a car after you arrive in New Zealand? And is it a problem to sell it before leaving?
No, not at all! You just go online, for example to www.trademe.co.nz, look at some advertisements and start calling people. It took us three days to find ours. A lot of travelers sell their vans before leaving, but if you can, better buy a car from the locals, as their cars tend to be in better shape. Also, I recommend comparing prices in different regions. Auckland is very expensive, as a lot of tourists arrive here and demand is high. The season also influences the prices a lot: high season means higher prices, but in May you can buy a car very cheap. We were lucky to sell our car for more than what we had bought it for, but don’t count on it, especially if you arrive in spring and leave in autumn :)
The process of buying a car is really fast and easy: the owner and the buyer go to the nearest post office, fill in 2 forms, and the car changes hands. Before leaving, start advertising selling the car in advance, as you don’t want to be stuck with a car on your hands a day before the flight.
OK, so now that we know how to deal with mundane stuff, let’s finish our talk by briefly discussing the sights! I know you’ve been all over New Zealand and will someday tell me all about the awesome less-known places you can visit there, but for now, to inspire our readers to follow in your steps, could you just name 3 places that are really must-visit?
Well, choosing just three is very difficult, but if I must… The most unforgettable experience, especially for Tolkien fans, is visiting “Mordor”. Tongariro Northern Circuit is one of the Lonely Planet’s 9 great walks, and is supposed to take 4 days, but you can make it in 2 if you’re in good shape. It’s circular, so you return back to your car in the end, and you can spend a night in the cottage in the middle of the track. The views, dominated by mount Ngauruhoe (Orodruin) are breathtakingly outlandish, and will leave you flabbergasted! Unfortunately, the trail is a bit too popular and is sometimes crowded with tourists.
Northern island is very volcanic in general, and there are a lot of thermal areas there. The one I really recommend visiting is Waiotapu. It is an active geothermal area, and it’s very bright! The colors vary from bright blue to poisonous yellow, it’s unbelievable! There is the famous Champagne Pool, a huge hot spring filled with bubbly carbon dioxide. The area also has a lot of geysers, mudpots, vents… It’s a really unique collection of all kinds of geothermal features in one place.
The best place on the Southern Island is Milford Sound, a breathtakingly beautiful fiord with Mitre Peak proudly rising from the crystal blue water. The unique mixture of salt and sweet water has produced conditions for developing of species that you can’t see anywhere else on the earth. One of the examples of such unique animals is Kea mountain parrot. These birds are very curious, by the way, and come close to people! I recommend getting up early and taking a boat trip around Milford Sound before the buses full of tourists come from the nearby Queenstown to crowd the views.
Thanks, Libor! We hope this article inspires our readers to finally make their dream come true and go to New Zealand! It’s easier than you think!