Moving to New Zealand

Moving to another country is exciting, and the kind of adventure I think everyone should go on at least once. I love to relocate. However, it can also be stressful and overwhelming; there’s a lot of things to consider before you go! Here’s a list of some things to know before moving to New Zealand that’ll make the transition as smooth as possible.

visa

You Need A Visa!

I’m just going to outline the benefits of a Working Holiday Visa as it’s the only experience I have and is most common among backpackers, but there’s a list of all Visa types listed on NZ’s Immigration website.
A Working Holiday Visa will only be granted to those under 30 (or 35, for some nationalities).
There are some other requirements which are clearly outlined here, but I’ll be honest, they don’t ask for proof of half these things. ie. No one checked my bank account, and no one asked to see a ticket home (which is great ’cause I don’t have one).

Brits and Canadians are given the option between a 1 or 2 year Working Holiday Visa.
Other nationalities can apply for 1 year, and they’re all quite easy to have approved as long as you’re not a convict.
The cost of either visa is around $200 NZD.

2 years – You’ll require both a chest x-ray and medical exam (includes blood work) which will run you about $600, and you need to choose from a list of pre-approved physicians. You can find the one closest to you by searching this list.

1 year – no medical exam, but you may have to get a chest x-ray if you’ve been to a country that isn’ton this list of places with low incidents of TB. DO look it over, you’d be surprised. The x-ray can cost anywhere between $80 and $300. Strive for $80. I drove to a city 45 minutes out of my way for a cheaper radiologist, and it was the best $220 I ever saved. If you can’t find the price online, you can call up and ask.
If you don’t need the x-ray, you’re in the clear! You can just roll up and start livin’.

Brits and fellow Canadians: I would advise that you get the 1 year visa for starters. You can always extend it later! What if you spend all that money and go through the headache (and shot to the wallet) of the medical exam, just to decide you want to go home after 8 months? When you’re applying for jobs and employers ask about your visa status, a Working Holiday Visa is a Working Holiday Visa. They don’t care if it’s 1 or 2 years, and you’re often not even given the option on an application to specify.

Other Nationalities: There’s an option for you to extend your visa for another 3 months if you’re cool with farm work. 3 months of rural work will earn you 3 more months of fun in the land of the kiwis.

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You Need a Job!

Join job boards and websites like Indeed, Seek, and TradeMe. There’s always The BackpackersBoard and Facebook groups for odd jobs too.

There’s also recruitment agencies, which I never considered before I arrived. Companies like Beyond, Velocity, and Salt will help you find temp work. The upside to this is that you don’t have to commit to anything and can have some freedom to travel around between jobs. The types of employment they recruit for varies, as does the length of each contract.

I got ahead of myself and started applying for jobs way before I left Canada. Like, months in advance. That was unnecessary. Employers are going to be way less interested in you as a candidate if they can only meet over Skype, next to someone who’s ready, in the country, and able to start right away. Take it easy, touch down, travel around a little, decide where you’d like to stay, and then start your search. There’s tons of work if you’re not picky about what kind of job you’re after!

Some of the easiest work to find:
– Fruit Picking/Farm Work (hang out at a winery, anyone?)
– Barrista (Kiwis live for the flat white)
– Server/Bartender (Wellington has 40956837 cool bars and restaurants)
– Sales (lots of fundraising stuff)
– Construction (I know a guy who removes asbestos, for example)
– Au Pair (I saw one posted where half the time would be spent in Fiji…not a bad gig)
– Data Entry, Admin, Customer Service, Accounting, etc. (Contract – through recruiters)

These jobs require little to no experience and employers are familiar with hiring foreigners with Working Holiday Visas.
The minimum wage in NZ is about $16/hr.

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You Need Somewhere to Sleep!

You’ll be staying in hostels for the first little while, which is a great way to make friends when you arrive in a new place! The cost of a cheap dorm room is about $20-$30 per night.

When you’re ready to find a flat, get on the Facebook groups. Before I arrived I joined some groups in Auckland and Wellington, just to get a vibe for the rent prices and what kind of accommodation I could expect for my budget.

Be prepared to have roommates. Many, many, roommates. The cost of living in New Zealand is high, and there are no skyscraper condos with tiny individual apartments, so you’ll most likely be sharing a big house with 4 to 7 other people. Unless you’re coming over here with your recent lottery winnings, you will not be able to afford living alone.

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You Need to Pay for Stuff!

While the Euro, Canadian, American, and Australian Dollars are worth more than that of New Zealand (at the time this post was published), everything is straight up more expensive.

Some General Price Listings ($NZ)
Hostels: $20-30/night

A bottle of Coca-Cola: $4 (They have vanilla Coke here guys!)

A bottle of water: $4 (but you have no reason to be buying those, the water here is clean and plastic bottles are ridiculous #BoycottNestle)

A standard budget meal: $13-20 (You can find some good lunch specials)

Groceries: $50 for a stir-fry dinner between 3 people (fruit/veg are crazy expensive)

Flat White/Tea at a Cafe: $4

Pint: $6 cheap (Tui), $10+ craft (but Wellington is the home of craft so you gotta try some)

24-cheap bottles from the super market: $30

Decent bottle of wine: $10+

Uber Fare From Auckland CBD to Ponsonby: $10
Uber Fare from Wellington Central to Newtown: $8

Petrol/Gas: $2/litre

Car Rental: $30-40/day (depends on length of rental)

Bottle of shampoo/conditioner: $4 each

1 zone bus fare, Auckland: $3
1 zone bus fare, Wellington: $2

Airport Bus – Auckland: $18
Airport Bus – Wellington: $9

Wifi: $6/day at some hostels. I’ve found any free/included wifi is usually shit, and if you want something that works you need to pay. However, you can always count on a solid free wifi connection at places like:
⁃ The Public Library
⁃ McDonalds
⁃ Starbucks
Or, life hack – find a cute cafe, pay for a coffee, get unlimited free wifi.

Phone Plan-Per Month: $40 Vodaphone 4GB, unlimited texts, 500 minutes.

Rent in a shared house: $900/month (but rent is paid weekly)

Cost of a flight here: $1400 (depending on where you’re coming from, of course)

I suggest showing up with at LEAST $5000 NZD.
You’ll easily spend $60+ per day, which means you’ll only survive here for maybe a month and a half without a source of income. You want to be able to do all the fun things when you get here! Fun things cost money!

New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to in my life.
With mountains, volcanoes, beaches, hot springs, glow worm caves, wineries, craft breweries, and so much more, you’ll have no shortage of things to do during your Working Holiday year!
Go live your best life!

Here’s my suggested itinerary, built with IQPlanner, for your first few days in Auckland!

Take me there!

Midnight Sun

I never know how to prepare for a run. This is my first race, but I mean, even going for a practice run at home I’m like what do I eat for breakfast? Did I get enough sleep? I find some days I’m just in the zone and ready to go, and some days I just get tired quickly and that’s it. The latter is not really an option today, and considering that I haven’t actually gone for a real run in the last week, I feel even more unsure of how I’ll do today. I’ve got a solid 12 hours of waiting between when I wake up and my actual race start time, so I’ll try to distract myself. 
To keep ourselves entertained, and as not to miss out on any culture while we’re here, the fam heads out to the Tromsø University Museum. Here, there’s a ton of cool information on the Sami people and their culture. Quite honestly I’d never heard of this indigenous group before, but I learned so much!! They live in 4 different countries, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, in the most northernly regions, which are collectively known as Sapmi. The Sami rely heavily on reindeer, and live a nomadic lifestyle with their herd. Listening to the stories told by a Sami woman we met, their history is not dissimilar to that of Indigenous Canadians, eroding their lands, treating them as second class citizens, and being without a voice in parliament until 1989. Their culture remains rich in arts and story telling. They have beautiful textile arts including intricately woven ribbons, embroidery, an array of decorated carved implements made from reindeer antlers, as well as a billion other reindeer products. They make use of the whole animal. 

Near the end of our visit, we are able to go inside a traditional shelter built on the grounds of the museum, where we met a young Sami woman who is studying Political Science at the university. Her plan is to finish school and secure a job working for the Sami parliament back home, which I think is super cool. Over a fire-roasted coffee she was able to answer our questions about the Sami history and culture. We sit cozily around a fire on reindeer skin mats over a bed of twigs and brush. We are also offered reindeer tongue which you know I had to try. It looks similar to a salami; tough, dense, and sliced into small thin pieces. It’s not my favourite snack…but I smile and pretend I love it anyway. 


Overall, pretty sweet museum experience, and this is coming from someone who’s not really a museum person. 

We go back into town for a late lunch and grab some pizza. We needs carbs for running! My run starts at 7pm which is kind of an awkward time, so eating at 3pm is probably the best choice for me under the circumstances. They warn us that the wait for food is 45 minutes and we’re cool with that, but after we sit down and I’m looking around I can’t really wrap my head around why. There are empty tables around us and yet they still look stressed and the food is backed up. I waitress back home, so I feel like I’m usually a pretty good and patient patron, but I don’t understand how a restaurant becomes under staffed on what must be one of the busiest days of their year. We’re in no hurry, so it’s fine. Food is decent. People watching from window seat is bueno. 

Time is now creeping up quickly. We head back to the apartment where I change into my gear, have a 25 minute nap, and boom! Next thing I know I’m back downtown and in line to start this 10k run. What have I gotten myself into? 

The first kilometre goes by so fast that I wonder if my app is broken. It’s not though, so this is a very very good sign. The road is relatively flat, and we run along the coast of the island which is beautiful. It’s cold and overcast, sitting at 9 degrees, light rain, and fog so thick I can’t see the mountains just across on the mainland. In lots of ways this is perfect because I don’t get too hot. 
The craziest people I see are a lady who’s literally face timing someone during her run, and a guy with Toms, track pants, and a hoodie on. To each their own I suppose. I’m just happy that I’m able to run ahead of them…it’s distracting. Mom tells me some dude who reaches the finish line before me started projectile vomiting everywhere. So I’m happy to have run behind him, though. Enough distance between us that they’ve washed away the mess with buckets of water before my arrival. 

Again, my life kind of flashes forward and the next thing I know I’m approaching the finish line. I complete the run in 1:11:44, far ahead of my goal time of 1:15:00 so that’s pretty rad. 


Sev and Dad start their half marathon (21k) at 10:30pm. The whole point of this midnight sun business is that it doesn’t matter what time you start, because it’ll be light out no matter what. Mom and I chill inside and eat leftover pizza while the boys run, and head back down to the main road a little after midnight to watch them finish the race. They complete it and no one dies!! Go team!! We’ve done it!! Now we can comfortably party it up Norwegian style. I haven’t had any alcohol yet on this trip in (a weak attempt at) preparation for this run. Now I’ve got nothing holding me back, muahaha!
Obviously we talked a big game about hitting the town after the race and indulging in some local craft beers. Who were we kidding? We’re exhausted. I can hardly feel my legs. The drinks can wait until tomorrow, which, coincidentally, is also Father’s Day. Happy Fathers Day, Dad!

Toronto-Houston-Managua

I arrive at the airport 3 hours early for my flight. I’m usually the most disorganized person; consistently late for everything, yet somehow I spend a lot of time idle and waiting in airport lounges. 

I have a long day of waiting ahead of me. In order to afford this little excursion I have to adhere to a budget, which starts with finding the cheapest flight. In this case, the cheapest flight meant accepting a stop-over in Houston, Texas on both the journey there and back. So not only do I have a 3 hour wait to get on my flight, the flight itself is will be 3 hours, then I have to endure a 3 hour stop-over, followed by another 3 hour flight before I finally arrive in Nicaragua this evening. What’s the saying about good things that come in threes? 

For those of you that don’t know, Nicaragua is a country in Central America, situated between Honduras and Costa Rica. Their national language is Spanish and their currency is the Córdoba, used in tandem with the US Dollar. I say this, because last week I had somebody ask me if Nicaraguans spoke Swahili when I told them about my trip. I’m certain they were confusing it for Nigeria (where the official language is English, by the way) so I thought it best for a little context…

  
…and a little back story. The plans for this trip were made quite spontaneously. When I say “plans” I just mean the purchase of a ticket…I have no idea what I’m doing when I get there. I booked just before Christmas, and the next thing I knew it was like oh shoot I have to pack, I leave tomorrow! Though, I will admit that I didn’t really pack until this morning. 

I’m meeting my bestie and first travel buddy, Ilona. She’s in Managua right now and has been there for a couple days. She was with me through India, over a month in and out of Thailand that included a trip out to Laos, we lived in a shack on a farm in rural Australia…we’ve gotten good at spending A LOT of time together. 

Really, it’s because of her that I’m going to Nicaragua at all. While dreaming of warmer places and something a little more stimulating than waitressing and studying in Toronto, we found ourselves on Skyscanner, having chosen the Toronto to Everywhere option. Nicaragua was among the cheapest flights outside Canada or the US and I’d heard from other traveler friends that it’s beautiful. Ilona was sold, but I held off for a few days. I would be missing a week of school if I were to book it, and I am trying to become a responsible adult. She hit me with that “you’re young and you only live once” line, and my ticket was purchased. 

So here I am at Pearson Intl., having to go through more extensive security than usual because I am traveling to The United States. I’ll only be there for a mere 3 hours, but that doesn’t matter. I have to certify that I haven’t touched any farm animals, am not carrying any weapons, food, large sums of money etc., a total of 3 times. A machine takes a picture of my face (which turns out horribly because I blink) and is printed on my declaration card which I submit before getting to the general security area. Here, I am randomly selected and have to go through the giant X-Ray machine. As do the next 2 people behind me in line. Very random. 

All so we can enter The Land of the Free. 

I wait for what feels like a million hours before finally boarding a very small plane. Serious estimate: 125 person capacity. Takeoff and landing are a little questionable but I arrive alive. 

Houston’s airport is huge, and signage is not abundant or very descriptive. I end up having to ask someone where I need to go to get on my next flight, and am directed to the opposite side of the airport. I have to take a little mini-subway car to get to the international departures terminal, where there is a giant line. One little lady sits at a desk scanning passports and boarding passes, while a line of 50 people stand waiting to get through to security. The time is now 5:15, and my flight boards at 5:45. I feel that I’m cutting it a little close. By some miracle I manage to get through security (with another random X-Ray selection) and to the gate by 5:47, where I find out the flight will be delayed an hour. So here I am again….killing time in an airport lounge. 

By 7:15 we’re boarded and I am at the very very back seat of the plane. Row 39. Right next to the washroom….   However, BONUS, there is no one in the middle seat between me and the woman sitting in the window seat of our row. She’s friendly as hell and has also been flying all day from Toronto. She says I can share her private shuttle bus into the city with her. She’s going to a hotel that I’m sure I can’t afford but it’ll get me closer to a hostel and cut down on taxi costs so I am in! 

But never mind, that doesn’t happen. Instead, we find out our locations are too far apart and the shuttle driver won’t take me. He directs me to a taxi where I barter down the flat rate of $30 to $25. Big savings. He drives me to a little place called Hostal Dona Ida, where the gates are locked and the lights are all off. It is 11pm after all. My driver gets out to rattle the fence a bit and yells something in Spanish. The nicest man ever comes to my rescue in bare feet, and charges me a dorm fee of $12 for the night. There’s a rat in the bathroom, but who am I to complain?