Hey guys! I have been talking a bit about our USA Road Trip lately but we finally arrived in New Zealand last week, in Wellington, aka Windy Welly, the Capital (not to be mixed up with Auckland as I saw on TV for the new year).
We took the plane in San Francisco around 9PM for a twelve hour flight (again, bah) over the Pacific Ocean. The flight was not enjoyable at all for me (Alexis loved it..) because there were a lot of areas of turbulence and I hate them. In particular those because it was really shaky. I never had one like that before and at some point I could see the oxygen masks fell in front of my nose. Hopefully it didn’t happen but I still was terrified and hearing things from Alexis like ‘Wao, it’s really shaky’ didn’t help at all! I couldn’t sleep much, maybe one or two hours max because of them. Alexis had no trouble though because he said the turbulence made him sleep. Hum, how lucky. I guess I saw like the whole first season of “Supergirl” in the plane. Watching a tv show usually keep my mind in piece but still…
We arrived in Auckland at 6AM and we had our connected flight to Wellington at 8AM. We learned right after getting off the plane that we had to pick up our luggages and switch terminals above getting through the border control. We started by the border control where we had to get our working holiday visas done.
For those who don’t know that, when you are between 18 and 30 years old, there is a visa in France that allows you to go travel and work for a year in another country. There is a list of around fifteen countries where we can go. For more information please go on PVTistes.net, they have a lot of informations and people talking about their experiences. It’s the only source you will need.
When I did the same visa in Canada, I had to go through the Immigration board after the border control in order for them to print my visa. Though this time, it was quite different. We gave our passports at the border, they saw on our profiles that we applied for a working holiday visa and the girl asked us a few questions like where were we going to stay and how long we planned on staying. Then she stamped our passport with the entry date and let us go. I was a bit skeptical and I had to ask two different people if we needed to go through immigration but no. When you go on a working holiday visa in New Zealand (from France), the stamp on the passport and the electronic confirmation that you got are your visa. So if you have to make a copy of something please copy the stamp on your passport. Apparently everything is electronic here. They never asked us for our insurance papers or flight tickets or anything.
After getting our luggages, we had to go through another checkpoint though… The “Bio check”. They are very thorough for that point so I advise you to be careful of what you have inside your bags. First of all, if you have outdoors equipment, they will check (in particular your shoes) if you do not have sand or ground on them. If they are dirty, they will make you clean them before you can enter New Zealand. More over, if you have plants or seeds in your bags, they will take them from you. One piece of advice because it happened to us, be careful if you have juggling balls, sometimes it’s seeds inside, and it was seeds in ours and we didn’t know. Alexis was desperate but he had to leave them at the bio check. In facts, there are few options: first, you can leave them at the airport and get them back when you leave. As we are staying a year, it was not possible, clearly. Second, you can have them treated (like $50 or something) but it takes some time and we didn’t have much left. And third, you leave them behind. Yes, Alexis was really sad to have to leave them (especially that it is quite difficult to find juggling balls in Wellington!).
Before leaving the first terminal, we had to give them back our luggages (I didn’t understand why we had to do so there). To switch terminals we had to walk for ten minutes under light rain. We had to go through security check again but this time, it was nothing like in the US. We almost didn’t have to take off our hiking shoes. People were going through security with their drinks.
The second flight was MUCH better than the first one. It lasted not even an hour and with the breakfast served, I didn’t see it. PS: There was not many turbulences so it was great! We were a little disappointed by the weather. I thought we would be able to see New Zealand from above but all we could see were clouds. A sea of clouds. That leaves a little mystery I guess.
We arrived as (usual?) in San Francisco under heavy rain. We had no idea how to get to the youth hostel we booked and we had no internet on our phones this time. We decided to try Uber again but the Airport staff didn’t seemed to know what Uber was… We managed to book a Uber though and as we were looking for him because we didn’t really know where he would pick us up (upstairs or downstairs), he found us. He was really nice with us.
The first “choc” was when I went inside the car, on the passenger front seat. It was on the other side! On the left side of the car, where I usually seat to drive. The whole drive was so strange. I couldn’t (and still can’t) make my mind around it. You have to take round abouts on the left side, watch on the right before the left when you are crossing a street, turning on the right side of the road because you are driving on the left. It is so strange.
I was so tired when we arrived to the youth hostel that I just sat in the couch waiting for 2PM to come quickly (we couldn’t register before 2PM and we arrived around 10AM). Alexis started to look for flats.
OK so I have to tell you a secret about finding something to buy or rent or sell in New Zealand. You know Kijiji or Craigslist in the US and Canada? Well, they have their version of it called “TradeMe”. We tried to register on the website before coming to New Zealand but they have a policy to not accept registrations of people that are not on the territory (or Australia). I had to send them an email explaining what I intended to do in New Zealand and when I was arriving and why I wanted to register on TradeMe for them to unlock my account. They are really nice and respond really quick, so if you want to start looking for a flat before coming, send them a message.
We didn’t have any phone plans to call in order to book flat visits so it is the first thing we did: subscribe to a mobile plan. There are really three big companies in New Zealand: Vodaphone, 2Degrees and Spark. We chose 2 Degree because it was the cheapest one and the more adapted to what we needed. One thing to know if you are going as a couple or with a friend, it is possible to register to a “family plan”. I don’t know the real name but it allows you to call the other number without having to pay but keeping your bills independents. Mobile minutes are not unlimited for the plan we took, you have to subscribe to 300 minutes for example so having the number you will call the most unlimited is really nice.
We booked a few visits for the next day and the day after. I don’t know if it useful to say it but I slept really early, like at 6PM. It was not the jet lag this time! And of course, I woke up at 5AM.
It had been quite difficult to find a flat in Wellington. We are looking for a colocation but not many of them accept couples. More over, it is a bit expensive (around NZD$230 per week + utilities). More over, we saw quite a few places that were not clean at all. We were really hoping on one flat we saw but we never got any answer back, not even to say no. So let’s cross fingers so we can find one soon. We had to book a room at the youth hostel for another week. Actually, it is almost cheaper than getting a room in a flat (NZD$175 per person per week) and definitely cheaper than a hotel but we have to share the room with another person. It is nice though because we get to meet people that already traveled around and we can share our experiences. They also gave us some advices about life here. Like the cheapest grocery shop is Pac’N’Save. The Sunday market with all the food trucks and vegetables to buy (it is supposed to be cheaper than in grocery stores, we will have to check when we will have a flat). Where to get the cheapest Sushis… I will put all the tips together in another article and update here with the link.
PS: They have weird people looking over their fence!
We wanted to open a bank account on the first day we arrived so it would be done but, one thing to know is that in Wellington, banks are closed on saturdays and sundays. If we wanted to find a bank opened we had to go to one in suburbs. We waited until monday to do it. It took one hour to get it open. We went to Westpac because it has a link with my bank in France: BNP Paribas. They allow you to do an international transfer for only 3€ instead of 20€ or something. And we can withdraw money from a Westpac ATM without fees.
PS: At Westpac they like Legos!
(The Fountain above puts more water out than anything else)
We walked around a lot in order to visit flats so we didn’t really visit the city as a tourist would be we have seen quite a bit of Wellington. The city seems very chill with lots of artists, musicians and art around the city. When it’s windy, it is really windy. The city is called “Windy Welly” and we know why. Though we only had wind for a day. Since it’s been quite a nice weather (I have no illusion it will not stay that way). We went up the Mount Victoria (their “Mont Royal). We had a view over the two sides of the city on top. In facts, the hill cuts the city in two parts. On one side, there are all the Weta workers living there next to the airport and on the other side, all the students and the rest.
I felt like Weta was in the center of the city. Everybody is talking about it and if you don’t know why, as soon as you enter Wellington’s Airport or are walking on the streets, you’ll understand why. Though, you will have to have heard about Lord of the Rings. Weta is the company founded by Peter Jackson in order to make the special effects of the movies. It is quite big in New Zealand.
Video making is big in New Zealand. We saw movie shootings inside the streets of the city. It is quite often that streets are closed to make a production. Ps: the one we saw was the new Scarlett Johansson movie! I hadn’t had the chance to see her though because there was a lot of high fence to block the views 🙁
Mhmm, what else can I say about the city? The Ocean is really green, the Te Papa museum is really famous and we absolutely have to go (we went on a saturday and we don’t work yet… What stupid of us.. we decided to go later in the week instead!). People are nice, they have quite an accent but we are starting to get used to it.
Ok ok ok, before I end this article about the first week in Wellington, I have to add something: SUSHIS ARE CHEAP! Yes! Finally! I found a place where my favorite food was not expensive. They do Sushis for $1 each (when you do the conversion in €, it is cheap!) and in one place called Sushi Bi, they do half price after 4PM. Do I have to say, we eaten sushi five times in a week?