Kiwi Cool: Saving Money While Traveling In New Zealand

Saving money in New Zealand - supermarket lamb
Last month, I spent three weeks traveling through New Zealand, focusing mainly on the cities and culture. After living in Istanbul for two years, it wasn’t the culture shock, the jet lag, or the seasonal switch that was hard to adjust to, it was the prices. While I knew New Zealand wasn’t cheap (though their dollar is slightly weaker than ours), I was unprepared for the sticker shock. Dinner and drinks can easily run $50 a head or more, city buses can cost more than a NYC subway ride, and $3.50 for a bottle of water seemed offensive. I did discover a few ways to save money and still enjoy the Kiwi cool.

1. Drink locally, eat globally – New Zealand is known for its excellent wines, and starting to get accolades for their craft beer as well. Whether you’re dining out or picking up a bottle in a supermarket, it’s hard to go wrong with anything made in New Zealand; even the cheapest glass of house “Sav” is likely to be pretty tasty. Also note that many pubs are likely to be “tied” houses (unlike the excellent Free House in Nelson, pictured in my first “Kiwi cool” post) and will carry a limited range of brands, giving you an incentive to stick to the “house” tap. In contrast, for cheap eats, look for foods with origins outside the country; Asian cuisine like sushi, Chinese noodles, and Indian curries are often the most budget-friendly options and given the country’s ethnic mix, just as authentic Kiwi as roast leg of lamb and Pavlova.

2. Rent a car – This is one area where I didn’t follow my own advice, preferring to explore the country on public transportation as my husband is the only driver in the family and my baby is not a fan of car rides (yet she’s perfect on planes). Generally, public transportation in New Zealand is not cheap – a day pass for the Auckland bus system is over $10, taxis from the airport can cost up to $100, and the cost of two bus or train tickets between cities often exceeds the daily rate for a budget rental car. Kiwi companies Jucy and Apex offer older model cars as low as $22 – 34 per day, if you don’t mind a less than sweet ride.

3. Book transportation online – If you do choose to go the public transportation route, it can pay to make your arrangements online rather than in person. By booking tickets for the Waiheke Island ferry online, I saved $7 on each adult fare, even for a same day ticket. As part of the promotion for the new Northern Explorer Auckland-Wellington train, Kiwi Rail was offering two-for-one tickets, check their website for current promotions.

4. Check out motels – In my European travels, I’ve been using AirBnB and other apartment sites to book accommodations, as it pays to have extra space, laundry and a kitchen when you are traveling with a baby. The AirBnB craze hasn’t quite hit New Zealand yet, though you may find luck with BookABach (a bach is a Kiwi word for a vacation home that might be more basic than a typical house). I was more surprised by the quality of motels and motor lodges in New Zealand, they are often modern in style and comfortably outfitted with nice amenities like heated towel racks, electric blankets, and real milk for your coffee standard (a small pleasure compared to the powdered creamer typical in most hotel rooms). Motel rooms range from modest studios to sprawling apartments with jacuzzis. I found a useful directory of accommodations on NewZealand.com, and you can filter for features such as laundry or pool and check for special deals. Golden Chain is a quality collection of independent motels spread over both islands.

5. Create your own Wi-Fi hotspot – Another surprise I found in New Zealand is the lack of free Wi-Fi. Even many coffee shops only offer Internet for a fee, and some accommodations will limit your free connection to 100 mb or so per day. The city of Wellington has set up free hotspots in the city center, but I found the signal hit or miss. A more reliable and affordable option is to make your own hotspot by purchasing a pre-paid SIM card with data. Consult this helpful wiki for rates; I bought a SIM through 2degrees with 1 GB of data for about $20. One other tip is to find the local iSite tourism office for a short period of Wi-Fi access if you need to check email or make travel plans (they can help with booking travel and accommodation too, of course).

6. Shop vintage – After a few days in Kiwi Land, you’ll feel an urge to buy lots of nice merino wool clothing and gifts. For a country with apparently more sheep than people, it is everywhere and you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on new sweaters. Another option is to try vintage and thrift shops. I found a lovely baby sweater probably knitted by a nice Kiwi grandmother for $8 in an antique store, just as quality as the $30 one I bought at a market, and both far cheaper than most retail shops. Auckland’s K Road and Wellington’s Newtown have lots of used and “opportunity” shops, often with proceeds going to charity. Eco-friendly fashion is also becoming more widespread, and “recycled” fashion shops can be found in most cities.

7. Stay in on public holidays – One upside to the high cost of a pint of beer is that tipping is unnecessary in New Zealand; the GST tax on goods includes service. However, you will note on many restaurant menus a surcharge for public holidays of 15%. This covers the owner’s cost of paying their employees more for the holidays. Try to avoid dining out on holidays or look at it as a special holiday gratuity.

A bonus tip that may or may not be relevant in the future: follow the rugby fan trail. Started for the Rugby World Cup in 2011 to ease traffic congestion and crowding on public transport, Auckland’s Fan Trail was revived for a match against Australia last month. The trail stretches two miles from downtown to the stadium and is lined with entertainment, food and drinks, and other activities, most of which are free. Even if you aren’t headed to a game, it’s fun to watch both the performers and the fans dressed up to cheer on their team. If you happen to be in Auckland during a future big rugby match, find out if the city plans to run the fan trail again.

Stay tuned for more “Kiwi Cool: New Zealand for the Un-adventurous.”

Ten best extreme wheelchair sports videos

It wasn’t until a close friend of mine wound up in a wheelchair that I took any notice of sports for quadriplegics. That’s when I realized the athletic feats accomplished by these wheelchair-bound competitors are truly astonishing. While I, and my perfectly capable limbs, stood on the side lines and cheered, my friend was out skydiving, skiing and even kayaking as a “quad.” Check out the ten best extreme wheelchair sports in this round up of videos.

Can’t Feel My Legs, Haha
Clay Egan is one of the best Rock Climbing drivers in the world. This inspirational man broke his neck in a motorcycle accident, but that never stopped him from participating in events that have him literally falling off of cliffs. After one wild fall, he remarked, “Man I can’t feel my legs!” Just a little quad humor.

North Pole Wheelchair Accessible
The North Pole is wheelchair-accessible? David Shannon proved that it is. He reached the summit on the 100 year anniversary of the first North Pole expedition. This video outlines the journey he took and the obstacles he encountered. Many able-bodied people try and fail, but this quadriplegic was a success.

Hang Ten, Baby. Quad Surfing
The Disabled Surfing Association of Australia allows Kelly McCann, a C2 quadriplegic to surf. She has no use of her arms or legs and needs constant breathing assistance, but can get on a board and experience the awesomeness of the ocean.

Yes, He Can
Gene Rodgers does it all in this video clip. Bungee jump? check. Ride an elephant, check. Parachute? check. This quadriplegic has done it all and his catchy little background song is by the blind musician Jeff Moyer. “Yes, I can”….and yes I will be singing this all day now.

Leave Your Disability at the Dock
Beautiful clip on sailing for quadriplegics. Control the sails and gain your freedom on the open sea. There is a man in this clip who gets to take his wife and service dog out for a sail. On land he is dependent. In the boat, he is in control.

Scuba Diving, Up Close and Personal
Dive right in. Regardless of your abilities, diving is a wonderful experience. The adaptations they have for quadriplegics like zip in wet suits and webbed gloves make it easier for anyone to give it a try.

Gooooaaaal!
Power soccer athletes doing their thing. Played indoors with a foot guard over the front of a power wheelchair. This sport allows individuals who are completely dependent on others for their day to day care to be competitive athletes. Fun video to watch!

Ride a Bike
All ages get together to ride hand cycles. These awesome pieces of machinery allow the wheelchair bound freedom on the streets. I loved seeing the little kids on the bikes. The clip mentions how the hand cycle gives them common ground with their family and friends. Going for a bike ride puts everyone on the same playing field, nice.

Sledge Hockey at the Paralympic Games
Exciting game! Check out these Canadians, nothing disabled about them. They came away with the GOLD.

King of Extreme Wheelchair Sports
We end this round-up of the 10 best quadriplegic extreme sports with the “King of Extreme,” Rugby. Wheelchair rugby, or Murderball, is brutal but thrilling to watch.

Rugby World Cup: No Girly-Man Helmets To Be Seen

With its combination of grace and brute strength, (and a total lack of girly-man helmets and shoulder pads), purists reckon rugby is the “Game Played in Heaven”. The once every four years Rugby World Cup has just kicked off with hosts France being beaten in an upset by the Pumas from Argentina.

The tournament’s on for another seven weeks before the inevitable victory by New Zealand’s All Blacks in the final in Paris on October 20 (but I would say that wouldn’t I?)

Most games are being played in France, but there are also a few fixtures in Cardiff and Edinburgh. Apparently there are still tickets available, so here’s your chance to see what the fuss is all about. Alternatively here are three great bars where rugby fans from all nations will be cheering on their favourites.

  1. Marseille:L’OM Cafe. Marseille is a big soccer town. Zinedine Zidane is a local hero, and this is home base for fans of Olympique Marseille. The city on the Med is also the base for the All Blacks for the next few weeks so expect lots of rowdy but friendly Kiwis.
  2. Paris:Pub Saint-Germain. Imagine your idea of a perfect pub. How about one that has more than a hundred different beers and stays open 24 hours a day? More than perfect I reckon.
  3. Lyon: OL Café is near the stadium and has football memorabilia and more TV screens than dodgy calls by a South African referee.

For information on getting around France by train to the different games, click here.

Thanks to anneinparis16 on Flickr for the pic.