In the corner of the world: So, you want to go to New Zealand

Inspired by Gadling’s recent dispatches from the South Pacific? It’s not as far away or as difficult a trip as you think. With a strong dollar, good competition on flights and a warm culture, there are plenty of reasons to grab the kids, skip church and head New Zealand right now. We’ll help you out with logistics right here:

When should I go? Since New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, they’re just entering winter. Don’t let that stop you though, the currents in the South Pacific keep the island nation fairly warm, and even if you can’t swim with dolphins you can still enjoy 95% of what the islands have to offer. Most importantly, you should pick a time when the tickets are the cheapest.

Tell me about this ticket that you speak of. You don’t need a travel agent to book international airfares, your tools are right in front of you. Start by running a simple flexible fare search from your home airport to Auckland (AKL) and Christchurch (CHC) on Most connections will be made in Los Angeles (LAX) or New York (NYC), so if you want a cheaper alternative, try searching independently from those points of departure then connecting on your own. Also consider flying into Sydney (SYD) and moving onward from there. There’s a spectacular fare war among some of the top carriers on the LAX-SYD route right now, so you might be able to cash in and fly in V Australia’s sweet new service for a dirt cheap price.
Do I need a visa? No prearranged visa is required for visits to New Zealand, but you’ll have to prove that you’re leaving or will able to leave within the bounds of your visa, so don’t forget your return trip information when you go to check in for your flight. If you’re laying over in Sydney on a separately booked ticket, you’ll need to arrange an ETA prior to departure, which you can do online.

How do I get around? New Zealand has a comprehensive bus network called Intercity that fits the budget of any frugal traveler trying to get from hot spot to hot spot across the country. One can see almost everything that the country has to offer with these coaches, and they’re also a great way to meet people.

Alternatively, most standard vehicle rental companies have offices at the airports, where you’ll be able to rent a host of miniature, very miniature and absurdly miniature vehicles. You can drive all over with your US driver’s license, but be forewarned that Kiwis drive on the left, so you’ll have to reverse your brain. Fortunately, many rentals have automatic transmissions, so you don’t have to worry about shifting as well.

Finally, many travelers rent or purchase camper vans as a means to inexpensively sleep across the countryside. Parks and campgrounds cover rural areas, so it’s simple to pull over, set up camp and spend the night, and sites like make rental a snap.

Do I need to bring travelers checks and money? This isn’t 1986. You can withdraw money out of the ATM machine right inside of Auckland International Airport, and save the hassle of paying fees or carrying around large sums of cash.

I’m afraid/I don’t have the time off of work/That’s a long flight/I’ve never traveled alone! Put down your white wine, stop worrying about this season of Lost and book your ticket. This is a once in a lifetime experience and you’re not going to make it if you warble around. You’ll love it. We promise.

Thanks for reading In the Corner of the World.

In the Corner of the World – With the wind in your sails

Over the next few weeks here at Gadling, we’ll be bringing you updates from our recent travels across New Zealand – in the process, we hope to offer a range of perspectives about what visiting this truly unique and fascinating country is all about. You can read previous entries HERE.

It’s no secret that New Zealand breeds some of the best sailors on the planet. With serious players in every large regatta including America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race, one begins to think that Kiwis have seawater in their blood.

It may be true. As an island nation deep in the South Pacific, water is always nearby the average citizen. Auckland, the largest city in this corner of the world is surrounded by water, with personal, commercial and ferry ships strewn across the Waitemata Harbor like marbles on rolling sand.

It should thus follow that no trip to New Zealand is complete without some time spent on the water, whether this is swimming with dolphins, floating through glow worm caves, whitewater rafting or sailing through the pacific, and Waitemata harbor is no exception, hosting a broad range of nautical excursions for the seafaring visitor.

Should you fancy your own sailing experience when you’re in Auckland, there are several companies that offer charters from the downtown pier. SailNZ, the owners of two former America’s Cup racing yachts hosts a variety of tours in the Auckland Harbor, from a simple, pleasant day cruise to a hands-on navigation experience to a full bore, competitive race. You can check out their highly recommended tours at

If you’re curious how sailing an America’s Cup Yacht feels, check out the video after the jump.


In the Corner of the World – Where hitchhikers are welcome

Over the next few weeks here at Gadling, we’ll be bringing you updates from our recent travels across New Zealand – in the process, we hope to offer a range of perspectives about what visiting this truly unique and fascinating country is all about. You can read previous entries HERE.

We picked up Kevin near Springs Junction, nearly 200 kilometers southeast of Picton, New Zealand, standing on the side of the road with a backpack in the middle of nowhere. Like us, he was headed to Christchurch, so he tossed his gear into the back seat of our Mitsubishi Colt and jumped in behind it.

Among travelers, you always start with the same hour of conversation: Where are you from? Where have you been in New Zealand? Where do you think that we should go next? Kevin was traveling across the entirety of both islands on a series of hikes carrying his tent, sleeping bag and stove on his back and using the kindness of others for transportation. He was probably a few years younger than us, clean cut with a standard hiking fleece and khaki cargo pants. I could have confused him with the cashier at Whole Foods.

As a recent geography major from Canada, in fact, our friend had bounced around to a few jobs after finishing college, but had never found his groove. Eventually, he saved up enough money to voyage to New Zealand. Maybe to find himself. Maybe to stay. He never said.And that’s how most conversations went between Kevin and his drivers. Light fluff, catching up, swapping travel stories and talking about the beauty and luster of New Zealand. Amazingly, he didn’t have a bad experience from his entire weeks of hitching across the country. The longest wait that he had ever experienced was before we picked him up – a total of fifteen minutes. Among his worst stories? An art dealer in a Land Rover who talked a little bit too much.

We all agreed though: hitchhiking isn’t something that we would try in most other countries. Something about the friendliness and the culture of the Kiwis makes New Zealand perfect for backpacking – the warmth of their characters, the trust of another person, the wanderer buried in every single driver. It fosters a sense of security and altruism among hitchers in this corner of the world, and the resulting experience, especially in Kevin’s case, is definitely worth the risk.

Would he recommend it to anyone else traveling through this corner of the world? Absolutely. While not for everyone, hitchhiking is a unique experience. One meets random characters, saves a ton of money and opens oneself up to the improbability of mishaps on the road – in one of the safest countries of the world mind you. Isn’t that a core fundamental of adventure travel?

Before long we found ourselves in front of the hotel in Christchurch, Kevin with his backpack headed towards his hostel and our paths diverging. The phone number that we scribbled on our business card was wrong, I now remember — it went to a phone that had stopped working days ago. But it didn’t matter. Our service as drivers was done now, the exchange complete, two travel worlds briefly merging for a road trip to Christchurch.

Photo of the day (4.07.09)

Fresh from my return from New Zealand, I can’t stop thinking about the range of beautiful scenery found in the corner of the world. Perhaps it’s because I’m jet lagged and can’t fall asleep.

This photo, taken by The Wide Wide World in Queenstown, NZ, summarizes what you’ll see in a typical day on the South Island: vast, sprawling landscapes, tall mountains, placid lakes and beer. I miss it already.

Have any cool photos you’d like to share with the world? Add them to the Gadling Pool on Flickr and it might be chosen as our Photo of the Day. Make sure you save them under Creative Commons though, otherwise we can’t use them!

Jetstar website caves under pressure

Jetstar doesn’t deal with pressure well. Whether it’s the weight of a hefty passenger slowing down the plane or a deluge of traffic for a sale, the airline just can’t seem to get nimble. A deal to kick off its new domestic service in New Zealand led to digital mayhem.

The Australian low-cost carrier offered $1 fares on its website. This drew 50,000 bargain-hunters at once, causing the Jetstar website to collapse. Even success leads to failure for this hapless airline.

The promotion was actually pretty generous. Jetstar put 20,000 $1 one-way tickets on the table for use between July 22 and September 22. The two-hour sale was extended by 30 minutes, and the inventory was sold out.

As with any super-bargain, there’s always room for complaint. A $1 ticket actually cost $3 when the customer paid with a credit card. Checked luggage was not permitted under the deal. In some cases, transaction costs reached as high as $8 … the horror!

Needless to say, this is the most effective online travel gimmick since Leading Hotels of the World disappointed would-be travelers by under-powering its website for a sweetheart hotel deal.

[Via Sydney Morning Herald]