Firstly, my apologies for the layout. I’ll customize it when I get a minute, but in the meantime, rest assured it’s offending my design sensibilities as much as yours.
Secondly, I arrived! I’ve been in Auckland for two days now, and coming up on a third (although it feels like forever), and it’s been a whirlwind of exploring, getting set up properly, and making further arrangements (i.e. coworking, apartments, etc.). I’ve been strangely non-jet-lagged as well (knock on wood). This hostel is not too bad for a first hostelling experience so far– I’m a room with 7 girls who seem very nice, the showers are hot (if not consistently so), and the wi-fi is cheap and fast.
From what I’ve seen of it so far, Auckland is a really nice city– I’m staying in the CBD (Central Business District), which is in the heart of downtown. It’s very clean, and bustling with tourists and visitors. In theory, the bus system which they have is set up really well (in practice, the buses are usually quite late, so the timetable is pretty much useless), but the fares are reasonable and they are also very clean and quiet. I haven’t spent too much time walking around yet, but I’ve visited the harbour, the Britomart (major transportation hub), and I’ve made a mental note of where the good coffee shops are. You can tell what my priorities are…
Anyway… as I mentioned, I’ve been trying to make a lot of arrangements really fast recently– trying to find an apartment for the long term, trying to find a co-working space, getting a bank account, etc. That being said, it seems that some of these arrangements I’m trying to make right now could have been mitigated, so I decided to make a list (those of you who know me well know I like lists– for those who don’t, I like lists). Here it is– the 10 things I would do differently if I ever make this kind of overseas trip again (in no particular order):
1) Book, or at least make arrangements to view, your longer term accommodations before you leave. This will save you much stress once you’re at your destination, because you won’t be trying to find apartments in 5-7 days. Leave enough time to go and see them once you get here too, so you’re not renting an apartment “sight unseen”.
2) Look into local phone plans and overseas calling before you leave. Also, find out what is supported for your current phone type if you’re planning on unlocking it and just buying a SIM card. I discovered to my dismay that data plans are not supported for Blackberry phones here, so although I can call and text, no internet for me. That’s going to be really weird…
3) Apply for a bank account before you leave. Most banks will let you apply online, but finalizing the details at a branch once you arrive could take up to 2 weeks to get an appointment. If you apply for your account 2 weeks before you leave, you’ll be in the perfect position to immediately visit a branch when you arrive and get your account right away.
4) Learn about the local customs around money before you get there. For example, it’s really throwing me off that tipping is not a normal part of the culture here– even at restaurants and in taxis! Tipping is done if you feel the service was exceptional– not otherwise. Also, the GST is included in all displayed prices here. So although everything seems much more expensive (and it is), it’s less so once you realize that a 15% tax has already been added to the price and you’re seeing the total.
5) Keep your hand baggage to a minimum. It gets really annoying to carry two bags AND a piece of checked baggage all over the place when you first get to your destination.
6) If you’re subletting your apartment while you’re away, make those arrangements as early as possible! Don’t leave that to the last minute, because you WILL be super stressed out already with all of the other arrangements, and having to deal with a subletter is just more stress. On that note, take the time to draw up an airtight subletter agreement. You’re going to be out of the country, so dealing with a subletter who has found a loophole will be a massive headache.
7) Put your things in storage AFTER you finish packing. If you start removing things from your suitcase(s) after you’ve already put everything else in storage, those items will have nowhere to go, and you’ll have no choice but to take them with you (alternatively, leave them with friends/family/on your neighbour’s lawn)
8) Take a fair amount of local cash with you. You probably won’t be able to use your debit cards at ATMs, and cash advances on credit cards are quite expensive, interest-wise. Until you get a bank account and can transfer cash electronically, you’ll be using mostly cash and credit, and not all places will accept credit. Cash is better for things like taxis, transit, snacks, drinks, and small purchases.
NOTE: Geoff pointed out that if you overpay your credit card(s) and then do a cash advance, you won’t be charged the cash advance interest. However, you will still be charged any applicable fees (possibly $5 per advance or more)
9) Double-check that you have both voltage converters and plug adapters for your destination. Laptops will generally only need an adapter. Take more than one of each. Trying to find a North American -> Other adapter when you’re already at your destination is a gamble (I was lucky and found one).
10) Load your e-reader with books before you leave. I hastily loaded some at the airport in Vancouver, and was wishing I’d taken the time to do it earlier. You never know where you’ll be able to get wi-fi, and if it’s going to be reliable– and getting stuck somewhere with your e-reader but no books is a very annoying thing.
There you have it! My first travel list :D. Hopefully it’s helpful to someone (or to Future Tamara, at the very least).
I haven’t done much sightseeing yet, but I have been taking some pictures, so those will be up shortly. I may be taking a tour on Saturday of a place up north– we’ll see how that goes!
Feel free to leave comments, I’ll reply as quickly as possible 🙂