Ever since seeing The Lord of the Rings trilogy at 16, visiting New Zealand has been on my bucket list of countries to visit. About two years ago while I was teaching English in China, while thinking of new places to see in the Far East, my thoughts drifted to Aotearoa /aɔˈtɛaɾɔa/, or the “land of the long white cloud”, as known in Maori.
In the first of my two-part blog, I will give an overview of the planning I did to visit New Zealand, while in part two, I will share some of the adventures I had while I was there.
First, I did some research on the internet (Bing it) and discovered some great touring agencies. There are many to choose from, and ultimately, your choice will really depend on your budget and needs. The agency I booked with helped me arrange everything in my tour, including airport pick-ups, accommodation and any day tours chosen in my itinerary. This was convenient for me as I was traveling alone (for the first time) and it meant I could make transfers to the same account to pay for everything. You can travel by coach, and listen to the bus driver give you commentary or you can rent a car or camper van and do a self-drive tour. If you take a coach, you will be dropped at your different motels during your holiday.
I had a travel agent help me choose my tour package. However, you can build a custom tour of your own design by giving options on lots of different places to visit or different day tours while there. You might be able to save a lot by simply doing your own planning and booking (as these things go) or traveling in a group. But in the end, I chose a 7-day coach tour of South Island in 2017 and it cost me around NZD 2,571 (RMB 11,700) as a lone traveler, excluding air fare. It was during the October national Chinese holiday (which means air tickets were a bit more pricy) and slap-bang in the middle of my CERTesol. However, nothing was going to stop me.
I recommend you ask a local colleague to help you get your tickets through Qunar.com, which make tickets out of China considerably cheaper than, say, C-Trip. Depending on the airline and when you buy them, return tickets will cost between RMB 6,000 and RMB 8,000 on average.
With my EF salary, like many other teachers probably, I am constantly torn between saving and “You only live once”. My willingness to pay to see the country really sprung from my intrinsic motivation to go there. It also takes about 12 hours of flight time. The benefit however is less jet lag, as New Zealand is only 4 hours ahead of Shanghai in terms of time zones. I was also able to get night flights, so I got to sleep for a large part of the journey.
On my EF salary, I was able to pay off my holiday over a period of 4 months as long as everything was paid 45 days before arriving there. This did take a lot of discipline, less eating out and definitely less Starbucks Cappuccinos, but it can be done. It's all about compromise. It did mean spending about 2 hours every month at Bank of China to transfer the funds (and taking all the usual documentation along for international transfers), if you don't have a credit card.
Getting a visa was also not so difficult. South Africans do need visas and in Shanghai you can go to the VFS Global branch to apply for a tourist visa. It will put you back about RMB 1,300 and you will have to wait about 6 to 8 weeks, so timing is crucial.
Here is the New Zealand visa office information. It's in Shanghai city center, and a convenient walk from the East Nanjing metro station: 2F, Jiushi Commercial Building, No. 213, Middle Sichuan Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai, 200002.
Was all the hustle, hassle and money worth it? After all, why not just pop over to Thailand for a fraction of the price instead? Next month I will share some of my adventures while in New Zealand!