Man, fuck the British. When they go to Australia, they can get a second year visa just by picking a few fruit. Or even by bullshitting the system, seriously, the government doesn’t check. While they’re off on their “let’s fuck off to Darwin for a week because I have all the time in the world,” I get to sit in the airport on a gloomy day, realizing that I will never be in Australia the same way again.
It doesn’t have to end like that. You can, and probably should, prolong the inevitable by taking your own second year – not in Australia, of course, who needs it – but in Australia’s Canada. The Land of the Long White Cloud. The single most beautiful country on the planet. New Zealand. It’s a pretty common course, and based on how easy it is to get a visa, and how much of a different experience it gives, you really should consider the move from Australia to New Zealand before even thinking about coming home. At the very least, you can detox for a few weeks in a mountain-top hut after all the goon you’ve been chugging out of a shoe.
Here’s how you’re gonna do it.
Step 1: Get the visa
Apply for that shit, son!
China this ain’t. Even if you choose to get the visa to New Zealand last minute, like, based entirely on a burning desire to go anywhere but home, you’ll still have plenty of time to get approved. Barring losing your passport, which for some reason seems to happen to everybody just before entering New Zealand, but let’s assume you’re not a total drunken idiot and don’t bring the most important travel document you own to a nightclub filled with people snorting ket off each other in the bathrooms.
Getting the visa is as simple as applying on the New Zealand Immigration website. You’re looking for the working holiday option, obviously. Now, the price is a bit tricky. For some reason, when I applied, I wasn’t charged at all – my application listed price as “waived,” and I have no idea why – normally I’d guess it’s because I’m so good looking but this is one visa that doesn’t require a passport photo. Maybe it’s an American thing. If you’re not from the land of freedom and fatties, then you’ll be paying upwards of $135 – which is still buckets less than the $400 you shelled out to get into Australia, so no complaints necessary. You’re gonna be there for a year, dude.
Flash Your Chest!
Here’s a tricky thing, though. New Zealand is crazy strict with their biosecurity. Like wham pow get the hell out with that mango strict. So if you’ve been to a country with tuberculosis in it – and that means anywhere in Southeast Asia, if you’ve had a jaunt over there this past year – then you’re gonna need to submit a chest x-ray along with your application. This is a bit tricky, because they won’t tell you that you need to do it until after you apply, at which point you have twelve days before your final review and approval. if you don’t get it in in time, you’re fucked.
It’s pretty easy, though. Coming from Australia, they need an x-ray with a stamp from Medibank Health Solutions, which are all over the place. Walk in and tell them you need an X-Ray for a New Zealand visa, they’ll write you a script for a nearby imaging place, you’ll pop on over as you do, wait an hour while the people behind the counter twiddle their thumbs, get your bones blasted with radiation, and head back to MHS to get the stamp on it. It should be painless. I was told that I have “unremarkable bone structure,” which still hurts my pride. The whole thing will cost you $100. Ship that thing express (get the tracking number) to this address:
[label type=”info”]Online applications
Immigration New Zealand
Northern Documentation Branch
20 Amersham Way
And wait for your new visa to roll in, son! The whole process will take about two weeks, and the visa is online. When you get the email confirmation, print out the visa form and keep it with you – you’ll need it to get into the country.
Step 2: Get into New Zealand
If you need my help with this, then you probably won’t survive New Zealand anyway. Turn back now. Flights from Australia are relatively cheap, and you shouldn’t pay more than $200 for your one-way ticket. There are a few airports in New Zealand, but I’d recommend flying into Auckland. As the largest city in the country, it’ll give you more chances to meet people and get the rest of your situation sorted. Plus, the North Island is not as cool as the South Island, so starting North means you’re only going to be more and more awestruck as you travel, rather than gradually disappointed.
As mentioned, New Zealand is crazy strict on biosecurity. The lines are long because they check so thoroughly. You can risk not declaring something and hope it doesn’t show up (I don’t even know how airport security really works at all, honestly), but is saving twenty minutes really worth the possibility of being exported?
You may be tempted to take a taxi from the airport. Do no do this. For the love of God and your wallet, don’t do this. Taxis are super expensive in New Zealand and since the Auckland airport (assuming you fly into there…) is 13 miles from the city center, you could spend up to $100 just getting into the country. Don’t make the same mistake I did. It’s no fun listening to the taxi guy try and justify the price while you stare wistfully out the window, a single tear rolling down your cheek. Instead, book online for the AirBus – it’s a third of the price and comes with such benefits as possibly meeting cool people staying at your hostel and not screwing you over for the next two days on your budget.
Step 3: Swap over your bank details
Don’t touch that Aussie account!
If you try to use your Australian bank card in New Zealand, you’re gonna incur a hefty international fee. You may be tempted to simply close down your account, pull out all your money, and drop it all in a new account once you get to New Zealand. Don’t. Slow down, dude! If you’re too quick about closing your account, it’s gonna cause problems when you try to claim all that free money you’re entitled to!
That’s right, free money! Backpackers are entitled to claim back 100% of the taxes the ATO (Australian Tax Office) takes out of their paychecks. If you’ve worked for a a few months of your stay, this can easily get up to $3000 that goes straight back to you. If you’ve worked over the end of the financial year (ending June 30th of each year), then there’s a good chance you’ve already filed a tax return like this. Here is a jumping off point to file your claim and get that sweet, sweet skrilla. Alternatively, you can take your final payment summary to a tax agent (like at Peter Pan’s) and have it all done for you, but they’ll take $200 out for a fee, and you really need to learn how to do your taxes eventually.
Once you’ve left the country, you can also claim back your superannuation fund. By law, every paycheck you’ve received has had a 9.5% bonus put into a superannuation fund that you’d never normally be able to touch until you retire. But since you’ve already peaced out of the country, you can claim that back too. Check out this form from the ATO.
So, yeah. Leave your bank account in Australia open until all that money gets processed into your account, usually within sixty days.
Touch that Kiwi account!
In the meantime, open an account in New Zealand. There are lots of options – ASB would be an easy transition if you previously had Commonwealth, as they’re owned by the same people. ANZ is obviously a multinational bank, so if you had them in Australia, you can simply move your account to New Zealand. Either offer free savings accounts, as long as you opt out of paper bills and in-bank transactions – and why would you use those? It’s 2014. Get with the times. I myself use ANZ.
You’ll need to make an appointment to open the account, so pop into a bank first chance you get to set the meeting. Make sure you bring your visa form (you should have printed it out ages ago, remember?), your passport, and your proof of address. This is basically just a sheet of paper saying where you get your mail – if you haven’t pissed off the hostel too much yet, you can ask them to give you a piece of paper signifying your mail will go there (just request paperless statements later), which will satisfy the requirement.
Step 4: Buy a phone plan/SIM card
If you have no friends and no plans to make any while in the country, then ignore this step. But that’s not you, right cool guy? Get a phone. There are loads of cute people in New Zealand and you’re gonna want their numbers. There are a few main companies, and they all offer prepay deals, and ultimately there’s not much difference between them. Ultimately, you’re really looking at spending anywhere between $19 and $39 a month depending on how much data you think you’ll want. Overestimate a bit – WiFi is harder to come by and hardly ever free, so you may as well just use your phone for the important stuff. I use the $29 1GB option, because Tinder is just too important to save for WiFi points. After that, it’s all just the same ol’ unlimited text and a few hundred minutes of talk time. But who uses their phone to talk anymore? Gross.
A lot of people are going to recommend getting 2Degrees, and most hostels will actually give you a sim card for your phone for free. However, I’d actually recommend going with Vodafone. It’s a slightly larger network which makes a huge difference when driving between those tiny towns (2Degrees actually piggybacks off most of Vodafone’s towers), and their shops are much more common – so if you ever need to top up and you can’t find internet, you’re never too far from that human digital connection.
Step 5: Figure out your transportation
You’ll be hopping on and off more than just the bus
So, if you’re coming from Australia, you’ve probably heard about Kiwi Experience or Stray already. Hop On/Hop Off buses filled with debauched backpackers, all descending like a swarm of locusts from their vehicles to devour the entire stopover town, leaving it bleeding and gasping for breath on the side of the road as they waddle, temporarily sated, back onto the bus from whence they came, like porcine feudal kings. If you’re only planning on being in New Zealand for a few months, and you want to fall back into the same ridiculous cycle of blackouts and hangovers that you had in Australia, then either of these options are for you.
They usually cost anywhere between $500-$2000, depending on what route you’d like to take and for how long. They extend anywhere from a single trip along a predetermined short route, all the way up to an unlimited bus pass in any direction to any city in the country. This can be convenient, and social, but it entirely restricts you to the predetermined tourist path.
Buy your own car and you won’t be hopping on anything
This. This, my friends, is the way to see New Zealand. I’ve been doing it for two weeks now and the stops I’ve seen have already more than paid for the price of the car. I’ve already killed the battery twice. I’m sure you can take care of your car better than me. New Zealand has very relaxed freedom camping laws (meaning you can camp wherever you’d like), and although there have been restrictions handed down lately, you’ll never have problems finding a place to sleep, guaranteed. Just don’t expect to bring a girl back. Or, hey, go back to hers when you need a real bed.
If it’s just you, then look for a cheap little 4×4, like a Mitsubishi RVR (that’s what I bought and it works great). A full sized van can cost more than you, as a backpacker, should conceivably have after traveling through Australia (unless you’re with the Bank of Daddy, at which point, go crazy), and the larger ones all run on diesel which incurs a fee for every 1000 kilometers you drive. Combine that with the relatively poor MPG, and you might as well avoid it unless you’ve got, like, three friends jumping on the bandwagon (bandvan?). Obviously the best time to come to New Zealand is in the summer, but everybody has the same thought, so in the seller’s market you’re gonna pay a little more than if you came in the winter. Expect to put down at least $1800 for a car that’s worth a damn and won’t crap out on you, then allocate another few hundo to maintenance.
There are a few more fees involved when buying a car. You’ll need both a Warrant of Fitness (WOF) and a vehicle license (Rego), which can be a few hundred apiece, though if you’re smart about it you’ll buy a car that has these already. They expire every 6-12 months, so if you find a car with WOF/Rego that runs through your entire stay, you’re set. New Zealand is also one of the few countries that doesn’t make car insurance mandatory, but you should pick some up anyway. You don’t want to get boned because you forgot that just because you don’t give a shit what happens to your car doesn’t mean nobody cares about their own. It’s pretty cheap – BBH and Backpacker Car World are two good options that let you insure for 3-12 months at a time. I got a good deal on the latter.
Step 6: Live yo life!
You should be all set up at this point. Pretty painless, right? If you’ve followed this guide, you should be sitting pretty with a car, insurance, a phone, a bank account, and a drink in your hand. You’ll also be broke as shit, but that’s why you got the working holiday visa. Now, get out there and start partaking of the world you’ve so vigorously earned thus far. Kia ora.