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Solo travel in New Zealand September-December

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific Solo travel in New Zealand September-December

1. Posted by Taphonomyx (Budding Member 4 posts) 15w

Hey everybody,

I'm going to a forensic science conference in Auckland in September, and, as it's so far away, I decided to stay and travel for three months to really see the country. I was supposed to be going with a friend, but she backed out in a really crappy way so I'm now going to have to do it alone. I was wondering if anybody had any advice as to how to meet people as I go along/things I shouldn't miss/how to live on a budget whilst I'm there? Any advice would be really appreciated.

Thanks,

Robbie

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 15w

New Zealand is an amazing country. Good on you for going there for three months.

What I'd do with three months is to get myself the largest (60 hour) intercity bus pass, and travel around the country from hostel to hostel, staying everywhere for about 4-5 days. Get a YHA and/or BBH membership card (depending on which one has the type of atmosphere and standards that you prefer); they'll pay themselves back in 2-3 weeks. Loads of fellow solo travellers to be found in all the hostels everywhere. If you're the type of extroverted person who easily makes friends, you might relatively easily find yourself with a group of people travelling together, but even if not, you'll still start to bump into the same faces (particularly when sticking to a single hostel organisation) again and again, as many people travel similar routes.

As you go along, keep an eye out for rideshares from fellow travellers, and for deals by intercity (super saver fares), as well as by other (more local) bus companies, as they'll work out cheaper than your pass. Don't worry, though, you'll still easily use up the hours on your pass.

If you buy your food at the nearest supermarkets and cook your own meals in the kitchens of the hostels you'll stay at, you should be able to easily get by on an average budget of NZD $75/day, including the aforementioned bus pass, that food, those hostels (small dorm rooms), and the occasional activity (think a museum rather than skydiving).

As for what to do and where to go: What are your interests? New Zealand has sublime scenery, and is great for hiking, but if that isn't your cup of tea, it'd be a shame to go all out on recommendations for it...

3. Posted by Andyf (Travel Guru 653 posts) 15w

The cheaper supermarket is paknsave.

Some ideas for things not to miss :
White Island day trip by boat.
Waikite hot springs, between taupo & rotorua, is a small local hot springs, recommended.
Driving Creek Railway on the Coromandel is fun and weird.
The Hobbiton film set tour near Matamata is good, if you're a Hobbit fan.
Queenstown is adventure central but a bit full-on for some. Wanaka and Te Anau are good alternative bases to explore the scenery. The cinema in Wanaka is not to be missed. From Te Anau there are various hikes off the Milford Sound road.
The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers offer heli-hikes; the prices are high but it's very good.
Wellington has a cable car museum in the botanic gardens - worth a look.
Napier was rebuilt after an earthquake just at the right time to have loads of interesting art deco buildings - the walking tours are good.

[ Edit: Edited on 23-Aug-2016, at 13:02 by Andyf ]

4. Posted by Taphonomyx (Budding Member 4 posts) 15w

Hey guys! Thanks so much for the advice, I'm feeling better about the trip already.

The 60 hour intercity buss pass looks excellent - do they need to send me a physical pass, or is it simply a code I can quote to the bus driver? It's funny you should quote $75 as a daily budget as that's precisely the amount I have!

I am pretty extroverted and love meeting new people - out of the YHA and BBA hostels, which do you think is more suitable for me?

I do enjoy hiking; I'm also a bit of a magpie and love looking for stuff, and am hoping to find an area with greenstone to have a poke around in, if anything comes to mind. Apart from that, I really just enjoy seeing a country for what it really is rather than just touristy stuff, and meeting locals/travellers.

Andyf, thank you very much for all those recommendations - I'm putting them all down in my self-written travel guide

Thanks again guys!

5. Posted by Taphonomyx (Budding Member 4 posts) 15w

Oh, and another concern - I'm hoping for it to be a somewhat flexible trip and to be able to decide on a whim to visit a new location. Do you think there'll be rooms available in hostels mostly, or is it unwise not to start booking now?

Thanks,

Robbie

6. Posted by Andyf (Travel Guru 653 posts) 15w

Best not to tie yourself down. The only problems I've had were Queenstown over new year. But then I've always had a car so moving on to the next place was an option for me.

7. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 15w

Quoting Taphonomyx

The 60 hour intercity buss pass looks excellent - do they need to send me a physical pass, or is it simply a code I can quote to the bus driver?

It's been 12 years since I used this pass (rented cars on more recent visits due to only staying for a couple of weeks each time), so no idea how it's currently set up. I imagine there's a page with more information somewhere on that intercity site. You'll almost certainly have to book reservations on the bus you'll take beforehand, though, and the bus driver will then have your name on a list of passengers to expect.

I am pretty extroverted and love meeting new people - out of the YHA and BBA hostels, which do you think is more suitable for me?

You can totally meet people at either. They both cater to a pretty diverse audience (also some families and elderly travellers, though the majority of guests everywhere will be backpackers in their 20s, of course). The big YHAs in the big cities tend to be a bit cookie-cutter and institutional (though much less so in New Zealand than in Australia), while the small YHAs are overflowing with charm and personality, mostly entirely due to the live-on-premise managers/owners. BBH hostels attract a slightly more alternative crowd, and can be somewhat ramshackle, though also count extremely nice hostels among their numbers, almost like B&Bs; these again tend to have owners living right there. (There's also VIP hostels, fwiw. I don't like them myself, and tend to not recommend them, but they do have their audience; mostly party-oriented early twenties backpackers. From what I've seen (not enough for the complete picture, no doubt), those vary between some really top-notch hostels with all the facilities, and utterly rundown dumps, with little in between.) I'd generally recommend visiting a couple when you've arrived in Auckland to sniff up the atmosphere at each; maybe even stay a night at one of each, then make up your own mind.

I do enjoy hiking; I'm also a bit of a magpie and love looking for stuff, and am hoping to find an area with greenstone to have a poke around in, if anything comes to mind. Apart from that, I really just enjoy seeing a country for what it really is rather than just touristy stuff, and meeting locals/travellers.

The west coast of the south island is jade-capital. All the infrastructure for that looked very touristy to me, and quite unattractive, but still the place to be for it.
As for hiking: The Tongariro Crossing is a must - a rather strenuous 7-8 hour hike through gorgeous desolate volcanic landscape, skirting the edge of Mt. Doom (do it near the end of your trip, as hiking up and down red crater while it's snowing would not be my idea of a good time). There's a series of multiday Great Hikes administered by DOC (the Department of Conservation, maintaining all the many national parks which New Zealand boasts, as well as the excellent hiking infrastructure; you'll come to love their excellent signage) which you generally need to sign up for several weeks (or more) in advance. What's less known is that you can hike parts of these great hikes without having to sign up for them. For example, the first leg of the Kepler track near Te Anau can totally be done as a dayhike from Te Anau, and passes through some of the most gorgeous mossy forest I've ever seen. Absolutely worth it. I also really love the hikes at Mt. Cook (on one of the rare days with good weather there) and Lake Tekapo (my favorite spot to decompress and relax, gazing out over the surreal blue color of the lake). Mt. Taranaki has absolutely gorgeous hiking on its slopes, both in the faerytale forest with gnarly mossy trees, and above the treeline through the high grass. I quite enjoyed the Queen Charlotte track for the convenience of pack transport from stop to stop, thus allowing you to do a 4-day hike with an absolute minimum of preparation. Nelson Lakes has great hiking, Abel Tasman is gorgeous (if only it wasn't for those sandflies, though at least they're not nearly as bad as at Milford Sound), etc. But really, there's hardly a place in New Zealand where there isn't good hiking. You can generally just head to the edge of whatever town you're in, and you'll spot a DOC sign or two pointing the way to worthwhile hikes.

Quoting Taphonomyx

Oh, and another concern - I'm hoping for it to be a somewhat flexible trip and to be able to decide on a whim to visit a new location. Do you think there'll be rooms available in hostels mostly, or is it unwise not to start booking now?

High season runs from xmas through late February, and that's when you should really book a few weeks ahead if you're at all particular about which hostel / type of room you want to stay in. Before that, you can generally rock up with no notice, though personally I still tend to book a couple of days in advance. You can cancel for free up to 24 hours in advance, so there's very little reason not to. (If you're going the YHA route, they'll more than happily book other YHA hostels for you at reception.) At the beginning of your trip, in September, you might still benefit from some "book 2 nights, get the 3rd night free" low season promotions.

[ Edit: Edited on 24-Aug-2016, at 12:25 by Sander ]

8. Posted by Andyf (Travel Guru 653 posts) 15w

All I can add to Sander's comprehensive good advice is to suggest you spend some time browsing the DOC website before your trip to gather a to-do list of possible day hikes. Doing that on my last trip gave me a structure and a go-to list when I was struggling.

As well as Sander's hike suggestions you could look at the Rob Roy Glacier walk in Mt Aspiring, and the chairlift-and-hike options on Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro NP.

9. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4835 posts) 15w

Quoting Andyf

As well as Sander's hike suggestions you could look at the Rob Roy Glacier walk in Mt Aspiring

*jots this down on his todo list for his next visit* :)

[ Edit: Edited on 25-Aug-2016, at 09:58 by Sander ]