Saturday, January 14, 2017

Going for a working holiday- yay or nay?

I have received a few question about working holiday recently. Instead of answering the same question and telling the same stories over and over again, I guess it's time to write an article about it and just tell people to read the blog instead. :P

If your idea of going on a working holiday is all about fun and earning heaps of money, then I will show you the not-so-nice side of working holiday.

Fact 01: It's not always easy to secure a job
Arriving at the right timing of the year and being not picky is very crucial. You must stay humble and don't be afraid to ask question if you don't understand. After all, to your boss or your contractor, you are just you with a working holiday visa. They don't really care if you were a manager or an engineer in your home country. To them, you must be able to do the job because they are paying you for it.

Moreover, there is a huge chance that you are working for someone who has lower education level than you and you really need to keep away your ego and stay humble. I have met some unreasonable people before and what I learned best is that it's wise to keep quiet and just focus on my work instead. Saying 'sorry' even when you are not wrong might be the most effective way to avoid problems.

Fact 02- Jobs are not fancy at all
It is so easy to get a blue collar job than a white collar job in NZ. But hey, who cares if the job is blue collar or not when you get paid $16.25 per hour. So, if you are afraid of working under the sun, you should really start worrying by now. And also, it is unavoidable that you will be working under the big NZ sun (Put on some sunscreen!) if you really want the 3 months visa extension. Furthermore, you might develop stiff neck, shoulders or legs as your job might require you to stay in the same position for 8-10hrs/day. The moral of the story is bring oilment such as yoko-yoko or counter pain.
However, I took it as an opportunity to role-play different character. Trust me, it is more fun when you think that way.

Fact 03- It's not about earning money
People do asked me if it's easy to earn money in NZ. Well, if you have a job with fixed working hours, you do get paid very well. However, the living expenses here is very expensive! As I'm not a person who can survive on instant noodles, bread and pasta everyday, I spent averagely $60 on groceries every week. Not forgetting about the rents. Hence, my average spending per week can be up to $160-200 and that doesn't include going out for coffee/outings/fuel/car maintenance.

I have friends who chose to work in factories as operators because they have fixed working hours (40-54 hours per week) and hence, it's easier to save up. I chose not to work in the factory because I hate routine and I don't want to spend my working holiday working like a robot (no offence- It is my personal preference anyway). Instead, I worked in a coffee shop but my shift is very dependent. I get 20-35 hours weekly and that did not significantly contribute to the growth of my savings. However, I really like my routine there. It allows me to do a lot more things and it's fun!

I had a talk with a friend the other day on how we managed to find so many new ways to earn money in order to pay for our bills in this expensive country. I was playing at least 3 roles to earn money.

Fact 04- You will get lonely
The 5 hours timezone can be quite torturing. I often text my friends in the morning and I won't be receiving any response from them till afternoon. I don't get to talk properly with my friends and family. If you are the type of person who will get homesick easily, you might want to consider this whv. I have heard about people who flew home after 2 months because they miss their friends and family back home. Hence, your friends and 'family' in NZ plays a very important role in your 6 months to 1 year journey. Just make more friends while you are there!

Fact 05- People are not always nice even if they are on working holiday
It's normal to live in a backpacker or a homestay when you are NZ for working holiday. Hence, be prepared to live with people who has different lifestyle and behavior from you. I have heard stories of having roommate who doesn't shower everyday or the housemate who never clean up after they use the toilet or kitchen. I used to live with some very young backpackers for a few weeks and it was so tiring as I have to help clean up the mess which they have created during the day. Other than that, I'm glad that I got nice housemates most of the time when I was staying in a homestay.

Fact 06- There's always uncertainties
It applies on everything! We honestly can't tell what will happen tomorrow. It's normal  to receive a text message which say 'It's raining now, we will wait till 12pm and see if we will work today' for those who work outdoor. Or the text message which say 'get ready and we will resume working in 1.5 hr'. My housemates have to be on standby for the whole day because their contractor refused to call it a day off.

It's normal to change your travel plans everyday. I don't have a fixed plan since I arrived. I guess nobody can ever have a fixed plan as things might go in a completely direction from what you have planned. It is best to just keep calm and see what's next. Trust me, your heart muscle will become much stronger after the working holiday.

Fact 07- You might need to compromise if you want a work visa
A lot of whv came with the idea of staying with a work visa after their whv. If you are lucky enough, you might be offered the same job which you are doing back home. Otherwise, there is people who compromise and stayed as a factory operator although they have a pretty decent career back home.

To me,  working holiday is something which I really want to do since long time ago. The motivation to apply for the visa hit me when  I really want to leave my comfort zone and expose myself to new things/excitement. To me, starting over in a new city is like having the rights to paint a white canvas with any color or pattern. To be frank, it wasn't easy to build a new social circle here but it' is actually easier than doing it in Malaysia.

Therefore, in order to prepare yourself for the ultimate experience, I urge you to try travelling solo first. Try to deal with uncertainties and see if you are able to cope with it.  If you are not here with a friend/partner, you will find yourself doing a lot of things alone for a start. So, it is important that you are comfortable enough to talk to strangers and make friends because they will be your friends or source of information in this foreign country. Think (Your current job and your financial commitments) before you apply for the visa as there's limited space and you might waste other's opportunity to enjoy this ultimate journey!

Friday, January 13, 2017

NZ South Island Itinerary for 20 days on budget


Since AirAsia started the KUL-AKL route, I think the number of Malaysian going to NZ increased tremendously. I guess this will be a very helpful post to help you answer the following questions:
1. How long do I need to travel around South Island?
Ideally, you will need at least two weeks to have a decent trip. Honestly, you will need more time if you are into hiking. We did one hike (short/long) every two days and I have to admit that our east coast trip was pretty intense. We tried to fit everything into one week in order to make it to Milford Sound before the stormy week.

2. How much do I need for travelling in New Zealand?
It really depends on what you want to do. Accommodation is the most expensive cost for our trip. We stayed in hostel every day because I insisted on showering everyday. LOL
Use Wikicamps, and YHA website to look for deals. A YHA/BBH card would be very useful. For Malaysians, I would suggest you to apply for YHA card in Malaysia.

To save even more, you should try to cook everyday especially when you travel in groups. One carbonara dish (~$2/pax) with heaps of bacons can last you for two meals. Besides that, you have to exercise perfect self-control (I'm so bad at this) at the supermarket. My travel mate spent $885 for 16 days vs me who spent $1137 for 20 days because I couldn't say no to ice-cream or chocolates.

3. Should I use bus pass (Kiwi Experience/Stray) or drive?
If you are travelling alone/you don't want to drive, you can stick with the bus pass. If you have one friend with you, you can consider renting a car. However, the road can be pretty narrow and winding. We planned our trip in a way that we don't exceed 5 hours of driving every day.

So, to help you plan your trip better, I'm going to share my 20 days itinerary, hostels, things-to-do and expenses breakdown for the trip. This will be a very simple post as I will go into the details later.

First, let me run through the itinerary with you.
Day 1 to 4 - Christchurch and Springfield
Christchurch CBD, Botanical Garden, Museum, Art Gallery, Mount Pleasant

YHA Christchurch

Day 5 - Christchurch-Lake Tekapo-Omarama
Lake Pukaki & Good Shepherd Church

Omarama Buscot Station BBH

Day 6  - Hooker Valley Track-Lake Benmore-Oamaru
Hooker Valley Track Hike (3 hrs return), Lake Benmore, Blue penguin watching (FREE)

YHA Red Kettle, Oamaru

Day 7 - Oamaru-Moeraki Boulders- Dunedin
Oamaru Art Gallery
Oamaru self-guided walking tour
Moeraki Boulders (check for tide times- only go during low tides)
Dunedin (Baldwin Street & self-guided walking tour)

Manor Backpackers Place

Day 8 - The Catlins- Bluff- Invercargill
McLean Falls
Nugget Point Lighthouse
Cathedral Cave (check for tide times- only go during low tides)
The Lost Gypsy Caravan (It was closed during winter season)
P/s: I would recommend a minimum of two days for this route but we were in a rush as we wanted to be at Milford Sound for the good weather.

Day 9 - Invercargill- Te Anau
Te Anau & Manapouri Lake
P/s: Best place to do Kepler Track day hike but we didn't have enough time

Manapouri Freestone Backpacker

Day 10 - Milford Sound
Milford Sound Cruise by Go Orange! ($45)
Key Summit Track, The Divide
Mirror Lake

Manapouri Freestone Backpacker

Day 11 - Queenstown-Wanaka-Lake Hawea
Lunch at Fergburger and dessert at Mrs. Ferg
QT Sunday Market & Botanical Garden
Lake Wanaka for Wanaka Tree
P/s: Would do Rob Roy Glacier & Black Diamond Lake Track if we had sufficient time. Check out Roy's Peak's lambing season

Lake Hawea Hostel

Day 12 - Isthmus Peak Hike
Isthmus Peak Track (6 hrs return)
P/s: Did this instead of Roy's Peak because Roy's Peak was closed for lambing season. You can see both Lake Wanaka & Lake Hawea from Isthmus Peak. Bring gloves to keep warm!

Lake Hawea Hostel

Day 13 - Fox Glacier-Hokitika
Fox Glacier Walk (2 hrs return - FREE)
Drove past westcoast due to bad weather
P/s: Fox Glacier walk was not worth it IMHO. Too much effort needed for the view. LOL

Mountain Jade Backpackers Hokitika

Day 14 - Hokitika -Westport
Hokitika Beach

Hokitika Gorge
Punaikaki Pancake Rocks

The Arthouse Hostel Westport

Day 15 - Westport-Nelson
Nelson Lake National Park
P/s: The I-site recommended us Buller Gorge but we found out that the place is a bit run down and poorly managed. And also, it was raining when we were there and we decided to skip it.

The Bug Backpackers, Nelson

Day 16 - Abel Tasman
Abel Tasman Hike (Torrent Bay- Marahau)
P/s: I would suggest you to take the watertaxi from Marahau instead. We used Aquataxi for the trip.

Annies Nirvana Lodge, YHA

Day 17 - Golden Bay
Wairariki Beach
Cape Farewell
Te Waikoropupu Spring
Grove Scenic Reserve

The Bug Backpackers, Nelson

Day 18 - Picton
Shelly Bay Track
Bob's Bay Track
Picton Waterfront

Pacific Coast Lodge, YHA/BBH

Day 19 - Picton-Christchurch
Kaikoura for Fish and Chips

Kiwi House Hostel

Day 20 - Castle Hill
Castle Hill (Filming place for Narnia)

YHA Rolleston House

As you can see from the itinerary, my friends and I weren't into any touristy activities. Oh well,  except for Fergburger and Milford Sound Cruise but we wanted them badly. 
Hence, if you are into Skydiving or glacier tour, you will need to add that expenses onto the budget. :)

As mentioned earlier, I have spent $1137 or RM 3,500 (RM3.07= 1$ as per Dec 2016) for this 20 days trip. Whee!

As shown by the pie chart above, accommodation and fuel are the most expensive cost for this trip.
Car Rental & Fuel - We rented a Fiat Punto for 16 days from Jucy and the rental (including full insurance) were shared among 3 people. Fuel price was around $1.76/L-$2.08/L.
Groceries - Daily meal & dine-out. We cooked most of our nutritious meals.
Activities - Milford Sound Cruise and Aqua Taxi ride for Abel Tasman.
Personal Spending -  Snacks, chocolates and postcards

I guess that's about it and I hope that it is a helpful post for all of you. =)

Feel free to leave a comment or email us if you need any clarification from me.