Tag Archives: YHA

The kinda-sorta guide to Australia and New Zealand

The kinda-sorta guide to Australia and New Zealand

Eats

1)Kangaroooo, in steak or sausage form giver a go…it’s actually super flavourful! Not up for roo, at least try Lamb or Deer….the beef will NEVER beat alberta, lezzzbehonest.
2)Sausages, no pun intended although it is an interesting one ahha…free, lamb and feta, all beef….the list continues, the aussies aren’t kidding with their bbq meats.
3)PIES, I didn’t really get the pie phenomenon until my last week in Melbourne, but boy are they at a new level here…inclusive of sausage rolls (go figure). In fact I had one at a place called the Doncaster when I first got to Sydney that was amazingly massive fresh pastry…but the fad is moreso trhe to-go style pies, PieFace–Everywhere!! The wild venisson in red wine was pretty good in NZ…this is one of those rivalry topics between Oz and NZ (who has better pie!)
4)Prawns on the Barbie…the funny thing (maybe a bit devastatiing) is that Aussies don’t even say ‘Shrimp’…they say prawn….but either way they’re damn good.
5)Fish n Chips/Fesh n Cheps…the kiwis don’t spell it the latter form, but they might as well for how they pronounce it. The other great debate between the countries. I honestly think the place makes a bigger differnce. What’s sweet? It’s crazy fresh and you can pick each piece of seafood individually (ie one prawn, 2 scallops, a mussel, crap stick fried, and mackarrel grilled).
6)Tim Tams. Because you have to…then bite off opposite corners and use it as a straw in tea (thanks ingrid!)….money….also calories, soooo maybe start the addiction as you’re leaving.
7)Fergburger has to be tried, even if you fly to Queenstown for a day just to have one. The bakery fresh bun (probably 8 inch diameter) with fresh patty, witty names, and great flavour mixes….too good. (indian and cajun flavors, chicken or beef or lamb or deer or falafel or tofu, and freshhh produce to top’er off with house made sauces like wasabi mayo!)
8)A $5 Domino’s pizza. Mostly because it will restore your faith in the Aussie/Kiwi culture after your wallet has been shattered by paying for alcohol.
9)Until then, have a cup of goon. Just one. You might even be getting your fish egg and dairy intake for the day…yep, definitely in the allergy list for the backpacker favourite $10 for 4L concoction of the best and worst nights all at once.
10)Confectionary, they cool word for Candy…just like how they say cordial instead of koolaid (which ruins any ‘drinking the koolaid’ slang), basically chocolate freckles, and those pineapple gummies coated and chocolate cannot be missed!
11)Asian anything. With the close proximity to asia there is amazing south eastern, japanese (Fresh seafood!!), chinese, bakery, korean, taiwanese food everywhere! Although the prices can be steep…so if you’re in this neck of the world, maybe stop in Thailand on the way home instead. Positive, the pastes they sell at grocers are authentic and totally yum!
12)Flat White. Well basically Coffee in general is an intense culture here. Warning, everything is miniature, a regular (that will be at least 3.50) is the size of a starbucks short. But they are SO good! Flat Whites are basically lattes and are delightful. For the true backpacker, 7-11 in Oz has $1 coffee that’s half decent, but try a handmade one once at least!

But, the only way you’ll get through on a budget is if you mostly by groceries. Try to shop in sketchy areas in big cities as much as possible. I litterally walked 30 minutes out of town in Airlie beach to avoid the local supermarket charging double price for ricecakes. In Oz, Look for COLES or Woolworth’s…they’re pretty comparable, but legitimately vary in price based on suburb. Also hit up asian supermarkets…you know whatever they have is cheaper than the grocery store. There’s also ALDI which is like the super discount grocer. Sometimes cheaper, sometimes not, the selection isn’t there but they do have pretty good deals if you can shop specials. In New Zealand Countdown is their version of woolworths, pack and save is also supposed to be cheap…ultimately there’s usually only one grocer in any given town. There’s a lot of ‘Big 4’s’ but I find they are pretty pricy. Do your shops in Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland…then be a true backpacker and lug it all around in the staple blue cooler bag.

**Other shopping, clothes in oz at cotton on, factorie, supre, temt are all super cheap (in price and quality) but will get you through…for everything else look for the reject shop or clark’s discount stores…they’re like the dollar store (random everything other stores didn’t want) and have everything from toiletries to holiday items. PS ‘chemist’ is a pharmacy/drugstore. pps, peppers are called capsicum (just saved you huge embarassment at the self checkout)

Goon is Goon…I honestly havent price shopped alcohol, because anywhere I’ve been I’ve never paid more than 11 for a box of goon…


Transportation

Buses will (almost) always be cheaper. If you’re just doing one domestic trip, chances are you can find a flight for less than a hundred bucks all in….which after taking 3 overnight coaches in Oz I can say is worth it. The contryside in New Zealand is actually pretty sweet though… so I can’t say I’d fly even if I had the chance.
Jetstar and occasionally virgin will get you cheapest flights in Oz. Just keep in mind lots of posted prices don’t include baggage. Also you have to pay even for soft drinks on Jetstar flights. Tiger is also cheap but more commonly international from Oz…once again, you get what you pay for. Check their websites and webjet for cheap deals…expedia also has an australian site.

As for buses, if you’re in Oz, Premier or Greyhound are your main choices. If you’re doing the East coast get Cairns to Sydney and fly to Melbourne (flights can be $39 if you plan ahead, and that coach ride is Nasssssty) Premier is about 50 cheaper than the discounted Greyhound price…and ANYONE can get the ‘concession’ price, just book through any travel agent, esp. Peterpans. The downfalls: It only runs once a day, however the only place on the backpacker trail that had a shitty time was 1770, the rest were reasonable, and there were always night buses for 10+hr trips. Greyhound runs more often, and initially I was angry I was on premier, but looking back I’d do it again….just not all the way to Melbourne.

I only took transit in Sydney and Melbourne. Sydney is pricey…look at getting a 1/3/7 day multi pass if you’re there for a short period of time, that way you have unlimited use of trains, buses, and ferries. If you’re there for a bit longer look at the weekly train passes. From Bondi Junction (30min walk from beach) to Chatswood/North Sydney/City is like 34 bucks a week, if you’re up for a 30ish minute walk instead of buses the train will get you anywhere you want to go. Individually though you’ll be paying 3-5 dollars per trip, most buses are prepaid, and there is a zone system for pricing that could definitely be tricky for tourists. Melbourne has a better system at the cost of having ugly trams everywhere. They’ve just switched to something called the Myki system which basically means you pay $6 for a card (shitty for tourists) that you reload, weekends are 3.50 for the day, week days are 3.50 for 2 hrs or 7 for the day and you get unlimited tram/bus/train within that time frame. They also have weekly rates. You could probably find travellers at Southern Cross train station leaving on the airport shuttle that would give or sell you their myki for cheap. Also, you can get on to any tram or bus as long as you have a positive balance, so if you are leaving the city and have .50 left you can tap on, but you only get one ride!

That being said, Sydney’s best bet for getting to city is taking the train straight from the airport (you will pay a 15 ish dollar surcharge). It will save you the hassel of calling hostels and waiting for shuttles. Melbourne you’ll be better off just paying 17 bucks for the sky shuttle.

Flying into christchurch I took city transit for 7.50 into the city…where everything is walkable. Which is the sense I get about New Zealand. Auckland might be a bit different, from my research you can also catch a shuttle to the airport. On that note, no need for public transit in NZ…anywhere.

Travelling around New Zealand. Most people do hop on-off tours to meet more people, but they’re hella pricy. (they exist in Oz, but nobody does them because of price!) The issue is that travel agents also make it seem like these companies are the only way to get around because they are they only ways they make commission. There’s Kiwi experience (18-21 year old party bus), Stray (early 20’s, claim to go to untouched places, if you’re going the tour route this is probably the best), or magic bus (older crowd, heard very few positive reviews). I chose to go on Nakedbus which is costing me 225NZD so 190CAD for 17 stops anywhere in NZ, the kiwi/stray equivalent is a grand. I’m still meeting people on buses, and heaps of them in hostels…I’d definitely go this way again. It is cheaper to go with naked than intercity, and if you are doing less than 5 trips book individually through Naked bus or Atomic and you’ll be set.

Obviously there is also the NZ dream of renting a campervan…either rent, or buy at one end and sell at the other, or relocate…relocations will give you a time deadline to get from one place to the next, but they pay for the petrol (gas) and its free….so its still a sweet deal since lots of the sights between main points are 5 minute photo opps. You can relocate in Oz as well…I think everyone was just too hungover to drive.

You can also join Couchsurfing to find rides and do activities, or look at boards in the hostel…usually somebody has an extra seat in one direction or the other.

Accommodation

This is what will make or break your budget…but also your experience.

In general everywhere has a YHA, most places have Nomads (Oz dominant) and Base (NZ dominant).

YHA- you will get a less partying crowd probably on the older end, typically priciest of the three, but well kept, everyone I’ve been to has had work for accom available. the ‘hostel card’ that they sell is for YHAs, it makes the price pretty on par, and often gets you free wifi
Nomads– you will almost always find a bar attached, party hostels without fail. Typically a couple dollars more than base…but that is reflected in cleanliness and ammeneties. Of the 3, nomads is more likely to have free meals and activities. You can get a MAD card which gets you discounted room rates, or buy a bed hopper pass (10 nights at disc rate).
Base-Always a party, sometimes a bar, cheapest as a general rule of thumb. Not always cleanest though. The good thing is that they always have room lockers. You can get a bed hopper pass with Base as well. Like Nomads they use Global Gossip internet which is 12 for a week unltd in NZ, but 40 in Oz (in oz just go to Peterpans…they’re everywhere worth going)

In New Zealand look at Nakedsleep. They have $15 beds in every major city if you book (typically) 3+ days in advance. In Queenstown, Wellington, and Auckland they are at base (I think Wanaka and rotorua are as well), so if you can get these beds its way cheaper than a Base bed hopper pass. They charge $3 per total booking, so the more you can do at once the better.

In bigger cities, or backpacker hubs like Airlie Beach (oz) or Queenstown (NZ), or the weird little towns the conglomerates haven’t taken over (so basically anywhere you feel like looking at alternatives to the big 3, or want reviews of them) check out hostelbookers and hostelworld. Hostelbookers is sometimes cheaper than hostelworld, but the latter sometimes has more options. Both sites have heaps of reviews to help you make an informed decision. I’ve used hostelbookers fairly exclusively because they have no booking fee, and are cheaper than booking with the hostel directly, slash I think their site is easiest to navigate.

There is also the option of couchsurfing. I’ve heard great things and terrible things…go at your own risk. I couchsurfed in Melbourne and had a good experience, but I was referred by a friend. I must say I always felt weird living in a strangers house. Sweet because you meet locals, not so sweet that you don’t meet other travellers (luckily I knew heaps of ppl in Melbs already). It will save you coin, but may or may not limit the fun factor.

Work for accommodation. To be honest I never had it in me to stay anywhere long enough…usually they want you to stay for a minimum of 3 weeks, you can work anywhere from 3-5 hrs a day 6 days a week in exchange for a room to a room+ food to a room+food+money depending where you are. In Oz I don’t think it’s worth it. Get a job, minimum wage is like 20, work 3 hours there a day and you’d pay for hostel food, goon, and a hair feather…the plus: they usually don’t require work visas…so if you are just holidaying and love it somewhere then go for it. It’s pretty much the same deal in NZ but wages aren’t as good so it may be more worth while.

Visas & Work

check projectvisa.com for any questions about anywhere. Easy dropdown menues make it a total breeze…they put it all in plain english unlike the government sites.
Long story short on working holiday, you get 12 months to work, study max 4 of those, 6 months max per job but you can ask for extention, if you do 3 months in a remote area you can get a second year CAN and GBR for sure, not the US. They are looking at extending it to 2 years right off the bat, you must be under 30, and without regional work get one in your life. **Regional doesnt have to be on a farm, doesnt have an hours minimum, and doesnt need to be paid.**
Apply through immi.gov.au don’t go through anywhere else or you will pay extra fees…the intro to aus programs are USELESS any city that has international arrivals has well set up hostels where you’ll meet way cooler people guaranteed.

The above is for OZ…in New Zealand there is opportunity for a work visa, I just did a visitor one which isn’t really a visa, if your from pretty much any 1st world country you can get in for 3 months for free but they are anal about seeing your exit ticket and not bringing in farm related things (almost fined me 400 for having hiking boots and not claiming being on a farm). I didn’t get asked for ANYTHING in oz…then again tehre is a lot more natural beauty to preserve in NZ.

If you want to work in Oz you will need to get a Tax File Number (TFN) which is basicall our social insurance/social security. If you are British you also qualify for free Australian Medicare. (I’ve heard its for all working visas…but the lady told me no…so check it out) You can apply online for a TFN before you come.

To work in anything with liquor in Oz you need an RSA ( [something] service of alcohol) and potentiall an RCG ( [something, something] gambling) because VLTs are huge here. They are by state, and you can’t do NSW online so be careful what you sign up for! Without it most hospitality jobs won’t consider you, its like 80 bones so be committed to working, cause that’s a few nights hostel if not.

Look on gumtree.com.au for everything from appartments to jobs to used bikes (bicycles are called ‘push bikes’ in oz). Seek.com.au is also great for jobs or careerone.com.au. Ultimately if you are in Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane every hostel and backpacker travel agency (Wicked, Travelbugs, STA, Backpackerworld, Peterpans –ALL with free WIFI!) will have heaps of postings too.
Be careful with gumtree…its like craigslist or kijiji…I applied for a barista position and got asked to be a call girl… also on the note of baristas, Aussies take coffee VERY seriously, unless you can do coffee art don’t bother applying for barista positions.

Banking

The only thing I actually had stress with.

First lesson, you are better off withdrawing internationally from home account and depositing in a local account if you want to transfer money. You will pay $5 in fees, not the 15 of an international remittance.

If you are just travelling use your accounts from home, you’re sweet. Debit will only work for ATMs rest will go on credit because their machines won’t auto convert debit. Also they call debit EFTPOS.

If you are working you will need a local account. USE WESTPAC OR ANZ. They are both in NZ and OZ which means you don’t have to pay a $7 ‘international withdrawal fee’ from other banks if you chose to travel the other country. Even if you don’t think you will, once you work you might. I’d say go Westpac…they’re everywhere, everywhere. Where you’ll have a struggle finding ANZ in Oz. But every town I’ve been in has Westpac. You can also get your account sorted online before you arrive if you so wish.

Phones

For the love of god, don’t get Vodafone in Australia. You will not have service out of the major cities, and even still it goes down at least once a month. It’s always at the airport which is tempting, but so is OPTUS which is a way better option. Lebara is probably your best choice, you’ll get ample data and cheap calls home (even though your parents will want to see your face on skype), it’s not one of the well advertised main carriers but by far out of the people I know had the highest customer satisfaction. If not Lebara go OPTUS…they have vodafone deals with Telstra coverage. If you are working in the ‘country’ wait til you get there because it might only have Telstra coverage. Telstra’s not painfully expensive…but there’s cheaper. Jsut go with a prepaid plan, you don’t want to get locked into any contracts. Pay to unlock your phone before you come…especially if you have a smartphone, its worth it to have internet access and there are always heaps of free wifi zones in Aus/NZ. If you have a locked iPhone get it done a month in advance.

I have vodafone in NZ, it has worked in every shit town, just not in between…but there’s no reception in the middle of the rockies either. You should be able to pay 20 or less for a plan in NZ and 30 or less for a decent plan in oz. Even if you don’t think you know ppl in Oz, you will meet them quick, don’t underestimate how many local texts you’ll need. Most prepaids in Oz work on ‘flexi credit’ basically you pay 30 for 500 in credit which gets deducted 15c per text, 10c / min, 2/mb or whatever…there seems to be a threshold…I’ve run out of every 10 or 20 dollar plan in like 3 days, and my $30 plan is only half used at the end of the month….so, be realistic in judging what you’ll use.

Blackberries from Canada get no bb benefits here, no BBM, FB/Twitter apps…just fyi for the 5 other people in the world that probably have blackberries.

Ultimately, it seems most people have iphones or androids and backpackers love fb so just make sure you have enough DATA if nothing else!

Activities

Definitely just my opinion…

Australia:

Barrier Reef–Go…its already disappearing, time is of the essence. Don’t spend the money on diving if you don’t want to, especially if you’re headed to asia better where its a quarter the price and more scenic anyway.
Whitsundays–DEFINITELY DO. If you’re doing a boat trip book IN AIRLIE. If you’re in the Oct-Dec peak that could result in you waiting a few days, but if you are a single traveller you can get stand by deals way cheaper than any travel agent could if they tried (no matter what they tell you). If you only have a day Ocean Rafting was amazingly fun, you still see everything without sleeping on stingy boats…but its less of a party (not that airlie beach won’t make up for it)
Scooteroo–Didn’t do it…Most people that went said it was fun…but in a ‘it didn’t suck’ kind of indifferent tone. I wouldn’t waste time or cash, no regrets not doing it.
Fraser Island–If you want a party. People love Fraser because you camp, drink, and have a great time with the people you’re with. The scenery….meh
Uluru–I didn’t go…my reasons, It’s a rock…It’s expensice usually 300-500 PLUS flight/transport into Alice Springs…if it’s bad weather you don’t even see it.
Blue Mountains–Don’t go. More Like hills and plateaus covered in trees…Going to home and away beach would be much more satisfying for a 2 hr trip from Sydney…and cheaper.
Great Ocean Road–Go. Honestly we were way to tired by the day I went to drive the whole thing, but it is a gorgeous coastine and tours from melbourne are only 100 food included. The 12 apostles are already 8, so go before they are no more!
Surfing–DO IT. It’s easier than it looks, and it’s something fun to do at the million beaches you’ll be visiting. Whether you immerse yourself in camp at Spot X with MojoSurf, or do a day lesson in Byron (if you’re going to do a day, do it in byron…you’ll pay 45 as opposed to 20 in agnes water but it has some of the best surf in Oz, and more fun instructors/fellow surfers/post lesson partiers!

New Zealand:
Milford Sound–DO IT, so beautiful (including the drive to them (It’s a cruise))! besides the fjords in Sweden I don’t think many countries have anything like it…it’s like Rockie mountains surrounded by Ocean (but really the tasman sea)
Bungee–if it’s your thing then do it…everyone that did loved it…the $260 for 10 second thing + the I don’t wanna puke into my own face thing deterred me….there’s also a canyon swing in Queenstown that people love and its 100 cheaper. Not realy an adrenaline junkie so I sat it out, but NZ is the place to do one! (even though the highest is in SA…less sketchy shit happens in NZ)
Rafting/kayaking/downhilling….If you aren’t from Canada you will probably think it is all amazing…if you are, you’ve probably done it all…at which point don’t waste yourcash.
Pancake Rocks–every bus will stop there…don’t spend a night.
Black Water Rafting–Do it, beyond bungee, the most unanamously loved activity. Involves seeing glowworms and propelling into caves.
Skydive–18,000ft (higher than Oz)
Bay of Islands– Not there yet, but apparently a must, and I intend on going!

as far as lakes and hikes…every bus will stop by every lake (tekapo, wanaka, taupo)…if all you want is a photo. ANd the hikes are hikes, you’ll find them anywhere, I wouldn’t go anywhere for a hike…then again, as the travel agent said I’m a ‘Rockies Snob’.

What to Pack

-Buy sunscreen here, its way cheaper because they care more about preventing skin cancer than stoping smoking. If you have high deet bug spray though then bring that. Trick, sand flies (north qld) can’t bite through sunscreen, so lather that on if not for sun, for non diseased looking legs.
-Bring clothes to go out…Girls wear heels and dresses, flip flops won’t get you in most places. Boys, bring at least one collared shirt Just in Case! at least one sweater and longish pair of pants…many if you’re going to NZ or Melbourne, weather in summer is like in Canada…completely unpredictable with unsuspectingly freezing evenings.
Aus: flip flops and shoes for bar. NZ: Hikinkg and flip flops…in NZ you could go barefoot and the bars would let you in.
-Camera, electronics, anything in general that costs over 50 dollars…because things are at least 10% more expensive in Oz and the dollar is worth more…and you probably won’t find it in NZ.
-Advil…you will be hungover or have bar injuries.
Lifetime supply of birth control (girls obvi) …it’s 18 dollars a pack here…
-Extra contact case, when you sleep in your contacts becaue you partied the night before you left you will not remember your case.
don’t bring a sleeping bag….just be prepared to sleep with your towel in Byron…the only place in Oceana where bedding isn’t included.
-A Sarong as your lighter beach towel…it will dry, cover you, and not hold as much sand as a towel. Shower towel…microfibre… otherwise it will never be dry when you’re getting one last shower in before you leave because you don’t know what the water pressure will be at the next joint.
-It is too humid for your hair to hold style…either outside or in the backpacker packed bars….don’t bother. You can use other girls’, and secret: guys do not give a crap what your hair looks like.
-Powerbar with adapter… seriously the one thing I wish I brought…even some adapters have like 4 sockets…either way, when you need your laptop, phone, and camera charged and theres 2 outlets in a 10 bed dorm, you’ll get my drift.
-A lock. 99% of the time other backpackers aren’t sketchy…but on my 100th night away I had a homeless man in my room…which is why you bring a lock. Oh, and because you shouldn’t be too trusting to begin with…Backpackers are also the stingiest, brokest people I know…if anything I’d lock up my food.
-Some device that you can use internet/skype on. There’s free wifi at heaps of places…lots have computers…but those computers are often shiet.
-Driver’s license. You can drive with yours from home under the same conditions…also some places oddly ask for ID instead of money for key deposits…a) you don’t want them having your passport b)you won’t be able to go out.
-If you plan on driving, learn manual. North america seems to be the only place on the globe that’s automatic dominant.
–Your iPod…unlike me…whose is sitting in my ihome at home…because “I’d never be dumb enough to forget that”… Lots of long busrides ahead folks.
A lighter…Always a good way to make friends even if you don’t want to partake in activities…somebody always needs one.

As for the rest of it…it’s Oz and NZ…not Haiti…You’ll find it here, and some things are entertainingly different like their aerosol deoderant.

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