Holy smokes, I Live in New Zealand.


Driving.
February 2, 2008, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Process of Travelling | Tags: , , ,

Occasionally, I get to drive the company Subaru out into the suburbs for site visits. Note that the first video is seven minutes long, so budget your time accordingly.

Alternate link.

Then I remembered how I loved the light standards along State Highway 1, so I shot another shorter video.

Alternate link.

Thus concludes my tentative first step into posting my own videos on Youtube and reminding you all of what I sound like.  And for the record (responding to Nancy Drew’s comment), “we” equals me and you, dear reader.  We are travelling together.

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Auckland Airport and Getting Into the City.

Premised on an e-mail I received today and the occasional hit I receive through Google searches, here is a piece for archiving in the annals of the Internet.

How to Arrive at Auckland Airport and Get Into the City.

http://www.auckland-airport.co.nz/
Auckland has only the one airport. It is technically in Manukau City (the boundary is some street somewhere; one side Auckland, the other side Manukau) but that’s talking semantics. There are International (where you land from overseas) and Domestic (Air NZ and associated airlines, where you would fly to Wellington or Christchurch) terminals.

Note that once you have cleared Customs and picked up your baggage, there is free tea, coffee and wateravailable BEFORE you entire the biosecurity check. It’s not great stuff, but it’s free. They will let you bring that through biosecurity unless they are in a bad mood or you are rude. Politeness goes a long way here.

You are aware of New Zealand’s VERY STRICT quarantine rules? No food products, no wood, strict examination of camping material. That said, I accidentally smuggled tea into the country and nobody said a word.  I was too exhausted to remember it was there. I wouldn’t recommend you do that.

http://www.airbus.co.nz/home/
There is a privately run airport shuttle running into the city every 15 minutes or so, starting at 6 AM and running until the evening. Roundtrip NZ$20 if you have student ID or an HI card or can charm the bus driver, NZ$22 otherwise. Airport shuttles and vans and taxis start at NZ$30 ONE WAY. The bus takes you right into the City. I live between two stops. It takes about 35-40 minutes to get into Auckland Central and is the best option if you don’t mind being surrounded by those bound for the dozen-or-so hostels in the City.

And, as always, you need to pay your Departure Tax on overseas flights at the airport.  You can do that at the Bank of New Zealand branch in the Terminal or at any of the currency exchange booths.  Those are located on both the first and second floors of the building.



Hotel Security.
January 7, 2008, 8:33 pm
Filed under: In the News, Process of Travelling | Tags: , , ,

Doing Europe in 2005, I had an unfounded worry about security in hostels.  I’ll provide one example that doesn’t make me seem too “out there.”  I wore a money belt at almost all times.  I slept with it on many nights; it was on me or under the pillow if it was a super hot night.  Today, I would probably be a little less fussed about things.

Having just typed that out, I now think I probably wouldn’t change a thing…except maybe flirt more.

That said, a Canadian family received a shock lesson on travel security in what is a front page news story down here.  A family of five from Montreal staying at one of Auckland’s nicest hotels were burgled out of their luggage, cash and passports when a con man convinced hotel staff to give him their room key – without showing identification or indicating what floor or room he was supposed to be staying.

Even the hotel association has come out and said the five-star, boutique hotel has screwed up:

“Hospitality Association chief executive Bruce Robertson said … access should not have been provided and the hotel would have to decide whether it is an issue of serious misconduct.”

Ouch.

Yes, it is true that the thief charged an NZ$80 dinner to the room account, and managed to spend some time in the hotel bar as well.

The lessons here:

  1. Name identification should be on the inside of your luggage.  Anything identifying the luggage as having come from an airport should be removed as soon as you have cleared Customs.
  2. Better yet, don’t leave your luggage unattended.  If you have to use a red cap or bellhop service, watch them take your bags to the elevator.
  3. Tell the front desk staff not to give out your name or room number to anyone other than yourself.  If it’s good enough for a Hollywood movie star, it’s good enough for you.
  4. Passports should be on your person at all times when you are a tourist, in my opinion.  Realistically, it should never be left in your luggage or anywhere in your hotel room.  Besides, you need it to do almost anything in New Zealand when you are a tourist (imagine a link to my corporate newsletter short story on my passport dilemma from week one back in September).  The Auckland hotel in question has in room deposit boxes…and secretarial services.
  5. I’m pretty sure fancy hotels can be instructed to refuse charges to your room account if you want an extra level of security attached to any purchase.

This story is front page news across New Zealand tonight.  In Canada, the only mention I could quickly find was on the CBC’s Diversions page.

UPDATE: New Zealand Police have arrested a suspect, who is in a hospital after requiring surgery on his hand.  Police have only been able to find and return a couple of small bags.  Quoting the father, “It’s not much, we hope they will be able to recover more of it.”  Those items were found at a local homeless shelter.



Grabaseat.
December 17, 2007, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Process of Travelling | Tags: , , ,

I’m writing today to let you know about this amazing discount airfare website in New Zealand, and (incidentally) to ask the rhetorical question about why it is not done in Canada.

Air New Zealand is the flag carrier of New Zealand. They fly a couple dozen domestic routes (including large centres such as Auckland and really small places such as Hokitika and Oamaru), Australia’s main centres, the South Pacific islands (that’s how I’m going to Vanuatu in March), Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, London and the west coast of North America – including direct to Vancouver. It, along with Air Canada, is part of the “Star Alliance” group of airlines offering even more international connections.

In North America, a lot of the last-seats-on-the-plane fares and pre-sale sale seats are cleared out through the Expedia, Hotwire or Travelocity types of services. Air New Zealand, however, has decided to do the job themselves.

It’s called Grabaseat, and it comes highly recommended from almost every New Zealander I’ve talked travel with.

I am told it was launched to coincide with an Air New Zealand anniversary. The attraction was $1 airfares to all sorts of interesting New Zealand destinations. Over the course of time, the fares have increased but are still as much as 75% the ordinary economy class airfare. Most of the fares are for domestic flights only, although the occasional international fare does come up. I’ve seen Australian flights come up twice and Tonga once.

Sometimes Air New Zealand will introduce a cute gimmick that will distract you for the entire day. Last week, for example, they sold 10,000 domestic airfares for the autumn (that’s April to June) with the fares dropping every hour on the hour. The attraction is that you are tempted to wait awhile to see how low the fares will go, but the sooner you buy the better the chance of actual landing a seat on the flight you want. This sale is what will take me to races in Wellington and Christchurch this May and June, with a little extra time in Christchurch to see the leaves change colour.

There are a couple of rules you need to keep in mind when shopping Grabaseat:

  • No dithering! If a price comes up that is really incredible (usually associated with a promotional day or a special event), you have to go for it or else you will lose it. There are only a certain number of discount seats available on a flight, if any. Hesitating means you will lose the seat. This happened to me trying to book a sunny holiday in the Cook Islands a couple of months ago.
  • Dates are fixed. Because these tickets are so cheap, they are non-refundable. To transfer your ticket (which I have done for a Rotorua vacation in January) will cost you $50 per leg of the journey. The novelty of the discount quickly disappears if your dates have to change.
  • If you can pack your bags on short notice, go for it. Some incredible deals are available every so often if you can travel that weekend. Both times I found Australian airfares, that was the case.
  • Remember your passport number. It makes filling out the auto-complete forms much easier…and quicker if you are in a time crunch. Besides, it’ll make online check-in possible so you can hop the queues at Auckland airport.

Oh, and so you are aware New Zealand’s Departure Tax is NOT included in the price of your airfare. Bring NZ$25 cash to the airport with you, or at least a credit card. Security loves sending people away from the clearance lineup if you haven’t paid your departure tax. Fortunately, I learned that through the experiences of other travellers.



Adelaide Airport.
September 24, 2007, 10:49 am
Filed under: Process of Travelling | Tags: , ,

As you know by now, my flight into Hong Kong arrived late.  I was re-routed to Auckland through Adelaide, Australia.  That’s an awful long way from Toronto.

I walked off the plane and was met by one of Air New Zealand’s land staffers, who gave me a printed receipt of why I wound up in Adelaide and sent me to the gate.  There, I was met by a Qantas staffer (it appears as though they do airport management as well) who didn’t understand the paperwork ANZ had given me.  A couple of phone calls sorted that out and I was rewarded with an exit aisle window seat – the most luxurious part of my 30 hours in the air from Vancouver (36 if you include Toronto from earlier in the week).  All Staff seemed quite interested in what I was undertaking by moving to Auckland.

In fact, they were so friendly that I would consider holidaying in Adelaide.  I’m stereotyping that they are all fairly nice people.

The flight to Auckland was wonderfully uneventful.  I was the only Canadian on the flight for sure.  I claim this because I was the only person in the entire “Not Australia or New Zealand” line.   I was welcomed into the country by a border guard with one of those trendy mullets that people from more “English” countries are always sporting.  He was cracking jokes and everything.  My Visa was therefore validated and New Zealand officially became stuck with me.

Next stop was Customs to declare my life savings (Note to the Royal Bank: yes, I do only have $2 to my name right now.  Please skip my next few mortgage payments).  Turns out I didn’t have to because most of it was contained in a bank draft and I didn’t have to declare that.  The Customs Agent was all excited for me too.  He actually shook my hand as wished me good luck on my way out!

Suffice to say, the final leg of the airplane marathon was most pleasant.  More on New Zealand itself over the coming days.