After three and a half months in Asia with 7 countries visited, it was time to switch things up. We waved goodbye to craziness and confusion and boarded a plane to New Zealand. We had three weeks to see as much as possible in New Zealand, starting with its largest city, Auckland. With 1.4million people the Auckland area is home to around 1/3 of the population of New Zealand, but even at that level it wasn’t the enormous, sprawling, high-rise metropolis we had been used to seeing in Asia!
The first hurdle was getting through the infamous NZ customs procedures. After many episodes of ‘Nothing to Declare’ back home we wanted to be sure to not end up with a fine! They were actually filming the show whilst were were travelling through but we weren’t [un]lucky enough to get on there. The only problem we had was dirty shoes, which the friendly customs officers took off for a quick antibacterial wash and returned to us. Once through we were sorted – they didn’t even take away our teabags (I know, so British).
Getting from Auckland airport to the city centre is pretty straightforward. Beyond the standard taxi option there is a 24hr bus service which gets you into town in about 45 minutes for ($16NZ / £8 / $12US). Another thing we had to quickly get used to was that things would be getting a lot more expensive than what we had been accustomed to in Asia (where £8 could get you across an entire country in style)!
Accommodation is a bit pricier in NZ too, with a bit of a search I managed to find the Shakespeare Hotel & Brewery at $90NZ (£45) per night. We got a cosy room with a private bathroom for that, but it would soon become apparent that we’d have to drop our accommodation standards to stay in budget (no more private bathrooms). Still they did decent grub and I was pretty happy to get a proper English-style fish and chips lunch with a locally brewed pilsner. We spent the afternoon having a wander round and buying some food supplies for the next few days (tea / cereal / milk, of course).
That evening my searches for tasty, cheap eats brought us to a place called Elliot Stables – a cool communal courtyard surrounded by half a dozen food vendors. Pick whichever vendor you fancy and wander up with your table number and a few minutes later your meal appears – voila! Perfect for trying a couple of things or if you have a fussy group. We went for the Cajun Kitchen whose ribs and jambalaya were both awesome! It didn’t end up being as super cheap as expected but we deserved it after a long night/day of travelling. Afterwards we stumbled home knackered for a good rest, ready to explore Auckland more the following day.