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Friday, June 1, 2018

11 New Zealand Travel Tips You Wish You Knew, Seriously.

Kia Ora! If you are wondering where the hell did I disappear to (if only anyone noticed in the first place), we were in the beautiful land of New Zealand for our honeymoon for more than half-a-month. It was a same-same-but-different experience as Iceland, but just as amazing and epic. For most parts of the trip, we had a car, going on crazy road trips discovering the South Island. In fact, we just came back a few days ago, and as we are still basking in the holiday mood (yes, even when we are working), we would like to share some essential travel tips that we wished we knew that could make our lives so much better, seriously.
Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo

1. Plan ahead and budget accordingly
New Zealand is amazing. Although it is half as expensive as Iceland, this doesn't give you the excuse not to plan a little. Especially during peak seasons, accommodations can be scarce, so plan ahead if you are not sleeping on the roads. I mean, literally, on a campervan or RV. For most nights, we rested at Airbnbs which we reserved as early as one month before the trip. It's not the cheapest, but what's better than to stay at a local's home to understand their culture.

2. Top up your fuel when it hits lower than 40%, or get a fuel can.
Sometimes you go on the roads for 2 to 3 hours without passing by a petrol kiosk. If your car stops in the middle of nowhere, I pray to God that you have (1) phone signal to call for help or (2) insurance for the company to send some fuel over. God forbid, so remember to top up, especially when you find cheap fuel. The cheapest we have seen so far during our trip is the self-service kiosk under NPD, on average their prices are $0.10/litre cheaper.

3. Download the CamperMate app.
Speaking of fuel, this brilliant app tells you where the nearest petrol kiosk is (and the last known price too). We love the user-friendly interface which allows users to add points of interests, warning (winds, snow, road maintenance, etc.), camping sites, and a lot more. It also has an offline map, which we recommend you to download as a back-up to...

4. Download the offline maps on Google Map.
A real life-saver on the roads - a working GPS without the need of any internet connection, how cool is that. Please take note that the maps are only saved temporarily for a month, so download it over Wi-Fi (the files are huge af) a few days you take off. We love to mark the places of interest - those that interest us - on the map.
Baldwin Street - the steepest street in the world, Dunedin.

5. New Zealand roads are different.
Even the road signs say it, their roads are made of unicorn poop, so travelling time is always longer than the ones stated on Google Map, assuming that you are a good person and drive within limits. Expect 5-10% more time, especially on mountainous roads. Their roads are windy and curvy like a French lady. Or perhaps, you got to stop for a herd of cows, which we did. It stinks like shit (literally) if you are wondering.

6. Get ready for wet weather.
New Zealand is known for having four seasons in one day. One moment you put on your new Ray-Ban shades because it's so god-darn sunny, you take a corner and suddenly, it's raining - or worse - snowing. You probably read it somewhere in preparation for your trip, yes, wear layers, so you can put on fats like a bear in hibernation, or shed like a snake if it gets too hot. Weird analogy, but you get it. If you are intending to hike, get great hiking shoes and waterproof yourself.
Milford Sound

7. The most amazing views require sacrifice.
I'm talking about hiking, walking. Besides temperamental weathers (like my wife), New Zealand is a dream destination for hikers - not so for lazy asses like us truly. Don't be like us. Go on hiking trails, be adventurous, they vary from as little as 30 minutes to 4 days. Oh wait, we hiked 45 minutes (return) to Lake Matheson if it's counted. If you hate to use your legs, try bungee jumping or skydiving. Huge sacrifice for this one, mate, now I'm talking about your balls.

8. Do not always expect clear skies during star-gazing.
Clouds rarely appear to provide shade when it's too sunny, but they are always there to cover the damn stars when we are planning to star-gaze at Lake Tekapo. Just for that one single day, darn it. Lesson learnt, check the star-gazing forecast, allocate a few days to star-gaze. As a general guide, stars appear when the skies are dark (no stupid moonlight) and clear (no stupid clouds). By the grace of God, you will see the milky way amidst the thousands of stars and wonder at your life's existence.

9. Pak'nSAVE is your BFF.
There are several supermarket brands in New Zealand, like Countdown and New World, but Pak'nSAVE gets gold for variation and the most affordable groceries you would need for your road trip. This supermarket is available in most big cities/towns, such as Christchurch and Queenstown. Perfect to stock up your snacks and booze. Please don't drink and drive.

10. Ditch the big brands and go local on skincare.
Here's one for the ladies, by the lady. My wife has sensitive skin which goes all crazy as and when, perhaps due to the usage of all the big brands with all the weird-ass chemicals. Until she found the love of her life (that is, besides Jesus and myself) - Trilogy. Perfect for sensitive skin, as they are made using natural ingredients and are gentle to even the most irritable skin types (not sponsored by the way, Trilogy please take note of me).

11. Gucci.
Okay, she insisted that I put it as one of the tips. For some reason, Gucci is the cheapest in New Zealand. There's a store at Queen Street, Auckland, which is always flooded by ATBs a.k.a. China Chinese. So yup, if you want to get Gucci, get it here (not sponsored as well, Gucci please sponsor me). Based on the pair of sneakers and bag she bought, prices are about 20-30% cheaper (after tax deduction) as compared to Singapore.

Here's a bonus - Swipe left on Madam Woo.
We were dying for Asian food so we stopped by the highly recommended Madam Woo outlet at Queenstown. There are two problems - (1) it really sucks, and (2) the portion and price sucks. Just an insight, $20 for a bowl of laksa made up of 70% bean sprout and $26 for curry chicken which the  chap cai png (economic rice) stall does better at 10% of the price. Oh, did I mention, a bowl of rice is $3? Yup. Madam Woo needs to up her Asian game.

So here it is. Hakuna Matata. 11 New Zealand travel tips you wish you knew to make your trip more awesome. At least I hope it did.