It has always been a dream to tour around and visit one of the greenest and was once ranked as the safest country to live in the world — New Zealand. It’s been a year since my backpacking trip and it took me almost 12 months to finish this blog story because I want it to be as detailed as my readers requested it to be. I tried 🙂 I know a lot of my Filipino friends has New Zealand in their bucketlist of countries to visit.
Backpacking New Zealand will always be my favorite travel experience. It was my first solo travel outside the country. Knowing me, I don’t prepare or use any itinerary on almost all of my travels and trips especially when I do it alone. I find it more exciting. I spent 9 days in New Zealand and I tell you, it was one of the bravest and most fulfilling experience that I had as a traveler.
From Manila, Philippines, I booked a trip to New Zealand. The price of air tickets for direct flights were so expensive that I opted to look for an alternative and saw a promo from one of the airlines operating in the Philippines. The flight was a little exhausting since i opted to fly with 2 stop overs. First stop over was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the other one was in Gold Coast, Australia.
Day 1: Upon arrival at the airport in Auckland, I directed towards the tourism center located in the vicinity and asked few questions on how to get to Auckland City Center/Central Business District (CBD). I also got some recommendations on how to tour around. Then, I bought a local sim prioritizing the data allocation so I could navigate and tour around without asking the locals too often. I immediately looked for the cheapest possible hotel room but with a good review and booked it online. I went out of the airport and bought a one way ticket at the booth of SkyBus going to CBD for $18. Upon reaching the CBD, I checked-in at Surf n Snow Backpacking Hostel in a room with 3 bunkbeds shared with other backpackers in the city. I left my things under my bed with a little paranoia that they may be gone on my return and went out to have my first dinner. I had a hard time looking for a restaurant offering some rice meals until I saw Avachi and bought a chicken rice meal for $9.50 for to go. I got to pick 2 chicken parts and a cup of rice and then walk back to the hostel’s pantry to eat. I was able to have short talks with some locals and an Indian cook (maybe on his 60s) who happened to have lived and worked in the Philippines during the Marcos regime.
Day 2: I decided to have a tour around the CBD. The hostel where I stayed is just near the SkyCity where the Auckland Sky Tower is located. I was amused by the architectural design of the buildings and churches around the city and noticed how people in the streets follows their law especially the traffic signs and rules. I searched the internet to look for some tourist spots recommendation and I decided to go to the Auckland Domain. On my way, I passed by the The University of Auckland. The weather was good and so as the climate was cold that I never realized, I had walked almost 3km until I reached the Auckland Domain. In this area, you’ll get to the Auckland’s Winter Garden, Frenery and the War Museum. By late afternoon, my college friend Marion, who has been living in New Zealand for quite a few years accompanied me as I requested to climb and see Mount Eden in Tahaki Reserve. We went there riding the city bus. It is on the top of Mount Eden summit where you’ll get to see the 360 degree view of Auckland. The city lights was mesmerizing and it’s definitely one of the famous tourist destination in Auckland. Marion and I went back to the city, had some burger meals for dinner before I went back to the hostel. When I reached the room, I already had new room mates and had some short talks with them. I met brothers Ray and Alen Tan together with their father who just stayed at the hostel overnight because they will be staying at the south island of NZ. They are Malaysian Nationals. The Tan brothers were very friendly and asked me if I wanted to join them to have a cup of coffee outside. It was already midnight then so we had a hard time looking for an open coffee shop. We ended up in this fancy Esquires cafe.
Day 3: I woke up late since I slept late. I started the third day meeting Nathan, a colleague when I was still working in a hospital in the Philippines. He toured me around Devonport and Long Bay Beach north of Auckland CBD. I fell in love on how beautiful the beach is. The name is the exact description of the beach. The view was very relaxing and the water was so calm. There were only few tourists at that time, but he told me that the beach becomes so congested during summer season. He also introduced me into this famous carbonated drink in NZ called L&P (Lemon and Paeroa).
Day 4: I woke up early because I need to leave Auckland so I could see and explore the other parts of New Zealand’s north island. On my day 2 in NZ, I made an advance booking so I can make it to Hobbiton. This is probably the most famous tourist destination in the north island of NZ. Hobbiton is a wide land area and the exact set used to film the famous movies of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. You need to make an advance booking to secure a slot because it is a guided tour inside the set. I made my booking at the InterCity website. Intercity is a bus company well known in NZ. So, when I booked my trip going to Rotorua, I made sure that I need to see Matamata’s famous Hobbiton Movie Set first since it will be just on the way. From Auckland, I made it into the Intercity Bus on my preferred pick up point and reached i-SITE visitor center in Matamata, the location of Hobbiton Movie Set. Travel time is 2 hours. From the i-site visitor center, we were transferred to their own Hobbiton Tour Bus where the driver was the tourist guide. You will be amazed how the community was set up and preserved just to cater tourists and travelers who wanted to see the set. I have tried the famous ginger beer too which was included in the tour package. After the guided tour, the bus took us again to the i-site visitor center where I waited for my connecting bus from Matamata to Rotorua. I had a quick walk around Matamata CBD. It was very cold at that time since winter was coming and because I didn’t search for the climate before I went to NZ, I only got some limited clothes. One of the British poeple whom I am with in the tour even laughed and asked me of what the hell did I thought of wearing shorts in a climate of almost 5 degree Celsius. I told them that I had no idea that winter in NZ was coming and we all just laughed. (They were very friendly to me anyway, LOL). The bus arrived and had a short stop over at Wellington, the capital of NZ and then went straight to Rotorua. It was already late afternoon and it started to dim when I reached Rotorua. Drop off point was also in an i-site visitor center. I made an advance booking the night before I left Auckland to Rotorua Downtown Backpackers. Luckily, it was just one or two blocks away from the i-site visitor center from what I remember. I checked-in at the hostel, went out to see some stores and buy fruits, made friends and had short talks with my room mates and rest.
Day 5: The first thing that I searched on that area was Kirau Park. I used the waze app to navigate and walk towards the park. I remember seeing a very nice photo of this smoking park to one of my friends in instagram before I went to NZ that made me become eager to see it myself. You can watch my NZ travel vlog that I will be attaching in this blog so you can appreciate it more on why I really wanted to see that park. The Blue Lake in Rotorua was where I rested a little is also near the area. The view of the lake was very relaxing while birds fly here and there. I went back to the hostel to rest a little before I decided to visit the “The Redwoods Treewalk“. Two of my newly found friends from French Polynesia and one from Japan agreed to come there with me. Thinking it was okay to walk a 5km distant from the hostel to the Redwoods Treewalk park, my friends became very exhausted before we even reach Redwoods. The Redwoods Treewalk at night was enchanting. You will only see colorful lights while taking the walks on man-made hanging bridges from tree to another tree. They are open daytime in case you wanted to see a clearer picture of the park. Returning home, we already asked the staff of the park to call a taxi for us. It only took us a few minutes without exhausting ourselves in exchange of a few dollars. Next time, I will be taking the cab again probably. It will save you time too LOL.
Day 6: I thought of going to Waitomo Glow Worm Caves but ended up taking the bus going to Skyline Rotorua. And that really made me regret my decision of not seeing and prioritizing Waitomo where you will see the glowing blue colors of worms inside a cave. I will definitely be back to NZ just to see this. Anyways, Skyline Rotorua is an adventure park. It is also one of the most famous tourist destination in this part of NZ. You need to buy tickets and ride the gondola so you can reach the top of the mountainous adventure area. The luge is one of the most favorite ride in the park. They have other extreme rides too like the sling shot. After spending some time in Skyline, I went back to the Rotorua CBD and saw a night market in the streets. I tried to look for some good items but they’re too expensive for me. I decided to relax for the rest of the days because I will be needing a lot of energy after booking a guided mountaineering hike at Mount Tongariro Alpine Crossing/National Park. I was aware by that time that the snow started to fall on the mountain top. The agency where I booked the guided walk was already offering a winter package where they will be providing everything including the waterproof mountaineering gears, sturdy boots designed for snow trekking and all. But the weather became so bad and the rain didn’t stop that night. I already had this bad feeling about climbing this mountain but I don’t like to miss the opportunity because I was already there. Instead of taking the morning trip the next day, I decided to just book an immediate trip that night going to Turangi, it is a small province near Tongariro. I checked out of the hotel by 10pm and patiently waited for the bus in the i-site visitor center. While waiting, why not win a friend. I met Christina, an american backpacker who also traveled solo at that time. We had a small talk and shared some experiences. I reached Turangi by 1am. It felt like it was a ghost town as I didn’t saw anyone in the street from the time the bus dropped me at Turangi i-site visitor center up to the time I was navigating my waze while walking myself to the hostel that was about 2km away from the i-site. The village was very quiet and I’m already freezing to death at 2 degree Celcius while raining. That in as much as I wanted to take a taxi, I didn’t saw any single vehicle moving on the road. Luckily, I was prepared that I’m always bringing a raincoat with me. I had to admit that I was really scared at that time that I decided to make an instagram story thinking at least 1 of my followers will see it and in case anything will happen to me, there will be somebody who can report where I was spotted last. (I really have a pessimistic mind sometimes. I know, sorry!). When I reached the hostel (A Plus Lodge Backpackers), the gate was closed and no one was answering. I thought of calling the local number registered on the booking site and after a few attempts, the owner and caretaker answered the phone call. He was already sleeping according to him. He said, he waited for me at the bus station because he was thinking I might get lost. But since the bus was late for 10 minutes, he decided to go back and sleep thinking I might have decided of not pursuing the climb the next day because of the bad weather. The hostel has so many rooms and bunkbeds. I was assigned to a room with 4 beds but have no room mates. The place was a little scary for me but because I was too tired to think of anything else then, i decided to rest and sleep.
Day 7: The next day, I received an advice from the agency that they had to cancel the climb because it was too dangerous. Aside from the continuous heavy rain, there was an expected snow storm and they can’t risk anybody’s life. Before I left the Philippines going to NZ, it was one of the promise that I made to myself — that I will never leave NZ until I was able to successfully summit one of it’s mountain, which I failed to do. That morning, I just decided to walk back to Turangi CBD and bought some foods. I decided to leave Turangi with a heavy heart. I gave up climbing Tongariro Alpine. I regretted not climbing a volcano instead, at Rotorua, that was offered to me because I was more interested with Tongariro. But, I have to move on and again wasted the supposed to be next day trip bus from Turangi to Auckland (In NZ, you have to book ahead of time at least 2 hrs before the trip so you can a slot on their scheduled trips going from province to another province.) and so as the 1 more night stay at the hostel that I booked. I booked another immediate trip from Turangi to Auckland that day. I had to decide quick because there were only 1 to 3 trips/buses passing by Turangi each day and if I didn’t catch that bus, I have to spend another night in Turangi doing nothing and wasting my time because of a bad weather.
After lunch time, I was able to catch the bus and spent the next 8 hours on my trip back to Auckland CBD. We had a little stop over at the province of Taupo, which I was able to explore a little. I arrived in Auckland around 9pm that day and checked in again at Surf n Snow Backpackers Hostel. (I booked it online while I’m on the bus because it’s still cheaper than walk-in.) I was chatting with an instagram friend Argel who is also from Pampanga in the Philippines but now living in NZ. I told him what happened and just invited me if I wanted to join him and his friends in a trail walk to Muruwai, north of Auckland, the next day.
Day 8: The next morning, I rode a bus from CBD to Constellation bus station north of Auckland where my friend fetched me going to Muriwai Trail. Then, I met Ate Reneth and her daughter Reeze (they are also Pinoys) and altogether, we took the trail of Muriwai where a fascinating view of the coast slapped us on faces. It was so beautiful! The windy view of the coast is still in my memory. After spending some time at Muriwai and taking some photos, we decided to go back and had a sip of milk tea before Ate Reneth offered me a ride back to CBD. When I reached CBD, I met up with two of my nurse’s collegues again and had dinner. When I went back to the hostel, I prepared my things and packed again so I won’t be on a rush on my flight back to the Philippines the next day.
Day 9: I woke up early. After checking out of the hostel, I went to the supermarket and bought some “pasalubong” for my family and friends. I bought a bunch of Whittakers chocolates, in which my friends told me is the famous chocolate brand of NZ. I headed towards a Skybus ticketing station, bought another one way ticket to the airport and flew all the way back to the Philippines with again, 2 stop overs.
My solo backpacking trip to this paradise will always mark a special memory in me as a traveler. New Zealand is a very backpacker friendly country. Remember what I said earlier that I had a little paranioa with my things when I left them unlocked and unsecured in hostel? None of my things went missing. And for the rest of the days that I stayed there, I became so comfortable on just putting my things everywhere without stressing myself if someone else’s will take them. Though to wherever I go, I would still advise that we still need to be very careful.
Thank you for reaching this part of the blog.
Sample Itinerary: 9 Days in New Zealand North Island
- Day 1 – Flight and Arrival at Auckland Airport
-Arrival at Auckland CBD
-Short walks around CBD
- Day 2 – Auckland Sky Tower
-Domain Winter Garden and Frenery
-Auckland War Museum
- Day 3 – Devonport
-Long Bay Beach
- Day 4 – Arrival at Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata
– Matamata CBD short walk
- Day 5 – Arrival at Rotorua
-Kirau Park, Rotorua
-Blue Lake, Rotorua
-The Redwoods Treewalk Park
- Day 6 – Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
-Skyline Rotorua (There are other activities in Rotorua that you can avail)
- Day 7 – Arrival at Turangi
-Tongariro Alpine Crossing
- Day 8 – Go back to Auckland
- Day 9 – Buy pasalubong
-Flight Back to the Philippines
Tips, advices and FYIs:
- Most of the stores and restaurants in NZ especially outside Auckland closes early. In Rotorua, many establishments are already close by 5pm and 6pm.
- New Zealand is not a cheap country to visit. If you’re not really in a hurry and wanted to save some cash, walk around the city instead of riding a bus, taxi or uber. Tourist destinations sometimes are only near each other. You can always check online.
- If you are travelling in between cities, you need to book your bus ticket ahead of time. At least, days for up to 2 hours prior to your departure. You need to check the time and availability of trips. Booking ahead of time will also save you money, they cheaper if booked days prior than booking on the spot of few hours prior to departure.
- It is better if you avail a transportation card that you can just top up if you feel like you will be riding the bus too often.
- Avail a local sim outside the airport, they are cheaper and you can top up at almost all convenience store, restaurants, hotels and other touristy places.
- I always book my accommodation online, it is always a lot cheaper. Timing is important. I book them usually at the same date of check in or the night before.
- Be friendly. You can cut cost of services by sharing with other fellow travelers.
- Always buy snacks or any convenient food that you can bring with you everywhere. In case you will not be able to find an open food station, mall or restaurants, you will not starve. Always be ready with water on your bag too.
- Search on the web for the climate and weather before packing your things so you can be prepared.
- If you are going to avail a guided tour or tickets like Skyline, consult a travel agency, they are cheaper that the actual tickets or package price on the venue. I got skyline gondola only ticket for NZ $20 in an agency in Rotorua, actual price in the Skyline Ticket Booth is NZ $38.
- RT Air tickets with pre-ordered meals – 29,931php – 44236
- RT Skybus Airport to Auckland CBD – 1,360php (NZ $18 per way)
- Surf n Snow Backpacker – Day 1-3 – 1,385php
- Rotorua Downtown Backpacker – Day 4-5 – 1,237php
- A Plus Lodge Backpacker Day 6 – 631php
- Surf n Snow Backpacker – Day 7-8 – 1,135php
- Intercity Bus Auckland to Matamata with Hobbition Movie Set Guided Tour plus Bus Matamata to Rotorua – 5,044php (NZ $135)
- Intercity Bus Rotorua to Turangi – 1,436php (NZ $38)
- Intercity Bus Turangi to Auckland – 1,587php (NZ $41.99)
- Skyline Gondola Ticket – 755php (NZ $20)
- The Redwood Treewalk Nightlights – 1,095php (NZ $29)
- Local sim card bought at the airport – 1,332php (NZ $36)
- Top up local sim card data – 1,511php (NZ $40)
- Food – ranges from NZ $5-$15 per meal average.
- Total – 46,928php (except food, bus trips inside Auckland, taxi and bus in Rotorua and pasalubong)
I probably have spent around 60k php for the whole trip. New Zealand is not a cheap country to visit, but it will still be up to you on how you’ll manage to save money and so as time.
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