Here’s a summary of the preparations we’ve made so far!
Visa: Applying for the working holiday visa was, shockingly, the easiest step of this whole process. The form took about 15 minutes to fill out and there was no fee! (Well, M had to pay something as a UK citizen). As promised on the website, we received our visas electronically about two working days later. An electronic visa sounds fancy but really just means that we print out a letter. No fun sticker in our passports, but much more convenient. Here’s the link in case you’re inspired: http://www.immigration.govt.nz/
Flights: We probably didn’t get the absolute lowest prices on our flights, especially since we’re leaving so soon, but we were helped out since it isn’t the busy season for New Zealand. Our flights came out to around $1400 each. I fly to Vancouver and then nonstop to Auckland; normally I like nonstop flights, but if the guy next to me elbows me constantly while using his iPad (as happened on my last flight), for 13 hours straight, there may be bloodshed. M stops to refuel in Dubai, then flies to Sydney, and then to Auckland. New Zealand is on the exact opposite side of the world as the UK so he has a lot farther to go.
Accommodation: We’ve booked a hotel for the first two nights, on the theory that we will be too tired and jetlagged to handle anything else, but after that we will check into a hostel. M and I have both had amazing times in hostels before so we are looking forward to meeting new people and partying for cheap. After a week or two, or once we get jobs, we’ll look for an apartment. So yes, we’re basically winging it.
Money and banking: As a condition of the visa, we have to show we have a substantial amount of available funds while in New Zealand. M and I decided to open an account at the Bank of New Zealand before arriving, so that we could transfer money to it before we left the US and UK. Because BNZ is one of the largest in the country, ATMs should be easy to find. Of course, M and I are also getting some cash to start us off.
Phone: M and I are bringing our phones from home and getting New Zealand SIM cards once there. From what I’ve read, the biggest provider is Telecom so we will probably get prepaid plans with them. Calling back home to the US or UK is pretty expensive, but that’s what Skype is for.
Travel planning: We’ve been reading travel guides galore to see just what there is to do in New Zealand. The answer: a lot! Besides penguins, many other animals live in and around New Zealand, such as seals, sea lions, dolphins (including the world’s smallest dolphin), albatrosses, keas (destructive parrots), sperm whales, tuataras (which are basically mini-dinosaurs) and kiwis (of course). These animals live in some amazing scenery, from sandy beaches to volcanos to fiords. M and I want to cover as much ground (and possibly water, via kayak) as possible, so we will be busy on weekends! Because we’ll be traveling so much, we will probably end up buying a cheap second-hand car since public transportation won’t get you too far out into the wilderness. Of course, we will also go to Hobbiton because we are huge nerds.
Insurance: uhh, TBD.
Jobs: Also TBD, but with some plans. On the working holiday visa we can only take non-permanent positions; M plans to find a bartending job in Auckland and a place at a ski resort in the winter. I’m planning to write to various tech companies to see if I can be an intern for a few months. Even if it is unpaid, I’m hoping an internship will give me experience that will help me find a more permanent job later. I’m also contacting a professor in New Zealand who works on research that I studied in grad school, just in case they need a lackey. If these options don’t pan out, well, I’m OK with anything. Beggars can’t be choosers!