I’ve decided to organize my NZ posts by location, which means that this first post includes our first day AND our last day since we started in Auckland and drove south only to return via a domestic flight from Wellington.
We arrived in Auckland around 8:30AM after a long 10.5 hour flight from Seoul. All of us were delirious and excited at the same time. Unfortunately, NZ was experiencing a cold snap despite it being summertime and we were all a bit nervous about the wardrobes we packed. It was a rainy, cold day and we picked up our rental car. In all of the drama with being bit by a dog and going to the hospital, I failed to pack my International Driver’s License. Victoria doesn’t have one, so this left SJ to do the heavy lifting (oops)!
Driving on the other side of the road on the other side of the car was enough to make my brain hurt and I am thankful I wasn’t the one in the driver’s seat. We drove into the city of Auckland in search for our hostel. We couldn’t get our phones or the GPS to work and we pulled into one of the first parking garages we could find. We sat there for probably an hour trying to figure out where we were and where our hostel was before pulling out and finding another lot we thought was closer to the hostel and then realized that we were not far the whole time. We dragged our bags through the rain and found our room and fell asleep.
When we woke up, it was like a whole new day. The sun had come out and we decided to grab dinner and then walk around the city. We went to an Italian restaurant, stopped afterwards for ice cream and then walked around the harbor. It was a beautiful evening and we saw one of the most vivid rainbows I’ve ever seen.
It didn’t take long to fall asleep but being in a hostel doesn’t guarantee a quiet night’s sleep with people you don’t know coming in and out. I tossed and turned most of the night and soon we were up and packing to leave the next morning…
By the time we made it back to Auckland, we were exhausted and only wanted to relax. There are plenty of things to do and see… you can go to the top of the Sky Tower for a great lookout, you can bungee jump off of bridges (iconic because the first commercial bungee jump was done in NZ!), go shopping, eat, etc. etc. We decided to sleep as long as possible and just take our time shopping and eating and relaxing. Queen’s Street is a great location for souvenir shops. I recommend looking at multiple ones before purchasing anything… I bought some items at one and then found them cheaper elsewhere. A very cool store is Global Culture if you like graphic tees and other novelty type clothing. Victoria and I were shopping here when the fire alarm went off and everyone had to evacuate the building… so, I wasn’t able to purchase anything. But I loved the items! The fire alarm was probably my way of knowing I should just stop spending money.
That night, we all ended up at a Mexican Restaurant next to our hostel. The food was fantastic and they had live music that we enjoyed. It was a perfect ending before we were up the next morning for our flight out. We were able to purchase bus tickets for Skybus which leaves about every 10 minutes for the airport. You can also get a shuttle for around the same cost, which is even more convenient.
- Queen Street Backpackers Hostel: the hostel was fine but if you are driving, prepare to pay for parking. There is a parking lot just down the street that is very convenient and reasonably priced (you’ll probably pay around $35 for a day/night). This lot has overnight parking whereas many of the other garages did not allow you to park past midnight.
- The Attic Backpackers Hostel: we stayed here our last night and it was great. They are located on the 5th floor of a tower and the dorms we had was a 12 people room. They have a great kitchen facility and lots of brochures for activities in Auckland. Also a great location.
- Porto Fino Italian Restaurant: the food was great and had gluten-free pizza for anyone that might want that option. This was a bit pricier but has a nice view of the harbor and plenty of places to walk around afterwards. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the hostel.
- Joy Ice Cream: the ice cream is awesome! I had an apple crumble ice cream and it was amazing.
- Little Mexico: SO good – lots of food, reasonable prices!
- Apex Car Rental: we rented our car through Airport Car Rental (http://www.airportrentals.com) which apparently is just a middle man, but they were the cheapest quote I could find with Apex Car Rental. Issue #1: we had one issue with the engine and they charged us the full amount to have a roadside assistance company come and check it out. If for any reason it wasn’t a technical problem, we would bear the cost (over $100…) and not be reimbursed by Apex Car Rental. This was incredibly frustrating as we didn’t know what the issue was but we couldn’t risk driving it and causing bigger problems. The guy checked it out and it turned out to be nothing. I disputed the cost and we were able to get it refunded from the roadside assistance company, but I have little hope that Apex Car Rental would’ve paid it on our behalf. Issue #2: at the end of our trip, we were supposed to pay for the toll roads. You can do this online or at the rental agency. We tried to pay at the agency but the guy couldn’t speak much English and wouldn’t help us. This resulted in us running to catch a flight and then getting a fine for not paying the tolls ($10). We are going to dispute this as well… we’ll see how that goes. OTHERWISE, this was by far the cheapest rental I could find and the car operated fine other than the one incident.
- Also, side-note, if you are looking at insurance options, check if your credit card offers coverage. SJ’s credit card company offered this and we didn’t have to pay for it through the rental car company – another cost saved!