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God bless NZ banks, trip report Australia and New Zealand

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Apr 3rd, 2013, 05:49 PM
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God bless NZ banks, trip report Australia and New Zealand

We just returned from a 7 week trip to Australia and 4 weeks to North Island in New Zealand. We were there from early January to end of March 2013. This was our fifth trip to both countries. I am not going to give you the details of our itinerary as there is a lot of information out on both countries. I will give you a few financial snippets on our experience.

We stayed in Holiday homes and apartments so we needed extra cash as many home owners did not have credit card facilities and the out of country funds transfers cost $30 at both ends per transaction. We took some travellers cheques.

New Zealand banks charged 2.5% exchange premium plus a $4.50 service charge on travellers cheques. On cash the premium would have been higher. The money changers at Auckland airport wanted 8% plus a $45 service charge. Very unfriendly to tourists. God bless New Zealand banks.

On our last trip to Australia we paid 2.5% but now Australian banks wanted 4% to 6% plus a $15 service charge and we won't mention the airport money changers with their high rates.

Needless to say we took most of our travellers cheques for Australia back and went to a bank ATM and withdrew cash with a debit card for a 2.5% exchange premium plus $5.00 transaction fee.

Here is my priority for getting money:

1. Pay for everything you can with your credit card it costs only 2.5%
2. Get cash from bank ATM's preferably in larger amounts, the cost is 2.5% plus $5 service charge.
3. Travellers cheques in New Zealand are OK but in Australia forget about them. Foreign cash is worse, don't bother with it.
4. Don't touch the Airport money changers, they charge too much.

On this trip we found the Australia much more expensive to vacation compared to New Zealand. Accommodation cost in Australia was much higher than New Zealand
Australia Cost New Zealand Cost
Holiday properties, average per day $166AU $119NZ
Car rental full size average per day $56AU $91NZ
Gasoline per liter $1.45 to $1.55AU $2.20NZ

Food was high in both countries. Fresh fish in particular was double what we pay in Canada for the same species. Beer was expensive, on the plus side wine was real bargain in both countries. Domestic airfares are cheap in Australia.

On balance a vacation in New Zealand is considerably cheaper compared to Australia.

The quality of holiday properties selected was generally good. We did find that nice pictures and high price is not always a good indicator of a quality property. Here is our top list of places of top quality and good value in the order of priority:

1. Emaroo Magnolia Cottage in Mildura AU, The best we have seen, absolutely superb, rate 10 out of 10
2. Riverside Apartment Parahaki Whangarei NZ, super view, very clean and up to date, best value for the money, 10 out of 10.
3. York in Sydney deluxe one bedroom apartment. Very nice rate 9 out of 10.
4. Sheoaks Chalets in Augusta AU, Interesting country place with great views. Clean, good facilities. Rate 8 out of 10.
5. Silent Grove in Albany AU a secluded large cottage nicely equipped. Rate 9 out of 10.
6. Artist's Cottage Seatoun Wellington NZ. Nice place with good location to public transportation. Rate 8 out of 10.
7. Opunake Quality Beach House in Opunake Taranaki NZ. rate 9 out of 10.
8. Bickham Grange Estate, Dernancourt Adelaide. Interesting historical cottage. Very spacious and comfortable. Rate 9 out of 10.
9. Princess Wharf Apartment 1BR in Auckland. Nicely equipped, very clean, good location reasonable price. Rate 7 out of 10.

The rest of the places we stayed were OK but do not deserve a place of merit.

One other interesting thing. We stayed in Lightning Ridge, Cobar and Broken Hill with temperatures soaring to 45 degrees daily. Surprisingly we found it hot but comfortable. It must be the dry heat that makes a difference.

I hope these assorted comments will be of some help to some one.

Z
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Apr 6th, 2013, 04:57 AM
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Very informative report, Z. Thank you. When were you in Lightning Ridge, when it was so hot?
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Apr 6th, 2013, 10:46 AM
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thanks for posting, Z. that's quite some trip, spending 11 weeks away. We're trying to plan a 6 week trip taking in a bit of Aus and a lot of NZ and it's not easy.

any suggestions for first time visitors to NZ?
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Apr 6th, 2013, 02:34 PM
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We were in Lightning Ridge January 18, 2013 for 3 days. It was hot 45 degrees every day, but it did not feel uncomfortable. Dry heat you know.

To Annhig:
If cost is a consideration NZ is the place to go. I can make several suggestions:

We prefer holiday properties and apartment rentals. They are more comfortable, you have full kitchen with BBQ facilities. Much better and cheaper than staying at Motels and Hotels. Shopping at PAK'nSAVE and Countdown Supermarkets will give you good choice and lower prices. Good place to buy wine at a low cost. We usually pick towns to stay close to them.

For places to stay, pick a central location and take day drives.

As to places to visit to some degree depends on your interest. For the North Island in NZ I would suggest the following:

Northland, we picked Wangarei as our base.
Kauri Forest on the west coast is spectacular with Giant 2000 year old trees.
Waitangi visit to the treaty house and grounds is worthwhile
A visit to Kauri Museum in Matakohe
Whagarei heads interesting beach and a walk to the top of Manaia. Many other tracks.

Coromandel we used Waihi Beach as our base

Waihi beach walk
Day trip to Cathedral Cove and Hot water beach
Day trip to Tauranga and Mount Manganui walk

Trip to White Island was interesting

Rotorua was interesting but a bit smelly

Walks on Mt. Egmont NP near New Plymouth were interesting. We stayed in Opunaki but New Plymouth is good.

And of course Auckland and Wellington are worth while stops. There are a lot of things to do.

Watch this spot for comments on South Island

Z
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Apr 6th, 2013, 03:59 PM
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A very good read Z, thanks for posting. I'll stay tuned for the SI, my favorite place of all time.
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Apr 6th, 2013, 04:46 PM
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South Island

For South Island I like to do a complete drive around the island. I usually do clockwise trip but I see no reason why the reverse should not work equally well. Part of the pleasure of a driving trip is that you can stop along the way in small towns and beaches along the road to take a break and a short walk. You can find interesting surprises. Here is a list of my favourite places:

Abel Tasman NP for super beaches and great swimming, good walks
Farewell spit tour is interesting
Not sure what Christchurch is like now since the earth quake. I used to make a stop there for a few days.
Dunedin and Otago peninsula
Invercargill
Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound tours
Routenburn track partial walk
Mt.Cook trip
Fox and Franz Josef Galacier walks, Franz Josef is my favorite. Also a plane ride from Franz Josef over Mount Cook and glaciers is spectacular.

Next my favourite places in Australia.


ZfromWinnipeg
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Apr 7th, 2013, 01:52 AM
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great - thanks, Z.

just what I needed to get started. how did you find your apartments? do i gather that on the South Island you toured round rather than staying put? if so, did you still use apartments? if we went for motels/B&Bs, how easy would it be to find places on spec? with our current itinerary we'd be in NZ for the last week of Nov and 1st week of Dec, more or less.

sorry to hijack your thread!


a few more Qs and i should be ready to start my own with itinerary ideas for NZ at any rate.
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Apr 7th, 2013, 05:52 AM
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No problem Annhig,

On SI we did tour but stayed a number of days at each location depending on how much we had to do.

We used this site as our main source:
http://www.holidayhouses.co.nz/

Other useful web sites:

http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-rec...ational-parks/
http://www.paknsave.co.nz/
http://www.countdown.co.nz/

We did stay at a few Bella Vista places where we could not find suitable places
http://www.staybellavista.co.nz/bell...a/bella-vista/

We used AA site I do not recall if we used any of their places
http://www.aatravel.co.nz/main/index.php

In Christchurch we stayed at a Flag suites place, not sure what it is like now.
http://www.christchurch.new-zealand....eau-Blanc.html

Z
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Apr 7th, 2013, 06:28 AM
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Annhig

More suggestions:

Remember that depending on time you have, you can't do everything. So be selective.
We did both islands on one trip but did selected stops. On most trips we did either North or South Island. It's a simpler more leisurely trip. Also when we were there we could not take the car on the ferry between islands we had to arrange with the car rental company to drop the car off at the ferry terminal on one island and pick up another on the other side.

Also while distances in NZ are not great, driving is a bit slower and it takes a little longer to get to places. Especially if you want to leave time to stop along the way in small towns, forests and beaches.

Z
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Apr 7th, 2013, 06:52 AM
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Annhig

Going with Motel and B&B is OK and you can easily find places on spec. For high tourist areas and special holidays I would recommend reservations. Such as Mt. Cook and the glacier locations. Also day tours should be booked ahead. We did some B&B and Hotel Motel it can be a great option especially for short stays. One or two nights. Also some places you might not find any suitable holiday properties. Generally B&B and HotelMotel is not our preferred method, but flexibility in selecting options will serve you well. Eating out all the time can be expensive so that is one reason for leaning towards holiday properties.

Usually tourist information places are very helpful in finding places for you. So on arrival I would recommend the first stop at an information place. Of course you can always watch for B&B and Motel signs but this process takes a bit of time out your day. Also not all small places have tourist information offices.

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Apr 7th, 2013, 07:49 AM
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Z - so much help - thank you so much. DH will be very pleased to know that more or less we can wing it in NZ, as that's what he much prefers to do. he may graciously allow me to book our first few nights when we arrive, and we both prefer to stay a few days when we have found somewhere we like.

Thanks too for the tip about having to return your hire car before you get on the ferry between the two islands - i had read it somewhere but it's nice to have it confirmed.

i take your point about booking tours in advance - does that for example apply to the transalpine trains?
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Apr 7th, 2013, 11:53 AM
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Transalpine? I have no idea.

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Apr 7th, 2013, 06:07 PM
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Just an FYI for future visitors - APEX allows you to take your car on the ferry and covers the cost of the ferry (for just the car I believe).
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Apr 8th, 2013, 08:10 PM
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Just got back from 8 days on the south Island (was great) and three weeks in Australia.

Concur that Australia is very expensive compared to NZ. Concur would stay longer in NZ and cut Australia time.

Don't go or limit your time in Christchurch, the entire downtown is fenced off and accommodations are very limited.

Used my USAA credit card for cash advances and purchases with a 1% fee, but believe Capital One has 0%? Concur the debit card is best for both purchases and cash from ATM'S.

The NZ info "i" centers are fantastic and booked accommodations anywhere on the island for me. This was very helpful when I ran behind schedule due to stops to enjoy the beautiful country.


I tried to stay away from the larger population areas liked Lake Tekapo, Methven area, the Catlins and the flight over the mountains.

Should have done Doubtful Sound.
Should have passed on the overpriced "Milford Sound Overnight cruise." I wasted $400 per person. Could have booked a short day cruise at an "i” center once in country. The best part was the drive to and from as long as the weather is good and you are not locked into a date months in advance as I was.

Bought a GPS loaded with maps for both countries.
Used Apex Car Rental in NZ and they are great.
Used Vroom Vroom Vroom Web site for Australia car rental saved 50%.
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Apr 9th, 2013, 01:43 AM
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Colcowan - thanks for all that helpful info.

any accommodation in NZ that you can recommend?

could you post your itinerary?
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Apr 9th, 2013, 09:43 AM
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thanks for the info...
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Apr 9th, 2013, 09:11 PM
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Colcowan

Does your USAA credit card for cash advances and purchases really only charges 1% fee? Does this include the currency exchange conversion charge? For example, the difference between official market exchange rate versus retail bank exchange rate.

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