Things I Wish I Knew/Tips for NZ Success!

Emily Renne
July 7, 2015

My first few weeks in a city (let alone country) completely unknown to me and yet to be explored, I lived for learning the little “tips and tricks” people had for easing the adaption process.  Our program director, Eunice, was really handy on giving much of these (she even sent us emails about sales going on for chocolate and apples).  But there’s quite a few others I learned along the way that I’m sure you’ll find of use as well…

Regarding Christchurch/Campus Life (in no specific order)

1.     Like most bus systems, the Metro (Christchurch’s bus system) is rarely on time.  To make your travels as efficient as possible, check “Journey Planner” online an hour or so before you plan to catch the bus which will provide you with the most updated times.

2.     If you have room in your schedule, definitely take a New Zealand History, Maori, or Kiwi culture class.  There’s also opportunity to do an Internship if you enroll in “ARTS295”.  You’ll work with the coordinators, Stephen and Hannah, who are super helpful and genuinely concerned about finding the right fit for you.

3.     Also, just taking just 4 classes during your time abroad will leave you more than busy.  I thought I’d need 5 to keep me busy but learned how wrong I was within a week. 

4.     Almost all the international kids are pooled into one housing community (Ilam).  If you want to befriend local Kiwis, you should join clubs, reach out to them in class, etc., but know that you kind of have to go out of your way to do this. 

5.     Your cheapest grocery store is Pak N’ Save, which you can take the Orbiter to and get off at the Westfield Mall on Riccarton Rd. 

6.     For cheap and delicious local produce, check out “Grower’s Direct.”  If you walk up Waimari Rd. towards Countdown, turn right and it’s a 5-minute walk down Riccarton Rd. on the right side of the road.  

7.     Best coffee? My personal opinion is C4.  It’s styled like a warehouse and they even let customers bring their DOGS! It’s located on Tuam St. in Christchurch. 

Regarding Travelling

1.     If you’re travelling with a group of people, accommodation is usually cheaper if you stay at a holiday park rather than a hostel (we stayed at many “Top 10 Holiday Parks”).  They’re little rooms like motels and usually sleep 4-5 people.  Hostels are typically $20-$30 per person, where holiday parks range from $60-$80 a room, and when split between five people, this ends up being significantly cheaper than a hostel (plus you and your friends get a room to yourselves). 

2.     Students typically travel through Naked Bus or Intercity.  I chose Intercity and bought a FlexiPass, which saved me a ton of money when traveling to popular destinations! You basically buy hours instead of a bus ticket to one destination, and depending on which package you buy, you might be paying $7/hour on the bus.  But if you’re traveling to somewhere like Te Anau, which entails an 11-hour bus ride, it would probably be cheaper to just buy a bus ticket for that trip. 

3.     LET EUNICE KNOW WHEN YOU LEAVE FOR A TRIP AND FOR HOW LONG…. My tramping buddies and I occasionally forgot to do this (sorry Eunice!). 

4.     And if you’re going on a multi-day hike, hiking out a track out of season, or pursuing a track by yourself, you should definitely consider renting a personal locator beacon from Tramping Club.  It’s a $200 deposit but the actual cost is free.  Beacons are for emergencies, but you never know when one may arise (and since its costing you nothing and takes up minimal pack space, I think its absolutely worth it). 

Regarding Backpacking/Tramping/Camping

1.     If you’re gong to be doing a lot of tramping/camping, spend the extra money on a good sleeping bag (one that will keep you warm).  It’ll be well worth it.

2.     Also, it might be smart to invest in a sleeping pad, as the ground is not very warm/comfortable.

3.     A pack cover is also a good investment if you like having dry clothes, food, sleeping bags, etc.

4.     For food, try to bring items that don’t weigh much or take up much space.  I usually packed pita bread, peanut butter, cans of tuna, beans, or vegetables, Muesli bars, apples (they’re hard and won’t get squished like bananas or plums), trail mix, dates, nuts, and would usually make some sort of pasta dish to bring in tupperware. 

5.     It’s always a good idea to visit the local Doc office and get a map before starting a track

6.     Check to see if you need to book a shuttle to get to the trailhead before starting a track, most of the time you do.

7.     For all Great Walks, you need to book either campsites or huts if you’re doing them in season. 

8.     Your backpack becomes 10x more comfortable/efficient when tightened around your hips than your chest.

9.     Your blood, sweat, and tears will always, always be worth the views.

Recommended Tracks:

Mueller Hut in Mt. Cook National Park (day hike)

Mt. Fyffe in Kaikoura (day hike, but we made it an overnighter by camping at the Summit)

Kepler Track (Great Walk; 3 days)

Milford Track (Great Walk; 3 days)

Abel Tasman Track (Great Walk; 3-5 days)

Travers-Sabine Circuit in Nelson Lakes National Park (5+ days)

Akaroa day hikes (Akaroa’s only an hour outside of Christchurch)

Port Hills in Christchurch (2-3 hours return)

Taylor’s Mistake in Sumner (2-5 hours return)

Avalanche Peak in Arthur’s Pass (5-6 hours return)

Ben Lommond Summit in Queenstown (6-8 hours return)

Diamond Lake in Wanaka (3 hours return)

Routeburn Track (Great Walk; 2-3 days)

Tongariro Alpine Circuit on the North Island (Great Walk; 3 days)

Also, suggested items for your packing list whilst tramping/camping:


Toilet Paper

Plastic Bags


Quick-dry t-shirts

Rain/wind gear

Sandals (sometimes come in handy when your feet are sore and you don’t want to put your hiking boots on at night)

Hand Sanitizer


Regarding…. Everything

Disclaimer: Sometimes I get sentimental and this is one of those times

1.     Make the most of everything.  Enjoy yourself, and look at each day as a blessing to be in such an incredible country.  Go on trips as much as you can (/afford), and don’t be afraid to try things you never thought you would do.  The longest hike I’d been on before New Zealand was about 3 hours.  I never imagined I’d be able to survive a 6-day one, but I did, and it was one of the best experiences I’d had in my…. well, life.  Try to be outgoing if you’re shy, and definitely get to know the people in IES as well as other travelers.  You’ll find that similar people gravitate towards the same places for the same reasons.  The connections I made I made in New Zealand led to more genuine friendships than I’ve had in all of my 20 years.  Traveling to such beautiful places with these people will create more phenomenal memories than you’ll know what to do with.  I can honestly say my time in New Zealand was the best time in my life, and its set the bar quite high for my future travels.  Be fearless and do everything, I can guarantee you won’t regret it. 

Emily Renne

<p>A native of Syracuse, NY, (US) Emily is currently pursuing her B.A. in Integrated Marketing Communications with Minors in Art and Honors. A curious explorer and outdoors lover, Emily&#39;s spontaneity and passions will one day lead her to all ends of the Earth. &nbsp;Witty author, candid photo snapper, and avid dreamer, Emily plans to pursue a career &nbsp;in the fields of advertising and/or design. &nbsp;</p>

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