New Zealand was one of those countries I always dreamt of visiting. It has been on my wishlist for long and finally, in April 2017, I got the opportunity to travel solo to the Land of Mountains, Fjords and Adventure for 2 weeks. The land area of New Zealand is about 268,021 sqr kms and the population is about 4.8 million i.e. around 17 people per sqr km. This in comparison to India is minuscule. The population density of India is around 400 people per sqr km. Having said that, New Zealand is definitely a vast island country and there is so much to do and explore and 2 weeks are hardly sufficient. Nevertheless, I made the best use of my little time there - backpacking around the country and created memories for a lifetime.
New Zealand is basically divided into two major islands - The North Island and South Island. Both these islands have a personality of their own. The North Island is known for its national parks, cosmopolitan cities and volcanic activity. It is more populous and busy in comparison to the South Island. The South Island, on the other hand, is renowned for its glaciers, lakes and mountains. It is also a hub for an array of adventure sports. So if you have limited time in New Zealand, spend more time exploring the South Island.
As a solo backpacker, one is usually overwhelmed with the whole idea of travelling alone to a far off country. When I started out researching on New Zealand, I was surprised that the internet had very limited information to offer. I then reached out to a good friend of mine who had backpacked solo around the country for 3 months, and he had some valuable tips to offer. The Lonely Planet New Zealand travel guide also provided a great amount of detailed information that eased off some burden.
Budget and Food
New Zealand is a pretty expensive country and this can be a slight let down for solo travellers on a budget trip (especially if you are earning in Indian rupees ). A hostel bed per night costs anywhere between 25-30 NZD. So plan your budget accordingly. Eating out can be quite expensive too. One meal per person costs about 15-18 NZD. You may want to pick up groceries from the supermarket and cook your own meals at the hostel kitchen or feed on fruits and vegetables like I did. Being a vegetarian and a health conscious person, I sometimes find it too hard to find food during my travels abroad. Thus, I'm well equipped with a couple of ready to eat Indian food and Soups. I love fruits and the fruits in New Zealand are super yummy. I thrived on Feijoas, Kiwis, Oranges and Bananas.
Obtaining a Visit Visa
I am adding this section as I am often encountered with this question, especially by Indian passport holders. So, my information on this topic is directed only to Indian passport holders. I obtained an E-visa by applying directly online to the New Zealand Immigration. The website clearly explains the procedure and all the documents that you need to upload along with your visa application. Once you submit your application and pay the fees online, you may be asked to submit your passport for verification at the nearest TT service centre. Your passport will then be sent to the immigration authorities in New Zealand for verification. You will receive your passport via courier in a week's time to the postal address that you provided. The decision on your visa typically takes about 20-30 days and you will receive a confirmation/rejection via email. Another option is to apply for a visa through a travel agent. The chances of visa rejection are quite less when you go through an agent.
Transportation in New Zealand
It is great if you can rent a car or a camper van and drive around the country. But if you want to experience the real New Zealand while making loads of friends on the way, you should definitely travel by a hop-on-hop-off backpacker bus. There are many such backpacker buses and I chose to travel with Stray. Stray travel is highly flexible and easy to manage. The drivers are a rich source of information about the place, food and culture. The best part is that you meet so many interesting people from different backgrounds and nationalities during your travel that simply amplifies your experience. Within the cities, you can use public buses to travel. Be prepared to walk a lot in New Zealand. I walked nearly 14-15 kms a day during my trip. Hitchhiking is another easy option to travel from one town to other in New Zealand. Hitchhiking is very common and safe in New Zealand. Don't hesitate to stand on the road and stop a car like a BOSS with a smile!
There are plenty of stay options in New Zealand. New Zealand tourism is highly evolved and has made life easy for travellers. I chose to stay at Airbnb and hostels, primarily because of budget and flexibility.
Places that I went to and the things that I did!