New Zealand: Nutshell


‘Nutshells’: A post about a country summarizing useful information. Why this image? Because we’re the nuts wearing the shells!

With all that’s going on in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world lots of folks are thinking of visiting or even moving to this gorgeous country. What does the equator have to do with it? Britain in New Zealand? Navmii what? Here’s what you need to know:

(Note: For an added bonus see our photos of Wellington and Auckland below)

A historical connection to Britain

First, you should know there is one – not that this would be a game changer, it’s just learning about the shape, the influences, of this country.

(from Wiki) Both New Zealand and the United Kingdom are constitutional monarchies, independently sharing the same Queen, Elizabeth II. 80% of New Zealanders can claim some British ancestry and an estimated 17% are entitled to British passports.

  • 1769 : James Cook becomes the first British explorer to reach NZ
  • 1834: James Busby drafts the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand.
  • 1834: King William V becomes it’s protector.
  • 1840: The Treaty of Waitangi is formed.
  • 1841: New Zealand becomes a separate British colony.
  • 1852: British Parliament passes an act to grant self-governance.
  • 1907: Dominion status, provides almost complete independence from the government
  • 1926: New Zealand joins the League of Nations
  • 1948: The British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act established the legal concept of New Zealand Citizenship.
  • 1977: New Zealand passports no longer had the wording, “British Subject”.

The daily New Zealand/Britain link is evidenced by:

(Having grown up in England the connections were evidenced on a daily basis)

Queen Elizabeth II is on the $20 note 

  • Driving is on the left
  • Portraits of Winston Churchill are not uncommon in public buildings
  • Rugby and cricket are the most popular sport in New Zealand
  • Lots of British food: Fish & chips, meat pies, British candy, Christmas pudding and crackers, etc.
  • The current flag, adopted in 1902, contains the Union Flag (union jack) in the top left corner.

The current New Zealand flag was adopted in 1902

Debate about changing or keeping the flag started around 1973. This is the original sketch by Kyle Lockwood in 2000.  The flag depicts a fern representing ‘one people growing into the future’. 

Kyle Lockwood’s prototype Silver fern flag won a newspaper competition in 2004. The black, white and red are the colors that are traditionally associated with the Maori people.

Flag design proposed in a 2015/2016 referendum. 56.7% voted in favor of retaining the current flag. The blue background symbolizes the South Pacific Ocean and the stars are associated with the stellar constellation of the Southern Cross. 












U.S. citizens automatically get 3 months. Our first house-sit was for 10 weeks so we knew we’d need more time to see other parts of the country so we applied for an extension before we left the U.S., a total of 6-months. 

Getting Around

All our housesits came with the free use of a vehicle which was awesome! New Zealand is a great country for wandering, so if you can afford the gas, rent a car and just book yourself into Airbnb’s as you go or don’t plan ahead – just book in to the hotel/inn/guesthouse or batch as their called in NZ when you decide to want to stay for a few days. The other option is to rent one of the many campers that are available (smaller rather than larger so they can handle the roads better). 

Navmii: We had been using Waze in the U.S. and although Waze can be used in many countries, including New Zealand, when you’re a traveler trying to make-do with a simm card you can find that you’re data will get eaten up in a short second if you use apps like these. A little research led us to the app Navmii which doesn’t need a wifi connection and doesn’t use data! In every way, it’s an excellent app! You download the version for the country you’re in or are going to, so a couple of weeks before going to Indonesia we downloaded that version on our phone. We anticipated that we would be doing more walking than driving there but one of the benefits of this app is that it has a ‘walking function’!

Buses are available for long distance travel but you should note they do not have bathrooms on them. Stops are scheduled into trips for bathroom breaks. The train we took from Greymouth to Christchurch was very modern, comfortable, large windows for taking photos of the great views, had good food and snacks available and came with a free guide about the landscape it passes through. 

Inexpensive domestic flights are readily available. Check the luggage restrictions carefully – although we had bought ‘international size’ luggage we hadn’t realized that out here, and in S.E. Asia only 15 pounds of carry-on luggage is allowed. In the ‘old days’ a savvy traveler would travel with only carry-on luggage to save time and trouble, but you can’t do that in this part of the world. Cheap tickets are for those without luggage at all. If you do have luggage, make sure to pay for it at the same time you book the flight since the fees often double if you have to pay at the airport. You can usually buy luggage by weight so you need to know how much it all weighs before you book. Our ‘international size’ luggage bags don’t mean a thing out here! on Jetstar (which we flew from Christchurch to Wellington, Wellington to Auckland and Auckland to Bali) . You can choose between 33 and 88 pounds per passenger (it goes up in increments of 5 pounds) and because the cost varies depending on your particular flight details (origin and destination) you cannot plan costs ahead of time. As we’ve learned, you can add luggage weight to your flight online but you cannot decrease it and get a refund. You also pay extra if you want to book specific seats (anywhere from $3.50 up) and meals.

I-Sites are available in both large and small towns every where we went and are amazing resources for tourists. You can ask them about almost any thing, find out where to hike, stay, camp, drive, eat – they are a wealth of free information. They can also book buses and trips for you and some of them have luggage storing facilities (even those that didn’t like the one in Westport held on to our luggage for us while got something to eat between buses). In Karamea, a town of less then 200, the I-Site was our resource for making copies so that we could vote by absentee ballot. The I-Site in Akaroa was also the towns post office.

Weather & Clothing

In the U.S. you get nor’easters – the cold winds comes from the north. In New Zealand you’re on the other side of the equator so it’s the opposite, south-easters: cold comes from the south. In the U.S. the colder climates tend to be in the north of the country, in New Zealand it’s in the south. It takes a while to get used to!

Any time of year you’re here you will need both warm and cold weather clothing. And you will definitely need a rain coat – there’s a reason the country is so green! You will also need comfortable walking shoes. We’re not ‘dress up’ people and we found that unlike England or the U.S., New Zealanders aren’t either- it’s not that people don’t have style, but they work, play and dine out in comfort more than other countries.  

We arrived in August, which is winter in New Zealand. Weather all around the country can be cold in the winter. There were times when we were wearing all the layers we had brought with us. By the end of our stay on the South Island in December it was hot, hot days but when we moved over the the North Island we found it significantly colder, wetter and windier than it had been on the South Island, but we did go to Wellington which is known as ‘the windy city’.

Wellington: be prepared for lots of wind and rain, even in the summer. We were there for a month in December and the weather made spending time outside quite unpleasant on most days. Some days it would begin cloudy and rainy and change by the afternoon, but there were plenty of days when it stayed very blustery and rainy all day – those were great movie days. There’s a movie theatre called Light House Cinema, that has 3 locations (Petone, Cuba Street and in the suburbs north of Wellington, Pauatahanui) which shows great movies and serves excellent tea, coffee, other drinks and food you can take into the theatre with you that have comfortable 2-person seating. The other not-to-be-missed movie theatre is the Embassy.

South vs. North Island:  The three temperatures below are all on the same day in early January at night, morning and mid-afternoon. The first is at 1am, the second at 9am and the third at noon:

North Island:

  • 64/69/78 degree in Auckland
  • 63/58/58 in Wellington
  • 62/67/68 Hamilton
  • 64/68/70 Tauranga
  • 65/65/67 Palmerston North

South Island:

  • 60/65/67 in Nelson
  • 58/64/69 in Karamea
  • 66/54/57 in Akaroa
  • 67/55/59 Christchurch

South of South Island:

  • 52/51/57 Queenstown
  • 53/50/55 in Dunedin
  • 51/50/55 in Invercargill. 

South of South Island: Cold, snow, ice, mountains, skiing….


If you love nature, you’ll love New Zealand! It has mountains, waterfalls, cliffs, bays, parks, walks & hikes both long and short… You will not run out of nature! Depending on where you are, walking can be steep and quite challenging.

Most of our time was spent on the less populated South Island and every where we went, with the exception of Christchurch, was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and that’s no exaggeration! Bring comfortable hiking shoes, pants you can tuck in to socks to keep the sand flies off you, and because you will get bitten and the itchiness can drive you crazy and last a long, long time, find yourself a good anti-itch salve to treat the bites you do get. Be prepared for what you bring to have no effect whatsoever. We found a local product,  ‘Natural Goodbye Sandfly’ (Tea Tree oil, Eucalyptus and other ingredients), worked really well and goes a long way. It’s also good for the mosquito bites here in Bali!

Wild-life varies from area to area. In Karamea where they’ve been using 1080 for many years (despite a significant voice against it) in their war against possums, there is a noticeable reduction in birdlife. In other places, birdsong fills the air and bees and butterflies are plentiful. There are no squirrels, snakes or marsupials but there are a lot of spiders and everywhere we went (city and country) we had to clean spider webs off sideview mirrors. There are also a lot of hawks, giant hare, penguins, seals, and the Muriwai Gannet Colony just north of Auckland is spectacular!


Outlet adapters are far lighter than voltage converters so we decided t0 only bring items that had built in voltage ranges (signified by 100v – 240v) and two outlet adapters. All our Mac products were good (iPad, iPhone & laptop), our kindle, our head shaver…  Obviously we’re not electricians and admittedly know very little about this stuff, but this has worked for us. We messed up on only two items (because we forgot to check them), a body massager that burnt out the engine as soon as we plugged it in. We bought a new one in New Zealand and it works perfectly with out outlet converter in S.E. Asia. And another kind of massager which also blitzed out when I tried to use it, my favorite, the eroscilator. I knew they sold these in Europe so I went to their UK website and had them send me just a replacement plug and chord to New Zealand and all was right again! 🙂

By the way, we left one of our adapters in a wall somewhere and picked up another in Ubud, Bali for $3.

New Zealanders almost every where switch the electricity off at the outlets when they’re not being used. I know that many plugs in the U.S. don’t even have that option.

Washing Clothes

Washer and driers are harder to find in private homes on the south island. Those who have washers tend to dry their clothes the old-fashioned way: on a clothes-line. We didn’t find anyone who uses warm of hot water in their washers. These seemed to be money-saving rather than eco-saving strategies.


We love a good shower! Showers were good every where we went. Occasionally we came across a small tank so we had to wait between our showers for the water to heat up again but in general, there was plenty of pressure and heat. Baths were also available but occasionally used as large laundry baskets!

Drinking Water

We didn’t have to worry about the quality of drinking water and drank water right out of the tap. In all places we went to, with the exception of cities, it tasted clear and beautiful. In the cities where it tastes like chlorine people filtered the water.



Fish & chips and meat pies are easy to come by. Fresh fruit and vegetables, not so much unless you’re in a city. In some rural areas we found farms with un-manned stands with eggs, kiwi fruit, tamarillos or whatever was available for sale. We love salads and there is not a great variety of lettuce like there is in the U.S. For some reason a lettuce we bought and forgot about, didn’t eat until two weeks later was in perfect condition – which we found quite scary (how much preservatives are on there?!). The equivalent of iceburg lettuce is available in most 4-Squares and then there’s packaged lettuce. You start to see a couple of other varieties in the larger supermarkets.

Organic fruit and veggies are rare except in the city and even then you have to go to specialty stores – regular supermarkets do not have organic sections. There’s an abundance and variety of Asian restaurants in the cities, such as Thai, Indian, Chinese… New Zealand has a lot of coffee shops but not all have decaf. If decaf is important to you, ask before you decide which one you settle in to. We found several cafés who had the idea that decaf is for wimps. 

Shopping: Small supermarkets called 4-Squares can be found in pretty much every town and have a small selection of everything. Farmers Markets are both fun and a great resource for fresh food, products as well as entertainment. New Zealand isn’t a plastic-bagless country – we travel with our own reusable shopping bags that are light-weight and that have come handy for all kinds of things. 


Is New Zealand expensive? We’ll leave that up to you to decide because how you find the following prices will depend on your budget and income (or no income if you’re in our situation).

These are the average figures comparing the U.S. and NZ (for city comparison use this link: Numbeo):

  • local purchasing power: 25 lower in NZ
  • cost of living is 12% higher in NZ than it is in the U.S.
  • Eating out: 15% higher in NZ
  • Groceries: 2% higher in NZ
  • Rent:, 13% lower than the U.S.

We found that staying within our budget was difficult even though most of our time here was spent housesitting so the only expense we had was food, entertainment, and transport. There were plenty of things we would have liked to attend but just found the costs too high. On the other hand, pretty much all museums in Wellington are free (not so in Auckland)!

There are plenty of cows in New Zealand but milk, cheese and cream are expensive. The same goes for lamb and seafood. We spent 6 months in New Zealand and costs varied to some extent, being somewhat more expensive in the more isolated areas such as Karamea, as opposed to Wellington. Biggest expense? Gas in the U.S. is hugely subsidized so although we gain in low prices, we lose in so many other ways. (see this Guardian article, and an NPR interview with the IMF) Pretty much everywhere else in the world your pocket will feel it. All prices are in USD and include any fees or taxes.

Travel & Entertainment 

Gas: $6/gallon or $1.37 – 1.50/liter


Flight, from U.S. one-way, NC to LA to Wellington to Nelson, 23 hrs (departed August 1, arrived 3rd: $967 pp

Flight, one-way Christchurch to Wellington: $104 pp (1-hour)

Flight, one-way Wellington to Auckland: $50 pp (1-hr) includes extra fees for luggage

Flight, one-way Auckland to Bali: $350 pp includes extra fees for luggage & meals

Excess baggage fee (2 bags too many – they only charged us for 1): $42 (we did our homework after that!)


Train (Trans Alpine Rail), Greymouth to Christchurch, 4.5 hrs: $90 each

Train, Christchuch to Picton, 5.5hrs: $80pp (canceled due to earthquake damage)


Intercity bus, Nelson to Karamea, 3.5hrs to Westport & 1.5 hrs to Karamea: $52pp

Intercity Bus, Westport to Greymouth, 2.25 hrs :$14 each


Ferry, Picton / Wellington / Picton, 3.5hrs each way: $90 pp.


7 nights Airbnb, Lyttelton: $160

1 night Airbnb Christchurch: $30

1 night Tombstone Backpackers, Picton: $64 

10-days Ponsonby, Auckland: $443 (our biggest expense but it was last minute and we were escaping a bad Workaway situation!)


Museums in Wellington: Free!

Okains Bay Maori Museum: $7 pp

Abel Tasman boat trip with shuttle to & from Nelson: $55 each

Akaroa Dolphin Tour: $55 ($28 child). Two-hours. (Our Workaway hosts treated us)


Movie tickets: $10 per ($8 student) in Akaroa. Wellington: $12 per ($9.50 student)

Under the Spinfluence (4 days camping, food, workshops & evening shows, party): $109 pp


Dining out

We don’t have large appetites so when we eat out we often share a main dish. Since we don’t drink, the prices below do not include alcohol. 

Our rating system: 1! not so good, 3!!!’s good, 5!!!!!’s awesome!

Ma Cherie, Ponsonby, Auckland: 2 coffees, 3 croissants (2 almond !!!!!) $12

Chop Chop, Ponsonby, Auckland: 2 noodle dishes, one beef !!!!!, one chicken !! $18

Mekong Baby, Ponsonby, Auckland: 2 sides, one main, 2 drinks: $32 !!!!!

YB Sushi, Auckland. $9 !!!

Turkish Cafe, Ponsonby, Auckland: 2 lamb shashlik plates. $34. !

India Village, Manly (2 goat dishes, garlic naan, lassi and juice): $37. !!!!!

Tulsi, Tawa (2 main dishes with garlic naan, 2 servings of papadum, 2 chai teas): $17.30 !!!

She Universe, Governors Bay (one main dish, one side dish, two hot drinks, 1 dessert): !!!!!

The Laundry, Cuba Street, Wellington (two burgers w/french fries, two teas): $27. !!!! 

Ekim Burgers (The Trevor), Cuba Street, Wellington (one burger): $8.30. !!!!!

The Chippery, Majoribanks St, on the side of the Embassy Theatre, Wellington (salmon, sweet potato fries, breaded calamari: $19. !!!!


Passion fruit: $3.60/Ib or $3.67/500g

Golden Kiwi: $5.60 for 8-pack

Tamarillos: $3.60/half pound or 250g (red, gold or sunset)

Apples, Gala: $1.50/Ib or 2.95/kg

Bananas: $2.64 kg

Oranges: $2.93 kg

Frozen strawberries & raspberries: $5.30

Mandarins: $5 (for 4)

Cantaloupe: $2.75


Carrots: $3/bag

Tomatoes: $2.75/Ib or $5.50/kg

Broccoli: $1.59

Lettuce: $3.60

Yellow onions: $.80/Ib or $1.60 kg

Yams: $2.90/Ib, $5.80/kg

Bok Choy: $1.40

Kale: $2.10 bunch

Meat & fish

Venison pastrami: $7.75 (enough for 2 people)

Venison steak: $9.50/Ib or per $19/kg

Leg of lamb: $15

Porterhouse steak (2): $7.60

Rump steak: $6

Beef schnitzel (4 large pieces sliced, unprepared): $5.70

Mince meat (beef): $2/Ib or $4/kg

Packet of fish fingers (for old times sake): $5.50

Lamb merguez sausages: $5.50

Beef sausages, Old English, 7 pack: $5


Packet of egg fetuccini: $1.95

Packet of spinach fetuccini: $2.40

Pasta sauce: $1.50

White mushrooms: $8.80/2.2 Ibs (we paid $1.23 for the amount we needed for our pasta dish)

Jar olives (black pitted): $2.30

Cheddar cheese: $9.55 – $11 (block)

Breadcrumbs: $1.10

Heinz baked beans: $2.50

Heinz ketchup, small: $2.60

Jar Pesto: $3.10 (Pams regular or sundried tomatoes) 

Whole roast chicken: $8


Butter $4.07 for 500 grams or 17.6 ounces

Eggs: $3.65/doz for duck or chicken from the farm, $2.80 from the store! $8 for 20.

Rice milk: $3.50 (Vitasoy)

Milk: $1.65/liter, $2.90 for 2 liters or a half gallon.

Golden Crumpets: $1.53 pack of 6

Jam: $4.20

Pohoi Greek Yogurt with fruit on top: $3.20 – $4.35 for Ib or 450g

Muesli: $4.30

Honey: $8 (Airborne, 1Ib)

Raw sugar: $1.34 (500gr)

Loaf of sliced grainy bread: $4.15 (Vogels)

Currant buns: $2.65 for 6

Tea, English Breakfast (box of 20): $2.70

Bread: $2.75 Vogels sprouted grain


Milk: $1.50 – 1.65/liter, $2.90 for 2 liters or a half gallon.

Schwepps Tonic Water: $3

Pams Indian Tonic: $1.20

Nescafe: $4 (jar of decaf granules)

Tea, English Breakfast (box of 20): $2.70

Water: $.70 – 1.05/750ml

Coconut water: $2.75/Litre

Snack Food

Kettle chips: $1.95 – 2.95/5oz.

Small bag of no-brand chips: $1.17

Ice-cream: $5.90 for 2 liters or half gallon of an inexpensive brand of caramel swirl

Cadbury chocolate: $3.75 – $3.90

Pesto: $7.15 (dip for veggies) 11.5 ounces / 325g

Sundried tomato pesto: $2.75 (dip for veggies) 4.75 ounces / 135g


Olive Oil (extra virgin cold pressed): $9

Nestle baking chocolate: $3.30

Cocoa powder: $2.95 for 8.8 ounces or 250g

Sultanas: $1.70/.9Ibs or 400g

Butter $4.07 for 500 grams or 17.6 ounces

Soft brown sugar: $1.60

Raw sugar: 1.39/1Ib or 500g

Yeast: $4.60 for 4.5oz or 130gr.

Flour (whole wheat): $1/Ib or $3.3/1.5kg

Flour (white) $.65/Ib or $1.30/1.5kg


Spark Phone Card: $14.70

Palmolive liquid hand soap: $2.65

Toilet paper: $4 – $5 (pack of 12)

Paper Towels: $2.35 (pack of 2)

Tissues: $1.55 (6-pack pocket size)

Lemsip: $11.56 (cold medicine)

Strepsils: $5.35 (packet of throat lozenges)

Halls Lozenges: 90 cents

Scotch-Brite Scrub Sponge: $2.50 (single)

Lightbulb: $1.17

Epsom Salt (for baths, enough for 2 0r 3): $1.70 for 17.5oz / 500gr

Wellington including an exhibit at Te Papa Museum

Auckland including Muriwai Gannet Colony and Auckland Art Museum:

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10 replies »

  1. You are both so amazing. Happy to see how much you are truly enjoying this adventure.
    Continue having fun.
    Hugs to you both.

    • Hi June, It’s so good to hear from you! We’re having a bit more of a challenging time in Bali right now but more of that to come in the future (unless you’re on FB). Even so, we are still truly enjoying the adventure! Hugs to you too.

  2. Hello Monique & Blaine…. It is so wonderful to see & read about your amazing journeys. It is truly inspirational! Thank you for sharing. From Christine Cummings in Marblehead!!

  3. Really valuable info–I’m going to save the whole thing as a travel guide for whenever. My news? Having a total right knee replacement in early April so my traveling will be limited for a while!

    • Thanks Lee – glad you found it helpful. Good luck with your surgery and recovery – you’ll be spry and on the go in not time!

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