15 Things I Will and Won’t Miss About Living in London

Destinations, England, Moving Abroad, United Kingdom

15 Things I Will and Won’t Miss About Living in London

12 Comments 09 July 2013

London seems to be a city that just keeps coming back into my life. I lived here for six months studying abroad in college and returned five months ago for a sort of place to live in limbo as me and my Ric tried to figure out a more permanent living situation.

In a nutshell, I adore this city. I don’t know what exactly it is about London, but the city just has something. Maybe it’s the free  museums and world-renowned art scene. Maybe it’s the city’s lively mixture of cultures and activities. Maybe it’s the city’s intricate and exciting history.

Whatever it is, this city had me at “Ya, alright?”.

And now, probably as you read this post, I’m leaving the London once again with no idea when I’ll return for a vacation, let alone to live, so I think now is a good time to reflect on the ups and downs of living in London Town.

Things I’ll Miss

Getting lost – kind of

My absolute favorite thing to do in London is walk around with no plans or destinations. I could walk this city for hours and hours and not even realize it, because there is so much happening to take my mind off the fact that I’m exercising. Tiny side streets – blue plate homes – hole-in-the-wall cafes – so much has happened in the city and so much has been added that you never know where you’ll end up or what you’ll find on a wander. However, you’ll never actually get lost enough to the point that you can’t find your way back home. There’s always a tube station close by, no matter how lost you get, hop on that and you’ll know exactly where you are again.

Free magazines and newspapers

I’m very old-fashioned with my media. While I do read more things online these days, I’ll take a massive inky newspaper or glossy magazine over a website or kindle any day. It was really nice in London to have that for the same price as online media: Free 99!

Not only am I going to miss picking up my free copy of Time Out outside Shepherd’s Bush Market station on Monday mornings en route to the library or Evening Standard weekdays on my way home, but I’ll also miss the paper boys. The way the guy says “Evening Standard” is always a highlight on my walk home and I know I’m not alone. I hear kids repeating the phrase just as he does at the library, girls on Uxbridge Road throwing it into the conversation in his voice.

Random happenings

I think we can all agree, whether you love or hate London, one thing is certain, there is always something to do in this city and they’re so random and unique. Into art? Head to an auction at Sotheby’s. Love the cabaret? This city is a mecca for it. Want to live in the past? You can do that too – at themed parties. Are you a total foodie? Don’t get me started – the markets here are incredible.

This city literally has something going on every day to suit all types of people. You really never know what you’ll get into or where you’ll end up on any given day in London. They say nobody knows how to party quite like the Brits, they’re kidding.

Free museums and art

London is the city where I really fell in love with art, so I might put it on a pedestal a bit more than I should, but it is a really great city for art lovers. National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and Britain, Saatchi Gallery, V&A – there is no shortage of art galleries in this city displaying Picasso, Manet, Dali and more legendary artists. And what’s even more amazing, most of these galleries and museums are free. London can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.

British TV

This is something I’ll miss, but I know I’ll keep up with long after leaving London. England has some of my absolute favorite TV shows. For chat, shows like Graham Norton, A League of Their Own and Top Gear presented an entirely new and sort of no-hold-back sort of watching experience. It took me a while to completely understand the humor here, but I do now. And on some British chat show people are given wine – so you see a completely different side of all your favorite celebrities.

For scripted dramas and comedies, I’ll start by saying a lot of your favorite American series were based on British ones and often, the originals and a million times better. Shameless was my sort of awakening to how good TV is over here. Then of course there’s Made in Chelsea, which, for better or worse, I am obsessed with.

Curry and Kebabs

I never understood Britain’s bad reputation for food and drink. Sure fish and chips and Bangers and Mash are quite simple dishes, but they should not be used at the entire spectrum of British food. To be honest, I love eating in this country and especially London. Not only is England home to some of the world’s most famous chefs (Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver), but it’s also a melting pot of about a million different foods from around the world.

Two of those melting pot items that my mouth will miss (but my hips will not) are curry and kebabs. Let me start by saying I lived off Uxbridge Road during my most recent stay, where kebab shops and curry houses are literally almost every store front for about 20 minutes of walking. You try dieting when a spinning hunk of lamb meat is staring at you throughout every walk to and from anywhere. It’s not going to happen. We do a lot of food right in America, but we don’t come close to how they do curry or kebabs in London.

Urban parks

I get giddy every time I see a park anywhere in the world, especially England. London does parks right. Whether it be a perfectly trimmed rose garden or a wild forest, this city knows how to help people escape the hustle of the city, if even for just a stroll. It was actually in a London park that Ric asked me to marry him, Chiswick, so obviously that’s my favorite, but some other good ones to check out include, Regent’s Park, Holland Park and St. James’s Park.

Coffee

This is something I never thought I would miss about London, especially coming from New Zealand and Australia. Something big has happened in the cafe and coffee culture since I last lived here in 2007. There is so much focus on coffee here and they’re really producing incredible things with that. My favorite cafe is Wild & Wood in Holborn. Have a flat white there and you’ll understand why I’m not looking forward to going home to suburban chains.

The Tube

I’ve never seen a public transportation system run as efficiently as the London Underground system. If you can pay £7 for a day pass, that’s your entire day set in London with all it’s free museums and parks. You can literally go anywhere in the city with the underground and it always feels like a train arrives as soon as I enter the station. I am not looking forward to going back to NJ and relying on my car to get around.

Things I won’t Miss

Dog pee and poop on the sidewalk

I know it’s a city and sometimes your pets just have to go – that’s not controllable – but I’m not going to miss wondering if every bit of liquid I see in the street is a puddle of pee or water. Pee I can understand. You can’t clean that up as a pet owner, but crap on the sidewalk is inexcusable and so gross. I’m not sure if this was something that only happened in my area, because I have to say I did not see it often in other parts of the city, but for the love of god people – clean up after your pets, especially when they’re messing on pedestrian walkways!

Overcrowded

As much as I love all the hustle and bustle of a city and activities that come with that, I am not going to miss walking down the streets on a weekend in London. I feel like I’m in a herd of cattle a lot of days in this city. Crowded bars, crowded streets, crowded tube carriages…these things will not be missed.

Walking on the sidewalks

To add to my overcrowding and poop winge – I think people need an education in sidewalk rules before they arrive in London. I always walk according to what side of the street a country drives on, but I don’t think everyone else does that. Since the UK is the only country in Europe that drives on the left side of the road and loads of Europeans as well as people from around the world (most of which drive on the right) visit London on a daily basis – no one knows which way to walk on sidewalks. People from the UK/Australia/NZ go left – the rest of the world goes right. It especially annoys me at tube stations when there are signs on the stairs that say stay left, yet for some bizarre reason people are taking up both sides. It wouldn’t be as big a deal if the city wasn’t so busy, but it is and no one know which way to go, which frustrates me like crazy.

Overpriced

As cheap as a person can make London with free activities and discount stores, it is one of the most expensive cities in the world if you don’t bother considering your budget. This is especially troublesome when you’re living here on the American dollar. I can’t help but exchange money in my head and every time I go to the store I feel like I’m paying double on top of something that already costs more than it would in the rest of England, the rest of the world. £16 cocktails ($US24) – £3 triangular sandwiches ($US4.50) – £2.50 coffees ($US3.75)- as much as I enjoyed eating and drinking you, you will not be missed.

Not having the right of way

Cars in London rule the road and they’re not going to stop for any idiot who wonders into the road. Don’t worry, I’m that idiot too. But what always bothered me is at cross walks when I would have the green man and suddenly he would start blinking. Now my understanding in a lot of places is that this meant, “Hurry up, you only have a few seconds to get across, but don’t worry you can still walk”. Not in London. As soon as the green man starts blinking for pedestrians, a yellow light goes on for the cars that are waiting and they immediately start to go or get angry at people for still walking in the road.

Rush Hour

I was fortunate enough to only have to ride the tube or be in central London a handful of times during rush hour and that was enough. This isn’t just London, but in a lot of big cities, people lose all respect for each other between the hours of 7-10 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. I’m not going to miss getting shouldered on the streets and nobody apologizing and I’m not going to miss getting shoved out of the way at a tube station so some jerk who just got there can get home two minutes earlier than me.

Every place has it’s good and bad, ups and downs, and London is no different. Though I had a few erks about living here, I think it’s clear to see that the positives more than outweigh the negatives. Take advantage of all London’s free activities – museums and parks – wander through the city’s side streets as much as possible and avoid the CBD completely at rush hour and you’ll walk away loving this city as much as me.

What are some of your favorite things about London?

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Jackson Apartments for working holiday makers

Australia, Australia, Destinations, Moving Abroad

Jackson Apartments for working holiday makers

8 Comments 20 June 2013

Moving to Australia with a working holiday visa puts people in a somewhat weird position. You’re visiting places for longer than most travelers, often working and living, so you don’t really want to spend that amount of time in a hostel and it be a senseless waste of money to spend it on a hotel. Yet, most will only spend between six months to a year living a destination, making it hard to find a company that will lease you a private place for that short a contract.

This was the predicament Ric and I found ourselves in when we reached Melbourne in November 2010. I only had about three months left on my visa, so there were few real estate companies that wanted to work with us, but we were a new couple at that point and wanted our privacy, which wouldn’t happen in a hostel.

It was actually the day I arrived, a few weeks after Ric, that we actually found out about Jackson Apartments. The Melbourne rental agency focuses on short-term apartment seekers. In fact, they prefer them. I saw their ad in a backpacker magazine, but through internet searches for similar terms I couldn’t find them anywhere. The company ended up being perfect for our situation and you might find they are for you as well. Here is a round-up of our experience with the company.

The Hunt

As with most cities Ric and I arrive in, we had to act pretty fast in finding a place in Melbourne as our money was very low and we knew any place we wanted to rent would require a deposit. With a bit of pressure on us and a pretty wide range of choices, we literally moved into our new place the same day we went searching for apartments with the agency.

I have to say I was a little bit worried about the introduction process as we had to pay our deposit in cash $AUD500 as well as a week’s rent $AUD360, but we really didn’t have a choice. Luckily, it ended up working out. They were really good with paperwork and moved us in our new pad on the same day. They showed us at least four different properties during our hunt, taking us to them by car and were really friendly.

Location

We stayed in two different apartments during our two and a half months with Jackson. The first was in St. Kilda and it didn’t quite work out as we were a bit too noisy for our neighbors. It was somewhat of an retiree complex. But the company didn’t blame us or hassle us, just recommended a new location and even came to pick up us and all our things on moving day. The second place we stayed was a million times better. Our three-bedroom apartment was fully-furnished and located right on Chapel Street in Windsor, which is full of bars, cafes and shopping. We had a deck, parking and we were right next door to this really cool Scandinavian clothing store that made their own beach in the back alley way.

Jackson Apartments

These were our neighbors… Only in Melbourne. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Price

Between Ric and I, it costs $AUD360 per week for a fully-furnished room in a three-bedroom apartment. Now I’ll be honest and say that you can find cheaper if you’re willing to sign at least a six-month contact for a place in Melbourne, but we didn’t have that luxury. I’d say for our own private room in a really good location, we paid the same as it costs in Melbourne for two bunk beds per week in a six or eight person dorm. For this reason, I thought the apartment was worth it.

Customer Service

Everyone we talked to or worked with during our stay was really laid back and genuine. We didn’t have any problems. In fact, I felt like they really tried to make sure we were in the right place. A true testament to them being good people is that I needed information recently, three years later, for partner visas for Ric and I and they went above and beyond in providing it, asking for nothing in return.

Comfort

It’s hit or miss with the apartments and rooms you’ll find. Don’t expect anything glamorous and some of the places are older and a bit shabby as there are a lot of older places in Melbourne. But the apartments are clean and if you have any complaints about things they’ll work on helping with it. We got very lucky with our second place. It had been refurbished not too long before we arrived.

Jackson Apartments

Christmas 2010 on the deck with our roommates. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Overall

I stayed in a million different places in Australia: hostels, trailers, bus stations, tents, friend’s couches and rooms that just happened to open somewhere by chance. Ric and I had only been seeing each other for about two months when we arrived in Melbourne and I didn’t want to go through that time with him in a hostel, but we had very little other choice. We tried to find a room with people on Gumtree, but even there they wanted people who were going to stay in the city longer. We had to move fast, so Jackson Apartments was actually the best possible solution for us. Not to add sentiment, but we had our first apartment together with them and I feel very lucky that they made it a good experience.

I highly recommend them to couples or even just friends traveling in pairs who are only staying in Melbourne for a short period, but want somethings a bit more private.

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How to move to New Zealand: five steps

Destinations, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

How to move to New Zealand: five steps

4 Comments 13 June 2013

You’ve taken the plunge.

Despite all your 20-something friends getting married and having babies, plus your parents pressure to find a “real job” and settle down, you’ve decided to leave your home country for one year and move abroad on a working holiday visa.

And what a plunge it is.

New Zealand.

Land of the long white cloud. One of the most scenic and most peaceful places to live on earth. A place where there are more sheep than people and even hobbits are celebrated. For most, it’s the other side of the world. Two large islands floating out in the Pacific. Not far from Australia or Antarctica, you don’t get much more off the map than here.

That can be daunting for people planning to make a home there for the year, but it doesn’t have to be. The truth is that New Zealand is one of the friendliest nations in the world and I’ve found, one of the most accepting of foreign guests. These five steps will help those 18-30 years old move to New Zealand on a working holiday visa.

1.) Start saving

You’ll want to separate your budget into two things for New Zealand, flights and money required on arrival.

I point out flights, because no matter where you are flying from, a one-way ticket to New Zealand is not cheap. Expect to pay about $US1,500 for a one-way ticket. Add $US200 on if you are flying somewhere other than Auckland.

After putting money aside for your flight, the rest of your budget depends on what you expect to do upon arrival in the country.

New Zealand’s immigration website states that people must have a minimum of $NZ4,200 to be eligible for the US Work Holiday Scheme. I’ll be completely honest and say that they don’t verify it. I didn’t have to prove I had those funds before applying, nor at the airport upon arrival.

That said, I really recommend having at least that much. I wasn’t checked, but you might be. Plus that is a good safety net for anyone unsure of when or where they will be finding a job in their new country.

I would recommend no less than $US2,000 to feel secure from the time you arrive until the time you find a job.

People should also consider whether they will be working, soon after arrival or after traveling around a bit. New Zealand can be an expensive country to travel. It has a lot of extreme sports that you would be silly not to try, but it’ll cost you.

Milford Sound

Head to the bottom of the South Island to see Milford Sound. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

2. Apply for a working holiday visa

Just do it! I don’t know why people, and by people I mean me, put this off. Most are happily accepted and if they are not, it’s usually for a very valid reason. You’ll be asked to pay an application fee, which varies depending on where you’re from. When I did it, it was free to US citizens, at the time this post was written it cost $US140, but it can change so click here to see how much it will cost you to apply.

The process is pretty similar for all the countries eligible and it’s very straight forward. You can apply online. To do so, you must fill in all your personal information, including passport number. You must answer questions about your health and your character.

Depending on your answers, you may be asked to submit more information, such as a medical, but usually you won’t be. Just follow the process and be honest.

While on the topic of applying, NZ immigration requires visitors to have travel insurance. If you’re from a country that does not have national healthcare or something corresponding the the New Zealand healthcare system, I highly recommend getting travel insurance. It literally could be a lifesaver.

sunset mount maunganui

Another beautiful sunset in Mount Maunganui. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

3. Book a flight

I mentioned the cost of flights earlier, but there are a few more things to consider when booking a flight to New Zealand.

For starters, don’t buy a return ticket. I’ve done this twice on long term trips and both times I had to pay ridiculous fees to change my ticket. You have no idea where you will be or what you’ll be thinking at the end of your working holiday experience in New Zealand, so save yourself the money and don’t book a return flight. Plus, on a trip like this, it’s better to not have an expiration date.

Remember that with a working holiday visa people are NOT required to have a return ticket to enter New Zealand. Just keep a copy of the visa as flight attendants at the check-in counter almost always ask about this.

The easiest place to arrive is Auckland, but also look into Wellington and Christchurch. Those destinations are usually the next most affordable landing spots. Research and consider where to land seriously as flying and moving around in New Zealand is expensive.

If you are flexible about dates then do some research and find what time of year has the cheapest airfare. I would set a date early, so you have enough time to save and prepare. Some things to consider; seasons (ski season is big in Queenstown, but you’ll want to get there at the start of it), the holidays, obligations at home (housing contracts, etc.) and the amount of time it will really take for you to save up.

Queenstown Air New Zealand

I arrived in Queenstown via Auckland when I first came to New Zealand. Fly Air New Zealand if you can. They’re amazing. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

4. IRD number and bank account

Both an IRD number and bank account are needed to work in New Zealand.

Inland Revenue will supply you with your IRD number. For US citizens, this is similar to a social security number and important for tax purposes. To apply, you must fill out an application and present your passport as well as another form of ID, such as a driver’s license (it can be from overseas). All documents must be verified and photocopied.

This cannot be completed online. You must visit either a post office in New Zealand or Automobile Association Driver Licensing Agent. The post office should have applications available. The process is very quick. You should receive your IRD number within 8-10 days

Setting up a bank account is pretty similar everywhere. Be sure to bring your passport, another form of identification and proof of address.

Proof of address could be the letter your IRD number arrived in or it could just be a note written about by a staff member at your hostel stating that this is the address where you are living at the moment and signed. Don’t stress over how long you’ll be staying at that address. It’s not extremely important, especially if you are applying for an online banking account, which you should be.

Some banks charge a fee for people to hold certain bank accounts. Most places offer online banking accounts, which are free and the best option for temporary visitors only in need of an account to be paid into. I had accounts with both Kiwibank or Westpac. Neither of them charged for online accounts and I actually got a really good interest rate for my savings account with Westpac, earning $NZ12 some months.

Hobbiton

Hobbiton was one of my favorite tours in New Zealand. Photo by Bobbi Lee hitchon

5. Find a job

Backpackers or temporary workers will find the most jobs available in hospitality, agriculture, raising money, telemarketing and publicity.

I’ve actually tried all these things while working abroad and suggest hospitality for the most fun, best money and most interesting experience. That said, the jobs available to you depend on where you are located and your experience.

The best source for finding jobs online in New Zealand is Trade Me. You can also find a job just walking around town. Make sure you are prepared with a CV and other things needed. Also, make sure your CV caters to the industry you’re applying for jobs. Don’t present a resume that list your IT experience when applying for a job as a cook. I know this should make sense, but it’s lost on a lot of people.

Most of the New Zealand population are located in its major cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Besides a few holiday towns and some heavy farming areas, most of the country is quite rural. I only mention this because it makes finding a job in certain areas a bit more difficult.

It was really easy for me to find work in Wellington. I had about seven interviews after looking for only one day, but I struggled in Blenheim, which is a small town. The jobs offered there were mainly on farms, which usually require you have a car and I didn’t. I use this as an example of things to consider about where to live and work first. A lot of times, the best option may be in a city or a place where people can get around without private transportation. That way you can save up for a car and buy one if you want.

Most places will ask you to commit to six months or a season. So try and get to a place at the start of a season as more jobs will be available and you can fully commit.

I spent a few months working in the kiwifruit industry in Te Puke to get an extension on my working holiday visa. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I spent a few months working in the kiwifruit industry in Te Puke to get an extension on my working holiday visa. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

By the end of these steps you should be working and holidaying in New Zealand. This experience is so special, because every activity in a new country, even the mundane ones like work, is different from home. It’s a new experience, which is what makes this opportunity so special.

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Ready to go? Apply for your working holiday visa here NOW! Not interested in New Zealand? Check out How to move to Australia: five steps.

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about 😉

Like what you see? Follow me on Bloglovin’, Twitter and Facebook to keep up with what I’m writing about. ;) – See more at: http://www.heelsandwheelsonline.com/2013/06/going-back-in-time-at-the-blitz-party/#sthash.nylXurU4.dpuf
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Moving to London

Destinations, England, Moving Abroad, United Kingdom

Moving to London

8 Comments 14 March 2013

Everyone stares as my black Samsonite suitcase clinks down the stairs at Paddington Station. I’m making a scene, but I don’t care. After five months of travel, three accommodation changes in the last week and the stress of seeing my bank account drop drastically with each day London, I just want to stop moving.

I want a home.

I want my own bed.

But more than anything, I want to walk around the city without a 20 kg suitcase.

I begin to wonder if this was the right decision. Sure, Ric found an incredible job, but the city is so cold, flats so expensive and renting here has turned out to be a lot trickier than I thought.

Should we have returned to New Zealand?

That was our original plan after five months of travel, but we had a change of heart. We wanted to be closer to home for a few years and well, London seemed like a good idea. Now I’m not so sure.

I put the thought out of mind. There’s no turning back now. We’re here. Let’s make this work. Ric and I had managed to do it three times before on an even smaller budget, show up in a new city and make a life. I know we can do it again.

After five days in two of the worst hostels I’ve ever stayed at in my life (squeaky bunk bends that move with you, grim facilities and dirty toilet paper-yuck!), we finally find a place. Using Flatland, a rental agency, we get in contact with a landlord in Shepherds Bush. This is actually the first studio apartment we look at through the agency. It seems perfect but we don’t say yes right away.

The first flat we look at. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Instead we spend a day dealing with grumpy agents, going to see rooms that are actually off the market and returning to a noisy hostel to do it all again the following day. Not possible. Not only is my bank account down to exactly what we would need to pay for a bond and one month’s rent on a studio in our price range in the city, but we also just need to stop moving.

I call the first landlord and say we’ll take it.

I call again and ask if we can move in tonight.

He laughs and says, “Of course darling.”

That’s Kiwi Kev, Gandalf and Rudiger making themselves at home. The guys have traveled around the world with us. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

In one night, everything comes together. Not only do we love our new place, but our landlord is a legend and it’s only a short walk to Ric’s work.

Settled. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

This tree is the first living thing Ric and I have owned together. Naturally, we named him Josh. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

We manage to do it again. In eight days, Ric finds the perfect job and together we find the perfect flat in London.

Breath out.

The “after” shot. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It’s never easy moving to a new place, especially a city as expensive as London. But trust me, if we could do it on a budget as small as ours, so can you. Follow these tips if you’re trying to get set up in London on a tight budget.

  • Apply for jobs online. Ric received loads of responses from places he applied to through websites like Gumtree, but nothing from just handing out CV’s in person. Since almost every job he’s found in the past has been by applying in person, I can honestly say your best bet it to apply to jobs in London online.
  • Consider going with a rental agency. I thought places like Flatland were scams when I first started looking for rentals, but I found they were actually the only option. Every flat I looked at on Gumtree led me to one of four agencies. I’ve always just rented rooms from landlords in person, no agent, so this was new for me. We paid an £80 up-front fee to basically get a listing of apartments available through them. Due to a lot of scams in the city, this method has become very popular and it’s actually pretty cheap compared to major commercial companies.
  • Don’t expect the flat you see online to be available at these agencies. None of the ones we saw online were, but they were constantly adding new flats to their listing.
  • Act quick when renting. Real estate in a city as populous as London is so competitive. If you find a place you like, grab it, quick.
  • Make sure you have enough money. This all depends on what sort of a place you are looking for and how fast you want to set up. In general, you should have two months rent (look at prices on Gumtree for an idea) to cover a bond one month’s rent. The rest really depends on what sort of job you are looking for and how hard your looking, but think about public transportation, food cost, etc.
  • Consider your budget when choosing an area to live. As you might have noticed, London is expensive. Everything: groceries, beer, housing, is more in this city than the rest of England. Some areas of the city are especially expensive. As a rule of thumb, stay out of Zone 1 if you want to live affordably. Even zone 2 is heaps cheaper and it’s still central. Areas like Shoreditch, Shepherds Bush and Richmond are ideal.
  • Walk when you can. The London underground system is extremely efficient, but very expensive. Plus, you’d be surprised how close some of the stations are to each other. It’s a very easy city to walk. Look into walking distances before hopping on the tube.
  • Visit these spots for home goods. Primark and Argos seem to be the cheapest places to buy home goods. Check out pound shops, markets and charity shops as well. Also ask your landlord if previous tenants left anything behind. We got most of our kitchen appliance for free that way.

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Kiwifruit Packing: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Destinations, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

Kiwifruit Packing: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

3 Comments 06 September 2012

One of my favorite things about working while traveling is that you never know what you’ll be doing for work. When you’re on a working holiday visa you work out of necessity and interest more than anything else. Out of your own necessity for money and visa requirements, but also out of an area’s necessity for workers like you.

The Bay of Plenty, where I’m currently residing in New Zealand, got its name because the land here is perfect for farming. In this area of the country you can find avocado orchards, vineyards, even orange trees, but no fruit has left a greater mark here than kiwifruit.

To sum it up, the first kiwifruit seed from China was planted in New Zealand in the early 1900s. Since then the town of Te Puke has become the kiwifruit capital of the world, exporting gold and green kiwifruit to over 70 countries, creating a billion-dollar business for New Zealand. Today, the kiwifruit industry makes up a large portion of the jobs available here from farm work to packing even to exporting, that furry little fruit has created big opportunity for people in the area, including me.

I knew nothing of anything mentioned above before arriving in the Bay of Plenty. What I knew was that I needed to work in New Zealand’s agriculture sector for at least three months to earn a three month extension on my one year working holiday visa for the country.

Looking through job listings online and in newspapers, I soon figured out just how big the kiwifruit industry is here. Like I said above, jobs acquired while traveling come out of necessity to you as well as the area you’re visiting. So in March of this year (the start of Autumn in New Zealand), I became a full-time kiwifruit grader and packer at one of the many pack-houses in the area.

I stayed in the industry for five months, working at three different pack houses. As you can imagine it wasn’t the most glamorous job I’ve had on the road, but like any job, it had its good, bad and ugly side.

The Good

Kiwifruit packhouses mainly offer seasonal work with their busiest time being in Autumn. They keep on a few contracted workers all year, but most of the contracts are not permanent, which may not be so appealing to residents looking for security in the area. But it’s a perfect fit for travelers looking for a no-strings job to save up a bit of money over a few months.

My packhouse employed about 40% foreigners, 30% retirees and another 30% New Zealand students or general workforce. This is more than ideal for travelers. Not only do you meet New Zealanders, but you also meet people from all over the world, learn about different cultures and maybe even pick up a few words in a language foreign to your own. I met people from Chile, Argentina, Germany, France, China, Taiwan, Vanuatu, Tonga and more.

The companionship can make those few months a big party or at least a good laugh, all while saving up quite a bit of money. Though kiwifruit packers only earn minimum wage ($NZD13.50), when the season is in full force, there is plenty of work to go around at least six days a week, usually ten hours a day. If all goes right, you could save up enough for a few months in SE Asia or plan an epic trip around New Zealand.

The Bad

But even the good has its bad. While the idea of having loads of work to save up loads of money is nice, the reality is harsh. Working ten hours a day means you arrive in the dark and leave in the dark, whether working a day or night shift. You’ll spend most of your day on your feet and while the work isn’t hard, standing up for that long does hurt the body. I would come home, back in knots and legs aching, to eat and go straight to bed, only to wake up the next morning still exhausted.

The body takes a beating and so does your social life. Remember all those friends you met and money you made? Well you won’t have any time to take advantage of that. Most pack houses only give one day off a week. While having a few drinks with friends would be nice, a hangover on top of a 60 hour work week is not.

The Ugly

Imagine ten hours of staring at kiwifruits on a conveyor belt or ten hours of placing a plastic sheet then a plastic egg crate into a cardboard box. No matter what job title you have at a kiwifruit packhouse, the work is repetitive and boring. I will say that the way management planned out breaks at my packhouse and the company there made the day go by a lot quicker than I thought it would. Still, you will be looking at the clock and wondering how on earth could it only have been five minutes since you last checked it.

This is all of course if you actually do have ten hours of work a day, six days a week, because the truth is, that none of that is guaranteed. Working a seasonal job in agriculture is dependent on a million variables; weather, disease other sectors, market demand.

Rain is a huge factor. If it rains, farm workers cannot pick fruit, which means no fruit is delivered to the packhouse, which means no work is available for packhouse staff. This past season the disease PSA destroyed millions of dollars worth of plants. I’m not complaining about it, especially because so many people lost their livelihood due to this disease and I just lost hours at a seasonal job, but the reality was that less fruit was available to pack, so less work was available to workers like me.

On top of being a seasonal work, you are also a casual worker, which means you owe the company very little and vice versa. Sure you are not obligated to give the job two weeks notice before leaving and there is always some other able body to take over your job if you need a day off, but all this means you are dispensable. If you miss a few days in a row, there is someone right behind you to take your job and like you don’t need to give two weeks notice, the company doesn’t need to give you that either. The first packhouse I worked for told us the season was over only four days before our last day. Another packhouse only required their staff to give 24 hours notice before their resignation.

One of the retirees I worked with has been returning to the same packhouse for three years. She doesn’t have to work, but said she does a season there to meet new people and learn about a different job.

Every job has its positives as well as its negatives. For me the biggest benefit of working at a kiwifruit packhouse was that I got to stay in New Zealand a little bit longer. Agricultural work, in all forms, is hard, but it’s extremely important. As tedious as some days were, I enjoyed meeting all the different people there as well as learning a bit more about a country I’ve come to love so much.

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Celebrating one year in New Zealand

Blog, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

Celebrating one year in New Zealand

13 Comments 09 July 2012

A year ago today, Ric and I arrived in New Zealand, which means tomorrow will mark a new achievement in my travels-spending more than one full year in a foreign country.

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for so long and that I’m still hanging around here for a few more months, but it just feels right.

Whenever I meet locals from the country I’m traveling, one of the first questions they ask is, “Do you ever get home sick?”. Almost always, my answer is “Yes”. But there is something different about New Zealand. I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been here for so long or the fact that I’ve spent my entire time here with a partner, but for some reason, I feel at home in New Zealand.

Which is quite weird considering this country gave me the coldest welcoming of all the countries I’ve visited in the past two and a half years.

Prior to arriving in New Zealand last July, I was traveling on my own rendition of The Endless Summer. It started in Sydney in January of 2010, which is where I first started my current journey. It continued in the farms of Victoria for a few months and after that I worked my way up the east coast, pretty much following the heat. When Winter hit Australia, I found warmth in the tropics of Far North Queensland. And when it became a bit too hot there, I headed back to Melbourne for another Aussie Summer.

Next was SE Asia where it’s always warm and finally the good ol’ US of A in the Summer of 2011, which is one of the hottest Summers I’ve ever felt at home. But my summer was cut short when, as I mentioned above, I headed to NZ in July of last year, first stop-Queenstown.

The snow must have just been waiting for Ric and I too. Prior to our arrival, Queenstown was having a bit of a “drought”. The heavy ski destination was missing it’s number one ingredient to a good season. But the night we arrived, it came in full blast.

Nothing like waking up to snow in Queenstown. This shot was taken from our hotel room the day after we arrived in New Zealand. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

I remember waking up at 4 a.m., jet-lagged, and Ric saying, “This is the first time I’ve had to put on all my clothes to go out for a fag in a year and a half.”

We weren’t in Australia anymore. 

But we wouldn’t stay in Queenstown for long, rumor of lack of jobs and friends’ calling up north led us to Blenheim. It’s not the most happening town, but we were in good company. We spent about a month there, then headed to Wellington, where we would make our first home in the country. We had a rough few nights in the country’s capital city to start, but came to love it and stuck around for about five months, the longest Ric or I have spent anywhere since we started traveling.

It was nice to have a home of sorts, but being the constant travelers we are, we had to hit the road eventually. In January we embarked on a six week trip around both islands. After that, I really understood why the people who have traveled NZ, go on about it so much.

Flat out, this is the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. From kayaking Abel Tasman to hiking Franz Josef Glacier, camping out in Haast to living it up in Queenstown, it’s just a spectacular place to visit.

Ric and I spent two weeks traveling the South Island with my Dad, two weeks catching up with friends around the country and two more weeks with Ric’s family in Mount Maunganui, then it was time to build another home. And I think we’ve built our best one yet.

We’ve been living in the Mount for five months now and plan to spend another two here. During that time we’ve lived with some great housemates, Ric found an amazing job at a cafe and I…well I’ve worked with one of the country’s biggest icons: kiwifruit. It’s not always been an easy industry to work in, in fact working in agriculture is quite tedious, but the work has allowed me to stay here for more than a year.

US citizens are granted a three month extension on their work holiday visas after completing three months of agricultural work in New Zealand.

I started my work in March and was granted my extension, actually on the spot, in late June. I can’t describe just how relieved I felt that day. Traveling for as long as I have, it’s not all a holiday. Money is a constant worry as is trying to stay with a partner from a different country. In fact, one of the things that drew Ric and I to New Zealand is the fact that we were both eligible for working holiday visas here. So being granted those extra few months here, just put everything in order for me.

While we don’t plan to stick around here for too much longer, Thailand in September-Yesss!!!, we would like to return. How, you ask? Stay tuned. My mission has always been to stay on the road for as long as possible and I’ve got a few more tricks up my sleeve to help me do that.

But today, I’m going to celebrate a year in New Zealand, two and half years traveling and almost two years with my favorite travel partner and best friend.

Home is wherever I’m with you-bad’un.

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I still believe in paradise

Australia, Australia, Blog, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, Moving Abroad

I still believe in paradise

7 Comments 19 April 2012

If you haven’t noticed, the theme on Heels and Wheels this week is Port Douglas. It’s been almost two years since I first stepped foot in the this tiny piece of paradise in Far North Queensland, Australia.

I still can’t stop thinking about it.

I didn’t write a lot about Port Douglas while I was there. In fact, I didn’t write much about anything. I was so immersed in the lifestyle there that all I did pretty much was…live. I didn’t waste loads of time catching up on places I wasn’t living or researching places I wanted to visit in the future. Instead I spent my time living like I belonged, as if no other life existed outside the town.

I’m a contradiction in many ways. I like pickles, hate cucumbers. I embrace city life, but long for seclusion. One of my biggest contradictions is that I love travel, but I have a slight obsession with small-town life.

I grew up in the suburbs of southern New Jersey. Sure I was close to small towns, beaches and big cities, but the suburbs where I am actually from was kind of like a limbo to all those things. Where I’m from there are a lot of people, open spaces, strip malls and schools. It’s not the city, but it’s definitely not a small town. Sure you might bump into someone at Wawa, but you don’t see the same barista every day at a one-of-a-kind cafe.

I don’t know if it was shows like Gilmore Girls or towns like New Hope, PA, but something long ago gave me this longing for small town life. A place where everybody knows my name. A place where I can walk into the town center from my house and bump into friends along the way. A place where there is a small enough number of people to feel like you’re part of a community, but more than enough people to keep things lively.

Yet, I also love visiting places where no one knows me, meeting new people and trying new things. I know I’m weird, but I found a place that brought these two contradictions together and it was Port Douglas.

The town is not very big. In fact its center is pretty much just one street. But it’s beautiful. God is Port Douglas beautiful. Plus it’s so relaxing. A visit there almost feels like one to the islands. Port is mainly a destination town, but a small number of people call it their home. So living there, you get a mixture of locals who you’ve known for years and visitors who arrive in bulk every few days.

How small town does this street look? Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

It was a job that led me to move there while living in Australia. At first, my time there was not going very well. I wanted to use my time in Port to work on my blog and get in shape. It all started out well enough. I was working, blogging and running. Plus I was meeting loads of people from my hostel, but the fact that I had set up a lifestyle for the town and not the opposite, led me to frustration.

Within a month of living in Port, I was hating the job that brought me there and didn’t feel like I was really getting to know people because I wasn’t going out so I could wake up early and run. Finally, I let go and though I lost that job that brought me to Port as well as my workout routine, I gained something spectacular.

Between the people at the hostel and the people at my new job, I almost felt like I was part of a big family. Every day I’d go to work and come home to find out what mischief “the guys” were getting into. We slept together (by that I mean six bedroom dorms), ate together and played together.

The guys.

After a few weeks the people I recognized from town started to recognize me. I had a coffee shop I visited every day and the guys there knew my drink, my name and a bit about me. I had a friend who I went for regular Sunday breakfasts with. Eventually I also found a partner here. This is where I met Ric, which adds to the town’s meaning to me.

When I was living in Port, that was all I was doing. It was the good life.

It’s been almost two years since I left and I still get choked up thinking about it, because the thing about Port Douglas is, I can never go back.

I said this to a friend as we boarded a bus to finally leave the Port Douglas.

She looked at me funny and replied, “Of course you can. You can always go back.”

But the truth is, I can’t. None of us can. Sure we can visit the town and I’m sure I will visit many times in the future, but the summer that I had there, the feeling, I can never go back to that. It’s sad, but I think it’s just a part of life. Sure Port is special to me, but I’m sure everyone has a place that’s special to them the same way. Everyone has a Port and while we may never be able to go back that place will stay with us forever.

“And me, I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever…” – Richard “The Beach”

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Live and work in paradise

Australia, Australia, Destinations, Moving Abroad

Live and work in paradise

2 Comments 17 April 2012

The working holidaymakers guide to Port Douglas, Australia

Known for its luxury resorts, high-end restaurants and lavish tours, Port Douglas, Australia may not sound like the ideal backpacker destination.

But someone needs to cook for, serve, guide and clean up after the town’s many visitors. This makes Port Douglas a wonderful choice for twenty-something, working holidaymakers to find a job and much, much more during their year in Australia.

Located in Far North Queensland, most backpackers end up in Port Douglas desperately needing work after a few weeks or months of traveling the country’s east coast, a fun, but expensive trip. The mixture of beautiful beaches, a tent city and hundreds of party-loving travelers make the tropical village a haven for working holidaymakers.

Above all, make sure you have a work holiday visa or proper work permits to work in Australia. The country welcomes foreigners, but can be pretty harsh on people who work illegally in the country.

Those interested in making a home out of Port Douglas during their stay in Oz should arrive at the end of May and stay until about October, this is when the town is busiest and the weather is best. People arriving at this time of year need only to show up and book a room, the rest will fall into place.

To make the transition easier, here are five tips I can offer from my work holiday experience in Port Douglas.

Where to live

Whether you like hostels or not, it’s best to stay at one for the first few weeks of your stay in Port Douglas. Yes, it’s much cheaper than the area’s pricey hotels, but it’s also the best way to make friends and find out about work opportunities in town.

Dougie’s tent city is affordable and fun. Photo by Richard John Hackey

Out of the four or five hostels operating in Port Douglas, Dougies is by far the favorite for for affordability, scenery and community. The large hostel and campground is about a twenty-minute walk away from the town center. Situated across the street from Four Mile Beach, the massive hostel has a pool, bar, kitchen and common area.

What makes this hostel so special? 

Tent City. Located behind the dormitories, the camp area is packed with tents amongst jungle scenery. Filled with backpackers, tent city is a sort of travel commune. To top it all off, the resort only charges campers $75 per person, per week and your tent can be as large and lavish as you want. In fact, some of the tents here have refrigerators, televisions, mattresses and decor inside. It’s perfect for people who value their privacy, but enjoy the hostel life.

But camping in the tropics or hostel life in general isn’t for everyone, especially not for long periods of time. If you are planning to stay in Port Douglas for six months or longer, it might be a good idea to lease an apartment. With a few roommates this can be as cheap as $80 a week.

Those that don’t want to be tied down to an apartment can always rent a room somewhere. The best way to find one is by asking the locals at work or in town. They might have space or know a friend that does. Also, check for postings on bulletin boards at hostels or around town, read the town’s weekly newspaper, Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette. Gum Tree isn’t a good source in Port Douglas, but it’s always worth a try.

Where to work

It’s good to arrive in Port Douglas early to get first pick of the job market. That said, the start of the season can be pretty slow, so you might not receive a lot of hours until about a month in.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Most of the jobs offered here are in hospitality and tourism. Chef is probably the most readily-availble position in town. People can also find work as a divemaster/instructor, tour guide, waiter or waitress, housekeeper or bartender. That said, it is possible to find other jobs here. A newspaper, medical center and other businesses operate out the town.

The best way to find work in Port Douglas is to prepare a great CV and walk around town handing it out. People interested in work as a chef or server can pretty much visit all over town, but the bulk of the restaurants are located on Macrossan Street. Those interested in working on a dive boat should visit Marina Mirage.

Hotels lining Port Douglas Road require large staffs for positions in housekeeping, concierge or in their restaurants. For boutique hotels, it would be best to just visit and speak with a manager. This can also be said for larger hotels and resorts, but look out for when they’ll be hosting open interviews or job fairs. Large hotel companies will usually post ads about this in the local paper.

People should also look out for postings at hostels. To be honest, I just wouldn’t bother searching for work online, it’s more effective to search in person here.

Also keep hostel work in mind. A lot of hostels trade free accommodation in return for few hours work there a week. You can also find paid work at hostels. If you are staying at the hostel in which you receive paid work, they might offer you discounted room rates. Living where you work has its ups and downs.

Where to party

After all the basics are covered, money and shelter, it’s time to have a bit of fun. Port Douglas is by no means a party town, but party-loving backpackers always find a way to make this place exciting at night and throughout the day.

Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

While the best place to party changes each year, Iron Bar is always a great place to start. The centrally located bar has karaoke every Tuesday, live bands every week and usually stays open the latest on Macrossan Street.

Other great bars to check out, include Court House Hotel, Rattle n’ Hum, Central Hotel and Paddy’s Irish Pub. The town has heaps more bars and restaurants that will host parties throughout the season, so be on the look out.

Outside of the town center, Dougies hosts themed parties throughout the year. You’ll also hear about house and beach parties if you’re living here for the season.

What to do in town

The area has loads of activities and attractions, but if your making Port Douglas your home, you’ll probably be more likely to try low-key things. Of course Four Mile Beach is a great place to spend your days off swimming and playing in the sun. You might also want to try weekly activities like film nights at Central, $5 fish and chips at Lure and dinner deals at the Tin Shed. Basically, the more time you spend here, the more you’ll hear about things to do.

The view of Port Douglas’s Four Mile Beach from Flagstaff Hill lookout point. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

How to get there

Port Douglas is located just off Captain Cook Highway, about an hour north of Cairns. It’s easy to reach by car. Those traveling around Australia using public transportation must arrive in Cairns first.

The Queensland city has an airport and is easily reached by bus. From Cairns, use Sun Palm to get to Port Douglas. The local transit service charges $35 for a one way trip from Cairns city or airport to wherever your destination is in Port Douglas. They also offer transit around town and its surrounding areas.

Also, if you book your accommodation before arrival, check to see if the hostel or hotel offers free pick ups from Cairns.

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Wellington on a whim

Blog, Destinations, Dispatches from Down Under, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, New Zealand

Wellington on a whim

6 Comments 19 January 2012

We arrived in Wellington cold, homeless and hungry.

Yes, five months ago we arrived in this city and it’s hard to believe how much has changed. We had no idea where we’d go or what we would see when we first arrived in New Zealand, but we definitely didn’t expect to make such an amazing home in Wellington. This is the tale of what brought us to the windy city and how it blew us away.

After about five months of jobless travel around Asia and America, we took a chance and headed to New Zealand on a working holiday visa instead of saving up at home. We didn’t have a choice really. Since Ric and I are from different countries, this was one of the few easy ways to stay together and work. Parting was out of the question.

So we boarded a plane for a long flight in early July. Destination: Queenstown, but not for long. Queenstown was our original arrival city, because-well it’s Queenstown; winter wonderland, extreme sports, lots of backpackers. Unfortunately, our arrival date was mid-ski season, making it hard to find work. Further, it had yet to snow in Queenstown that season, making it even harder to find work.

On the way from Queenstown to Blenheim in July.

No worries. Ric had a friend he met in Australia living and working in Blenheim. Biggest legend ever, not only did she let us crash at her house for a long time, but also sorted Ric out with a job before he even arrived.

We arrived at the small town in the middle of Marlborough, a huge wine region, and met our friend for drinks. While at a bar, I met a guy who worked in viticulture and he gave me a contact for a local vineyard looking for workers. Next day, I was sorted with a job.

We thought we made it. We thought we were going to be okay. We thought wrong. Family matters had me on a plane back to the States only ten days after arriving. I spent two weeks at home then was on a plane back to New Zealand. Talk about jet lag.

In that time, Ric was ready to leave Blenheim. It’s not the most active town, plus Ric wasn’t doing his passion, cooking, so he had enough. To add to that he had fractured his thumb, making him actually unable to work for a few weeks.

I arrived back in Blenheim with a choice. Either stay in the quiet town doing jobs that weren’t nessarily our favorite or make a move to Wellington, the closest city, and see how it worked out.

We went for Wellington.

It’s not a cheap trip either. Wellington is on the North Island and Blenheim on the South. People must take either a plane or a ferry to get to Wellington from the South Island because they must cross the Cook Strait, either way your looking at spending about $70.

We came to Wellington with one night booked at a hostel, hoping to find a flat, jobs and a routine in a day. That’s when things started to look up.

It was just me job hunting at that point. Ric couldn’t because of his thumb. I felt so much pressure hunting for jobs that day. Between contacting people on TradeMe and walking into places, I had about seven job opportunities within the first day of looking.

I remember sitting at a kebab shop on Courtney Place, nervous but excited about what would come in this city. The owner gave us one of those “buy-ten-kebabs-get-one-free cards”. I wondered if we would even last long enough in this city to get that free kebab.

Ric was in charge of finding us a room. He looked on TradeMe and Easyroommate. We had a few good prospects in just two days of searching. One room and couple looked like an especially good match for us. That night while I had a job trial, Ric looked at a room. At the end of my trial, I had a message on my phone that said, “Come home.” I grabbed my stuff from the hostel and hopped a bus to Mt. Cook.

Since we arrived so late, we didn’t really have time to make our new room comfortable. Our new roomies were nice enough to give us comforters and pillows, but they were covered in cat fur and Ric and I are both allergic. The room only came with a bed, which is actually quite lucky considering most of the rooms we saw came with nothing. We had to make it work though.

God that first night. The matress was so old that the springs had worn out, so Ric and I just kept rolling into eachother in the middle of it. On top of that we were sneezing and coughing all night because of the cat. I’m not writing this as a complaint, just as a funny note on how ridiculous that first night was.

The next day I did a trial at Fidel’s Cafe, pretty much a Wellington icon, and was hired. The next week we both organized our new room, sorting the bed out, using boxes as tables and dressers and putting some art up on the walls. The following week Ric found a job at Hotel Bristol and was hired to do what he loves, cook.

This little door can be found out the back of Fidel’s. I fell in love with it when I found it. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Leaving Wellington we are in a completely different situation. We both saved up a lot of money, met so many wonderful people here who were so welcoming, got to experience the World Cup in one of New Zealand’s biggest cities, beat our cat allergies (we both fell in love with the little guy) and we’ll even get to eat that free kebab.

Now that it’s time to say good bye to Wellington, I can’t help but look back on how we arrived and just give the city and all the people in it a massive thanks. I can’t speak on behalf of Ric, but I’ve never had a work place treat me so well and the people working there welcome me so much. We made a home here when we were literally close to being homeless. Everyone here was so amazing, it was a true realization of how kind the kiwi spirit is.

My favorite shot of Rondell, the best cat ever. Photo by Bobbi Lee Hitchon

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Buying a car abroad

Australia, Moving Abroad, New Zealand, Other, Tips & Facts, United Kingdom

Buying a car abroad

5 Comments 04 January 2012

Buying a car in a foreign country can be a daunting task, especially if you’re like me and have always relied on the help of friends or family who know about cars to help with your purchases at home.

The first time I bought a car abroad was in Australia. I have to admit that not much research went into the purchase of it. All that mattered was that my mate and I were able to afford it, as we were on a very tight budget.

Luckily we ended up with a fantastic car that got us from Melbourne all the way to Port Douglas in far North Queensland, with a little detour through the Blue Mountains and a few other little unplanned journeys.

This is the car I had in Australia – Photo by Richard John Hackey

However, when Bobbi and I bought our car in New Zealand we were in a far better position than I was in Australia. This meant that I had time to research what the best car for us would be and how to go about getting the best price.

Here are some tips that may help you on your way to getting your ideal travel mobile.

Set a price limit

By doing this you’ll initially give yourself a goal to save for, but also help narrow down your choices when searching.

Set a mileage limit

Setting the maximum amount of mileage you want in a car means you won’t be spending money on a car that looks nice but has been on the road for too long.

Research the car

Try and check out customer feedback on the models you are interested in. There were quite a few cars I saw that seemed fine but after a little detective work I was able to find out the common faults with certain models. You can read car reviews on sites like iSeeCars.

Where to buy your car

Start off by looking at verified sites like Trade Me in New Zealand or Gumtree in Australia. These sites will enable you to search for the car with what rough specifications you have. Through Trade Me I actually discovered a couple of auction houses that were in my area. I would have visited these if I hadn’t found such a bargain on Trade Me, but they are another good option.

Also try looking at bulletin boards in hostels. A lot of backpackers will post cars for sale there and if they have to leave the country asap, you could find a great deal.

Our newly purchased car in NZ – Photo By Bobbi Lee Hitchon

Cambelt (Timing Belt)

Most cars run using a cambelt. These need to be replaced every 100,00kms or so. If the cambelt goes whilst you have the car it’s going to cost between $800-$1100 to replace it. So make sure that the car has papers to prove that this has been done.

Buy Japanese

I’ve always been told to buy Japanese (Toyota, Nissan, Mazda etc.) when buying a second-hand car, because these cars have a better reputation for being reliable over longer distances.

Size of Car

You obviously need to take into consideration the amount of passengers and the amount of baggage you will be taking with you to decide what size car you’ll need. I wouldn’t recommend forking out for a 4×4 unless you intend on doing some serious off-roading.

Size of Engine

Depending on what you are going to be using the car for will depend on how big you want your engine size to be. Simply put, for traveling around cities and towns you need a relatively small engine, but for longer distances you’ll want a bigger engine that’s been designed for cruising.

Manual or Automatic

This is pretty obvious but don’t buy a manual car if you only possess an automatic license.

Hope this will be of some help to you.

Good Luck

This post was brought to you by iSeeCars.

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