In August 2021 I moved to South Korea to work as a native English teacher in the city of Daegu. Due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, all new arrivals into South Korea have to undergo a 14-day quarantine in a government approved hotel. If you are a Korean national or already have a Korean address, you are allowed to quarantine there. Since we are yet to move into our new homes, EPIK quarantined us at two hotels. Hotel Skypark Central Myeongdong and Hotel Skypark Hotel Kingstown Dongdaemun. I was placed in the Hotel Skypark Central Myeongdong.
On arrival into South Korea, we went through a series of well organised checkpoints. These included a temp check and a checkpoint where we showed our negative PCR results, a checkpoint where we downloaded a quarantine app on our phone and another checkpoint where this was set up by officials. They checked that we could be contacted either with a working Korean phone number or had a representative who could be called on behalf of us. We also were shown how to use the app. Not only does it track your phone’s location to ensure you do not leave the room, but also warns you if your phone has not been moved during the day. This is to try and stop people from leaving their phone behind and trying to escape! We have to record a self-diagnosis twice a day where we record any symptoms we are having as well as our temperature.
After these checkpoints we headed through immigration which was as normal. These hoops to jump through do add extra time but I thought it was efficient. After this we were given a sticker to identify which hotel we were going to. I met two others at baggage claim who were heading to the Myeongdong hotel so we all shared the taxi to the hotel to split the cost.
Once at the hotel, we paid the fee for quarantine upfront (1.56m ₩) and were helped up to our rooms. The whole hotel here is being used as a quarantine facility so it is luck of the draw with what type of room you are placed in. I was pretty lucky and got a room which I assume is normally used as a twin or triple room. It had a view out the back of the hotel onto office buildings and is spacious with lots of room to move around. It also comes complete with a huge bed, a must for quarantine!
As I say, it really is the luck of the draw, other colleagues have been placed in larger rooms with balconies, others have a view of the Seoul skyline. There are also those who have a view of a courtyard and a much smaller room so I feel very lucky with what I ended up with!
On the first night, as we had missed dinner, we were given a bag of snacks to tide us over. These included a cereal box, blueberry muffin, donut and mango pieces. The next day, as I had informed the hotel I was a vegetarian prior to arrival, I was given the vegetarian option for each meal.
This consisted of a salad with two pieces of fruit, trail mix and some form of protein (usually quail eggs or imitation crab). It also came with a chocopie, crisps and an orange juice. My stomach did not have much appetite on the first day and being presented with a salad for each meal was not my idea of fun whist jetlagged! After the first day and seeing what the meat eaters were offered, I decided to have the normal meal option for breakfast and dinner and a salad for lunch. This suited me much better.
Breakfast alternated between a savoury rice porridge and a sandwich. I will say that I am yet to be converted to savoury porridge with kimchi before 7am but I did enjoy the sandwich meal! These always came with a juice, cereal box and other snacks. For dinner we got a meat main, rice and a selection of 반찬 (banchan) which usually consisted of some type of kimchi, protein and sometimes pasta! We also always got a broth of some kind. This wasn’t particularly veggie friendly but I often had the broth, rice and kimchi together.
I made sure to bring a number of snacks with me and am so grateful I did. I brought cous cous to go with the salad and packets of instant noodles to eat if I was a bit more peckish.
Overall, the hotel is having to feed hundred of people, all of varying cultures, diets and appetites. I think with this in mind, the food was pretty good but I am so looking forward to getting out of here to try some different food!
I found that establishing a routine early on was so important in making my time in quarantine not only productive but also more enjoyable. Everyday I ran 1k up and down my room (so sorry whomever was below me!) and did a workout using a YouTube routine. I brought resistance bands with me which are a great light weight tool to bring with you to get a little extra out of your workouts. Making sure to move my body each day as been really important for me to feel good about myself even though I’m stuck in the same room.
I pushed myself to do something constructive with my afternoons, either completing the pre-orientation videos we were given to go over in quarantine, writing blog posts or studying Korean. Having a task to achieve for the day gave me something to work towards.
Of course, when else are you going to get so much time to do so little? I made sure to chill out too by reading, watching Netflix, catching up on Love Island and other TV shows.
The prospect of food three times a day also added some structure as did washing up the dishes and doing laundry. All of this I did in the bathroom sink making it very multipurpose! Make sure to bring handwash detergent with you as well as a little bottle of dish soap. I ended up using the provided toothbrushes as a makeshift scrubbing brush to wash down the dishes.
Keeping in Touch
Whilst in isolation, it is so important to keep in touch with other people. As I am quarantining here with hundreds of other colleagues, we have been able to keep in touch with group chats and provide advice and banter to our situation. I also made sure to call my parents each day and best friends to catch up and break up the day.
My quarantine experience hasn’t been too bad. It is isolating and can get dull but having a routine has really helped me maintain a sense of normalcy. It is normal to have a bump at some point and question why you put yourself in this position but at the end of the day I know it will be worth it!
Today is freedom day and we'll move onto the next step of our adventure which is orientation! We'll be staying on a university campus for five days of training. After this we'll head down to Daegu to finally meeting our co-teachers, schools and apartments.
I most likely won't post for a fortnight as I settle in but will be back soon with a run-by of orientation and a apartment tour!
If you had asked me in January 2020 if I thought I would be an EFL (English Foreign Language) teacher in 18 months’ time I would have honestly said I hadn't even given it much consideration.
As we all know - two months after in March 2020, COVID-19 really hit the UK shores and I found myself furloughed and with a LOT of spare time. Over the next six months whilst on furlough, I caught up on long overdue blog posts on here, spent time with my family and explored new hobbies. Amongst all of this, I also started to consider new opportunities and ventures as the likelihood of retaining my current position got smaller. Being at home made me confident that I had not yet satisfied my travel itch so I researched various possibilities for jobs outside of the UK.
Which is when I started considering teaching abroad. Not only did it sound like a good fit but would allow me to get creative, share western cultures and embrace the challenge of working in a country that doesn’t speak my native tongue. I loved working with kids in the past, once with Camp America and once as a nanny so felt teaching was just one more step. My initial research into EFL led me to the EPIK Programme which I thought sounded right up my street.
EPIK (English Programme in Korea) is a public-school teaching scheme which allows native English speakers to teach in South Korea. The contract is one year with the opportunity to extend. You will be placed in one of the metropolitan or provincial areas of South Korea and teach at either one or multiple schools depending on your placement. Your own apartment is provided by the school as is a decent wage and many other benefits such as health insurance.
You will teach with a Korean co-teacher in the classroom and teach in either Elementary, Middle or High school. The programme accepts a few hundred new teachers twice a year and it also means you have a large support system with you when navigating through the process as well as in the airport, through quarantine, orientation and finally getting to your schools.
Although I did look at other countries to see what their EFL programmes offered, South Korea appealed to me because I already had an interest in the culture, and as I researched more, I found myself fascinated with the language, history and geography too.
South Korea has a rich and varied history that includes ancient dynasties, tragic colonial periods and war and in the last 50 years or so, a rapidly growing economy and society. Despite this growing movement to a fast-paced and modern lifestyle, Korea at heart holds onto centuries old traditions and ways of life.
My EPIK Journey started over a year ago now. Once I knew it was the path I wanted to go down, I signed up to complete my TEFL qualification. I did this from June-September 2020 whilst I was furloughed. I really enjoyed having something productive to do with my time and doing the course cemented in me that teaching would be something I would really enjoy. In August 2020 I applied to EPIK with my application form that consisted of three essays, one lesson plan and letters of reference from previous employers.
I spent the next month or so obtaining all the various documents that I needed to submit if I was to pass my interview. These included DBS checks, apostilled birth certificates and degrees and transcripts. I won’t go in depth into the application process here as there is plenty of advice online although the process can be confusing with a lot of hoops to jump!
By October I had secured an interview. This was nerve wracking, but my recruiter helped loads with practice questions that made the real interview actually laid back and enjoyable. I found out a few days after that I had passed through to the next round. I sent my documents off and had to wait another two months to hear where was I was going to be placed in the country. I got this news in December, just before the New Year and found out I would be in Daegu which was my first choice!
I chose Daegu as I wanted to be in a busy city but didn’t fancy the huge metropolis of Seoul. Daegu is in the south west and is surrounded by mountains with a population of 2.5 million people. It has plenty to do including incredible hikes up the nearby mountains such as Palgongsan, hundreds of cute and quirky cafes and a large downtown area which even features an amusement park with a Ferris Wheel over the city. It also has great KTX train connections to both Seoul and Busan so I hope I’ll be able to get out and about a lot.
From December I started the process of preparing to get my visa until bad news came a few days after my placement news arrived. Due to the Alpha (Kent) variant of Coronavirus, South Korea made the decision to suspend visa issuance. This wasn’t resolved until April 2021 and as a result the UK and South African intake for Spring 2021 had to defer to go in the Fall. At the time I was devastated and the idea of waiting another six months felt like too long. Luckily, my job allowed me to stay on and I was still living with my parents which meant I was safe and comfortable until we were able to fly.
I used these six months to save more money, spend time with friends as restrictions eased and also learn more Korean. I took a 14-week Korean course with the Korean Embassy in London online and was able to get a head start on learning the language. I’ve really enjoyed language learning again and hope I’ll continue to improve for as long as I am here.
By May we had confirmation of our placements once again and by July were applying for our visas. Mine luckily came really quickly and meant I could also book my flight making it feel a lot more real! The final hurdle was to test negative for COVID prior to the flight which was a really anxious time for me and my family as cases continued to rise across the UK. Luckily our sacrifices were worth it and we found out 24 hours before the flight that I could board! COVID certainly made the process more stressful but it was all worth it.
After flying into Incheon International on the 7th August 2021 we took a taxi to Seoul where we are quarantining for 14 days. From here we will have a 5-day orientation and will then move to our cities or regions to meet our co-teacher, schools and where we will be living for the next year.
I’m so happy to be travelling and exploring again and look forward to sharing more about my new life here in South Korea with you! I’ll share more about day-to-day life as an EPIK teacher, what to see, do and eat in Daegu and hopefully blogs of my travels around this beautiful country.
In 2018, after a year travelling and working in Australia, I decided to pack up my life into my trusty backpack once again and try my luck in a new country.
Fresh off the plane from Tonga, I arrived into Auckland in the early hours of the morning. Due to my early arrival, I decided to stay in a hotel that night and despite the comfy bed struggled to sleep wondering what my fate would be in this strange new city.
The next day, after an overpriced and underwhelming room service breakfast, I headed on over to Oakland Lodge, a hostel in the popular little suburb of Mount Eden. Although I was booked in originally only for a week, I ended up staying for over a month. During my search for a permanent job in Auckland, I helped clean the hostel in exchange for free board. I also helped on reception a handful of times. Over this month I met and made some amazing friends from all over the world, discovered the joys of living in a hostel and made the place my home.
Although it was unexpected, I have really fond memories of my time staying at Oaklands and will be forever grateful that it gave me such an amazing foundation to my time in New Zealand.
I spent my time off from working at the hostel applying for jobs and attending interviews. I had my sights set on a travel agent or tourism sector role and applied for many of the popular chains in the city. I had a few call-backs from various travel firms and even did a few test shifts but finally got an email one day offering me an interview to work for STA Travel. This wasn’t a company I thought I’d hear back from, but as a well-known brand name from back home I was excited to try for the role.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I had secured a job as a Travel Expert in the country's biggest store at Sylvia Park shopping mall. With this, I also found a townhouse around 20 minutes away from work and the city and close to the water and a beach. I really felt like I’d hit the jackpot and started my new life in Auckland.
The next few months were an odd transitional time for me as I felt a detachment from my previous backpacking lifestyle as I fell into the expat category. I often went back to Oakland or it’s sister hostel to see friends and be around a group of nomadic and spontaneous travellers again. My life in Auckland became more routine, I joined a gym, met friends for dinner or brunch and went to work. This took me some time to get used to but after I met more people in the community and got closer to my work colleagues it all fitted into place.
I really loved my job and the people I got to meet through the work. My customers were all fantastic and it was so fun to help people push themselves to try new things or simply to get from A to B. My colleagues were also all amazing and made every moment in the office fun and entertaining. Through STA I was able to get a great start in the travel industry, meet some amazing people and visit some beautiful places. It is truly a shame that due to the current pandemic the company had to close its doors but hopefully in the future, a company with the same values and beliefs will take its place.
My job helped me to visit Fiji for the second time, take a trip down to Wellington with Kiwi Experience, visit the Bay of Islands with Stray and ski Queenstown with Oz Snow. I also was able to plan a unique trip back to the UK with the expertise I gained from the job. Thanks STA for everything, I’ll always bleed blue.
I loved living in Auckland and my suburb of Point England. It was quiet but had a beach and fantastic walk and bike paths around the estuary. On days off I could catch a bus to the famous Mission Beach or head in the city to experience the bar and nightlife. I also joined local meetup groups and was able to head to areas a little further out of the city for hikes and exploring days. Meetup groups were a great way to meet new people in the city who share your interests.
My housemates were all fantastic and luckily, we all got on well. We had a relaxed sort of companionship and watched a few TV shows together and on occasion went out as well. We all had different work schedules which meant I didn’t always see them a lot, but I was glad we all got on, I really did luck out with my housing situation.
My day to day life in Auckland was quite mundane. I spent a lot of time at work, often working overtime because I loved it but because I also wanted to prove myself. To counteract the pressure of work, I spent a lot of time in the gym which was a short walk from the office. I trained at an all-female gym and although the thought of that seemed foreign to me at the beginning, I grew to love it and found it very odd to go back to an all-sex gym once again! I loved the staff and decided to take the jump of having a PT in the second half of my time in Auckland. I saw a lot of progress and my gym journey was one of the things I was most proud of during my time in New Zealand. It is also something I really miss and want to get back into in the future when our gyms fully re-open.
Of course, I made sure to make the most of my time in New Zealand and tried to get out and explore the country as much as possible! My first trip out of the city was to the Bay of islands in December. After much debate about how I should spend my Christmas, I decided to book a three-day tour which coincided with Christmas day. This trip out of the city was just what I needed and through it I met a great friend, Nickie, who experienced several events in Auckland with me. Christmas Day was an odd one as we drove back into the city under a backdrop of rain and grey skies. Our Christmas dinner that night was pasta in a hostel kitchen and champagne in a hot tub, but it was mainly nice to be with others for the day.
My next trip was in January to the Coromandel. This trip was taken with a friend I had met on my travels in Tonga. We spent three days in cosy accommodation on the peninsula and me, Natalie and her sister enjoyed a mini break full of hiking, swimming and driving around the beautiful Coromandel.
In February, Holly came to visit from Australia, and we drove to Rotorua, Taupo and Tongariro Crossing on a four-day adventure. Spending more time with my best friend was what we both needed, and we added some more silly stories to our list.
In March, my friend Steph who I met in Oakwood’s came back to the North Island and we drove up to the Bay of Islands. This was my second time and the weather was much better, meaning we had a chance to get a tan and see dolphins.
April was the month my parents came to stay, and we flew down to the South Island to have a nine-day adventure together. This was such a fun trip and I was touched that they made the trip across the world to spend time with me and explore New Zealand.
In June, I made the journey back across the Tasman to see the Austin’s and the farm. I had been badly missing stability and family over my first few months and really missed the family who had welcomed me with open arms many months before. I spent four days on the farm and was amazed at how big all of the kids had gotten, each of them older and able to do more. We had a family cookout on one of the afternoons and with my favourite dog, Sophie’s head on my lap, I was happy to have made the journey but content in the fact that I had to leave again.
In July I was lucky enough to head to Fiji, this time with Nickie. Due to an incentive at work I had earnt free flights to Nadi so took them up on the offer. We spent five days there once again exploring the Yasawa Islands and soaking up some sun and amazing views.
I quickly traded in the bikini for ski gear as a few weeks later in August I flew down to Queenstown. I went solo to experience three different ski resorts in the area and really loved this independent trip to tick off something I had really wanted to do with my time in New Zealand.
In September I made my final trip in New Zealand down to Wellington. I took the Northern Explorer train down to the capital and the Kiwi Experience bus back up with an overnight stop in Taupo. I was glad to get down to the capital to explore as well as have a final run of the North Island on the way back up. This was a lovely final round up of my time in the country.
After a full year in New Zealand, I packed up my things once again, left my job and jumped on a plane heading back to the UK. It was a bittersweet ending as I felt I was really getting in my stride in my job and my life in Auckland. However, the climate didn’t seem to agree with me over there and along with previous issues with my sinuses, I wasn’t able to smell, taste or breathe at all through my nose over the year. This uncomfortable condition made the decision for me that the best place for me was to go back home and have surgery. I was sad that it was for health reasons that I couldn’t stay longer but overall, I really grew during my time in New Zealand.
The first few weeks in New Zealand were unexpected but fun and kept the backpacking lifestyle alive. The next few months were hard as I adjusted to a new routine and lifestyle but by April I was in my stride and enjoying what Auckland had to offer. I became more confident in myself and my ability to travel alone and spend time alone as well as being proud of the friendships I made along the way.
Although my year here didn’t go as I first planned or expected, I learnt a lot and gained a lot from it, and because of this New Zealand will always hold a special place in my heart.
For anyone thinking of working abroad in Australia or New Zealand when the time comes to be able to do so again, I have posts which go into more depth of different aspects of living and working abroad.
One thing on my bucket list for my time in New Zealand was to experience skiing in the Southern Hemisphere. After lots of research of the best companies and options for me, I decided fly down to Queenstown to spend five days skiing with Oz Snow.
Oz Snow offered a five day/ four night ski package which included a stay at Reavers Lodge in a dorm room, three days ski pass to the various ski resorts in the area, transfer from the airport to the hostel, a free meal and discounted ski gear. For all of this I paid around $500 NZD which I thought was a fantastic deal. Skiing is an expensive hobby so to be able to ski three different resorts with discounted gear was a fantastic offer.
I flew down to Queenstown with Jetstar and was met at the airport by a friendly staff member. They drove me to the hostel where I checked in, hired ski gear and was given instructions on how to get my ski passes for the next few days. I made my way into town with my vouchers and headed to each ski resorts office. Exchanging my vouchers for ski passes was very easy and I was also able to book onto a transfer bus to pick me up from the end of the hostel’s road for each day for an additional fee.
I had been to Queenstown once before so knew my way around the town and where all of the main sights were.
Back at the hostel, I met my dorm mates who were friendly and headed upstairs for the free meal the hostel provided on the first night. Many of the fellow travellers in the hostel were from Australia since backpackers from further afield would traditionally stay in long term accommodation. We had a fun evening bonding and although no one was skiing in my area the next day I was happy that I’d been able to connect to others staying there.
The next morning, I had an early start - although not the earliest of the trip! – and headed down the road to be picked up by the bus transfer to Coronet Peak ski resort. This is the closest resort to Queenstown with only a 30-minute drive connecting the two. Although Coronet Peak is known for being a good beginner resort and for often having icy conditions, I was pleasantly surprised by my day here.
The weather was probably the biggest factor in that it was a clear day with a fresh covering of snow on the slopes to cover up the icy patches. I managed to explore the whole resort over the course of the day and enjoyed the variety on offer. Although there were a higher percentage of beginner slopes, who doesn’t enjoy a cruisy day? The food options on the slopes were a little more limited but I still was able to find a small café with seating outside so I could enjoy a hot chocolate out in the sun. I returned to the hostel in the late afternoon feeling excited for the next few days of skiing.
That evening I found my hostel room to be pretty empty so walked down to the town and found a burger joint to stop and eat at. I had annoyingly lost signal and data in a very weird blip on my first day so distracted myself in the evening with a book by the fire.
The next day I wasn’t so lucky with the weather. Again, it was an early start as I met the transfer bus for the hour drive to the Remarkables ski area. The drive up is pretty dramatic, we actually attempted it in April in our own car but the steep sides and narrow roads caused us to chicken out and turn around. This time though, I was in a huge coach and just tried to not look out the window too often as we made the hair-bend turns up the mountain. Although the drive up offered amazing, if not terrifying views of the valleys below, at the end of the road and the start of the ski resort, the mountain was shrouded in cloud. This, and the combination of high winds meant that some of the resorts lifts were closed.
Back in 2016 when I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, I skied often in Snowbird ski resort. One day, I was feeling overzealous and decided to travel to the other side of the mountain by myself. On arrival, I realised that this side of the mountain was heavily clouded in, and with feet of new powder and no real sense of direction it led to a heart stopping half an hour as I attempted to make it down the slope, with only the faint shadow of a lift wire to guide me.
With this experience still firmly at the forefront of the sensible side of my mind, I chose to go carefully at the Remarkables, taking on routes I could see from the bottom of the chair lift and ones which were frequented by other skiers. After a lunch inside warming up, I decided to be a little more adventurous and try out another side of the mountain. This was a good call as the cloud has lifted here slightly, meaning I had more visibility to really enjoy the piste.
Overall, the Remarkables seems to be a good ski area with a lot of versatility and a great central bowl for ease of use. However, due to the cloudy and windy conditions, half of the resort was shut off and of the resort that was open I only skied what I was comfortable with when you can’t see what you’re doing! Weather has such a huge impact on how enjoyable a ski day is, no matter the quality of the snow or resort. Luckily my last day was a good improvement on the weather!
After a cold and wind-blown day at the Remarkables, I opted to stay in that night and have dinner once again at the hostel. We had some new dorm mates who were keen to socialise, so I spent the evening in the hostel bar sharing stories with other travellers.
The next morning was my last day skiing and the longest day of all. I had a very early start and blearily made my way to the transfer bus for the hour and a half drive to Cardrona. This was the resort I had been most excited for as I heard only good things about the quality of the snow, the extent of the slopes and the facilities. When I first got to the top of the mountain, I was disappointed to see a lot of cloud obscuring much of the resort but I quickly found a hidden gem lower down where the cloud lifted making for perfect ski conditions.
Throughout the day I followed the sun and ended up finding some great slopes with new powder and blue-sky conditions. I also spotted a lovely little café to have lunch in and enjoyed lapping up the sun whilst I could. Cardrona is quite expansive and I didn’t get to ski it all since I tended to favour the better light conditions but overall, I was impressed with the quality of the snow and the facilities on offer. It is worth the higher price tag and I can see why it is a firm favourite for the more intermediate to advanced skier with plenty of runs to keep them entertained.
After a busy day on the mountain, made even longer by the long drive back to Queenstown, I was ready for an early night. I was so tired I even missed a small earthquake in the night and woke to worried text messages from friends up in Auckland!
On my final morning in Queenstown I went for a walk around the popular gardens and also got a solution to the mysterious loss of my data and signal from my phone. On the Queenstown beach my phone rebooted and magically restored itself!
I was so glad I came down to Queenstown to experience skiing in New Zealand. I loved how I got to explore three areas in the span of just three days and fully make the most of my short time. As a solo traveller it was also the perfect amount of time for me as although I only met a few travellers in the hostel I never felt really isolated. I would recommend using Oz Snow for a solo or group ski trip for a cost effective and hassle free option for a ski holiday. They also offer ski trips in Australia, Japan, USA and Canada so are worth checking out.
Over my year in New Zealand I really embraced solo travel and found all of my trips memorable and exciting. I loved being able to do what I wanted when I wanted and the chance to meet so many people along the way. It led to a new found confidence which I brought over to my next big trip back home via LA, Mexcio, Cuba and Amsterdam.
My final journey in New Zealand was to visit the one major place I hadn’t yet explored, the capital Wellington. I researched the best and cheapest way to visit the city and chose to travel on the Northern Explorer on the way down and to take the Kiwi Experience bus back up to Auckland.
Kiwi Experience organised this whole route called the Northern Express and it made for a varied and fun few days.
On the morning of my train down to Wellington I hopped on the bus and made my way to The Strand train station, a little used station on the outskirts of the CBD and the home to this famous railway. The journey is a total time of 12 hours and takes in much of the changing landscape across the North Island. The train itself offers customers a great relaxed experience with skyroofs and large windows to offer all customers a great viewing experience.
I was sat in an aisle seat which was a shame but still got a great view of all the amazing sights whizzing by. A bonus is the open carriage which allows you to get a closer look at the scenery. I made sure to go here every so often to get some fresh air and check out points of interest along the route.
Throughout the long journey, the staff keep you informed of interest points and where you are on the map. The first few hours are rolling hills as you go past Hamilton and Taupo. The landscape then drastically changes to marsh and rugged hillside as you enter the National Park. You also get an amazing view of the various volcanos dotting the landscape. This part of the journey is also home to the popular and impressive Raurimu Spiral which allows the railway to make a 139-metre ascent on to the National Park plateau.
After this exciting part of the journey, you continued south past several small towns and over huge viaducts which all overlook beautiful rivers and valleys. As you approach Wellington, the train comes to skirt the coast, giving views of Kapiti Island which is mainly uninhabited to preserve the fragile ecosystem on the island. You approach this part of the journey around dearly evening which in the winter means you get amazing views of the sunset.
Finally, the train arrives in Wellington at approx. 7pm. I walked from the station to my hostel, The Marion which was around a 20-minute walk. There are plenty of taxis and buses in the area though for those who don’t fancy the trek! I stayed in Te Aro, just off Cuba street in a modern hostel. The accommodation looked amazing on Hostelworld and was just as impressive in real life. It seemed to have a few long-termers staying there due to the nice furnishings and social areas.
I stayed in a 10-bed dorm which was unique in that it offered full privacy for all guests. I think this style is becoming more popular now, but the luxury of having a curtain to shut off your bed from the room is great! The downside of this is that people do tend to keep to themselves more in the dorm and not socialise. I didn’t mind this too much and spent the evening relaxing before getting an early night.
The next day I had a relaxed wake up, I was on a little holiday after all! I planned to visit the National Museum, Te Papa and was told this would take up most of the day as there was so much to see. The Museum is free to enter and has some amazing exhibitions to appeal to all ages.
The exhibitions ranged from interactive displays of the country’s formation and geography to Maori history and artefacts. There is even a giant squid! Te Papa is renowned as one of the best museums in the world and is a must-see attraction when you visit New Zealand. I ended up spending around four hours in the museum, but you could do less or more depending on personal preference. I also didn’t visit any of the paid exhibitions.
I then headed back to the hostel to relax a little, finding a cosy spot to chill in one of the social hubs on each floor of the hostel. That evening I had arranged to meet up with a traveller I had met all the way back in December on my tour of the Bay of Islands. Michelle was living in Wellington and we had a lovely night catching up and eating in an amazing Mexican place which served fantastic cocktails.
On my final full day in Wellington I had a planned a busy day. First up was a tour of the Beehive, New Zealand’s parliament. These tours are free but need to be booked in advance. As a lover of history and politics, this was a fascinating insight into other countries politics and how it compares to other nations. I was impressed with their handling of party power and the general success the current political party was having in New Zealand. Sadly, Aunty Jacinda was not in the building but I have since seen her at an All Blacks game in Auckland (from a distance!)
Next on my itinerary was to take the famous Wellington Cable Car and explore the gardens above the city. The cable car is an old staple of the city and although was used for some residents to access their homes on the hill, was mainly created as a Victorian tourist attraction. At the top there is a cable car museum showing this Victorian history, a café and restaurants and many other attractions on the hill. After a bite to eat and a drink in the sunshine I visited the small museum and started my walk through the gardens.
Although the sun had been shining when I first got there and ate, I noticed a band of dark clouds coming in my direction. Making a spontaneous decision, I decided to make a detour to the Space Place Carter Observatory and spent the next two hours exploring the exhibits and watching the impressive light show and cinema story about the Maori story of creation. (I’ve written about this in my previous post on the Bay of Islands)
It was a good thing that I decided to explore the observatory as the weather turned drastically to heavy rainfall giving me an excuse to really explore the Space Place. Once the rain slowed down, I walked back down to the city, abet slightly soggy. I detoured through the botanical gardens which were impressive and varied. In better weather I would have spent more time checking them out, but I was more focused on getting back to the hostel and getting dry! That evening I got comfy and got some pizza from one of my favourite pizza chains in New Zealand, Sals.
I didn’t manage to meet many people in my hostel and as such had very relaxed evenings in but I didn’t mind that after two long days filled with sights. The next morning, I checked out of the hostel and made my way to the Kiwi Experience bus pick up point. The journey back up North took two days as we stopped off in Taupo. This made for a scenic ride back with good company.
I was glad I made my little trip down south to Wellington and was even happier that I did it with Kiwi Experience and not by plane. It isn’t the traditional Kiwi Experience one usually seeks out, but I enjoyed the journey by road and rail and the added bonus of a stop off at Taupo.
Wellington was vibrant and I really enjoyed my time there. Part of me wishes I had explored New Zealand before I settled so I could have got a flavour for all parts of the country but as I headed back up to my little home in Auckland’s suburbs I realised how lucky I was to have the opportunity to explore so much of what new Zealand has to offer.
Hi! I'm Holly, a twenty something traveller from the UK. Over the years I've been lucky enough to live and travel in many countries. I've studied in America and working holidayed in Australia and New Zealand! I currently live in South Korea. Learn more about me below!
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