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New Zealand, Travel

The Campervan Style – New Zealand’s South Island 1-Week Itinerary


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New Zealand South Island in a week! It is definitely do-able but not all of South Island.

The itinerary revolves around the two main cities in the South; Christchurch and Queesntown. This itinerary was done in the middle of winter (July) and I did not come across any situation fouled by bad weather. My trip was absolutely blessed but due diligence checks for weather and road conditions are definitely recommended for winter travels. Road conditions can be found at NZ Transport Agency.

With a certified self-contained campervan, you can literally park anywhere out of the restricted zone (mainly cities). This is the freedom that comes with it and no worries about rushing to a booked accommodation for the night. It feels like clearing checkpoints in The Amazing Race. Check out 8-Day Campervan Road Trip In NZ South Island for NZD900 because it contains the budget plan and other useful details.

This route covers about 1300km, inclusive of all the detours along the way. You can choose to do it another way round which is Queenstown – Christchurch. I have heard about the gorgeous views from the plane surrounding Queenstown airport, hence it is better if you land (more air time) than to fly from there. There are certain roads such as the crown range road that is treacherous for larger motorhomes. Rental companies are unable to stop you from going there but insurance does not cover should anything happens.

Day 1: Christchurch

It is recommended that you arrange for the flight timing into Christchurch to be early so that you are able to check out the campervan rental in good daylight. If you are flying from Auckland, Air Zealand is a good choice because they are reliable and priced reasonably (checked-in luggage included). I paid about NZD190 for a return leg; Auckland – Christchurch and Queenstown – Auckland. Note that flights in and out of Queenstown usually cost a premium above other cities. I recommend to skip hanging around Christchurch and consider stocking up groceries for the campervan instead. Drive out of Christchurch to find a free campground or look for a powered site. The best app for such a trip is Campermate. Everything you need to know about campground, from discounts to dumping sites can be found on it.

Spend the night at Chamberlains Ford Reserve, it is a free campground.

Chamberlains Ford Reserve

Day 2: Lake Tekapo

Start the day by heading to Lake Tekapo. The route along the way gets more scenic as you get closer to Lake Tekapo. Cut into Highway 79 near Orari River to merge to Highway 8 (road leading to Lake Tekapo) instead of the longer route.

Spend the night at Lake Tekapo Motels & Holiday Park. It costs NZD50 a night for a powered site. Literally, paying for view and electricity hook up. I recommend to alternate the days between powered sites and freedom camping because you get to charge the campervan (which means your devices too) and it is friendly to your wallet too. The view at this holiday park was gorgeous. My proposal took place on the following morning right after sunrise!

DJI Spark at work

She said YES!

Powered site at Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park

Ducks frolicking in the morning

Church of the Good Shepard at Lake Tekapo 

Day 3: Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook

After a night spent at the stunning Lake Tekapo, enjoy the drive up to Mount Cook. Drop by Lake Pukaki Visitor Center to get some fresh salmon and admire the beauty of the lake. The weather forecast predicted heavy snow on Mount Cook but roads were still opened the next morning! Continue the drive to Wanaka through the scenic Lindis Pass. Do not miss the Lake Wanaka Tree if you are a fan of it, definitely instagram-worthy.

Spend the night at Wanka Lakeview Holiday Park. It costs NZD40 a night for a powered site.

Lake Pukaki

The sashimi choice was perfect for making Pokebowls!

The Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook was covered with snow

Perfect for scenes in Game of Thrones

A glimpse of our campervan. Pardon my face.

Day 4: Queenstown

You can choose to do a few days here consecutively or make side trips to Milford Sound, Te Anau or Glenorchy. Glenorchy is where stunning scenes from Lord of the Rings were filmed. Try out the Ziptrek Ecotours, it brings you from the top of the gondola down to the bottom. Along the way, you zipline through the pine forests with beautiful views of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. Their guides are awesome and they introduce you to the forests and the eco projects. Special thanks to Ziptrek Ecotours for being so fantastic, especially to our guides (Aashray and Tom of July 2017) for a memorable time. Tickets for the Queenstown gondola and luge are sold separately from Ziptrek. If you have problems finding a parking lot near the public gondola parking (free for 4 hours hence super popular), consider buying the gondola tickets through Queenstown Lakeview Holiday Park because you get to park there for up to 5 hours. It is a short walk from the gondola office.

All ready for the luge

Marvel at the gorgeous view as you luge down the slopes

Ziptreking through the pine forest

Don’t miss out Fergburger and Lone Star if you are looking for nice food in Queenstown. Need some cookies or sweet treats? Head to Cookie Muncher Cookie Bar to try out their cookies and drinks menu. 

It is expensive to spend the night in Queenstown, some people chose to stay at the Airbnbs near Frankton for a cheaper deal. For first time users of Airbnb, you can click on my link to get NZD45 credit to be used in your future bookings, more if you start hosting (If you sign up via this link, I get NZD45 too).

Spend the night at Lake Hayes Campground which is located at the northern shore of Lake Hayes. For alternatives nearer to Queenstown, you can check out the Shotover River Campground and Rotary Club of Queenstown South Carpark. All these freedom campgrounds are only for certified self-contained vehicles, their locations can be found on Campermate. Most importanly, they are free!

Day 5: Te Anau

Start the day early by embarking on a long but scenic drive to Te Anau. Once there, you can take a day trip to the Te Anau Glowworm Caves or Doubtful Sound. If you are ambitious and want to skip Te Anau and head straight to Milford Sound, take note of the super long drive to get there. There would not be any energy left to enjoy the Milford Sound Cruise so I would not recommend that. Instead, break the journey up and spend the night at Te Anau. The evening we got to Te Anau, the route leading to Milford Sound (highway 94) was closed because of snowfall. However, the Kiwis cleared it the first thing next morning. Kudos NZ Transport Agency!

Spend the night at Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park. I found a great deal on Campermate for the holiday park offering 30% off the listed price of NZD40 a night. We ended up staying two nights there because it was too beautiful. It is one of my favourite camping spot in South Island so far.

We woke up on the 2nd morning with a fresh coat of snow all around

Day 6: Milford Sound

The original plan was to drive to Milford Sound for the 12pm cruise and then head all the way back to Queenstown. But as mentioned, we decided to use Te Anau as our launch point to Milford Sound. From Te Anau, it takes about 2-2.5 hours and you get to experience the Homer Tunnel en route to Milford Sound. The usual cruise takes about 2 hours, at least for the one we had with Cruise MilfordThe experience at the 8th Wonder of The World was breathtaking because there are so much to be seen, from wildlife to cascading waterfalls. Thanks to Cruise Milford for the opportunity! 

Milford Road is extremely scenic, one of my favourite is definitely the Eglinton Valley.

The landscape changed as we got closer to Homer Tunnel

A Kea came to check out our camper van while waiting for Homer Tunnel traffic, it is the only alpine parrot in the world and native to South Island, New Zealand

Cruise Milford is the one at berth 3

Soak up the sceneries before heading back to Te Anau. Spend the night at Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park (same as the previous night).

Day 7: Queenstown

Continue on the drive back to Queenstown and spend the rest of the day easy there. Be sure to check out the Onsen Hot Pools because they are perfect for a winter getaway. I advise to not rush flying off on the same day. Instead, spend the night at one of the freedom campground near Queenstown and book the flight out next morning. This is so that you have time to pack your campervan and do some logistics before returning it. There is a dump station at the BP station in Frankton if you are going to drop off the campervan at the airport.

The view from Onsen Hot Pools private room, you can see the shotover jet in action along the river

Go for the Tandeki package for a better premium experience

A for effort by Onsen Hot Pools

This is my itinerary so far, so readers feel free to amend it to suit your needs. I hope this post is helpful to future travellers to plan their South Island trip.

Europe, Travel, United Kingdom

Budget UK Itinerary – How To Do A 10 Day UK Road Trip For £400


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I came back from a UK road trip with about GBP400 lesser in my pocket, but gained experiences that are worth many folds more. This budget is exclusive of the air tickets, so add in the cost of airfare from which ever country you are flying from to the UK. The cost of traveling in the UK is definitely not on the cheap side as compared to backpacking Southeast Asia or South America. This can put a big dent in any budget traveller’s pocket. In view of the significant drop in sterling pound against major currencies, it makes a trip to the UK less expensive. My advice is to get away from the big cities and you would not just feel friendlier prices, but people too. Before you carry on to read the breakdown of the road trip cost, I need to emphasise that SCOTLAND IS BEAUTIFUL.

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The Old Man of Storr

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Rough pit stops of the trip

  • Car 

This is the most important part of the journey and you would want to get this cost as low as possible. I rented a 2016 Alfa Romeo Giulietta S with a 2.0 diesel engine from Sixt at GBP270, with pick-up at Birmingham and drop off at London. This comes to around GBP27 per day. I chose the cheapest of the automatic cars and was absolutely blessed to get this sporty hatchback.  The optimum number of people sharing the car is 2-3, depending on how much of space is a priority to you. Also, try to get cars with diesel engines because they are more fuel-efficient. I spent about GBP200 for 2100 miles driven. Gas prices are not cheap compared to the US. It is at an average of GBP1.1 per litre, similar to Singapore. I went with the basic insurance that was included with the price, those extras could add up significantly. Most of the cheap car rentals that you can find provide manual cars. This appears to be the case in UK, Europe perhaps. For manual car drivers, you are in luck because automatic car rentals can cost almost twice. This is in contrast with car rentals in the US where they provide mostly automatic cars. I got an automatic one because there are heaps of hilly terrains in the UK. There are not much toll roads in the UK except for the congestion charge in central London. Parking cost can add up and is unavoidable in big cities. Always spend some time to look for free street parking because they might be just one street away. The shortcut is to ask the local residents.

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Baysbrown campsite, Lake District

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  • Accommodation

For these 9 nights, there were 3 days of camping, 3 days of Airbnb and 3 days of my dorm. The cheapest form of accommodation is camping. The average cost for camping is around GBP15 a night for a tent and a car. I highly recommend camping because you get a chance to experience the wilderness. The average cost of Airbnb is around GBP30 a night for two person. Consider putting Airbnb nights in between camping days to freshen up. One big advantage of this is that you are able to do your laundry at the host apartment instead of paying for it at public areas. My camping experience in Scotland was ruined by the ridiculous sand flies attacks. Apparently, they are dominant in summer months, especially in Isle of Skye. You may want to take this into account by preparing full clothing or sand flies repellent.

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Sunset at Ambleside, Lake District

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Trail at Honister Pass

  • Places to go

The highlights of my trip are mainly the great outdoors and brief visits to the cities. Snowdonia National Park in Wales is recommended for hikers because it has an extensive network of trails. Lake District in North-West England is one of the most popular parks in the UK. It is huge so be prepared to spend a few days exploring there. On the way up to the incredible Isle of Skye, spend a night exploring the Fort William/Ben Nevis region because it is absolutely beautiful. Visit Glenfinnan Viaduct to catch the famous Harry Potter Jacobite train passing through. There are some nice hiking trails to get different views of the train tracks. Once you get to Isle of Skye, the landscape changes to National-Geographic-like. You need at least 3 days to get a feel of the Isle of Skye. One of the must-go is the Old Man of Storr. The trail up is moderate but the view from the top is breathtaking. There are lots of sand flies near the parking area and the starting part of the trail, so wear light coloured clothes and cover yourself up. Set up the base in the Portree because of its central location. It has a photogenic harbour with nice restaurants. The nice cities among these national parks are Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, York, Oxford and of course London. If you are itchy for some cheap outlet shopping, head to Bicester Village or Cheshire Oaks. My advice is to stick to European brands instead of American ones.

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The trail up to The Old Man of Storr

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Oxford

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Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

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Summer night at Lake District

  • Food

Eating out is definitely not cheap in the UK, an asian takeout is about GBP 6-8. If you are running longer camping trips, it pays to cook at the campsite. Groceries are cheap at supermarkets such Tesco and Sainsbury’s. I cannot emphasise further how much these supermarkets helped in reducing food cost. Look out for the deli section, they have reduced roasted whole chicken at GBP 2-3. If you take the public buses around in the UK, there are fast food outlet coupons behind the ticket which will help to save some money. These outlets are such as Macdonalds and Burger King. It costs GBP2 for a Big Mac and regular fries with the coupon, definitely a steal.

  • Miscellaneous

If you are looking for a data card, think about if you really need it. Most of the highways and national parks have no reception or just support calling, at least for Giffgaff and O2. I paid GBP15 for 4GB of data and 1000 minutes of talk time. Places with wifi are plentiful in cities. Affordable camping gears can be bought from stores like GO Outdoors and SportsDirect. Sleeping bags and tents are crucial to protect from the outdoors elements and cold nights, even during summer months.

Final breakdown based on per person (twin sharing)

Car: 135.46

Gas for 2100 miles: 100.20

Parking: 1.6

Airbnb for 3 nights: 44.5

Camping for 3 nights: 24.15

Data plan: 7.5

Tent and sleeping bag: 15

Food: 80

Total: 408.41

This is the rough breakdown of my spending that I deemed crucial to my fellow travellers in planning their budget for a UK road trip. Take note that 3 nights of my accommodation was spent in my dorm as a base to explore London and Oxford. Meanwhile, enjoy some of my pictures from the trip before my photography post.

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Eileen Donan Castle, Isle of Skye

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Snowdonia National Park, Wales

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Kilt Rock, Isle of Skye

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Glenfinnan Viaduct

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Mayfield Lavender

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Glasgow University

Photography, Travel, USA

A Photography Entry of Summer in New York City


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New York City is ranked the most photographed city according to several sources. Despite its high cost of accommodation and related expenses, domestic and foreign tourists still flock to New York to indulge in one of the most visited cities in the world. I spent four days over the summer in New York City, including the 4th of July which is also known as Independence Day. These are some pictures from my photo collection to showcase some of the sights.

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Flushing Station

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Consider brunching at The Smith

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My favourite pick of Shake Shack burgers would be the Portobello, totally for veggie-lovers too.

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Get some local feel at the Brooklyn Flea, heaven for vintage lovers.

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Finger-licking good

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Central Park

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Coffee ain’t as good as the cart looked

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True diversity at Times Square

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Capture gorgeous sunsets at the Top of The Rock

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Being at the Top of The Rock provides the view of the Empire State and Central Park, though it is marginally lower than the top of Empire State. 

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View of Central Park from Top of The Rock

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