New Zealand Work Visa: First Few Weeks

As Told by Mom!

Welcome to my continuing series about my son who is in New Zealand on a one-year work visa. He’s living his dream of traveling and living in a different culture. You can read more about the why he decided to do this adventure and a little background info in the first post of this series, New Zealand Travel Adventures as Told by Mom.

Traveling New Zealand series

Basic Facts About New Zealand

  • New Zealand is made up of two islands: North and South. Auckland is NZ’s largest city (population about 1.5 million) and is located in the North Island. Auckland has a larger population than the entire South Island! Christchurch is the third largest NZ city (360,000 people) and is located in the South Island. Both cities have a major airport.
  • New Zealand is 19 hours ahead of Central Standard Time, but I find it easier to calculate it by thinking it’s 5 hours behind us…but it’s tomorrow.  What I really do is use the World Clock feature on my iPhone. I have Chicago time and Auckland, NZ time shown, so I can always see what time it is in NZ at a glance. The fact that he’s always a day ahead of us has messed me up a few times with messaging.
  • The seasons in New Zealand are opposite of the U.S. Their summer months are mainly December – February, and the coldest months are June, July and August. Because NZ is in the Southern Hemisphere, the average temperature decreases the farther south you go.

And so the adventure begins…

Chris left the U.S. on January 25. He flew out of Minneapolis, had a 4-hour layover in San Francisco, another 4-hour layover in Fiji, and arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand after a total of 26 hours of travel!Although he originally planned to fly into Auckland, he changed his plan and flew into Christchurch. The main reasons for flying into the South Island is because it gets colder sooner, so he wanted to travel it before the snow flies. Being the warmer months, it’s also prime season for wineries and vineyards so he wanted to get a job while the getting was good!

Before leaving home, he made reservations for three nights at a hostel called the Christchurch Jailhouse. This hostel has an interesting history as it was operated as Addington Prison from 1874 to 1999. In 2006 it was converted to a budget-friendly, quirky hostel that attracts backpackers. Chris had a twin bed in a room that also had two sets of bunk beds. One of his roomies on the the first night was from the Netherlands, and gave him some helpful advice about NZ life before flying back home the next day.

City of Christchurch, New Zealand
City view in Christchurch, New Zealand.

In his first few days, his main goal was to buy a vehicle. He used a website called which is similar to CraigsList, but he ended up finding one using a site called He bought a 1998 Mazda Capella and it’s working out good for him. Part of the ad for the car read that it came fully equipped with:

  • All bedding (4 pillows + pillow cases, duvet + duvet cover, flat sheet and a fitted sheet) on a fitted foam mattress
  • Complete kitchen including stove, cool bag, 2x10L water container (I love this one!)
  • Boxes to store all your kitchenware + food in
  • 2 camping chairs
  • Picnic blanket
  • Mixed camping gear (waterproof matches, emergency blanket etc.)
  • New Zealand guide book
  • Soccer ball
  • Wave board
  • CD with various tunes
Car purchased in New Zealand
His new wheels! It’s a backpacker’s car which means the back is converted into a sleeping area.
Car included supplies for camping and fun
Camping gear that came with the car (including the “full kitchen”).

While he was trying to get things figured out (tax ID, banking, finding a vehicle, etc.), he checked out some of the local Christchurch sights. Here are some photos he took in that area, along with his car/temporary home:

Botanical gardens in Christchurch, New Zealand
The Christchurch Botanic Gardens located in the central city of Christchurch, New Zealand.
Park fountain
A random park fountain made a beautiful photo!
Interesting architecture
He stumbled upon some interesting architecture!

Heading to the Mountains

He was anxious to get out of the big city and drive south into the mountains. The Southern Alps are visible from almost every point in the South Island. His first destination was Hilltop Tavern in Akaroa – a restaurant known for having an incredible view….. and it did. It also allowed camping, so he spent that night in his new mobile bed. From the brief snapchat video he sent me, the campground looked like more of a wayside – only with a gorgeous view. It certainly didn’t look like a typical tree-filled Wisconsin campsite. The frosting on the cake that day was that he got a job!  (More about that below.)

Car and a camper!
A place to call home for a while. (You might call him VagaBurgan!)
Campsite view in New Zealand
View from his campsite.
Akaroa, New Zealand
Beautiful sight in Akaroa. Overlooking the Banks Peninsular.

Scenery While On the Road

Before he started his new job, he had a couple more nights to continue discovering the country. He drove along the coast, and parking in a random campsites for the nights. After being alone for the week and trying to find his new normal, he said he was actually looking forward to going to work again.

On Superbowl Sunday, February 4, he arrived at the hostel he will call home for the time being. He watched the game at a tavern with a couple of guys he met at the hostel (they are from Germany). Beer drinking isn’t cheap – it’s about $10 NZD for a beer. The game ended mid-afternoon (NZ time), and  he hung out later that evening with some more people he met at the hostel who are basically traveling with a work visa, similar to himself.

Here are some more photos from his travels those couple of days:

Mountain-lined coast
Mountain-lined coast in the South Island of New Zealand
Scenic overview
Scenic overview
South Island of New Zealand
Beautiful scenery in the South Island of New Zealand

Using that Work Visa

So after being in New Zealand for only 5 or 6 days (I lose track because of the 19-hour time difference), he got a job at a vineyard in Blenheim. The position is for “all aspects of vineyard tasks from development to harvest.” What exactly will he be doing? He really didn’t know, but would soon find out!

Generally, he works Monday – Friday and some weekends during busy times. His hours depend on how much work there is to do.  Full days will be 7am-5:30pm New Zealand time, so that’s noon-10:30pm here in Central Standard time. That means it will be pretty hard to connect with him during the week. However, we should be able to connect with him on Fridays or Saturdays (his Saturdays and Sundays) because we all have off of work on those days.

In my next post, I’ll let you tell you about his seasonal job at the vineyard, where he’ll live, and whatever else he finds to do as he discovers New Zealand! Leave a comment below with your thoughts, questions, or message to Chris.
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Recommended items to pack for your New Zealand Backpacker Trip
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Pin for later!A young American in New Zealand with a work visa. Read about his first few weeks as he is anxious to explore, yet needs to figure out basic necessities. Amazing photos!

Read More in the Continuing New Zealand Travel Series:

  1. New Zealand Travel Adventures as Told by Mom
  2. This post! New Zealand Work Visa: First Few Weeks
  3. New Zealand Adventure: Working at a Vineyard
  4. New Zealand Adventure: Exploring the North Island
  5.  New Zealand’s Northland: Hiking & Picking Kiwi
  6. Omanawa Falls: New Zealand Adventure
  7. Mt. Ruapehu: New Zealand’s Epic Winter Playground
  8. New Zealand Travel Adventure: It’s a Wrap!


17 Replies to “New Zealand Work Visa: First Few Weeks”

  1. Vagaburgan…very funny! Looking forward to hearing all the Christopher Adventures

    1. Thanks! I thought. Vagaburgan was pretty clever, too! Writing about his adventures helps me feel more connected to him and his travels.

    1. From my mom viewpoint it’s certainly different from other life experiences. But for being there a mere 2 weeks, he’s accomplished a lot. I love the pics, too!

  2. What a wonderful life experience for Chris. Hope things continue to go well for him and thanks so much for sharing all the pictures and information with us. Sending prayers and love to Chris.

  3. I’m getting to know Chris a bit! What a social and adventurous young man. I feel like adventure will follow him, or rather, that he’ll follow after adventure, all the days of his life.
    I’m on the edge of my seat, feeling like I’m reading a novel. Really nice summary, so well written. More soon, I hope!
    Prayers from me, too!

    1. Thanks, Chris. I think you’re right, I don’t even try to predict what he’ll do next! Keeps it interesting.

  4. Hi Ellen, I enjoyed reading your posts about your son’s adventures. My oldest daughter did a gap year in New Zealand many years ago and she met her future husband there. Now they live in New Zealand with my first grandchild. We just visited for the first time this past Christmas and left our youngest daughter there to do study for a semester. So I know what it’s like having your loved ones on the other side of the world and constantly checking the time difference. Great idea in sharing your son’s adventures in your posts. I love your blog by the way, just discovered it today. I shared a post from my time in New Zealand if you want to take a look. You are going to love New Zealand.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I love connecting with others with a NZ connection. Will jump over and read your post. (We’re really hoping our son moves back to the US!😳)

    2. Oh! And thank you so much for your kind words about my blog! I just checked out yours and I see we have some shared interests.

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