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First impressions / Travel Tips - Auckland University

By Sudheendra Kumar Pulla (January 27, 2012 ) in Facebook link: Auckland University Indian Club (AUIC) - University of Auckland

Tags: International students in Auckland University, International students in University of Auckland.

What started out as a small description ended up being a pretty doc - just skip to sections which you are interested in. I'd be glad to help any of you with the stuff I mentioned below - but remember the timezone difference when you have a queries and expect a reply from me. The info added is from my perspective and my experiences. So if you want me to correct or add any info just post a comment. Content has been split as follows Pre-flight In-flight At Auckland airport Things to do on your first active day At the University Weather and Terrain Fun :D

What started out as a small description ended up being a pretty doc - just skip to sections which you are interested in. I'd be glad to help any of you with the stuff I mentioned below - but remember the timezone difference when you have a queries and expect a reply from me.

The info added is from my perspective and my experiences. So if you want me to correct or add any info just post a comment.

Content has been split as follows

  1. Pre-flight
  2. In-flight
  3. At Auckland airport
  4. Things to do on your first active day
  5. At the University
  6. Weather and Terrain
  7. Fun :D

Firstly, if you’ve travelled to any other country like US or UK, most of the stuff you see in this doc and in NZ in general are not very surprising. Just keep your eyes open and read the information signs/boards carefully and you’d find pretty much all of the info that you would need.

  1. Pre-flight
    1. Online Check-in:
      1. Do an online check-in. You can pick your seats and can also arrive at the airport 90 mins before the flight instead of 3 hrs.
      2. Use http://www.seatguru.com/ to know which seats are the best in which airline+aircraft.
    2. Forms: Carry a ball pen - you'll be filling up at-least the following
      1. Immigration / Departure card in India
      2. Arrival card in NZ (which will be given to you in the flight - better fill it in the flight instead of doing it while you wait in the line in NZ - more on this later)
    3. Security scan process: People who've already been through international terminals skip this as you'd already know it. For people who've not - security scanners have a conveyor belt (abt 15 ft long) on which you put your stuff and it takes it through the X-ray scanner. For putting your stuff on the belt you will have plastic crate-like boxes of 2 sizes (generally) and you need to do the following.
      1. Put your cabin-bag/back-pack directly on the belt
      2. Put your jacket, watch, wallet, pen anything metallic in one box
      3. Put your laptop separately in another box. Have your laptop fully charged before leaving home 'coz you may be asked to boot it in front of security just to make sure that its not a dummy box used to smuggle something more valuable. So instead of sleep/hibernate, do a complete shutdown at home to ensure that your battery is not drained by the time you clear all the connecting flights.
      4. If you have any gels, aerosols, put them in a clear plastic bag (zip-lock max 1 ltr size) and put it in a separate plastic box. Though the limit is 1 litre, each item cannot cross 100 ml (example perfume bottles)
      5. If you purchase anything duty-free, better ask them to seal the cover. Place this entire cover on the belt (or plastic box if the contents are small).
      6. Also, dress such that if asked to remove belts, shoes, watches etc, you should be able to quickly do it. Remember there are people waiting in the queue and no one likes the guy in front who wastes time (sounds like a sexist when I say "guy", but the fact is, when girls or families with kids waste time at security, people do tend to give them some leeway)
    4. Laptop and Cellphone
      1. Took my (almost) brand new Sony Vaio, 1.5 yrs old Samsung Wave mobile and a 4 yr old Panasonic Lumix cam with me. No one asked anything about paying taxes for these electronics. Laptop was put in back-pack, phone in my pocket and camera in check-in luggage.
    5. Check-in/Cabin luggage: As long as you do not carry any organic stuff (fruits, vegetables, seeds, soil, etc), the security checks are a breeze. NZ is "very" particular about organic/bio stuff and have a separate scan for this.
    6. Cabin luggage: Do not carry sharp stuff like knives, shaving razors; gels and liquid based stuff like deodorants, toothpastes in cabin. If you must carry them, put them in your check-in luggage.
    7. Survival Tip:Pack a couple of pairs of clothes and your certificates in the cabin bag. Just in case your main luggage gets delayed by 1-2 days, you will still be able to survive in NZ till your baggage arrives. Such things sometimes do happen when the connection time between flights is short and is between multiple airlines (my connection time was only 1hr 5mins - but both flights were Malaysian airlines, so luckily no issues - this time)
    8. Specific to Malaysian Airlines from Hyderabad (may differ elsewhere)
      1. They didn't check the weight limits for check-in luggage. As per the airline, you can carry 5Kgs for check-in + laptop bag. They gave me tags for both and didn't check the weight. I was within weight limits so no issues. But in case this is a more frequent occurrence, people struggling with 2-3 kgs extra luggage can take advantage of this.
      2. I purchased some duty free alcohol for friends in NZ and put it in the cabin-luggage (except at security screenings where I removed the sealed duty-free cover and presented separately - liquids are an issue in the cabin luggage you see). Adding this extra bit technically increased my cabin luggage - but no one asked.
    9. Cash: Can carry as much as you want in currency notes. But if its more than 10,000 NZD you need to declare it. Just because you have to declare it doesn't mean that you aren't allowed to take the cash - you can - only that you are letting the govt know that you are getting in dollars from a foreign country.
    10. Traveller's Cheques: The forex agent I met said that they don't have traveller's cheques for NZD. We have to take it in USD. I didn't take this since it would mean I would lose out on forex charges twice - INR->USD and USD->NZD. Check with your agent and see. I didn't have time so couldn't check it. Instead, my friend in NZ had to transfer money to his family in India - so I did the transfer in Ind and he's returning my money in NZD here :D
  2. In-flight/journey
    1. Keep your passport and boarding passes handy. You can buy the fancy waist pouches to hold these for you. But from previous experience I’d say putting them in your jacket pocket is much easier and faster. The trouble the pouches cause when you have to present your passport and boarding pass multiple times and when they are around your waist while you are seated in the plane is not worth the fancy route.
    2. Duty Free Shopping: Cigarettes and alcohol limits - the limits mentioned 200 cigs and 4.5 ltrs of alcohol can be brought duty free. As far as I know, you can get more - but these have to be declared and customs duty may apply
    3. Bumpy flight: The flight was very bumpy just after crossing Australia and while going over the Great Barrier Reef. Flight info showed tail winds in excess of 160 kmph!!
    4. Dehydration: If you are prone to dehydration in air conditioned environments (due to the dry air), use the following order of drinks/beverages Water > Fruit Juice > Coke/Pepsi/Sprite > Alcohol (beer/wine). Water hydrates you while alcohol dehydrates you.
    5. Arrival form: You’ll be given an Arrival form (format for this has already been posted on the group). This needs to be submitted at the immigration check at your port-of-entry, generally Auckland (but if you are flying to Hamilton first and then coming to Auckland, port-of-entry would be Hamilton).
  3. At Auckland Airport
    1. At the immigration check, the arrival card, passport (and if needed the university offer letter) need to be shown. Once the immigration officer checks these, the put their stamp on the card and the passport with the current date. This step took me about 15 mins. People who did not fill the arrival form either stepped out of the queue to fill it. Or delayed the queue a bit by doing it in the queue.
    2. Next you go to the baggage claim area to get your checked-in luggage. This step took me about 10 mins.
    3. Next you go into another queue to check for organic/bio stuff. An officer explicitly asks you if you are carrying food and stuff. Then your luggage is put through a scanner to check. Here there is no need to put your jacket/watch/belt etc on the belt - they’re only looking for organic stuff and are mainly concerned with the baggage. Unlike X-ray scans where laptops not be presented separately, here we can just put the back-pack as is for the scanner. At the end of the scan, you hand over the arrival card to the security officer at that scanner. This step took me around 10 mins.
    4. The drive from the airport to the city should take around 30-45 mins depending on where you stay. I arrived late night and so there was no traffic. If you are arriving in the day, add some buffer time to the estimates.
  4. Things to do on your first active day
    1. Mobile connection
      1. Get this first. Just a copy of your passport is sufficient. I took a 2degrees prepaid connection - NZD 19 value combo pack + NZD 20 1GB data plan.
      2. Texting: Unlike India, people here text a lot - so most of the packs you see offer a lot of texts and relatively less number of talk-time minutes.
    2. Bank Account
      1. The university campus has a branch of National Bank in Kate Edgar Information Commons (315 on Campus Map).
      2. You would need your passport and your university offer letter (basically for start date).
      3. The advisor can set you up with a Current Account and Internet Banking.
        1. You get to pick your own account number just like mobile numbers!
        2. The advisor also suggested that I open a Savings Account, which would give us 3% interest rate on the balance (current accounts get us no interest rate)
        3. It takes 3-4 working days to get your debit card. You can opt for separate cards for ATM access and normal point-of-sale/Internet spending. However, since it would just make my wallet fatter and more pin numbers to remember, I just combined both of them into one (as is the usual case with most bank Debit cards)
    3. IRD number (Inland Revenue Department)
      1. This number is similar (not same) to Social Security Number (US) or PAN card in India.
      2. Its needed if money has to be transferred into your account without drawing too much income tax.
      3. You can operate the account without the number and can deposit amount as you wish. But the amount deposited would draw the maximum allowed income-tax slab of 33%. If you have an IRD number AND your income is below the highest slab, you pay lesser income-tax.
      4. You get the application for this in Post Shops (http://www.nzpost.co.nz/products-services/payments-money/ird-number)
      5. It takes about 10 working days to get the IRD number.
  5. At the University
    1. First and foremost, get the campus map! If you already received it when you applied to the uni, then keep it handy. If not, then pick it up at the first stop at Graduate Center (119 on Campus map).
    2. Graduate Center: In my case, PhD, they enrolled me into the program (not the individual courses. That part is taken care of by Student Commons (315 on Campus map) in Kate Edgar Info Commons building. If you are PhD student, don’t forget to enrol for the Induction program.
    3. International Office: They’d take a copy of your passport and also get the process started for getting your student ID. I was surprised to know that the process of getting an ID takes 2 weeks!! (was done in 10 mins for me in Carnegie Mellon)
    4. Your Department: While a student ID gets you access to the uni in general, your labs and rooms would require separate swipe card and/or keys. Go to your department and talk to the receptionist about getting you the access. For Computer Science, it is in the Science Center (303 on Campus map), 3rd floor just after you exit the elevator.
  6. Weather and Terrain
    1. Weather: Started out as an overcast day. Drizzled/mild rain most of the morning and afternoon. Was sunny in the evening. Chilly after sunset. whoever said that you see all the seasons in a single day wasn’t kidding at all!
    2. Terrain: Hilly hilly everywhere - so if you intend to walk a bit to explore, keep your back-pack light. I had 5+ kg back-pack on me (even a light weight lappie adds 2 kgs) and by the end of the day the neck muscles did get a bit strained.
  7. Fun :D
    1. Since we do have a 101 list of fun things to do, I began with my own - watching a new Indian movie in Auckland. Watched Agneepath at Event Cinemas in Manukau. The movie was good. But more importantly, the theater was good too! After getting spoilt with the good standards of theaters (picture, sound and seating quality) in India, it was pleasant surprise that this theater here was just as good (if not better). The theaters in Pittsburgh and Cheltenham did disappoint me - but not this time around in Auckland :)

* National Bank is now part of the ANZ bank.

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