I've been to Auckland twice already and this post is a compilation of our travel notes, tips, and tricks when traveling to New Zealand.
This is also an update on our initial post, First Timer's Guide to Auckland, New Zealand!
Here are the lessons we learned from our last visit to Auckland...
WHAT TO BRING DURING TRAVEL
For this Auckland trip, I used my stylish business laptop bag (Samsonite GT Supreme) that weighs less than 7kg, and a big enough luggage to carry the 30kg maximum bag allowance.
The laptop bag can accommodate up to a 15.6" laptop, and with a smart sleeve, it easily slipped into my telescopic luggage handle, which I appreciate. I didn't need to worry about my bag falling, making for an effortless travel. This is very useful especially when I travel with my boys, who love to play around and tend to bump into anything near them.
The bag is quite spacious it can easily fit a laptop, travel wallet, sunglasses, and a day's worth of clothes (just in case the check-in baggage gets lost or delayed). With all these inside, I can still bring a book and a notebook for my notes. Don't you think the bag still looks spacious even with all that stuff?
I like the way the front pockets are designed so that you can easily access your mobile phones and organize your other gadget accessories in the other pockets. It may also be useful to know that one of the pockets has RFID protection.
Make sure to bring a power adaptor. We really love this 1:4 power extension, which is very helpful for charging multiple gadgets.
Bring your own eco water bottle as you can drink from the tap anywhere in New Zealand!
FROM MANILA TO AUCKLAND
Philippine Airlines is the fastest and easiest way to fly direct to Auckland via Cairns, Australia 4x weekly.
The flight leaves at 11pm in Manila and arrives at Cairns in the morning with a flight duration of 6 hours and 15 minutes.
The plane has a 3-3 seating arrangement with business, choice, and economy class seat categories.
Dinner and breakfast is served. There's also the rentable MyPAL tablet loaded with all the latest movies.
All passengers have to get off at Cairns airport because the plane needs to refuel and change cabin crew. You have to bring all your things, pass through the security, and wait for an hour and a half.
The flight from Cairns to Auckland is around 4 hours and 30 minutes. You land in the mid-afternoon at Auckland Airport.
You have to declare what you are bringing into New Zealand. Failure to do so will result in an instant fine of NZ$ 400 or ~P13,812.
I would say YES to bringing food, medicines, and footwear. Make sure to be ready to show these when asked.
I bought a NZ$49 or ~P1,691 SIM card with 3GB data bandwidth from Vodafone, which is enough for a 5-day trip. Vodafone has very good coverage around NZ.
2-Degree Telecom is the more cost effective SIM card. You can buy a cheaper data plan than Vodafone's.
NEW ZEALAND CURRENCY
One New Zealand dollar is equivalent to P35, which is similar to the Singapore exchange rate.
The best place to exchange currency is at the airport (you can even exchange pesos to dollars). Otherwise, there is a currency exchange in the casino in SkyCity.
WHERE TO GO
Auckland City is relatively small with a population of 1.5 million. You can walk the main Queen St. from one end to another.
SkyCity is the main entertainment complex in the Auckland with a casino, hotel, restaurants, and the iconic Sky Tower, where you can eat with a 360-degree view of the city and go on an adventure in the Sky Walk and the Sky Jump.
For more info, visit https://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/
Mount Eden is one of the highest natural vantage points in the city where you can go on a short hike to the dormant volcano crater...
...and have multiple panoramic views of Auckland. You can also visit the hip stores and cafes in the Mount Eden suburb.
For more info, visit http://www.mounteden.co.nz/
Auckland Museum is a must-visit if you want to understand the history of New Zealand...
...and get a more in-depth understanding of the Maori Culture.
For more info, visit http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/
TIP: Visit the Cool House built in 1921 showcasing the different flowers that bloom during the winter season. A perfect place for your OOTD shots and groufies.
Fullers Harbour Cruise. Make sure to take the harbour cruise to visit the neighboring islands...
...and experience this magnificent view of the Auckland skyline.
For more info, visit https://www.fullers.co.nz/tours/auckland-harbour-cruise/
Waiheke Island. This is a must-visit island for a wine tasting tour of the Waiheke vineyards and for buying one of our favorite extra virgin olive oils.
For more info, visit http://www.waiheke.co.nz/
WHERE TO EAT
Avoid buffet or hotel restaurants. We recommend going for what's locally available and unique in Auckland. Here are our favorites:
Ortolana is one of the best farm-to-table restaurants in Auckland located in the Pavilions at Britomart area.
They source their meat, produce, and ingredients from their own farms or from neighboring local farmers.
For more info, visit http://www.ortolana.co.nz/
We had a main dish plus dessert for NZ$ 42/head or about Php 1,400.
MELT Raclette Auckland. Hunt down the Grilled Cheese food truck of Auckland-based Filipino Chef Jay Avante who's making waves in the Auckland food truck scene.
Check out the schedule of the Food Trucks at Food Space Auckland via http://www.foodspace.co.nz/
The secret to his raclette is he doesn't actually use raclette cheese but Manuka-smoked Cheddar Cheese.
For more info, visit https://www.facebook.com/MELTracletteAKL/
Wines. Enjoy every meal with Pinot Gris, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, or Merlot from New Zealand or Australia vineyards.
L&P. Lemon & Paeroa is the "World Famous Drink" made in New Zealand consisting of lemon juice and carbonated mineral water from Paeroa.
Giapo. The best place for the most innovative gelato in New Zealand.
For more info, visit http://giapo.com/
Miann is a high-end dessert place by couple Chef Brian and Roselle Campbell. Its name is a gaelic word which means "to desire" or "to crave".
Miann sells chocolates, petit gateaux, macarons, and ice cream. My favorite is the raspberry-covered green tea ice cream paired with Manuka Tea.
For more info, visit http://www.miann.co.nz/
New Zealand Mussels. Eat as many as you want of these New Zealand shellfish. Also try the Bluff Oysters when in season.
Pavlova is the iconic New Zealand meringue-based dessert topped with fresh fruits. It's named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
Breakfast. Enjoy the cheeses, salmon, mushrooms, and sausages either served with bread or rice.
WHERE TO STAY
SkyCity Hotel is the best hotel located at the center of Auckland.
The rooms and hallways are quite spacious with clean restrooms and basic amenities.
For more info, visit https://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/hotels/skycity-hotel/rooms/
Grand Millennium is another good alternative, which is a typical business hotel.
The restrooms are quite big and more conducive for twin sharing.
For more info, visit https://www.agoda.com/grand-millennium-auckland/
WHERE TO SHOP
It's quite expensive to shop in New Zealand, but these are the places you can go to in Auckland.
We love the deals of stylish sneakers and shoes at Platypus, with multiple outlets along Queen St.
Make sure to visit Cotton On for very good fashion deals.
If you have time, visit the Dress Smart outlet mall, which is already near the Auckland Airport.
It houses all the branded outlet stores. Shopping for 3 hours might not be enough.
WHAT TO BUY FOR PASALUBONG
Supermarkets. Countdown and Pak & Save are the best places to shop for pasalubong in New Zealand--chocolates, cheeses, and meat products.
Whittaker's Chocolates are the best and tend to be cheaper if you buy them with the supermarket deals.
We love the Kiwi fruit in New Zealand. You can buy on your last day so they're at their freshest when you bring them home to your family.
Feijoa is a pineapple-guava fruit that is dominant in New Zealand. Don't miss the chance to eat the actual fruit and the other Feijoa-based products.
Another unique product of New Zealand is this Pineapple Lump candy.
Hobbiton Shop. It's generally not recommended to buy souvenirs outside Auckland because they're more expensive, but the Hobbiton shop sells exclusive merchandise at still-affordable prices.
I personally prefer clothing apparel and other accessories. Make sure to buy your souvenirs here.
Comvita. Visit Comvita for high-end health products from New Zealand.
We recommend these extra strong, pure Manuka honey lozenges.
Aotea. Also check out the one-stop-souvenir-shop in Auckland for all your health, beauty, and gifts needs.
They carry a cheaper 15+ Manuka Honey by Streamland at NZ $68.90.
They also sell fresh New Zealand air, which is quite popular for polluted cities like those in China.
Up Next: ROTORUA TRAVEL GUIDE
Live an Awesome Life,
Disclosure: Our two trips to New Zealand were sponsored by the New Zealand Government and Philippine Airlines. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. It's best to buy your souvenirs in the city and just stuff them in your check-in luggage.