What You Need to Know Before Traveling to New Zealand
We've been to three countries so far and have not had trouble crossing any of the borders. Until today.
New Zealand - also known as "Middle Earth" is one of those hot-spot destinations that most young adventure-seekers like myself are naturally drawn to. Who wouldn't want to visit Frodo's hometown?
But this morning as we waited in the customs line, a customs official announced, "Make sure you have your passport ready as well as your proof of an exit flight."
Exit flight? We hadn't bought plane tickets to the next country yet.
Assuming that an "exit flight" was some New Zealand term for "ticket stub", I didn't worry about it too much. But then we were asked to present our proof of exit flight. We didn't have one. In response they said, "That's bad news for you."
Apparently, you can't enter New Zealand on a normal 3-month visa without purchasing your ticket out of New Zealand. Nobody told us that.
So we were escorted through several high-security rooms in the immigration section of the airport until we reached a room with nothing but two chairs, a desk, a computer and a telephone. They sat us down at the table and said we needed to purchase a ticket out of New Zealand.
We had no problem with that since we really needed to do that anyway, so we booked a flight with Air New Zealand to Sydney, Australia, printed out the receipt and handed it to the officials. They left the room with the receipt and we sat in the room alone getting ready to head out.
An official came back in and told us that since we weren't Australian citizens, we didn't have a right of visa or something like that and we needed to somehow prove we had tickets to a country that we did have a right of visa. In our case, that'd be the United States.
But wait - we aren't going to return to the States until September 2009.
That means that we had no way of proving that we were going to a country that was guaranteed to not kick us back to New Zealand. And that means, we had only two options. 1) Get deported to Argentina or 2) Buy a plane ticket back to the States.
Option 1 is just plain stupid. Option 2 is not an option. So we created a third option. Buy every plane ticket we needed up until September 2009 when we are to return to the States.
That's a lot of plane tickets. And that is also a lot of money.
Thankfully the good people at STA Travel have a location here in Auckland that we were able to call up and book all the rest of our tickets at student prices.
But we ran into a little problem - the price of the tickets was so much that our credit cards were being rejected. Then I suggested that they break up the payments into smaller charges. It worked for my card, but not for William's for some reason.
The only option we had for William was to charge William's tickets on my card as well. So I bought all the tickets for the rest of the year for both me and William. Ouch. My poor bank account.
After about 3 and half hours trying to buy all the plane tickets for the rest of our year-long journey, the customs officials were starting to get annoyed with how long it was taking and gave us an "official 15-minute time limit".
We were still on the phone with STA Travel after the 15-minutes was up. Right as they were going to pull the plug on us and... I guess deport us or something, we got the ticket confirmation in an email which is what we needed in order to stay in New Zealand.
So several thousand dollars poorer, we crossed the border into Middle Earth.