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Day 23: Goodbye Christchurch and New Zealand

This was our last day in New Zealand. Three weeks driving from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and ending in Christchurch. We bought some presents for others and a couple of mementoes for our home.

Christchurch put on a sunnier day than the last two, so we got some better photos of the Cathedral area.



The Cathedral

A damaged building

A propped-up, earthquake-damaged building

Avon River

Punting on the Avon River, Christchurch

We had to top up the Europcar rental car, which came to NZ$81.04 and dropped it off at the Christchurch domestic airport.

The domestic flight to Wellington (NZ 5034)  was on a two-propeller ATR 72. Such planes fly at a lower ceiling than the jets, so you get a better view of the ground. We saw some of the Southern Alps but not much snow. We saw Kaikoura and Blenheim along the route.



The Canterbury Plains north of Christchurch


The remaining snow on the Southern Alps north of Christchurch


Houghton Bay, just prior to landing in WLG.

Landing at Rongotai Airport, Wellington

Landing at Rongotai Airport, Wellington

We had a quick refreshment in the Koru Club lounge at Rongotai airport prior to catching NZ 853, an Airbus A320. This was not as big or comfortable as the Boeing 777 we flew in to Auckland on Christmas Eve, but our ticket included a meal, while other passengers had to pay for theirs.

There ends this three-week blog. If anyone has any questions, please use the contact form.

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Day 15: Interislander Ferry – Wellington to Picton

We checked out of the hotel at 8 am so that we got to the inter-island ferry terminal in plenty of time for our 10:25 am crossing.

Our rental car was from Europcar, which has only four parking bays and they were taken, so a quick phone call to the national number resolved the problem. We were told to leave the car in the “long-term car park” and drop the keys at the Europcar counter. We couldn’t see any signs for the said car park, but we saw the ones for the 30-minute parking, so we hope we left the car at the right place. (more…)


Days 1 & 2: Europcar NZ rental warning about inter-island travel

We landed in Auckland on Christmas Eve, 2010.

We had pre-booked a Europcar NZ car via Expedia. This appeared to be cheaper than the company recommended by Air New Zealand after we bought the tickets.

After emerging from airside, we turned sharp right to reach the Europcar counter. The first surprise was to be told that their cars cannot be taken by ferry between the islands and that we’d need to return the car at the Wellington terminal and pick up another car at the Picton terminal. But why did their website allow us to make a booking that has a pick up in Auckland and a drop-off in Christchurch? Try the Europcar site yourself — it too will show you a price for an inter-island drop-off with no warning that you can’t take the car across the islands.

We had already paid for the car on the Interislander ferry on 7 January, so let’s see if they will let us have a refund. (They did)

To reach the car bays, turn right and exit near the McDonald’s shop. Turn right and look left. All the rental companies have a few bays each. Most of the cars looked two years old (unlike the US where you often get a near-new or new car).

The car is an old Toyota Aurion – in hindsight a little bigger than we needed, particularly for NZ’s narrow roads. The rental agreement came with a long list of scratches and dents. We found a paint scratch on a passenger door and had it noted on the agreement before driving off. The car didn’t have a GPS but we have brought our Garmin 1390T and it knows Auckland quite well.

Hidden Costs

Watch out for hidden costs. We had booked via Expedia and the estimate for three weeks came to NZ$2382.82. The base price for a full-size car was NZ$657.80 plus an extra day at NZ$93.97. At the rental counter the clerk recited a well-rehearsed line that we would be liable for the first $3000 of any damage, but we had two insurance options. We took the one costing NZ$300. We also took the option for returning with an empty tank, as the Europcar price for petrol was NZ$1.76/litre while the street price yesterday was NZ$1.96/l.

Total cost for two weeks (up to Wellington only) is NZ$2025.46. Ouch. The second hire at Picton will probably add a further thousand, I think. Unless you are a performance car fanatic and like your big Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons, rent a smaller car and check the insurance options in advance.


Price for a 20-day rental on the Europcar site with AKL pickup and CHC dropoff.

The exclusions shown on the website at this point in the booking say:

Price includes (standard Damage liability for NZ is between $2,750 – $3,000 NZD plus GST if further reduction waiver is not purchased at branch) :

  • Unlimited mileage
  • One-way charges (ONEWAY)
  • Airport/Railway Station Surcharge
  • GST included

Price excludes a credit card fee to maximum value of 1.5% of your total hire, plus:

  • LOSS DAMAGE WAIVER (437.0 NZD per rental)
  • Covers damage to windscreen, lights, and tyres for normal use (WWI) (161.0 NZD per rental)
  • Peace of Mind Cover (includes Damage Waiver, Damage Waiver Plus, Theft Waiver, Super Personal Accident and Effects Cover) (POM) (501.86 NZD per rental)
  • Credit Card fee

After turning a few pages on the website, I found this FAQ:

New Zealand Inter-island Hires

Renters that intend to initiate and terminate hires in different islands (i.e. collect vehicle in North Island and return in South Island) are not encouraged to take a Europcar vehicle across Cook Strait.

This saves you up to NZD $250 for car transportation costs. Instead, cars are simply returned to the ferry depots in Picton or Wellington, and a fresh vehicle is provided when you arrive on the other side. Renters’ luggage is checked in at the ferry as if it were an airport.

If you choose to transfer the vehicle between islands a relocation fee of NZD $350 plus GST will be charged.

We didn’t see this via the Expedia booking engine but I doubt if someone using the Europcar website would check the FAQ, hence would pay for an unnecessary ferry fee like we did.

Not happy.

Day 2: Christmas

Christmas in Onehunga

Christmas in Onehunga

It’s Christmas Day today, so enough blogging for now. Merry Christmas all.

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