I recently received an email from someone who found our blog. He is moving to NZ and asked some questions about what he should do before he moves there. Some of the answers might be useful to other people who are moving to NZ, so here goes. I hope people find these tips useful:
Sign up for Vonage phone service and take the adapter box with you. This assumes that you have access to broadband Internet when you get over there. Buy a cheap caller-id phone and take it with you. Caller id is not all that common over there, so phones with that feature are pricey. Vonage supports caller-id, of course. And phones over there use a different connector than the RJ-11 used here (and on the Vonage box).
Vonage will allow you to call anywhere in the US and Canada for free (well, for a fixed $25/month). Very important if you are leaving friends and family behind in the US or Canada. Vonage to other countries is very cheap, too. In many cases, it was cheaper to call other cities in NZ using the Vonage phone, than using our NZ home phone!
You can also buy a Vonage adapter box from Linksys. That box works on 230v, so you won’t have to buy a new power adapter when you get there, and it is smaller and so easier to take with you. Buy.com has the Linksys adapter for $50, with a $50 rebate if you sign up for Vonage service.
Vonage worked well with DSL service from Telecom. Even Telecom at 64kbps worked fine. We tried it on one other DSL carrier (iHug) and had problems with latency. I haven’t tried any others.
If you are only going to have dial-up internet service, sign up for Skype instead. The quality is worse, but it works over dial-up. Skype now allows you to get a permanent phone number, so other people can call you.
Buy a tri-band GSM phone over here and take it with you. Make sure the charger works on 230 volts. When you get there, buy a Vodaphone SIM card and put it in the phone. Learn to love TXT messages. Everyone uses them. Actually talking on a mobile phone is NZ$0.49/minute, but a TXT message is only 20 cents.
Take some power plug adapters with you (to allow you to plug US style plugs into the NZ/Australian sockets). You can get them for cheap at Fry’s or other electronics stores. I never found 2-prong adapters over there at all, and 3 prong ones are huge (they block the other outlets on an outlet strip) and expensive. A few “cube taps” (to allow you to plug in multiple US-style plugs using a single adapter) are handy too and impossible to find over there. Don’t take any outlet strips with surge suppressors or circuit breakers, since they will blow up on the 230v.
I found, as a general rule, that things that are necessities of life (food, housing, medical care, prescription drugs, public transport, etc.) are relatively cheap over there, or at least the same price as here. But “luxuries” (electronics, mobile phones, cars, cameras, petrol, parking meters) are expensive. Books are also very expensive, for some reason, but there are good libraries and used book stores.
Keep a US-based credit card and take it with you. This will allow you to order stuff over the Internet at US prices and have it shipped to NZ. This is especially useful for books, cameras, and computer stuff. You can have your credit card statements mailed to NZ, no problem. And I can’t guarantee the same luck to you, but I never had the NZ government charge me any duty or taxes on incoming goods (but most of my orders were around US$100, and the rumor is that the NZ government doesn’t bother with that level of thing). Your milage may vary, and may depend on whether you are there on a tourist visa or something else.