My whole life I've been traveling mostly around Europe. My plan to travel to more exotic destinations was always present, but there were many questions and doubts to be solved.
I wasn't interested in a few-weeks vacation trip to a distant country. If I'm already going to the other part of the world, I wanted to spend some time there traveling from country to country. But where will I get the money to do it? When is the perfect time to take a year off and just explore the world?
Time and money – two notions that are always the problem when it comes to traveling. One day I found the perfect solution – Working Holiday Visa. With this visa, I will be able to station in one place where I could work and earn money for my next travels.
1) Choose your base country
My home base had to be somewhere far. It had to be a country from which I could explore one part of the world. I chose the eastern hemisphere. I chose New Zealand as my Working Holiday host. I chose to explore Asia and the Pacific Islands from my home base.
The first step was to earn enough money for my beginnings on the road. I was putting money aside for 2-3 years and saved about 12 000€. More than enough for the start.
2) Obtain a Working Holiday Visa
The second step was to obtain a Working Holiday Visa. Originally I planned to go to Australia, but unfortunately, they don't give Working Holiday Visas to Croatians any more. My second choice was New Zealand.
You need to fulfill a few requirements if you want a New Zealand WHV:
a) you must be from an eligible country
b) you must be between 18-30 years old (in some countries the age limit is 35)
c) you must have a return plane ticket or enough money to buy one
d) you must have enough money to live on while you're in New Zealand (4200 NZD)
e) you must not have been granted a New Zealand WHV before
f) you must have full medical insurance for the length of your stay
Luckily, the visa procedure was really simple. I just had to apply on time, fulfill an easy application, and go to a chest X-ray (because, according to their immigration page, Croatia is on the list of countries with possible tuberculosis). I'm explaining the whole procedure of getting the visa here.
3) Buy a one-way plane ticket
The plane ticket either from Prague (where I live) or Zagreb (my home town) is expensive (more than 1000€ for a one-way trip). I came up with a way to enter and exit New Zealand more affordably.
First, I would go to a cheaper Southeast Asian country (in my case Vietnam) on vacation. From there, I could more easily reach Auckland. I'll follow the same plan on the way back home, but I still haven't decided which country should I visit last (Malaysia, Thailand or the Philippines).
Normally you can find a plane ticket from Zagreb or Prague to HCMC (bought a few months in advance) for about 400€ + 400€ to get to Auckland.
The ticket price from Zagreb or Prague to Bangkok is even cheaper, about 300€ + 300€ to get to Auckland.
You can check the current ticket price for your destination on Skyscanner.
At the beginning of my journey, I planned a three-week vacation with my friend in Vietnam. We had to book different plane tickets (mine was a one-way ticket and he booked a return flight) with the same airline and it was hard to find an airline that offers a similar price for both tickets.
This is why, in the end, I spent altogether 1070€ on plane tickets from Prague to Auckland (Prague-HCMC-Melbourne-Auckland). It's pretty much the same amount that I would give for a Zagreb-Auckland or Prague-Auckland ticket.
Most of the affordable flights are run by Emirates or Qatar airline with layovers in Dubai or Doha. We chose Emirates and used our overnight layover to explore Dubai a little bit.
4) Choose other countries on your route and make an itinerary
The rest of the planning was up to me: what will I do and how long will I work in New Zealand, which countries will I visit during my year abroad, which cities, …
I divided my stay in New Zealand into various stages so that I can work a little, go on vacation, then come back to work, go on a second vacation, etc. One of the conditions of a Working Holiday Visa is that you cannot work for the same employer for more than 3 months. I planned my trip accordingly.
End of January-April: work in New Zealand
April-June: Japan, China, North Korea
June-August: work in New Zealand
September: Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Australia
October-December: work in New Zealand
January: travel around New Zealand
End of January-February: Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand
5) Check out the visa system in other countries of interest
Of course, I prefer to travel to countries where I don't need a visa to enter. In my case, that was Japan, Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Malaysia and Singapore. The hardest part was to obtain a visa in my countries of interest (Australia, China, Vietnam, Thailand).
Obtaining the Vietnam tourist visa (1 entry, valid for 30 days) is easy and you can do everything online:
a) fill out the Vietnam visa online application form (your name, passport number, arrival date, name of the airport at which you'll arrive)
b) confirm and pay the Vietnam visa service fee online (17$)
c) receive the Vietnam visa approval letter by e-mail within 2 business days (we got it the next day)
d) fill out the entry-and-exit form, bring your passport, approval letter, 2 passport-sized photographs and another 25$ to get your visa stamped at the Vietnam airport.
Other visas are more complicated to obtain and I'll explain all the details in separate blog posts.
For example, you have to apply in person for a Chinese or Thai visa. Except for the usual documents (passport valid for at least 6 months, copy of the first page in your passport, application form, passport-sized photos, flight ticket), you need to have all your flights and accommodation booked in advance when applying for a Chinese visa.
The Australian tourist visa is even more trickier that I eventually gave up on it. They'll ask you to fill out a long and tiring application form, to send your current employment agreement or letter of recommendation from your employer, a bank account statement and payslips for the last three months, etc.
Maybe I'll apply again for the Australian tourist visa, but for now, I have an Australian transit visa to travel more easily between Asia and New Zealand. The best thing is that the Australian transit visa lasts for a year and you can stay in Australia for up to 3 days. Theoretically, you can go on a weekend trip from New Zealand. 🙂
6) Make a rough itinerary for every country you want to visit
You have already decided which countries to visit probably based on the attractions you want to see, personal recommendations, travel guides, blogs or YouTube videos. Now it's time to put everything on paper and see how long do you want to be in each country, which cities to visit, etc.
It's also important to see the prices of everyday life, accommodation, attractions in each country and plan roughly how much money will you spend in each place.
Check out the payment methods in your countries of interest. For example, I've heard that in China, Japan and Vietnam is widely accepted to pay in cash. Some of the ATMs maybe won't accept your credit card so you have to act accordingly and be prepared. Get a Revolut card if you find it more affordable (I've decided to use my regular credit card for now).
7) Buy (some) plane tickets and reserve your accommodation in advance
If you know the exact dates of your travels, you can already book some plane tickets. It's better to do it before the prices rise.
You can book your accommodation on booking.com a year in advance. Most of the hotels and hostels offer you the option to cancel your reservation for free until a few days before your trip, so there is no risk of losing your money if you suddenly change your plans.
8) Buy an insurance policy for the whole trip
The travel insurance is extremely important in case anything happens to you during your journey. It's also one of the conditions in obtaining the New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.
Most of the people going on a Working Holiday in New Zealand use Orbit Protect insurance. It's very affordable because it will cost you less than 200€/year (including your baggage and personal items).
However, this insurance policy lasts only a year and covers your stay in New Zealand, Australia and some other countries in the South-West Pacific. I wanted to be insured in Asia, as well, so I bought the insurance that covers the whole world except the USA and Canada.
After reading great reviews, I decided to buy the British True Traveller insurance policy. It cost me about 500€ for 14 months on the road.
9) Get a universal travel adapter
If you're traveling to many different countries, it's useful to have a universal travel adapter or even two of them to be able to charge your gadgets anywhere. You won't have to buy a special adapter in each country and you'll save some space in your backpack.
I bought SKROSS World Adapter Pro PA34 which I can use in 150 different countries, including China, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Italy, Switzerland, USA, UK, Japan. It had cost me 23€.
10) Download all useful applications for your smartphone
When you're traveling to a new and unknown country, a smartphone can make your life a lot easier. Especially if you have installed some useful applications such as translators, maps, Uber, Grab (Uber of Southeast Asia) or other taxi services, booking, etc.
Mobile apps can be of great value especially if you're traveling to China where you won't be able to use Google, Whatsapp, Facebook, Google mail, WordPress or other services that you use daily.
You have to install a VPN application BEFORE you enter China so that your normal applications and browsers would continue working in China. One of the good free VPN applications for your smartphone is Psiphon Pro. Other applications that you can consider when traveling to China are Dear Translate, Pleco, WeChat, etc.
11) Pack your luggage
I tried packing a few weeks before leaving so that I can decide calmly which clothes to bring without passing the baggage allowance limit. It's kind of a problem to turn a wardrobe for 14 months in an only 15kg heavy suitcase, but somehow I made it.
I've decided to buy my flip-flops and a beach towel cheaply in Vietnam because my next flights' baggage allowances were 20kg or more.
Make sure to pack according to the weather forecast. Google the average temperatures in each country during the dates of your visit. I'm traveling to summer temperatures in south Vietnam (33°C), Australia and the Pacific Islands, but most of the year I'll enjoy a pleasant 15-25°C in New Zealand and Asia.
This is why I mostly packed spring clothes: short-sleeve T-shirts, comfortable leggings, spring dresses and a jacket that can be worn both in spring and autumn. If you'll go trekking, it's important to bring comfortable mountain shoes, sports clothes and a windbreaker jacket.
Don't forget your universal travel adapter, your gadgets and their chargers and a power bank. A power bank can be very useful if you're stuck somewhere without an electrical outlet.
Print and pack all your important documents:
- plane tickets
- medical insurance
- international driver's licence, ID
- your CV and letter of recommendation of your previous employer (for when you'll be searching for a job during Working Holiday).
You're ready to go...
… on a new adventure!