The most notable thing about is that cars drive on the opposite side of the road than we do…so, of course, the configuration of car conforms and the driver sits on what is our passenger side. The other thing is crossing streets — one needs to look the opposite way than we usually do. We’ve experienced this in past trips to Australia and England, but it’s still disconcerting
Public Transportation: Auckland does not have a downtown light rail, though there is one that goes out to the suburbs. There is, however, an excellent bus system with a number of lines crisscrossing the city at regular intervals–and usually on time.
One of the first observations we made was that the CBD (central business district) where we are staying is a lot like Seattle — lots of hilly streets leading down to the harbor; and, like Seattle, the harbor is the location of ferries that go to the various nearby islands. There are, of course, docks for cruise ships, as well as for local fishing boats.
The weather has been a lot more overcast, occasionally rainy, and cooler than we anticipated. According to locals, this is unusual and they expressed that weather patterns have changed–much like other places we have visited in recent years, as well as at home in Northern California.
According to a tour guide, Auckland is called “The City of Sails” because it has highest percentage of boat ownership in the world. Seeing so many in the harbor and along the bay is a lovely sight.
Cost of Living:
The cost of services, food, clothing, etc. is significantly higher than we had expected. In fact, it is arguably more expensive here than in San Francisco! What we don’t know is the cost of living for locals, i.e. the ratio between their wages and expenses. We did learn from the taxi driver that drove us from the airport that a lot people who work here don’t live here.
She also told us that the influx of people from China over the past few years was a significant factor in raising the cost of housing in the city. From what we heard from another tour guide, it sounds like rentals are even more expensive here that in San Francisco. An interesting side note to this is that we heard the same about the effect people moving to Vancouver, British Columbia from Hong Kong.
We have found some interesting items on menus, especially for breakfast. One such was “Baked beans or spaghetti on toast with two eggs and hashed browns.” Lunch and dinner “pies” are very popular also. So far I’ve tried a “creamy chicken” pie (much like chicken pot pie, but thicker with puff pastry on top) and a breakfast pie (layers of egg and bacon topping a frittata and surrounded by puff pastry — be still my arteries!).
That is very much in our favor right now: $1 NZ = $0.78 US…that takes the sting off the high prices of food, retail, touring, etc.
Electricity runs on 220v here, so everything has to be charged through a step-down transformer and takes forever! (We have two transformers to supply our two pads; our cell phones (only used to take pictures and check email because the cost of voice calls and texting is prohibitive); and an electric toothbrush that doesn’t hold a charge, possibly because of the current exchange.
We haven’t taken many photos due to the weather, and have not been able to download them due to the lack of wi-fi access. They will follow, hopefully soon!