Australia or New Zealand? You’ve decided to go on a working holiday visa and to travel for a year. But you’re still hesitating between Australia’s beaches and New Zealand’s wilderness. How to choose? I help you!
Australia or New Zealand on a travel year: the pros and cons for backpackers and solo travelers
You have finally decided to go on a working holiday visa for a year or simply to travel with your backpack and go on road trips. But right now, you are facing a tough choice. Australia or New Zealand? Kangaroos or kiwis? Your heart swings between the sunny Australia and the wild New Zealand. Which one of these travel destinations and backpackers’ countries will you pick? Tell me what you want, I’ll tell where to go!
Before applying for my own working holiday visa, I almost went crazy by giving thousands of thoughts to this question. I finally went for a working holiday in Australia but I also traveled across New Zealand on a road trip.
The backpacking experience
Australia is well known for being THE backpackers’ country … and it’s well earned. With 645,000 backpackers coming from all over the world in 2016, backpackers on a working holiday visa are a real business in Australia. A lot is made and thought for us, backpackers and solo travelers. It’s a big network and you’ll find quite easily fellow backpackers to undertake road trips and to share travel experiences. I found it more complicated in New Zealand to get in touch with other travelers. I didn’t stay as long as in OZ but it’s definitely another way of backpacking.
To plan your travels and road trips months a few weeks in advance? Impossible for you. It’s stress you out. Then, Australia is your travel destination. You won’t have any issues to find spontaneously a place to stay, something to do or even a flight. It’s all so chill that you sometimes will go crazy. You can do and undo your plans at the last minute. They’ll change all the time. It’s the real working holiday experience.
You are a city mouse
You need from time to time urban hectic life. Australia is for that a good compromise. It offers the beauty and quietness of wild nature, like the West Coast or the Red Centre. But cities also have their own identity and a particular atmosphere. You’ll feel relax in Cairns, you’ll feel back in Europe in Sydney or Melbourne. New Zealand clearly doesn’t shine by its city life. But it has something else to propose for backpackers and travelers …
For nature lovers
You want colorful landscapes and spacious wilderness. You want to see an untouched nature and feel amazed at every corner of the road. You want to say wow every minute on the road trip … then go to New Zealand. It’s the most stunning nature I’ve ever seen. The scenery never stops changing, from rainforest to impressive volcanic landscapes. If you love photography and wild road trips in the nature, you won’t be disappointed. And that brings me to the next pros for New Zealand.
Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Hiking, outdoors and extreme sports
Hiking in New Zealand is a must. On the North Island, Tongariro Alpine Crossing is probably the most famous hike, 7 hours up and down a volcano. On the South Island, the glacier Franz Joseph and the Sub-Antarctic islands are further examples. They belong to the 3 UNESCO listed sites. Plenty of lakes and mountains provide hikes lovers with a beautiful playground. Extreme sports like skydiving, body jumping, rafting and a lot of others wait for you, especially in Queenstown, a backpackers’ city.
Sun addict or winter fan?
Working holiday is also about holiday. To lay in the sun at every time of the year, while your friends are freezing back home? Australia is the travel destination you have to choose. Due to its huge size (as big as Europe) travelers and backpackers find all seasons while traveling through the country. It’s winter in the South, go to the tropical North. It’s stormy at the East, go to the sunny West. A taste of holiday is always there in Australia. New Zealand’s climate is a temperate one. Winters are really chilly and snowy while the temperatures in summer remain bearable. And keep in mind that isolated houses are an unknown concept, in Australia as much as in New Zealand!
Byron Bay, Australia
You dream of adventurous road trips and spacious wilderness
Tauranga, New Zealand, North Island
Good news … Australia or New Zealand, it doesn’t matter! They are both perfect for going on unforgettable road trips. As backpackers or solo travelers, we dream of American mythic highways, straight empty roads in the middle of nowhere. Australia is the place to choose for that. And if you prefer winding roads up and down gorgeous mountains in the rainforest, you’ll choose New Zealand. Beautiful beaches and green rainforest are everywhere!
Opononi beach, New Zealand
You want to work as a backpacker
If you want to work to earn your travel money, Australia is an interesting option. Not that it’s as easy as a lot of backpackers think before landing in Australia. There is a hard concurrence, work conditions can be difficult and employers not always honest. Still, backpackers are wanted and the network is big enough. The hourly minimum wage in Australia is up to 22,86$ AUD for casual employees – against 12 (trainees)/15,75$ in New Zealand. In New Zealand, it’s a bit more difficult to find backpackers jobs. Indeed, employing backpackers is not as common as in Australia. The concurrence is lower though. Be aware that the living costs are about the same, in Australia or in New Zealand.
Travel tips: look in the Facebook groups for each country and on the job search engines. Groups in Australia > backpacker jobs in australia – farm jobs Australia – farmwork Australia – Australie WHV/PVT. Job search: gumtree – backpacker job board
Second year for backpackers : working holiday visa and its extension
It’s a common question among backpackers. How long can the second working holiday visa be extended for? What are the conditions for applying? In Australia or New Zealand, you’ll have to do 3 months of regional work – it’s the famous farm work. In Australia, a successful application for the second year visa will give you the opportunity to stay 12 more months. Note that, since 2019, 6 months of farm work let you stay a third year. In New Zealand, the visa extension is up to 3 months… do the maths.
Cost of living
An important point for solo travelers and backpackers is of course the costs of living. It won’t surprise you if I say that both Australia and New Zealand are quite expensive to live in. It’s more or less the travel budget you would plan in European countries like France or the UK. The good news is that you don’t have to give thoughts about it while choosing between Australia and New Zealand … the travel budget will be similar. If you don’t break a bank, spare a bit of money before starting your working holiday visa.
Awesome or awesome? – my conclusion
There are pros and cons in every decision. Both countries are in my opinion two amazing countries for backpackers and travelers. Australia or New Zealand, they have a lot to offer regarding to lifestyle, nature, travels and backpacking trips. Therefore, they are very different and that’s why Australia and New Zealand are so interesting to explore. Focus on your expectations before making a decision – who you are, how you travel, what you want to do of your backpacking year. But don’t over think! They are so close that it’s easy to hop from Australia to New Zealand. Listen to your instinct and go for it! Backpacking is in itself a stunning experience which will bring you more than you think. Australia or New Zealand, it will be your choice, so the right one, and you will love your backpacking year!
Photos: Copyright Ophélie Harnichard and Urs Maissen, 2017