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Travel money guide to moving overseas

2nd October 2019

Moving abroad, whether for a few months, a few years or permanently, is an incredibly rewarding experience, and has become increasingly more accessible for Kiwi’s. 

Regardless of  if it is a working holiday, study visa, work relocation or need for a complete change of scenery, every-day Kiwi’s are giving up the comforts of home in exchange for a new life on the other side of the globe. 

I am one of these people. Don’t get me wrong, I love New Zealand and moving overseas has made me love it even more. However, with no real commitments at home and a flexible career, I thought there was no better time to pack up my life and ship it to the other side of the world, otherwise known as Toronto, Canada. A few of my friends had the same idea, choosing to throw caution to the wind and trade New Zealand for the UK, USA, Aus or Thailand. 

If you’re sick of your daily 9 to 5 and keen to leave the wonderful land of NZ, here are some tips to ensure you set yourself up for international success. While anyone can move overseas (permitting you’re not a thug with a record because you probably won’t get your visa approved), there is a lot of prep and sacrifice that need to occur throughout the process. Need being the keyword here, as many people literally just yolo and move without a whole lot of prep. The thought of this is bloody stressful, but if you’ve done it successfully, then power to you, pal. 

This guide will be pretty general and is based on the experience of my friends and I, particularly when it comes to money. In addition to reading this blog, I encourage you to do a lot of research specific to the country you are moving to. There is an ocean of videos, vlogs, blogs, step-by-step guides and government resources for pretty much every country. 



I can’t stress this enough, hence the use of capitals. While money isn’t the be-all and end-all of life, it certainly makes the process of moving overseas significantly easier. You already have enough to stress about, don’t add money to the list. 

I started saving specifically for the move about a year before I left. I evaluated my living expenses, cut back where I could and made sacrifices so that I could save just over $1000 a month. We’ve got plenty of saving hacks already, so be sure to check them out if you are struggling

Having a savings goal and continuously reminding yourself of its importance makes the process a lot easier. I told the people around me why I was saving, and they understood when I said no to plans or opted for a cheaper alternative. 

2. Be realistic and account for all of your expenses

Moving overseas is not cheap. Here are some of the expenses you will need to consider during the move, as well as an estimate of how much I paid to give you a better idea of costs. Keep in mind that my costs are relative to Toronto, a pretty expensive city with living costs comparable to Auckland, New Zealand. A move to a different country will head different expenses. 

$2300 round the world airfare as I came to Canada via a three-month holiday through Asia and Europe. Direct flights would have been slightly cheaper. 

$800. The visa itself was pretty inexpensive; however, I had to fly to Sydney and back to get my biometrics taken which added an extra cost. 

Travel Insurance:
$2500. This cost stings, but is generally a necessary evil for most visas. If it isn’t, I would highly encourage you to ensure you’re covered anyway. For Canada, I needed to show proof of coverage for the full two-year visa and only a few companies have this option. I recommend reading review sites to see other peoples experience with the policies before making the investment. 

Mandatory visa proof of funds:
CAD 2500. A lot of visas require you to have proof of funds upon entry to show that you can afford to live once you arrive. This varies between countries and visa types, so make sure you’re across it. You also need to account for currency conversion. For example, I knew NZD 3000 would more than cover my CAD 2500 requirements.

These are the necessary costs associated with moving overseas, however daily expenses also need to be considered, which brings me to my next point.


3. Research the cost of living

In addition to the prices mentioned above, your savings timeline also needs to account for day-to-day expenses when you arrive. Once you figure that out, I recommend saving up enough to give you three months of breathing room. It could mean a lot of money, but if you get an unexpected expense or struggle to find work straight away, the breathing room is worth it.

Further to this, when applying for a rental, a lot of places require a credit check, proof of employment and/ or proof of funds. When you first arrive in a country, it is unlikely you can provide a credit score or proof of employment. A substantial chunk of savings will come in handy at this point as it proves to your landlord that you have means to pay your rent.

Daily costs to consider include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Rent
  • Phone/sim plan
  • Home internet
  • Transport
  • Groceries
  • Alcohol and eating out

I was naïve when it came to a few of these costs and was faced with the harsh reality of paying $50 a month for 2GB of data on my Canadian sim plan. Once again, check out the forums and blogs about living costs overseas. Numbeo is also a great resource that allows you to compare the costs of your new country with New Zealand.


4. Keep an eye on the exchange rate

This is a big one, as the exchange rate can have a massive impact on your savings when it comes to transferring your funds across. Example? When I first started saving for my move in June 2018, one Kiwi Dollar would buy around 0.9167 Canadian dollars. 12 months later, when I moved and exchanged my money, the same Kiwi dollar only got me around 0.871 Canadian dollars. When transferring $8000, I lost almost CAD 370 because of the exchange rate.

Maximise your travel money by signing up for Rate Alerts for your preferred currency. It’s also worth keeping up with forex markets to have an idea of when is a good vs bad time to exchange. We put out weekly articles on the performance of the Kiwi Dollar, so they are a perfect starting point to keep you in the loop.

Finally, when it comes to actually exchanging money, you have a few options. You will, of course, need some cash and a card to use when you first arrive. Before leaving, head into your local Travel Money NZ where our team can sort you out with cash and a Cash Passport Platinum.

Once you arrive in the new country and have a bank account set up, you can then utilise Travel Money Transfers for the transfer of your bulk funds from your Kiwi bank account. 

5. Consider the price of sending things overseas 

Long story short, sending suitcases and boxes overseas is ridiculously expensive. It cost me $500 to send three bags. Granted it was probably cheaper than purchasing the contents of my suitcases in Canada, it was still a huge expense I hadn’t really accounted for. 

If you are flying directly to your new country, it will probably be cheaper to add ‘excess luggage’ to your airfare then send the luggage separately. 


6. Research the rental and job market

When I arrived in Toronto, I was shocked at how brutal and fast-paced the rental market was. It took me a few attempts before I was able to secure a place in my price range. Before searching, I spent a few days riding around the different neighbourhoods to see which ones I liked the vibe of. This saves you signing a lease on a place only to realise it’s not close to a supermarket or transport. 

Further to this, if you don’t already have a job lined up, it is worth also researching what job openings are available and what professions in your preferred field require for employment. If you can try and network before you get to the country through platforms like LinkedIn, it may help pave the way into a more preferable  job. 

7. Hobbies are a good investment

When you arrive, you may feel less inclined to spend money on the things you love, especially if you haven’t secured a job yet or are struggling to find a routine. 

Taking part in hobbies, whether old or new, is a great way to help you feel like part of the community, meet new friends, have fun and generally just feel good about yourself. Join a meetup site, play board games, sign up for a social sport, do cooking or craft classes – literally give everything a go. It gets you out of the house and is a far better way of meeting friends than trying to chat to the person next to you on the tube (been there, tried that, never again). 

Personally, I joined social soccer, enrolled in ice skating lessons (when in Canada, eh?), joined a pilates studio and am planning on doing some craft classes. If nothing else it means I come home with some nifty new skills. More than anything, though, it has provided a non-threatening environment where I can socialise and meet new friends - a crucial part of feeling welcome in a new country. 

Disclaimer: I am 100% not this good at ice skating. 

8. Plan some travel beforehand 

This is something I can’t stress enough. So many people I know have packed up their life in New Zealand, caught a flight and then started their life abroad by jumping straight into work. In other words, they’ve copied and pasted their Kiwi routine straight into the new country. While this may bring comfort, I promise you it is not why you came to a new country. 

If possible, try and do a few weeks of travel in between leaving New Zealand and settling in your new country. It’s not often you get the chance to essentially have as much leave as you want, providing your new job doesn’t have a strict start date. If this is the case, try and negotiate yourself a few weeks leeway to travel. 

Where you travel is entirely up to you. I went the long way around on the way to Canada via three months in Asia and Europe. I got to Canada feeling ready to settle in to a new city and explore what is around me, instead of getting itchy feet to go elsewhere. 

Of course, there are extra costs involved with travel, however, if you give yourself enough time, it is easy to save up. 

An international move is an incredibly exciting and rewarding goal. While sticking to the savings plan and the initial adjustment overseas can be hard at times, the memories and experiences you gain as a result are 100% worth it. Not to mention all of the incredible food you get to try and friends you make along the way.

If you’re planning an international move, be sure to visit the foreign currency experts at Travel Money NZ. They will assist with foreign cash for your initial travels and landing into the country, as well as money transfers for more significant sums once you have a foreign bank account. 

It’s scary, but if you have the opportunity to move internationally I promise you won’t regret it. New Zealand  will still be there when you get home. 

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