Life / Student life

Moving to Wellington for uni? 10 Tips for Survival

By Zsenai Logan

Moving to a new city can be tough. You have no idea where anything is or what the people are like, and you certainly have no idea where the best deals are or the places to avoid. But LLL is here to help. With just these ten survival tips, you can blend in as if you’ve been here for ages.

1. Vic Deals

You’re moving to Wellington and all you know is you have a place to stay, but no furniture. What are you going to do? The nearest Kmart is all the way in Lower Hutt and you don’t have a car. Well, there is one very simple solution. Vic Deals is your one stop shop for everything second, third, fourth and fifth-hand.

This handy facebook group lets you trade and buy things with other people (mostly students) around Wellington. It’s mostly harmless, but beware the weird stuff, and keep your common sense. Don’t go making trades at three in the morning on your own in the public toilets on Courtenay Place.

It’s also a really good place for a chat, as it isn’t just a marketplace; it’s open to all kinds of discussion and is a great place to find a flat or flatmates.

2. Second Treasures (The Dump Shop)

Now I know that when I say this you’re going think, ‘Ew, no. That sounds gross. Only stuff right at the end of its legs gets sent to the dump.’ But that is where you are wrong. Whether it’s a decent couch for a dollar, a bedside table for five, or just a bunch of coathangers for a few bucks, Second Treasures is actually a great place to stock up your flat on the cheapest of the cheap.

The only problem – it’s a bit of a drive. You can’t get there by bus, and it’s way back between Brooklyn and Owhiro Bay. But, if you have a car or can convince a friend to drive you, it’s definitely worth it.

3. Take the Bus

It doesn’t matter where you’re moving from, public transport probably sucks. Not so in Wellington. When you move, remember one thing: the streets are awful. Town isn’t so bad, but if you’re living in the suburbs, everything is really narrow. Cars park on either side of already tiny streets, effectively making them one way. But public transport is your lifesaver. It’s usually on time and only at the proper peak hours will you have to stand. And the buses go everywhere; all the way out to Upper Hutt and back.

The one downside is the price. While on the surface it doesn’t look so bad, if you’re travelling across multiple zones or need to switch transport then the price just goes up and up. For one, each zone you go through costs a bit more each time but it’s tough to know exactly where one zone ends and another begins. Sure, that one stop is five minutes less of a walk, but are you actually paying more for the trip? The other thing is switching transport. There is no period of time where you can get off one bus and onto another and it won’t cost. Instead, every time you switch transport you’re just paying full price again.

So while the public transport is great and will get you there on time, make sure you plan your trip right.

4. Beware the Hills

One thing to watch out for is ‘short walks’. Google Maps will tell you that it’s only a twenty minute walk from your house to the Kelburn campus. But what it didn’t tell you is that it’s all uphill. And I don’t mean a gentle slope either, I mean a gruelling walk upwards where you feel like your legs are on fire by the time you get there.

And all the Wellingtonians who’ve been here forever make it look so easy. They look like they’re out for a Sunday stroll in the garden, but you look like you’re dying. You run into class, puffing, and with your face all red and sweaty. Then you realise you didn’t think to bring deodorant, and your sweat is making everyone move away from you. Quickly.

5. Town is Where It’s At

A key thing to remember when figuring out where to live is that everything is in town. There aren’t really any stores in the suburbs. If you’re lucky your suburb will have a ‘village’ that has a weird assortment of stores. Kelburn Village, one of the closest villages to the Kelburn campus, has some more normal places, like a pub and a bakery, but then there’s also a bridal shop. Which you may think isn’t that weird. That is until you think about the fact that there is nothing else around. All of the villages have completely different assortments of stores and none of them seem to make sense. Northland Village has a Pizza Hut, a Dominos, and a Hell Pizza all next door to each other. And yet there are no other pizza places anywhere nearby.

Really, you need to be in town. It has whatever you need, including, oddly enough, three Cotton On Body stores about a five minute walk from each other. Plus, there is a lot of student living in town. So remember to think about what you want to be near when you’re choosing where you live.

6. Missing a Store?

Although town has everything, there are some key things missing. Namely, Kmart. Where oh where is this student heaven? Not in Wellington. Nope, it’s all the way out in Lower Hutt.

Lower Hutt is a haven for those types of ‘missing stores’ Not only do they have a Westfield, but the whole place seems to be littered in shops. The downside: it’s not nearly as centralised as the main city. Expect to either bus in and do a lot of walking, or take a car.

7. Really Though, Hills Suck

All of the hills in Wellington mean that all the buildings seem to go up instead of out. Blocks of apartments are common, and in the suburbs the norm is houses that look way too skinny to be liveable. The worst thing is when you live in a place that’s off the road a bit because chances are you’re below someone else’s house and then there’ll be another one to three houses below you. That all seems fine, until you think about the earthquakes that frequent Wellington, and while you know it’s all okay, you can’t help thinking about whether that house is going to come sliding down on top of yours, creating a conga line of houses.

The other thing about building on such steep hills is the lack of parking. Yes, you can be that dick that parks opposite another car so that only the small cars can drive down the street. But do you want to? The other option seems to be a single garage or a raised platform to park your car on while you trek down all those steps to your house. Either way, even the ways houses are built seem to push people towards public transport. Because who wants to try figure out parking for more than one car per house? It’s nearly impossible.

8. Hiring a Moving Truck?

Just as narrow streets stop normal sized cars from driving around, they also impact your things actually getting to the house in the first place. It’s all well and good hiring a moving truck if you’re going cross country and just have to bring your bed with you. But maybe visit your new flat first. Maybe it’s not as easily accessible as you assumed. Maybe, you’ll find, the moving truck can’t actually get there, and your perfect plan to arrive simultaneously with your bed doesn’t actually go so well.

Best case scenario: the company will find a smaller truck to get down your street and you hopefully still get to sleep on your bed that night. Worst case scenario: you have to try lug your bed to your room from three blocks away while the movers point and laugh at you until you give up and just leave it on the street.

Okay, so that last one isn’t really likely, but still, remember to think this through before you hire a mover, and maybe tell them what they can expect.

9. Do Not Feed Mittens

You may find from your adventures on Vic Deals that everyone seems to be gushing about this random stray cat. Thing is, he’s not actually a stray. He’s the cat about town; everyone in the city knows him. But he does have owners. He is allowed to wander because they know he’ll always come back home for dinner.

If you see him you could even take a photo and share his adventures to the Facebook group, The Wonderous Adventures of Mittens, which is all about documenting sightings of Mittens and sharing them with the rest of Wellington. Mittens is a very popular cat. But don’t actually feed him because then he won’t know to go home to eat.

10. Say Goodbye to Mainstream

Sure, there are mainstream stores in town that’s true. But remember, these are for the tourists. It seems that to be a proper Wellingtonian you need to embrace the indies. Wellington is a haven for indies. Doesn’t matter for what either, everything has a beloved indie version. Cinemas, craft stores or book stores are just some of the more common options.

It seems though that no indie is more loved than Unity Books. When you move here you’ll probably hear about Unity at least five or six times in your first week. The first time you’ll think ‘Yeah okay I guess. But where’s the nearest Whitcoulls.’ After all, that’s what you know and you know what to expect there. But after a while you might feel compelled to seek this Unity place. And when you do, you will fall in love. Indies are at the heart of what makes Wellington what it is, and it’s easy to embrace them.