I’m back with another installation of frequently asked questions about doing a Working Holiday in New Zealand for Singaporeans!

If you’ve checked my previous post on all the frequently asked questions about applying for the Working Holiday visa, getting to New Zealand and how to prepare once you’re approved, you must have even more burning questions about living and working in New Zealand.

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TRAVEL HACK:

As always, I find the best way to source for the cheapest flights is by checking on Skyscanner & Momondo.

As for accommodation, I found HotelsCombined to provide the most comprehensive, unbiased comparison of different hotel sites. 🙂 Airbnb is another reliable one for accommodation. Use this link to get $62 off!

Protect yourself against mishaps & misadventures with World Nomads travel insurance.

Order your very own portable WiFi device & travel easy with Tep Wireless.

Fret not, for this post will talk all about getting around in New Zealand. From buying a car to selling a car, insurance and car maintenance, road conditions and traffic fines, this post is all about transportation in New Zealand!

If you’re returning after checking out the first FAQ post, I AM SORRY for taking so long to publish this next post. If you’re here now, thanks for sticking by!

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As a previous New Zealand Working Holiday worker, I’ve had so many adventures in my 6 months working and travelling around New Zealand, from flying on a helicopter and a glider to camping on a glacier, rock climbing and doing crazy hikes.

Even working in small town Fox Glacier had been an eye-opening experience, surviving on grocery store that’s a 3 hour drive away, and slowing my pace of life down. I share my thoughts and learning here.

You can scroll through some of my earlier New Zealand posts here if you want to learn more about the Kiwi life and travelling around the North and South island, but otherwise, let’s jump straight in!


DRIVING LICENSE IN NEW ZEALAND

Do you need to get the International Driving Permit to drive or rent cars in New Zealand?

No. Singapore’s license is international.

BUYING A CAR IN NEW ZEALAND

What factors to consider when buying a car?

Mileage – Generally the lower the mileage (below 150km) the better.

Age of car – The newer your vehicle (2000 and later), the safer your bets are. Since you will be driving long distances with it, newer vehicles should equate to better car safety and fuel efficiency. That being said, I’ve seen many locals with vehicles as old as me (‘90s baby!) and they still go long distances.

Purpose – Do you intend to convert it into a sleeping unit or use it solely for transportation?

Fuel economy – Certain models have better fuel economy so fuel lasts longer

Of course these criteria usually mean the vehicle is more expensive.

Avoid getting too old models and cheap cars because they are not reliable and you might spend more trying to fix your car.

Someone bought a big station wagon for NZD 2,200 which is very cheap for what he got. It broke down twice, even though the initial inspection was alright. The repairs alone costed him ~NZD 1,300.

“Don’t buy a Mazda Demio aka Mazda 2.”

“Never buy Subaru cars. They are s*** in general.”

How much is a used car?

A sample of a sale of a car can be found below.

Mitsubishi Galant 1997 in Auckland is about NZD 2300 (negotiable).

The specs are listed below:

  • Colour: Silver
  • Body Style: Saloon (Sedan)
  • Plate: DFE728
  • Seats: 5
  • CC rating: 1,834cc
  • Fuel Type: Petrol
  • Central locking
  • Air-conditioning & heating
  • Odometer: 117xxx Km
  • WOF: 02 Feb 2017
  • Rego: 25 Oct 2017
  • Tyres changed in August 2016
  • Wipers changed in July 2016
  • Oil & diesel changed in July 2016

Free:

  • Handphone clamp
  • Camping lamp
  • Duvet & Sleeping bag
  • Portable stove & gas can
  • Pot and frying pan
  • Cutlery, bowl & cup
  • Glass container with cover
  • Pepper, salt & sauces
  • Clothes Hangers & Laundry pegs
  • Gum boots & rain coats X2sets
  • Heater (with valid warranty)
vineyard cycle, Great Taste Trail Nelson, New Zealand

Wine-tasting tour on bike, Nelson

How much on average should I bring to buy a car?

Bring NZD 3500 to be safe.

Get a car that’s at least a year 2000 with pretty good tyres so there’s less chances of problems on road. Also set aside about NZD 500 for insurance and AA membership (based on 6 months usage).

If you are buying a car, you can also use the certificate of ownership letter from NZ transport agency as supporting document for the bank account application.

Where to go to buy second hand cars in New Zealand?

  • Trademe.co.nz
  • Facebook groups
  • Turners

While buying cars from Trademe or Facebook groups are cheaper, it comes with more risk. You have to find a reliable mechanic shop to check the car before you buy it.

“I bought a 2003 Nissan Presage off Trademe, and got it checked with AA inspection before I made the deal.”

“We got a 2000 Honda Odyssey through Trademe. The previous owner is a mechanic so the car is in pretty good condition. You can see the seller reviews on trade me to see if they are reliable.”

If you have the budget, try Turners. They sell second-hand cars. While it costs a little more, they are more reliable and offer a stress-free experience.

Turners has an in-house inspection. If you have any problems especially problems that did not exist prior to the checking of the car by their in-house mechanic within a month of purchase, you can discuss with them to repair for you for free.

Many of their customers are very happy with them, as reflected by the reviews about them.

Turners are very professional and you don’t have to worry when talking to them. Ask them everything about the car under the sun, test drive it and even if you don’t buy it, they won’t mind.

“I bought my car with a clean checklist, and after a month or so, I had problems with the battery (car died a few times) and brakes (vibrates a lot when used). I went to the nearest outlet that I was at, and got it checked and they gave me a brand new battery and brake pads for free! Awesome company really! There are similar good reviews about them too!”

How much did you pay for your car at Turners?

One of them bought a Toyota ISIS 7-seater at NZD6500. He was first owner in New Zealand. Imported from Japan and it’s only 89000 km, which is a pretty decent deal for such a low mileage.

Would the vehicle purchased from Turners come with new WOF and rego?

Yes they will.

“I bought the car with a clean inspection list. Then after a month of buying the car, it kept dying and the brake vibrate very vigorously when slowing down. So I brought it back, they told me it’s because the battery is old and not often used by the past owner and the brake pad was uneven. They changed both the battery and brake pad for F.R.E.E. I’m super impressed by their reliability.”

Which Turners branch did you go to?

Auckland. But we got our car repaired at Wellington. Turners have outlets in both islands. When faced with any problems, you can go to any outlet.
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Any car model recommendations?

“I got a Subaru Legacy wagon. Personally happy with it since it’s a 4WD and it took me thru snow, ice and grit without needing snow chains.”

Did anybody buy cars through dealers? Did you still opt to do the vehicle history checks and go through the mechanical checks? Is there anything to note when talking with a car dealer?

Pick a few cars that you like and do a research on them on the common problems or issues of those models.

After choosing the car you want, there is checklist that their in-house mechanics would have done on the car.

No second-hand car is perfect. If you can handle the problems of the car or can find one with no issues (which would be more expensive), then buy it.

Does anyone know of a good dealer/place to get a car in Auckland city? Or is it better & cheaper to get one outside of Auckland?

Try the Sunday car market in Auckland.

Can you get a car via auction?

Yes. Some of their auction cars are fantastic. You just have to do some research and have in mind what car you want.

WOF IN NEW ZEALAND

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What is a WOF?

A Warrant of Fitness (WOF) is a regular check to ensure that your vehicle meets required safety standards. Vehicles in New Zealand will need annual WOF inspections for their lifetime.

Where can I register for a new WOF?

You can definitely get it done with AA, or you can do so at any other workshop that is certified to do so. The upside to getting it done with other workshops is that they tend to be cheaper and more lenient.

You should try to do it in town areas or places that are less secluded.

How much is it to extend the Warranty of Fitness (WOF) and Vehicle Registration Number (REGO) for a second-hand car?

For REGO, the price is specific to the car itself, so it would be best to check online for accurate pricing.

For WOF, if you go with VTNZ, it is NZD 59. You can also go to a workshop that does it, which could be NZD 30+. A caveat of going to a workshop is that there’s a risk of not getting the WOF extended, as they want to earn on repairs of the vehicle.

AA charges NZD 54 for an extension of WOF. If you’re an AA member, you get to enjoy a NZD 5 discount.

Has anybody registered for a new WOF before? How much does it cost and what other documents are required for the registration of a vehicle to be transferred to you?

You can get it for NZD 40, but there are also cheaper options available.

You only need your driving license and a completed registration form.

CAR INSURANCE IN NEW ZEALAND

scenic helicopter flight snow mountain franz glacier fox glacier new zealand

What is pre-purchase inspection?

It is when you send a car you intend to purchase to a recognized dealer to check the condition of your car to ensure it meets the standards.

Any recommended mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection?

I would recommend you only go to AA or VTNZ. They will give you a detailed report and a checklist of all the items they will check.

How much is pre-purchase inspection with AA?

A pre-purchase inspection with AA is NZD 149 for members and NZD 169 for non-members for a one-time fee.

If you’re asking about the AA motor insurance, it’s NZD 100+ to NZD 300+ per year based on the year of your car. The newer your car, the more expensive it costs.

This price covers theft and fire damage. You can also get the additional NZD 69 no-questions-asked windshield/windows glass coverage as well.

The good thing is, you can use it for only 3-4 months, then get the rest refunded via AA’s live chat. Super quick and easy.

Why do you get refunded? How does it work?

Just pay the annual lump sum. If you use the car for less than a year, just call or contact AA’s live chat and give your policy number. Tell them you don’t need it as you’ve sold your car and you’re refunded within the hour.

Third party coverage is more important than windscreen coverage. In the event something happens, you have to pay the other party if you don’t have a third-party coverage.

On the bright side, the cars in NZ are not too expensive. It could cost about NZD 2000 – 3000 to settle most payments.

Takeaway:

  • You should at least get third party insurance coverage
  • Windscreen coverage is important, especially in South Island as the small gravel from the roads could crack your windscreen easily
  • The BEST is to get a comprehensive coverage + windscreen + AA Membership

Has anyone changed their battery with AA or done car inspections with them prior to their vehicle purchase?

“I have done my car inspection with AA. Went with the mobile inspection where they will travel to the place of the vehicle. I also did the bronze servicing with them and changed a tire with an AA workshop. They were quite professional I would think.

However, I still have the feeling that the WOF inspection seems to be the only time where mechanics can ‘rip’ you off since they know that you will do anything to get the vehicle passed.”

“AA is the best. I have many good experiences with them.  Inspection, change new tires, WOF, etc”

“When we bought the car, the Kiwi grandpa was telling us that he goes to VTNZ instead of AA, because the latter has their own workshop so he felt that AA might not be as objective as VTNZ for WOF.”

“I brought my car for AA servicing and it’s good. In my opinion, it might not be the cheapest, but it is the most reliable ones. ”

“I opted for VTNZ mechanical check only. It’s the cheaper option.”
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I’m a safe driver, do I still need to get insurance?

Unfortunately, being a safe driver doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be any accidents as they are all unexpected. Icy road conditions, being hit by another car, scratches to a car caused by gravel roads… All these are beyond our control, no matter how safe you are.

Does vehicle insurance cost differently in different cities? Which is cheaper?

The cost of vehicle insurance in Christchurch/ South Island is significantly lower than that of the Auckland/ North Island.

The monthly comprehensive vehicle insurance with AA in the South is NZD 30 while the costs will be NZD 70+ in Auckland.

Is the third-party coverage expensive?

It’s not expensive to get a third-party insurance coverage. The price does depend on your car.

If you have a foreign driver’s license, you need to pay NZD 400 for a year coverage. It’s an additional NZD 500-550 if you’re under 25. These amounts are on top of your excess.

If the car accident is the other party’s fault and you have all their details, then the insurance company will get the driver at fault to pay for your excess.

If it’s a hit and run, then unfortunately you have to pay for your own excess.

If it’s a small issue that can be settled on our own without engaging a car insurance, it will be better to do so, because after you have claimed up to NZD 700 (or NZD 1250 and more if you’re under 25), you will need to pay anything else yourself as the insurance won’t take in your claims.

Should I get AA’s third-party insurance or comprehensive insurance?

Comprehensive and third-party are two different tiers of insurance coverage.

Some people signed up as an AA member in SG when they were having a promotion. In NZ, they will then issue a 6-month free local membership when you show them your SG card.

Third-party fire and theft, with windscreen cover are about NZD 29 per month as compared to NZD 59 per month for comprehensive.

Under the third-party insurance coverage, the insurance company will pay for the damages to the other party’s car.

Under the comprehensive insurance coverage, the insurance company will pay for both you and the other party.

For both insurance coverage plans, you’ll need to pay an excess amount that was selected when you buy the insurance coverage for your car.

Does the third-party fire and theft cover road service?

Only AA members are eligible for free road service.

If I’m moving around, do I need to change my address for my car insurance with AA each time I move to a new place?

You’re advised to call and update your address with AA and NZTA if you’re in a place for more than a week.

CAR MAINTENANCE IN NEW ZEALAND

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What’s the rough cost of car maintenance?

“I got my WOF in Paihia and it cost me NZD 40 more to change a blown headlight as they were the only mechanic in the vicinity. “

Simply changing a head bulb, bought at Repco, in Blenheim costs NZD 18.

Has anyone changed battery before or had issues with your car going uphill etc? AA is quoting my car NZD 199 (member price) for it, I’m not sure if that’s the market price?

“I changed my batt from Repco for around NZD 200.”

Our car won’t start and check engine light is out. What should I do?

If the battery still shows some sign of life, try pumping the accelerator a few times before u crank the ignition.

If it’s flat out, try jump starting with another car’s help.

“This is when AA’s Roadside Assistance is essential. Our AA guy came and fixed it within 20 seconds when my car battery died.”

SELLING YOUR CAR IN NEW ZEALAND

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Roys Peak, Wanaka

Where do you sell your car?

The demand for cars is higher in the North as most people start off there, which could make it easier to sell your car.

What are the precautions I need to take when selling my car?

Do be careful of scams when selling your car.

There are people who will say that they are interested in your car and wish to buy from you but are not yet on the island. They will then ask for your account number so that they can transfer you the money and to do a transfer of ownership.

Beware of variations of such schemes as you should never disclose your account number to anyone you don’t know.

Where do I sell my car at the end of my NZ journey?

You can sell it through Facebook groups, Facebook Marketplace, Trademe, Sidines, or posting on supermarket advertisement boards. Post photos and a brief description of the car.

There are also Sunday car markets in certain towns.

Your last resort would be to go to a dealer as they will severely mark down the prices.

PETROL PRICES IN NEW ZEALAND

hokitika gorge, new zealand

Swing bridge on Hokitika Gorge

Is there a way we can check petrol prices before arriving?

You can check the approximate price on Pricewatch.

Any tips for saving on petrol?

Fuel can be a lot more expensive at remote places, small or touristy towns. Fuel in secluded places without big brands like BP, Caltex, Mobil are more expensive.

In the South Island, petrol rates there higher at touristy places i.e. Franz Josef, Wanaka, Queenstown and Te Anau. Franz Josef is around 2.1x per litre.

Get the AA Smartfuel card and you can accumulate discount per litre at Caltex or BP. You can get the card at any Caltex or BP stations. Every NZD 40 or more worth of fuel will earn you 6 cents. So, when you are accumulating the “6 cents off per litre” discount, top up in multiples of NZD 40. If you need more, top up NZD 40 first then another NZD 40.

“All these while we’ve been using the points every time and topping up NZD 20 – NZD 30 each time.”

Every 2 weeks or so there will be 10 cents off day. Sign up for AA Smartfuel to know when it will be 10 cents off. That said, don’t go all out with that discount since it only works out to NZD 2 worth.

The AA Smartfuel discount will expire the end of next month so you can accumulate until a lot then top up 50L at one go every other month.

There is debate that prices go down as fast as they go up, but others say that it goes up much faster and stay increased much longer.

What is the incentive to fuel up at Pak n Save?

When you spend at least NZD 80, you get 15 cents discount per litre at the pumps, so you can pump for NZD 1.69/l. The prices are competitive though.

It also depends on which Pak n Save you go to. Some give the coupons at lower spending amounts. Big cities require higher spending amounts e.g. spend above NZD 200 and get 10 cents off a litre.

How much is petrol per kilometre?

Generally, 1 litre takes you roughly 10 to 12km. Which means NZD 2 per 10 to 12km.

“I drove from Christchurch to Auckland.  Considering I did an extremely snaky route, I suspect I spent close to NZD 400.”

What’s the cheapest fuel company in NZ?

Pak n Save pumps. Do enough shopping there and you will get discount codes for the pump.

Note that some Pak n Save outlets can be more expensive though.

That said, don’t waste petrol driving around to find the cheapest petrol station.

Know how big your car’s fuel tank is, how much distance on average you will cover with half/quarter tank etc. It might take some effort but it can help you a lot in planning your trips and how far in advance to refuel.

The most accurate way will be to reset your odometer when you pump. Take distance travelled / amount of petrol pumped when you do the next full top up.

RENTING A CAR IN NEW ZEALAND

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With our trusty campervan in New Zealand!

Do you have to buy insurance?

Unlike newer cars, if you choose the cheapest category of car, zero-dollar excess insurance is compulsory.

For newer type of cars, you have the option of choosing the basic NZD 2000 excess or top up for zero-dollar excess.

“My friend and I are currently travelling around using the car from Lucky Rental. Its zero-dollar excess insurance covers tyres (unlike Omega). So far so good. I pay NZD 10 daily for insurance, which totals to NZD 24/day from renting.”

Are there cheap car rentals around?

You can check my Travel Resources page for my recommended car rental brands.

If you’re planning to travel in the direction from Christchurch to Queenstown direction, check out the transfer car option. Car rental companies like Jucy have them. The demand for car rental is higher in Queenstown so they require cars to be transported from Christchurch to Queenstown. As such, they would sometimes slash prices if you’re driving from Christchurch to Queenstown.

They can offer you a car rental for free for 5 days with one tank of petrol. Anything extra is cost borne by you. You’re charged a rental rate starting from Day 6.

RENTING A MOTORCYCLE IN NEW ZEALAND

Is it advisable to rent a motorbike to drive around the south for 2 weeks?

Renting a bike is almost the same price as a car price, and crosswinds can be scary around Queenstown.

In NZ, their bikes usually above 600cc so if you are thinking of riding there, you need a class 2 license.

DRIVING FINES IN NEW ZEALAND

lake matheson, fox glacier, new zealand

Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier

If you’re back in Singapore and didn’t pay your fine, what do you do and what are the consequences?

Just pay online. If you don’t pay for 28 days from the date of the letter, it goes to court and you become a criminal. It’s best to call the traffic department to check.

You can appeal for some of the fines.

“I appealed mine online for parking too close to the entrance. It didn’t block the entrance but apparently, you must not be in the 1 metre area of the entrance.”

How will you know if you’ve received a speeding ticket by a speed camera?

They will send your ticket to your registered address on the car registration form.

Has anybody ever tried cleaning off the chalk mark on your tyres and continued parking?

(So how parking attendants track your parking duration is by marking on your car tyres with chalk.)

It’s best you leave the current spot and park somewhere else.

Where can I check if I’ve got any notice by the traffic police with regards to speeding?

Link

ROAD CONDITIONS IN NEW ZEALAND

girl omarama autumn fall new zealand

In Omarama during autumn

Along the Catlins, I understand that there is quite a lot of gravel road conditions. How did you manage with a rental car? Won’t that void the insurance?

Just the stretch after Curio Bay. It’s still manageable if you drive very slowly.

Also, pump your petrol in Balclutha before heading in. Owaka petrol price is insane.

Will car rental companies be able to tell? By looking at the car tyre or something?

I don’t think they would be able to tell unless your tyres are really worn out for some reason.

Gravel roads are inevitable in NZ. Most gravel don’t do much damage to the car except for some scratches. To minimize this, just go slow.

“The worst gravel road I went through is the one to Rob Roy glacier. It spoilt my horn because I had to go through many fjords.”

What about the unsealed road to Nugget Point? Gravel road too?

Yes. Just drive slowly and don’t tell your rental company unnecessarily that you drove on gravel roads. Common sense!

Besides Arthur’s Pass, are there any other roads that you find slightly more challenging to navigate?

“If it were me, I’ll skip Greymouth and Nelson. Arthur’s Pass is one of my favourite drives.”

Has anyone gotten snow chains for their tyres or met with any bad road condition during winter?

Snow chains are custom to the profile of your wheels, so I wouldn’t recommend buying any sets around. If you really want one, you can buy it second-hand or go a proper auto shop and specifically buy the chain that is recommended for your tyre.

If you’re lucky, it might come free when you purchase your car.

If you’re renting a car, rental companies offer snow chains at a fee.

You might get away with driving in winter sans snow chains if you have a 4-wheel drive.

If the snow conditions are really bad, there will be road safety people making sure cars have snow chains on before letting them through.

Is there a website or app to get info on the road condition on road closure?

Link

DRIVING TIPS IN NEW ZEALAND

new zealand lupins

Tips for driving in summer?

Get sun shades, car screens or curtains as the sun rays literally blinds you when you drive, and the reflection is terrible as well.

It also helps protect the food in the car during sunny days when. You can get sun shades from Decathlon at around $10. (Singapore is cheaper.)

Keep your food in a tray below the car seats where it is cool as it traps cold air from the night. Also, have a food bag handy for keeping perishables.

If you are coming to NZ in summer and getting a car, try to get one that is tinted.

Anyone heard of Quickshuttle?

Quick shuttle is a shuttle service and it averages about NZD 30/pax.

If you want to get a driver, there are some Chinese private drivers / tour guides around. Not sure how much it’ll cost daily.

Are those Chinese private drivers or guide trustworthy?

Generally, yes – the ones I know have been offering their services for a number of years.

Is there any free parking in Wellington?

Free parking on weekend until evening time. Elsa, near Dixon Street opposite the Harea Mai Korean Asian Supermarket has one Wilson parking if I am not wrong that’s NZD 3 per hour instead of the usual NZD 4 per hour.

“BP petrol stations. There are some lots there, I parked there for a few hours without a problem. There’s a 2-hour limit but we just park anyway.”

How do you navigate?

Download offline maps on an app called ‘Here’. You can also use the app ‘Maps.me’ or use Google maps and download it offline when you have WiFi. I write a whole post on how you can do it here.

TO GET OR NOT GET A CAR IN NEW ZEALAND

tranzalpine wellington to auckland new zealand

On board the Tranzalpine train

I would recommend getting a car if you have the budget. It offers you the freedom of travelling. Buses in NZ are a pain.

Of course, the car is your responsibility and liability until you sell it. It’s more worth it to buy car then to rent because you can still sell off the car at the end of your trip and may be able to recoup the cost.

Buy a bigger car and you can even sleep in it.

“We have a station wagon. Converted the back into a sleeping space for 2 to save on accommodation. There’s still space to put our food basket, 20L water tank and food tray.”

“I use my car as a hotel shuttle and charge guests for it. NZD 12.50 per way per person. Additional NZD 5 surcharge if I have to travel before 8am. Use these for petrol money!”

Is it easy to travel around without a car?

If you pack light, yes., with Intercity buses.

However, Intercity doesn’t get you near all the attractions, just in major towns. You’d still need to navigate from the main stops.

I’m thinking of doing a solo trip, but I don’t drive, so I’d like to find out whether is it recommended and how’s their public transport network like -are they convenient?

You can try hitchhiking. NZ is generally quite safe to do so.

Public transport network outside the major cities like Auckland and Wellington suck. It’s also super costly in Auckland. Taking a train from one place to another on a return trip costs NZD 36.

LEARNING TO DRIVE IN NEW ZEALAND

Is it possible to learn driving in NZ?

NZ license has 3 tiers. To get the full license, you need to stay there for at least 1.5 years.


Next up I’ll be sharing more about:

  • Accommodation – Where to stay, van life
  • Jobs – Where to look for jobs, types of jobs, income, tax return
  • Shopping – Where to buy what, second hand shops, where to find the best deals
  • Visa – How to extend this Working Holiday in NZ
  • Travel tips – Where to go, where to stay, where to hike, where to see the Southern Lights
  • Budget tips – Which supermarket is cheapest, etc

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Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.