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A student’s guide to living in Auckland

Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and a place where you can experience a big city lifestyle as well as the peace and quiet the country is famous for.

Built around a series of extinct volcanoes on the edge of a natural harbour dotted with picturesque islands, Auckland is rich in history and offers a fantastic quality of living whether you prefer daytime activities or a busy night life.

Auckland is also one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, so don’t feel too surprised if a stranger starts chatting with you while you’re waiting for your bus.

study in auckland

The best suburbs for student living

Finding your feet in a new city can be a little overwhelming – so knowing which suburbs are most student-friendly will give you a good head start.

Mount Roskill/Three Kings

Mount Roskill and the neighbouring suburb of Three Kings are on the south-west side of Central Auckland and have great bus networks connecting to the Central Business District (CBD).

Double-decker buses are available on most routes to and from the central city and run regularly throughout the day. Dominion Road runs through the heart of Mount Roskill and is host to a big selection of international supermarkets and restaurants, so you’ll never be hungry here.

Birkenhead/North Shore

Across the Auckland City Harbour is the area known as the North Shore. Although living across the harbour may sound like a lot of travelling, it’s actually the opposite. The Northern Motorway connects the North Shore to the CBD with a designated bus lane so you’re less likely to get stuck in traffic if you catch the bus rather than drive. It can also be really nice crossing the harbour into the city every day.

Depending on which campus you’re based at, the North Shore – specifically Birkenhead – can be an ideal suburb to live in. When choosing a place to live, always keep in mind where the closest bus stop is that heads into the CBD.


Pakuranga is a neighbourhood suburb between East Auckland and the CBD. It’s a 10-minute drive to the CBD while also being only 10 minutes to the heart of East Auckland, an area well-known for its extensive selection of Chinese cuisine and Asian supermarkets. There’s also a night market every Saturday in the area.

Commuting to the CBD from Pakuranga is just a 5-minute bus ride to Panmure train station which takes you straight into the CBD. Alternatively, there’s a park-and-ride option which means you can park your car at the train station and take the train to the city.

Eden Terrace

Eden Terrace is an area with many apartments for rent, conveniently located near the city with great transport links including trains into the CBD as well as other nearby popular suburbs. It’s also walking distance to the city, so it’s great for those sunny Auckland days.

On top of that it’s close to other popular suburbs like Ponsonby, Newmarket and Mt Eden which all have their own centres featuring shops, cafés and restaurants.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay offers traditional neighbourhood living and a traffic-free transport option to get into Central Auckland, with ferries running regularly from the Half Moon Bay Marina to the CBD.

It’s a lovely residential area featuring lots of restaurants and grocery shopping options.

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Getting around Auckland safely on public transport

Auckland has a lot to offer when you’re ready to explore beyond the CBD.

All its major suburbs and malls are within 30 minutes to one hour’s travel by either public transport or car, so there’s no excuse to hang around campus all the time.

Get a transport (AT HOP) card, add auto top up – and ALWAYS remember to tag off

You can buy an AT HOP card wherever you see signs with “AT” on the pavement. Once you have your travel card, go to the AT website and set up the auto top-up function. This way, when your card balance goes below a certain amount, it will auto top up using your debit/credit card and you won’t find yourself unable to travel.

It’s important to remember to tap your AT HOP card to the bus reader when you get on the bus and when you get off again. If you forget to “tap off” you will be charged a penalty, so keep your card handy whilst you’re on the bus so you don’t forget!

Download the AT Transport app

Having the AT Transport app on your phone will help you make the most of public transport in Auckland. With the app, you can do all kinds of handy stuff, like:

  • Save your regular journeys: Add your regular bus or train routes into the app so you can easily check timetables.
  • Set up real-time notifications: The app can notify you if your train or bus is behind schedule. You can also get notifications when your train or bus is a certain number of stops away.
  • Track your bus or train in real time: View exactly where your bus/train is through the map view, along with an estimate on its arrival time. Super useful so you don’t miss your bus!

Get the AT Park app

It’s best to avoid driving into the CBD, but if you absolutely have to, the AT Park app provides a convenient way to pay for your parking. You’ll need to set up the app before you use it, by either creating or linking it to your existing MyAT account and credit card.

After you’ve parked, enter the parking area ID (found on street signs, the closest parking machine or within the app) and your car number plate. The app will confirm it’s registered your parking and you won’t need to display a parking ticket. When you’re ready to end your parking session, simply tap “stop” in the app and you’ll just be charged for the time you parked.

Driving in Auckland

Driving in and around Auckland can be unpredictable with often heavy traffic and changeable weather conditions.

Make sure you have full car insurance and a NZ legal driver’s license prior to driving. Ensure any vehicle you drive has a current Warrant of Fitness (WOF) and is registered with the NZTA to be considered a legal vehicle, otherwise your insurance will be invalid.

Be prepared for unexpected rain

It is not unusual to have rain showers paired with bright sunshine in Auckland. Make sure you always have a small umbrella with you on winter days if walking is going to be your main transport.

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Settling in to life in Auckland

Moving into a new city can be exciting and scary at the same time, particularly if it’s in a new country.

Here are some tips for settling in, so you can get on with making the most of your time in Auckland.

Find $3 shops on Queen Street

$3 shops such as Daiso are great places to stop by during your first month in Auckland.

Selling everything from kitchenware to toiletries and stationery, you’ll be able to find almost everything you need to move into your new home and get ready for your first week of uni. $3 shops are a great one-stop-shop to pick up essentials at a bargain price.

Be travel ready for the Auckland Transport system

Go to a train station, ferry terminal or any Auckland Transport (AT) authorised retail shop and buy an AT HOP card. Look out for the “AT” sign outside of shops as it indicates places selling the AT HOP travel cards or check out this list of retailers.

You will need to show AT proof that you’re a full-time student before you can enjoy student travel discounts. This is called applying for a concession. Depending on your place of study, there may be alternative ways to apply for a concession. Ask at your place of study for the best way to apply for a concession.

Remember, you won’t get any student discount if you pay with cash so remember to take your AT HOP card with you all the time.

Use online platforms

There’s a chance your new home won’t be furnished so you’ll need to buy furniture. Search for Facebook groups with names such as ‘Auckland Central – Buy/Sell/Trade’ for local bargains. Another popular online platform is the TradeMe (NZ’s version of Ebay) where you can occasionally grab a great $1 reserve deal! Just remember to check where the item needs to be collected from, as not everyone will deliver.

A second hand store in the Epsom neighbourhood, called Royal Oak Traders has a range of good quality second hand furniture for sale. The shop is about a 15-minute bus ride from the CBD with a bus stop about 30 metres away from the store. You can also arrange delivery in store if you don’t have a car to transport your new furniture.

Buy second hand textbooks

Second hand textbooks are often available for sale online. Ask around to find out the Facebook groups for your place of study: for students at the University of Auckland there are groups such as ‘Second Hand Books – Auckland Uni’. Most textbooks are near new or in great condition so it’s worth hunting them out.

The University Book Shop (UBS) also sells second hand textbooks. Always check the second-hand section before you invest in a brand new textbook!

Remember, you don’t have to buy your textbooks at the beginning of the semester, and some papers don’t even require textbooks. Always check with your lecturers first before spending your money.

Get involved – join students clubs and associations

During the first week of uni you’ll see all the student clubs and associations have stalls around the campus to take new member registrations. Joining uni clubs and associations is a great way to make new friends and also take advantage of some great student discounts from a range of restaurants and shops you’ll come across daily.

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Local sights to take visitors

Enjoy the weekend markets in Old Howick Village

This is a traditional Auckland neighbourhood to give a taste of the local lifestyle.

Experience what typical Aucklanders do on their days off – have brunch with your friends and family at boutique cafés, visit the local stores, and check out the Howick Village Market where you will find a range of stalls selling everything locally grown and made. This includes fresh baking, fruit & vegetables and gifts. This market is every Saturday in Howick Village on Picton Street.

Take a stroll along the beach at Half Moon Bay

This is a great beach and café destination – without the tourists!

Half Moon Bay is a traditional Auckland neighbourhood. Many households have been living there for decades. The suburb really gives you the experience of living like a local in a classic New Zealand neighbourhood. Beach walks and cafés are popular ways for Aucklanders to unwind and can both be enjoyed here.

Hop on a winery tour and enjoy the sights of Waiheke Island

Catch a ferry from the CBD to Waiheke Island. Locals love a weekend getaway over on Waiheke. The island’s views back to Auckland’s CBD, plus the prestigious wineries, are always a wow factor for visitors. Take a 35-minute ferry ride and join a winery tour for an amazing day out. It’s a good idea to book ferry tickets in advance as the ferry can be full during peak seasons.

With its own micro climate, Waiheke is particularly famous for its red wine varieties and has at least 20 vineyards to check out! You must visit Cable Bay and Kennedy Point vineyards, both feature amazing views and dining experiences and also offer a range of award-winning wines that you can taste and buy.

There’s plenty of accommodation options on the island if you wish to stay overnight as most people find one day on Waiheke is never enough.

Lunch like a local in Ponsonby, Kingsland or Parnell

Auckland’s café scene originated around 40 years ago with keen coffee drinkers trying to replicate the great coffee they experienced in continental Europe.

Today, the coffee you can drink in Auckland is acknowledged to be amongst the best in the world, but many cafés don’t just serve sublime coffee. Auckland’s cafés offer gourmet breakfasts, sandwiches and toasties, serving from early morning all through the day and often into the night. The authentic flat white coffee is a New Zealand creation so be sure to have at least one a day.

Cafés usually cater to all dietary requirements and offer an extensive range of food prepared fresh from the kitchen as well as cabinet food.

Many cafés have indoor or outdoor seating and are a great way to enjoy people watching on a sunny day. Make sure to visit areas like Parnell, Kingsland and Ponsonby to experience the best in Auckland’s café culture.

Ponsonby is a popular suburb for cafés that locals visit throughout the week. It also features many local and family run shops such as bakeries, jewellers, butchers, themed cafés (Circus Circus is a great place to start). A visit to Auckland isn’t complete until you’ve shared the experience of a weekend in Ponsonby.

Experience a night market

It’s a totally different kind of experience going to a night market in Auckland. Most of them offer a whole range of different food, live music and interesting performances. Visiting a night market will be a unique and vibrant experience to share with your visitors.

Friday night’s Night Market in the CBD comes highly recommended, with an interesting atmosphere fuelled by Auckland-style street food and live music.

The Pakuranga Night Market on Saturday nights was one of the first night markets to launch in Auckland. It’s actually underground so you don’t have to worry about rain or cold weather in the winter. There’s always a great range of international street-style food, drinks and desserts as well as local people selling handcrafts.

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