#4 12 Hours in Nelson, A Homeless Night on Street

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If you’ve read my previous episode, you’ll know that I’m flying from Auckland to Nelson after one night in the capital. Here’s how I spent 12 hours in Nelson, and it’s not a joyful night.

The airplane from Auckland to Nelson is quite unique. I have never been on an airplane like that before. It has an old-school look with two ‘fans’ at the wings, propelling backward. I have no idea how to describe it but I hope you could imagine it.

Arriving At Nelson Airport

When I was in Auckland, I checked Google Maps and decided to walk an hour or so to McDonald’s with my two backpacks because #YOLO.

I was so wrong.

The moment I arrive in Nelson Airport, I knew things weren’t going to work. It was raining…

After giving it a 5 minutes thoughts, I decided to spend a huge fortune to use to cab to the McDonald’s. It cost me NZ$22.

I still remember the cab driver told me, “The fruits are not called ‘Kiwi’, it’s called ‘kiwifruits’. The people in New Zealand are ‘Kiwi’. If you said that you’re gonna eat ‘Kiwi’, you’re saying that you are going to eat the people.”

Here’s the second thing I messed up. The McDonald’s is operated 24-hours. And in Malaysia, 24-hours operation literally means ‘We’re open for 24 hours a day’, and not ‘Hi, out dine-in is open until 12 am, but you can still order and take away your food,’!

Seems like New Zealand belongs to the latter category.

I sat down in the restaurant, trying to plug my laptop charger into the socket that’s not working. Determined to spend my night over there watching movies, I was told to leave at 11 pm when they are cleaning up the restaurant. 

I was blown away, nobody told me that. I had no idea where to go, they didn’t let me stay.

A Homeless Night

So I was out to the street with my backpacks, at 11.15pm, unsure of where to go.

I followed the BBH Hostels map and tried to find a bed in the midnight. Knocked on three hostels, two of them didn’t respond. My guess is they’re having a sweet dream on their warm bed, while I was in midst of the mild rain, looking for a place to just rest.

When I got to the third hostel, I was glad there’s a woman sitting outside with a bottle of beer. She said she’ll ask for the host to come down to assist me, but after she’s gone for literally 10 minutes and nobody shows up, I left. 

By that time, I was determined to spend my night on the street until the morning to catch my bus to Motueka.

Interested to apply for New Zealand Working Holiday Visa? Here’s a guide for you, which included all details and photos for every procedure.


After 5 minutes walk on the street, trying to look for some comfortable bench, I met a French guy (who told me he had no idea why ‘French Bean’ is called ‘French Bean’ while it’s not from France).

Well, I forgot his name but he asked whether I needed help. Told him what happened and surprisingly, he was planning to spend the night in McDonald’s too!

I told him I was chased out because they already closed their dine-in area by that time.

(Looks like France belongs to the former category?)

He was shocked. And both of us were thinking about where to go. We eventually just tagged along and walked together, searching for a ‘temporary home’. 

He was indeed a very nice guy to talk to. Having spent two years around Australia and New Zealand working as a cook, he was preparing to fly back to France in a few days.

While we were walking, he popped out with this brilliant idea.

“Hey, I got a tent on my backpack, wanna set up a tent somewhere?”

I was thinking: “Bro, are you kidding me? We’re inside a city!”

“Yea, sure. Let’s do it.”

12 hours in nelson

First (Illegal?) Adventure in Nelson

We had no idea whether it’s legal to set up a tent INSIDE a city or not. We came across a church that we didn’t even know the name and how it looked like because of the darkness.

The first thing we did was to find a flat ground so that we could set up the tent. We eventually found it after 10 minutes of darkness. The green ground looked like a black hole without light, seriously.

It took us 15 minutes to set up everything. I absolutely never imagined that I’ll be sleeping in a tent so freaking soon. And in front of a church, in a city? 

I couldn’t sleep well inside the tent as I’m a person who’s hard to fall asleep. (Anybody knows the word to describe it?) Even with so many things happened that night and I was so tired.

And he snores.

I eventually fell asleep, just to wake up at 3 am when my jeans were drenched in rainwater. It was raining, but that’s not the point.


We got up and immediately folded the tent up before walking down to the street with roofs. We parted way around 4 am, as he got a flight to catch in the early morning.

And I was all alone again.

I called my friend and at the end, we talked for over an hour, with wet clothes, wet jeans and wet shoes. Winds were still blowing by the time, but I felt like I was a warrior and able to adapt to whatever shitty environment.

I was lucky I wasn’t sick the day after. (Maybe I was a warrior after all? Just kidding)

a homeless night in nelson

So What I Did After That?

After the phone call, I got myself up, changed my pants (in the public, yes… I’m sorry, but…)

I came across a convenience store beside the gas station. Bought some energy bars in there, and spent two hours reading whatever reading materials I can find. The cashier guy was also very helpful to help me charge my phone for an hour. Thanks!

At 7 am, I left the convenience store after a grateful ‘thank you’ to the bus station to catch my 7.30am bus to Motueka. 

What’s gonna happen next? Find out in the next episode!

Through My Eyes Series updates every Saturday, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, here’s an Ultimate New Zealand Road Trip Guide for you. 5500+ words to get you all prepared for the trip. Not sure where to go? 25 Mind-Blowing Locations in New Zealand South Island and 27 Things to do in New Zealand South Island.

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12 Hours in Nelson, New Zealand and A Homeless Night in Nelson Street

Written by

Yen is a university student from Malaysia and a huge fan of Blues music and photography. His passion for travel can be traced back to 2016 when he spent 6 months traveling New Zealand. By blending into the locals and traveling long-term, he shares all the comprehensive and detailed travel ideas and guides for the countries with his footprints.

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