Using an Australian Bartercard in New Zealand: What no one tells you

New Zealand from the sky

One of the big things we utilise our Bartercard membership for is travel. Bartercard is only available in a limited number of countries, and outside of Australia, New Zealand is one of the bigger ones. This makes it perfect for use when travelling. There are, however, a few caveats that Bartercard won’t tell you. Ironically because they either don’t know or don’t actually understand the problems that exist with the network when you are trading between Australia and New Zealand. It took me a great deal of pushing to finally come up with solutions to some of these issues, and if you are aware of them in advance, you can plan for them so they aren’t a problem.

In New Zealand, most merchants use EFTPOS terminals for Bartercard transactions

In Australia, very few EFTPOS terminal providers have ever been compatible with Bartercard and right now I don’t believe any of them are compatible. That means in Australia we are used to processing all our transactions using the trade vouchers, the mobile app, or the MyBC website.

In New Zealand though, they are much more advanced. Bartercard is compatible with pretty much every EFTPOS terminal provider in New Zealand. This means that most merchants only process transactions this way. Why? It’s so much simpler, especially for staff training, because it’s no different to processing a credit or debit card.

We encountered very few Bartercard members who knew how to process transactions any other way. Rather than making Bartercard a seamless experience this created some big problems for us.

Australian Bartercard cards don’t work in New Zealand EFTPOS terminals

It turns out that while Bartercard is much more usable and accessible in New Zealand, the EFTPOS terminals cannot process Australian cards.

The net result is primarily employees looking confused and unsure about what to do next because they aren’t trained or even aware of any other ways to process Bartercard transactions.

If you contact Bartercard about it, they will just tell you it’s all good, just pay using the app or trade vouchers. This is an ok discussion to have if you are dealing with the owner, but if they aren’t available, our experience was that everywhere outside of New Plymouth, employees didn’t know what we were talking about, nor did most of the owners we spoke to. Also, the app requires mobile data so if there is no wifi you need to be roaming or have purchased a New Zealand sim card.

We found that hotels/motels were typically more likely to know how to use MyBC or vouchers to process transactions, or to at least have processes in place for employees to get all the details and either the duty manager or owner would process it later. This was not always the case though and we did encounter one hotel, in particular, that would not entertain any other payment options, it was either through the EFTPOS terminal or cash. We encountered a number of others that also were not aware of the issue and didn’t know how to process the payment any other way.

Bartercard trade vouchers aren’t a solution

The next recommendation from Bartercard is, of course, to drop into a trade office and pick up a trade voucher book, because every merchant can process Australian cards that way with no problems.

Except, however, that most of the owners we spoke to had never even seen a trade voucher let alone knew what they were. Employees even less so. Owners were sometimes willing to learn, once they confirmed with Bartercard that they are in fact a legitimate method of payment. In most cases though, we’re talking a half hour conversation with the owner followed by them calling Bartercard. So this can easily kill your schedule.

Employees are generally suspicious. The first place we visited on Bartercard was The Hop Garden. This is where we first discovered the problem. They had confirmed in advance that Bartercard was fine, however, it turned out no one knew how to process it any other way so they required us to pay cash instead.

We found one restaurant out of all the Bartercard businesses we visited (excluding New Plymouth) that was willing to give the vouchers a go. The only problem was, it turns out they had no record of their Bartercard number, the 24-hour Bartercard authorisations line can’t give it to you, and it was outside of trade office hours so they couldn’t call their trade office either. Also, the owner was overseas and unreachable.

We spent over an hour with the duty manager that night trying to get it processed. With only one waiter and bartender on besides himself that night, there was a backlog of food coming from the kitchen, and a delay on drinks coming from the bar. It was starting to upset other people and we felt pretty awful. Not to mention, it was getting pretty late. Finally, they decided since the 24-hour authorisations line had confirmed the vouchers are legitimate, they would take it with our details and process the payment when the owner got back. We had a voucher with us so we filled it out with all our details. We also left all our contact info. 6 weeks later, the payment still hasn’t been processed.

Solution: Bartercard gift cards

In New Zealand, you can purchase Bartercard gift cards using your trade dollars. These gift cards work in the New Zealand EFTPOS terminals and behave just like any other Bartercard card. This is the best solution we were able to find.

New Zealand Bartercard Gift Cards

There are limitations though.

  1. Bartercard gift cards have a $500 limit.
  2. You can only get 1 gift card per person in a 12-month period.

Bartercard New Zealand was willing to load $1000 onto our gift cards and issue us two cards, one for me and one for my wife.

The caveats here were that it was not made clear to us (and yes I’ve checked all of our communications) that you can’t get more than 1 gift card per person in a 12-month period. It was only when we ran out 2 weeks out from the end of our trip and wanted to pick up just one more card that we were told that would be an issue. If we had been advised of that clearly, we would have used them differently and skipped a few of the things we did so that they would last us through.

Now, the gift cards did come with a terms and conditions sheet, which I skimmed over. So there probably was something about the 1 card per person limit in there, but it’s not something you expect given you can buy thousands of dollars in gift cards for supermarkets or department stores over the counter without issue. Apparently, there are anti-money laundering laws in New Zealand which are why this limit is in place. Again, odd given how many gift cards I could buy for New World or Farmers without anyone caring. Also odd given the solution is identity verification, which Bartercard Australia has already done, yet Bartercard New Zealand won’t accept that, even though they then send your ID back to Bartercard Australia to do the verification anyway. What? Yeah, I thought so too.

My suggestion

When you land in New Zealand, head to the nearest Bartercard office and let them know you want to buy a gift card for each person. If you think you will need more than the limit, let them know you are just visiting and since Australian cards don’t work in the EFTPOS terminals, ask them if it is possible to put $1000 on the cards instead. They may do it for you if you push for it.

Plan to use your Australian Bartercard as much as possible for accommodation providers as they are the most likely to know how to process cards online or with trade vouchers. Make sure to let them know before you arrive that it is an Australian card though and that they don’t work in the EFTPOS terminals.

Just use the gift card in places where it is higher traffic and they are less likely to have foreign cards come through, for example, restaurants, cafes and stores.

Greyfriars Motel, Greytown New Zealand – Garden Room Review

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room

Greytown is a small town about an hour north of Wellington. We chose it as our base for a few days because it put us on the opposite side of Wellington Harbour, the perfect place for exploring the south-east corner of the New Zealand North Island. There are not a whole lot of accommodation options here though. We chose Greyfriars Motel for two reasons.

A quick question

If you’ve stayed here as well, either in a garden room, or another room category, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. I’d also like to know what your favourite things to do in the area are. Let me know in the comments after this article!

Disclaimer:

This article is all our own experience. Our booking was paid for by us, and no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, many of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking or purchase. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay or activity! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!

Why we chose to stay at Greyfriars Motel, Greytown

Our primary reasons for selecting this hotel are that they traded on Bartercard and their location. Trading on Bartercard was essential for us because it made up a significant portion of our budget for this trip. Greyfriars Motel is right in the centre of Greytown, in easy walking distance to a FreshChoice Supermarket as well as some of the town attractions, like Schoc Chocolates, and Cobblestones Museum.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Entrance

More importantly, it’s in easy driving distance from Cape Palliser and Castle Point, two of the hidden gems in this corner of the North Island. Greytown is one of only a few places that are fairly central for exploring the south-east coastline of the North Island of New Zealand.

Our secondary reasons for this choice were:

  • The Internet is included – important since I needed to work while we were here.
  • The high average ratings by guests. It gets an average overall rating above 9 stars according to Hotels Combined reviews and a 4.5 star average on TripAdvisor.
  • We liked the look of the room in the photos; it looked modern and comfortable.

 

 

About Greyfriars Motel and the Garden Studio Room

This hotel is extremely well located in the heart of Greytown and holds a 4-star rating. We spent three nights here while we explored the area and I did some work. Being right in the centre of town, it worked out perfectly for walking to the Fresh Choice supermarket to get food, and it was a pleasant stroll down the street to visit Schoc Chocolates and the Cobblestone Museum. If you’d rather get your food at a restaurant, we noticed many different options within just a couple of blocks.

We booked the Queen Studio, but when we arrived, we received an upgrade to the Garden Studio. These two rooms are the same concerning what is in them. However, the Garden Studio is more spacious and looks over the motel garden whereas the Queen Studio looks over the carpark. It doesn’t seem like much, but it is remarkable how much more inviting it is to sit down and do some work when you are looking over a lush green garden compared to a bitumen car park. Granted, you can still see the car park on the other side of the garden space, but never the less, it made for a lovely spot to both relax and also get some work done.

Our view from the Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room
Our view from the Greyfriars Motel Garden Room

Check-in

Checking in is a quick, simple process and the owners, Sarah and her husband, are lovely and so helpful. We arrived around 7:30 pm, later than we planned, and we were able to choose to pay on check-in or check-out. We were pretty tired since we had an early start back in Australia, so we were very appreciative that within minutes of our arrival, we were in our room. Even though the weather was starting to warm up, it was still a chilly evening, and they had the heating on in the room, so it was nice and warm for us. It’s the little things that make you feel so much more welcome.

Check-in closes at 9:00 pm, so make sure to let them know your expected check-in time if you are likely to be arriving late.

The Garden Room

The garden room is a surprisingly large studio style room with a kitchenette, dining area, lounge area, bed area and bathroom.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Interior
Greyfriars Motel Garden Room Interior

The lounge is quite comfortable, as is the bed, and the kitchenette has most things you need for a more extended stay. Heating is provided by a split-system air conditioner that is more than powerful enough to handle a space of this size, and the TV is wall mounted so you can watch it from the lounge, or in bed, or really, anywhere in the room. The only qualm I have with it is that the TV is a bit high to watch from the lounge for long, but we didn’t spend much time watching TV anyway.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room TV

 

With big windows and sliding glass doors forming almost the entire front wall of the studio, I was a little worried that light coming in might be a problem after dark or in the morning. No one likes light on their face while they are trying to sleep right? However, the thick block out curtains completely covered it, and we didn’t have any problems with lights.

There is perhaps a lack of clear luggage space. There is a luggage stand, but not anywhere to put your bags or clothes while you are there that is out of sight. There are two small bedside table drawers, but that is about all. Not a big deal, especially if you are only visiting for a short stay, but I do find it helpful to be able to put at least some of our bags in a cupboard to keep things neater.

The bathroom

The bathroom is pretty standard and has more than enough space to use comfortably. Some showers and bathrooms can be absolutely tiny, but this one is very reasonable.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Bathroom

The towel rails are heated and the room overall is quite modern. It looks like it was built or refurbished very recently.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Heated Towel Rail

The kitchenette

The well-equipped kitchenette has everything you need to prepare food except for a hob. The microwave is a convection oven, and there is also a toaster, kettle and a large bar fridge.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Kitchenette and Dining
Greyfriars Motel Garden Room Kitchenette and Dining Area

While you can’t cook anything over a stove, there are mixing bowls, and the convection oven makes it possible to prepare a decent amount of hot food without much effort. For us, we made healthy chocolate porridge (yes, there is such a thing) for breakfast and had a variety of salad sandwiches and microwave frozen meals for lunches and dinners while we were here.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Garden Room Kitchenette Inclusions
Greyfriars Motel Garden Room Kitchenette Cupboard

We were also pleasantly surprised to discover that even though the rooms are self-contained, you don’t have to do the dishes. When they service the rooms each day, they will replace any used dishes with clean ones for you.

If you need to do laundry, a communal laundry room is also available.

How did we sleep?

The bed is medium softness, ok for stomach sleepers but probably better for back and side sleepers. We found it quite comfortable as stomach sleepers, but it was getting close to too soft.

Internet access

The internet access is provided by wifi using quality Ubiquiti equipment that can be seen around the motel. Speeds are quite decent for a regional area and worked well for me to keep on top of my work here. While not the fastest, the Internet at Greyfriars Motel was one of the most stable internet connections we had on our New Zealand trip.

Speeds did vary and on different days I did notice some significantly different upload and download speeds, oddly enough with lower download speeds early in the morning.

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Internet Speedtest 1

Greyfriars Motel Greytown Internet Speedtest 2

Pros

  • Central location, close to restaurants, attractions and a supermarket.
  • Great to have a lounge space in the room.
  • There is an in-room kitchenette with everything you need.
  • On-site parking available.
  • The room is quiet.
  • The garden atmosphere is very relaxing.
  • The room is new or recently updated.
  • Free, stable wifi.
  • There is stacks of space in the room.

 

Cons

  • Not much storage for luggage.
  • Nothing else really.

 

Overall

We personally really enjoyed this motel. The room was modern, spacious and comfortable. The location is excellent with a Fresh Choice supermarket just around the corner. Restaurants and the towns tourist attractions are within a short walking distance, including Schoc Chocolates and Cobblestones Museum.

Getting to Greyfriars Motel

Public transport options are pretty limited. The closest international airport is in Wellington, and other nearby airports are fairly minor, so you will most likely be arriving by car. Greytown is part way between Featherston and Masterton on State Highway 2, North East of Wellington.

The address is:

138 Main Street, Greytown, Wairarapa, New Zealand

Private Car

If you hire a car, prices vary quite a lot depending on what company you go with and how long you are renting. We usually book with Avis, but always check booking comparison sites like AutoEurope and with the smaller providers. When travelling to Greytown from Wellington, follow State Highway 2 through the Remutaka Pass.

By Train

There are two train stations nearby. One at Woodside and one at Featherston. You can get the Wairarapa Train from Wellington and hop off at either station (depending on the day of the week). There are connecting buses that will bring you into Greytown. Check the train timetable here.

From Woodside, the bus meets all weekday trains except the Friday late train. From Featherston, catch the route 200 bus.

Rates and other costs

We researched prices directly on Agoda and Booking.com as well as making our usual price comparison through Hotels Combined. However, we ultimately booked directly with Greyfriars Motel for three nights at $150/night.

If you need parking, there is free parking available on-site for one car per room. There is also free street parking available on the street.

Links:

 

Don’t forget!

If you’ve stayed at Greyfriars Motel too, either in a garden room, or another room category, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. I’d also like to know what your favourite things to do in the area are. Let me know in the comments after this article!

Visiting Sapporo TV Tower at night in August

Welcome to Sapporo TV Tower

Hey everybody, it’s Matt here again, and today, I want to take you through Sapporo TV Tower at night in August. I hope you find it helpful for your own trip planning. Be sure to share it if you do, and check back for more articles and videos from our travels in Japan and elsewhere around the world.

After arriving in Sapporo and checking into our hotel, the Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo, our first sight, the Sapporo TV Tower, was just two blocks away.

Matt outside Sapporo TV Tower
Matt outside Sapporo TV Tower

A quick question for you!

Before I jump into it though, I just wanted to ask, what’s your favourite tower and why? The only others I’ve been up in are Calgary Tower, Sydney Tower, and Tokyo Skytree. So far, I’ve found each one to have unique flavours, but, even though it’s nowhere near the tallest tower I’ve been in, I love the intimacy of Sapporo TV Tower and the city planning around it. Let me know down in the comments at the end of this post!

Getting to Sapporo TV Tower

Sapporo TV Tower is located at the Eastern-most end of Odori Park in the heart of Sapporo. It’s conveniently located for public transport access with nearby bus stops and the subway running below it. Being in Odori Park, it’s also convenient to access by foot from many of the hotels in Sapporo that are located near the park.

The full address is:

Sapporo TV Tower

1 Chome Odorinishi, Chuo, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0042, Japan

Getting there by car

There are a number of parking lots within 1 block of Sapporo TV Tower. The Sapporo Odori Underground Parking Lot is perhaps the closest. It runs under Odori Park and the Odori Subway Station, also connecting to Aurora Town underground mall. It has space for 366 cars and is across the road from Sapporo TV Tower.

Pricing starts at 390 yen for the first hour and 200 for every 30 minutes thereafter. You can also get one hour free by spending at least 2000 yen at one of the stores in Aurora Town. If you visit between 5pm and 10pm (closing time), the maximum charge is 1000 yen, and if you visit between 8am and 10am, you can get a half hour rate of 200 yen if you are there for less than half an hour.

The next closest car parks are to the south. There are around 4 lots in the blocks directly south of Sapporo TV Tower, including the Marui Imai and Mitsukoshi parking lots. These lots are located on either side of the Toho Subway line, with the Marui Imai being below the Marui Imai shopping centre, and Mitsukoshi on the opposite side of the road. Here, you can expect to pay 190 yen per 30-minute block. Most of these lots are underground, but there are some above ground spaces such as the one below that is almost opposite Sapporo TV Tower.

Getting there by public transport

The closest public transport link is via the Toho subway line, followed very closely by the Tozai and Nanboku lines. If you arrive on any of those lines you will want to get off at the Odori Station and head out of exit 27. This is a 1-minute walk from the Toho line or a 5-minute walk from the Tozai and Nanboku lines.

If you need to come in by train, it’s a 15-minute walk from the JR Sapporo Station and you will want to head out the South Exit.

Getting there by tour

There are some competitively priced full day tours available through Viator that include a visit to Sapporo TV Tower (however they do exclude the entry fee).

Admission fees and other costs

Standard pricing is 720 yen for adults aged 19 and over. For high school students the price is 600 yen, then 400 yen for junior high students, 300 yen for primary school students, and 100 yen for children aged 3 to 5. You can check the current entry pricing on their website and note that junior high and high school students need school ID to get their prices.

Before you arrive though, make sure you do some research as there are often discount tickets available. At the time of this article, the Sapporo TV tower website has a 20% discount available, just print out the voucher or present it on your phone when you buy your tickets. There are also often discount vouchers in the map books and promotional magazines that hire car companies include with a rental, so check them out to see if it works out any better for you.

Tickets can be purchased on arrival at the ticket counter or pre-purchased for a designated date through Klook. If you opt to pre-purchase via Klook, the pricing is the same as standard full price tickets, however, Klook guests get to jump the elevator queue.

If you book with Klook you will receive a voucher that you redeem at the ticket desk on level 3 of Sapporo TV Tower. Some things to note though is that when booking with Klook your ticket is non-refundable and the date cannot be changed. So you are sacrificing flexibility as well as a possible discount. However, you are gaining time, particularly if it turns out to be busy when you visit because you get to go straight up the lift on the next one that is available.

Buy tickets

Opening hours

Normal opening hours are from 9:00 am to 22:00 pm every day of the year except for New Years Day, special events and maintenance. You can check any upcoming closure dates here.

About Sapporo TV Tower

Built in 1957 and standing at 147.2 metres high, Sapporo TV Tower is one of the most recognisable landmarks of the Sapporo cityscape. It’s similar in appearance to the Eiffel Tower and Tokyo Tower, though much shorter.

As we approached it, just on dusk, we got to see the lights come on and it really does look quite underwhelming when it is first lit up at night with just minimal lighting.

Sapporo TV Tower starting to light up.
Sapporo TV Tower starting to light up, you can see the observation deck above the giant clock.

However, once all the lights come on, it’s quite dramatic.

Sapporo TV Tower all lit up
Sapporo TV Tower all lit up

There is an observation deck located at the 90.38-metre high mark, and it gives you a great view out over the Sapporo skyline, particularly down the length of Odori Park and looking towards the Mount Okura ski jump stadium.

Visiting Sapporo TV Tower at night in August
Looking across Odori Park from the Sapporo TV Tower observation deck. You can see the Okura Ski Jump lit up in the distance.

For the Australians, in comparison, Sydney Tower stands twice as high at 309 metres with the top floor being at 268 metres high.

Sapporo TV Tower vs Sydney Tower
Sapporo TV Tower vs Sydney Tower

Access to the Sapporo TV Tower observation deck is via lift from the third floor, which is also where you can purchase tickets or redeem your pre-paid tickets.

Our tickets and English guidebook
Our tickets and English guidebook

From ground level, you can either take the stairs or a short lift up to the third floor.

One of the lifts to the observation deck.
One of the lifts to the observation deck.

It’s worth noting though that if you opt for the stairs, each floor is higher than normal, so the third floor is more like the sixth floor of a normal building. The stairs are also pretty steeper. A lot steeper than a normal staircase. There are lots of encouraging signs though to help motivate you on your climb!

Once you have your ticket, it’s a short 60-second ride in the elevator up to the observation deck. Along the way, you can enjoy the views and listen to the recorded commentary. English is available, and it provides a very brief overview of the history of the tower on the way up. On the way down, you’ll get to hear a little bit more.

When you get out of the elevator you are immediately greeted with the Sapporo cityscape, looking roughly east.

Looking East from Sapporo TV Tower
Looking East from Sapporo TV Tower

There isn’t a lot to see out this side at night since Odori Park ends in this direction at the base of the tower, and you are looking away from the heart of Sapporo’s nightlife. That said, if you go at night like we did, you’ll be pleased to see that the deck is minimally lit, meaning it’s easy to take in the city lights outside without reflections from inside the tower.

I found a lot of the little things that were lit up quite interesting, even though they aren’t as spectacular as the view over Odori Park. For example, the Sapporo Hall garden clock to the North:

Sapporo Hall garden clock
Sapporo Hall garden clock

Even the patterns of crosswalks at intersections seem so much more entrancing from this view at night time, like this one directly below the Northeast corner of the tower:

A pedestrian crossing from above.
A pedestrian crossing from above.

The deck itself features a lot more information about the tower as well as binoculars and a small souvenir store.

The main attraction, at least at night anyway, is the view to the west, looking down the length of Odori Park.

Odori Park lit up at night - the view from Sapporo TV Tower.
Odori Park lit up at night – the view from Sapporo TV Tower.

This side is the side with the most lights and the most interesting city viewing, including the NORBESA Ferris Wheel which features a constantly changing, illuminated pattern.

Looking towards NORBESA Ferris Wheel
Looking towards NORBESA Ferris Wheel

In the far distance, you can also spot the Mount Okura ski jump stadium, almost perfectly aligned with Odori Park and the Sapporo TV Tower.

Mt Okura Ski Jump Stadium in the distance
Mt Okura Ski Jump Stadium in the distance

While you are on the observation deck, if you find yourself needing to share the views on Instagram but you are running out of data, free wi-fi is available. It’s not super fast, but it’s decent for free wi-fi.

Sapporo TV Tower Free Wifi Details
Sapporo TV Tower Free Wifi Details

When you are ready to head back down, just push the button the lift, and/or wait in an orderly fashion for the next one to arrive. The lifts run up and down pretty regularly so it doesn’t take long before you are headed back to the third floor.

One of the Observation Deck elevators
One of the Observation Deck elevators.

Once you get there, you’ll find yourself in the paid section, a section you can’t get into without an observation deck ticket. There is a much larger gift store here and you will find a lot of tower-related trinkets as well as wider Sapporo and Hokkaido related gifts.

One of the favourites in both gift stores is the TV Dad mascot. A personified TV Tower character who features everywhere in the tower, including in the cafe (which is closed at night).

It's TV Dad!
It’s TV Dad!

He even has a little shrine on the observation deck.

TV Dad shrine on the Observation Deck
TV Dad shrine on the Observation Deck

Altogether, you could go up, take some photos, check it out, and head back down in half an hour if it isn’t busy. You could probably do it all in 15 minutes if there is no wait at all and you are really pushed for time. We took about an hour in total by the time we just enjoyed the city lights for a while and browsed the gift stores.

Pros

  1. Cheap to access, especially if you have a discount ticket.
  2. Some of the best views you will find of the Sapporo cityscape.
  3. Can be a very quick destination to visit.
  4. Open almost every day of the year until 10 pm.
  5. Centrally located and extremely easy to get to.
  6. You can queue jump if you book a set date in advance through Klook.
  7. Low internal lighting at night for great night photos.
  8. Free wifi on the observation deck.

Cons

  1. Not much space on the observation deck if it is busy which could limit photo opportunities.

Overall

So, the big question, is it worth your hard-earned yen? For sure. It’s easy to get to and has great views out over the city of Sapporo. It’s also cheap, and extra discounts are easy to come by so you can save yourself some money too. The caveat though, is that there is not much space in the observation deck itself, so if it’s busy you might find you have to wait a little while before you can go up. Just be sure to allow yourself some extra time in case of a wait and you’ll be fine, or alternatively, book a fixed-date queue jump ticket with Klook.

Sapporo city skyline
Sapporo city skyline South of the TV Tower

Hotels near Sapporo TV Tower

Being located right in the heart of Sapporo, there are quite literally stacks of hotels within an easy walking distance from Sapporo TV Tower. We stayed in the Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo which is located two blocks south of the tower. However, you will find there are hotels located all along Odori Park and within a couple of blocks on both sides.

Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo

Hotels Combined

Agoda

You can also do a search for nearby hotels using the search box below.

Helpful links

Don’t forget

I’d love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments what your favourite tower is, and why!

I hope this has been helpful for you, and if you have any questions about the tower or visiting it, just let me know in the comments down below and I’ll do my best to answer it for you.

 

First published on: Dec 31, 2017 @ 17:01

The Chocolate Lounge Menu at Shiroi Koibito Park (English)

It's probably not for you if you don't like rockmelon

For those that are thinking about visiting Shiroi Koibito Park after my article about it here and are not quite sure yet, the menu might help sway you towards it. The Chocolate Lounge does not feature any main type food, the closet you can get is the tea set. As the lounge name suggests, it is focused on chocolate. However, there are a wide variety of sweet dishes and drinks that incorporate milk, dark and/or white chocolate.

Read moreThe Chocolate Lounge Menu at Shiroi Koibito Park (English)

Lunch at The Hop Garden in Wellington

Our lunch at The Hop Garden

 

Lunch at The Hop Garden Wellington

When we landed in New Zealand, it was about 3 pm local time. Smack bang on lunchtime back in Australia, so by the time we got through customs, caught the free shuttle to Jucy, and picked up our hire car from them, we were starting to get pretty hungry. The first place on our list to visit for a bite to eat was The Hop Garden.

A quick question

What’s your favourite thing to eat when you get off a long flight? Let me know in the comments at the end of this post!

Disclaimer:

This article is all our own experience. Our meal was paid for by us, and no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, many of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking or purchase. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay or activity! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!

Why we chose to go to The Hop Garden

Our primary reason for selecting this hotel is that they traded on Bartercard they are located reasonably conveniently. Parking in Wellington can be a pain, so we wanted somewhere that had reasonably accessible street parking at the very least, and there is street parking right outside The Hop Garden. We also were intrigued by the vegan crispy cauliflower on the menu.

About The Hop Garden

The Hop Garden is a bit of a hole in the wall kind of bar and restaurant. It’s hidden away on a narrow strip of land sandwiched between other buildings. It’s the kind of place I’d normally pass by and not even give a second thought to. Inside though it’s surprisingly spacious, and when we visited just after they opened, it was dead quiet.

On their website, the Hop Garden indicates they have a focus on the microbreweries of New Zealand, and while we don’t drink alcohol, it was nice to see that this extended to other beverages too, including some unique varieties of ginger beer. I gave the Hardieboys ginger beer a whirl. Made locally in Wellington, I can quite simply say it is the best ginger beer I’ve ever had, period. I wish I could share more about it and even find it here in Australia, but, unless I broke the internet, I can’t find hardly anything about them except this article.

What we got

So, besides the Hardieboys ginger beer I had, wifey got a hot chocolate which was delicious.

Hot Chocolate at The Hop Garden

Let’s not forget about the food though.

So, because we were there fairly early in the afternoon, only the bar menu was available, not the a-la-carte.

I was super excited to try the cauliflower burger, so that’s what I ordered. Wifey opted to go for the hamburger and we grabbed a medium size hot chips to share.

Wifey’s hamburger came out. The beef rissole is house made and while it’s not the most visually appealing burger you will ever see (not even close), wifey vouches for its tastiness.

Hamburger at The Hop Garden

Next came out my unusual looking cauliflower burger.

Crispy Cauliflower at The Hop Garden

As you can see, it was just cauliflower. No one said anything to us about it so I thought perhaps they mistakenly thought I ordered the crispy cauliflower. They are the same price, and I was hungry, so, while I was disappointed, I just went with it. What I can tell you about this cauliflower is that it is amazing. I was really surprised by just how good this cauliflower is. Whether you are vegan or not, this is something worth trying.

Our chips also arrived, and we were really surprised at how tasty they were as well. The chips are listed as hand cut, and the serving was a decent amount bigger than we expected it to be.

Chips at The Hop Garden

Pros

  • Vegan food options.
  • Reasonably priced menu.
  • Interesting drinks from local brewers.
  • Street parking.
  • Accepts Bartercard (sort of).

 

Cons

  • Doesn’t know how to process Australian Bartercard’s.

 

Overall

We really enjoyed the food we had. I was disappointed that I didn’t get the burger that I ordered. That said, they did check the order and noted that I had indeed ordered the burger, so they gave me the crispy cauliflower for free which I really appreciated. We did check with them by email beforehand and also when we first arrived to make sure our Australian Bartercard would be fine, but unfortunately, it turned out they didn’t know how to process it and we had to pay with our credit card instead, so that was also a downer on the experience for us. That aside though, the food really was yum and I loved the Hardieboys ginger beer. Our visit was very quiet and the food did arrive quite quickly. Overall, I’d have to go with 3.5 stars out of 5, mostly because of the cauliflower. It’s just a pity we had two issues when we were the only people there.

Drop in and check them out while you are in Wellington, New Zealand, it’s worthwhile, especially for the cauliflower.

What do others think?

The Hop Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Getting to The Hop Garden

Nestled between Mount Victoria and Wellington CBD, you can find them at 13 Pirie St:

By car

If you are driving, it’s quite easy to get to, the bigger problem is parking. Being just outside of the CBD, there is some free street parking available. However, While there is street parking right outside on Pirie St, there isn’t a lot, and some of it is limited to 60 minutes.

By bus

There are two bus stops nearby, one right around the corner on Kent Terrace and one further up Pirie St. You can get bus route 1 to the Kent Terrace stop, or route 2 to the Pirie St stop.

Opening hours

The Hop Garden is open every afternoon from 3 pm until late. Thursdays through to Sunday they open in the morning, but the hours vary. Check out their website for current opening hours.

Links

 

Don’t forget!

I’d love to know if there is something you particularly like to eat after a long flight, especially if it helps you with jet lag! For me, it’s more about having the nearest meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) in the local timezone than what I’m actually eating.

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Lunch at The Hop Garden Wellington

4 ways to save money on fuel road tripping in New Zealand

Gull Drive Thru Bethlehem Bowser

4x Tips to save money on fuel in New Zealand

Petrol in New Zealand is expensive compared to Australia and the United States. The best prices are around $2.00 per litre for regular 91 octane fuel on the North Island. It’s not uncommon to find prices anywhere between $2.17 and $2.25 per litre in regional centres and don’t be surprised in small, remote areas to see prices over $2.50 per litre, especially on the South Island.

There are a few ways to save some dollars on fuel, the most obvious ones rely on loyalty discounts connected to supermarkets, but there are some other ways to keep more dollars in your wallet.

If you’ve got more tips to save money on fuel in New Zealand, let me know in the comments below!

1. Pick an economical vehicle to cut your fuel costs

It’s an often overlooked factor, but if you are hiring a car, 4WD or camper van, it can have a significant influence on your fuel consumption and subsequent cost.

If you can, get a diesel vehicle, especially if it’s a camper van or 4WD. That is going to give you the most significant immediate saving since diesel hovers around the $1.50 per litre price point. Top that off with the increased fuel efficiency that you can typically get with a diesel, and it will save you money.

Our economical little Mazda 2 at the unmanned Allied service station in Te Araroa
Our fuel-efficient little Mazda 2 at the unmanned Allied service station in Te Araroa

If you can’t get a diesel, look for an economical petrol car, this means an electric vehicle, a hybrid, or a small car. These vehicles will all be more efficient than a large car or petrol 4WD. Try looking on a rental car comparison site such as Auto Europe to quickly see if different rental companies have smaller or more efficient options available. If you are travelling with a camper van, good for you, you are saving money on accommodation costs. The trade-off though is if you can’t get a diesel, petrol camper vans tend to be absolute fuel guzzlers, and you can’t do much about it. If you can, pick one that retains the original vehicle shape and doesn’t have any add-ons that create extra wind-resistance. That will give you back some of your fuel efficiency. If you need a high-top van and can’t get a diesel, then make sure you refer to my next tip, drive efficiently.

2. Drive efficiently and use less fuel

New Zealand is a land of rolling hills and soaring mountains. This means that roads outside of major centres tend to have lots of bends, especially regional roads. A LOT of bends. There are probably more corners on New Zealand roads than people in the country. The speed limit outside of towns is typically 100km/h, but trying to achieve that speed consistently is going to see you burning through fuel rapidly. Not to mention, it’s just dangerous to try and stick to 100km/h with all the bends. Then, of course, there are the frequent wash-outs, one lane bridges and partially closed roads.

Bends and a wash out on the Old World Highway in New Zealand
Bends and a wash out on the Old World Highway in New Zealand

Get to know your vehicle, how it handles, how it accelerates. If you can smooth out your acceleration and not push it too hard out of the many, many bends you encounter, it will save you a lot of money by reducing your fuel consumption. Take your time up the hills as well and just sit where the vehicle is comfortable sitting without revving too hard. You will probably have people sitting behind you wanting to go faster, but in two weeks we personally witnessed two cars driven by locals run off the road after going around bends at high speed, including this one that almost hit us on the way. If you feel pushed by cars behind you, just remember, you are potentially saving lives by slowing people down 🙂

3. Fill up at unmanned service stations to save money

Many service stations in New Zealand offer pay-at-pump service, however, the unmanned ones tend to be cheaper than others. Less than 100 metres apart, you can typically save between 4c and 10c per litre on fuel by purchasing at an unmanned service station compared to a manned one.

There are three large operators I’m aware of that run unmanned stations. The largest operator seems to be Allied Petroleum. The second largest seems to be Gull, and then the third is Pak’n’Save/New World.

Paying for fuel at the Allied unmanned service station in Te Araroa
Paying for fuel at the Allied unmanned service station in Te Araroa

Allied and Gull both operate some manned service stations as well, particularly Gull. Make sure to look for the 24-hour unmanned stations to find the lowest prices. Gull refer to their unmanned stations as “Gull Drive-Thru”. The newer ones will typically look like a concrete slab with one or more fuel bowsers and a pay station in addition to the pay-at-pump options. There are, however, some stations that are converted from older manned ones and still have a building present.

Gull Drive-Thru Service Station in Bethlehem, Tauranga
Gull Drive-Thru Service Station in Bethlehem, Tauranga

Pak’n’Save and New World are slightly different. They are not stand alone, so you will only find them at some Pak’n’Save and New World supermarkets. While they are unmanned, their prices are typically comparable to manned service stations. To get cheaper fuel here, you have to spend enough money at the local Pak’n’Save or New World to get a fuel voucher. Typically, a $40 grocery shop will give you 6c per litre off fuel. The other caveat is that if the supermarket has a service station on site, these vouchers are only valid for the service station at that supermarket. If they don’t have their own service station you will get a Fuel Up voucher discussed in the loyalty programs section below. So keep in mind that if you get a voucher at a store that has a service station onsite, you must use it there.

One thing to be aware of when using unmanned service stations is that they require a credit/debit card or local New Zealand EFTPOS card. These stations do not accept cash, and a card pre-authorisation is needed before you can fill up. The pre-authorisation amount is usually $150. Foreign Visa/Mastercard debit cards can work. However, my experience has been hit and miss. I typically need to have a balance of at least $300 on my debit card before the pre-authorisation is accepted. In my experience with an Australian credit card or debit card, the pre-authorisation usually gets released within 24 hours, and the final charge then appears on the card statement. If you are a foreign traveller and don’t have a credit card then make sure to maintain a decent balance on your debit card (eg travel money cards like Qantas Money) so that the pre-authorisation goes through. Otherwise, this may not be an option for you.

4. Fuel savings with loyalty programs

There are a number of loyalty programs in New Zealand, generally associated with supermarkets, that can earn you discounts on fuel. You can’t join these programs from overseas, but once you are in New Zealand, you can easily pick up a free membership card for some of them and get started. Others require a New Zealand address and so may not be for you.

Mobil Smiles fuel savings

Mobil Smiles is the only program not connected to a supermarket, and in my opinion, is the best one for maximising your fuel discounts. Head to any Mobil service station and ask at the counter for a Mobil Smiles card.

These cards will give you an instant discount at the pump without registration. At the time of writing, spend $40 or more on fuel, and it will give you an instant 6c per litre discount up to 100 litres.

Matt using Mobil Pay At Pump with a Mobil Smiles card
Matt using Mobil Pay At Pump with a Mobil Smiles card

Each purchase at a Mobil service station will also earn Smiles points on your card. To redeem these points for more discounts, you have to register the card. You do need to have a New Zealand address for registration, but if you do happen to have one you can use, then you can begin redeeming your points. 300 Smiles points are redeemable for $5 off, and 500 Smiles points for $10 off. The typical point earning rate is 1 point per dollar on regular fuels and 1.5 points per dollar on premium fuels. There are often promotions for bonus points per dollar when you fill up at Mobil, so it doesn’t take long to earn enough for your first Smiles reward redemption.

Countdown AA One Card SmartFuel discount

Countdown Supermarket (Aussie readers will recognise their logo as Countdown is Woolworths in New Zealand) and AA have teamed up to offer the One card. You can grab one of these at any Countdown supermarket, and you can use it without registering.

The Countdown AA One Card
The Countdown AA One Card

AA provides an instant 6c per litre discount up to 50 litres on fuel purchases of $40 or more at Caltex and BP service stations when you swipe your One card with AA Smartfuel. Shopping at Countdown can earn you an additional fuel discount of 3c per litre (for a total of 9c per litre) if you spend $100 or more in store over one or more shops in a week, or an additional discount of 6c per litre if you spend $200 or more in a week.

To earn the extra fuel discount, you must register your card. A New Zealand address is required for registration, but they do also offer a traveller registration. You cannot register as a traveller online though, you have to call the registrations number to do so.

Also of note, you receive One Club discounts on a wide variety of selected products in store at Countdown when you swipe your card, so it’s also worth getting one for that.

Fuel Up savings dockets

Fuel Up is a partnership between New World supermarkets and Z service stations. It also includes some Pak’n’Save supermarkets. When you make an eligible purchase at participating New World and Pak’n’Save supermarkets (any that don’t have service stations on site), you will receive a Fuel Up voucher with your receipt for 6c per litre off fuel at Z service stations.

A Z Service Station in Bethlehem, Tauranga
A Z Service Station in Bethlehem, Tauranga

Eligible purchases vary depending on current promotions at the store where you are shopping. Usually it is purchases of $40 or more, however, at the time of writing there is a $1 promo at most New World stores which only requires a $1 purchase to receive a Fuel Up voucher.

There is no membership or card required to receive these vouchers, just an eligible purchase in a store making this one of the easiest to get, but also one of the most limited since your supermarket spend only gets you one discount.

New World Club Card fuel discounts

The New World Club Card is their equivalent of Countdown’s One Card. It gives you an instant 6c per litre discount on fuel at Z service stations. This card will also give you discounts on select products in store. The caveat though is that you must have a New Zealand address to receive your card. That makes this one impractical for most foreign travellers to New Zealand.

A New World Supermarket in Masterton
A New World Supermarket in Masterton

Fly Buys fuel discounts

Fly Buys in New Zealand is easily confused with the Australian Fly Buys loyalty program. They are very different, and the cards are not interchangeable. Fly Buys New Zealand is a loyalty program in partnership with a wide range of businesses, including New World supermarkets and Z service stations.

Swiping a Fly Buys card when you fill up at Z service stations will give you an instant 6c per litre discount as well as earning Fly Buys points you can use for further savings.

Fly Buys requires a New Zealand address to receive your card, so this is another one you can only get if you have a New Zealand address you can use for your account registration.

More ideas for fuel savings while road tripping in New Zealand?

Got more tips or ideas on how you save money on fuel while road tripping around New Zealand? Share them in the comments below!

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4x Tips to save money on fuel in New Zealand

 

First published on: Oct 3, 2018 @ 06:08

Carnarvon to Monkey Mia via the Quobba Blow Holes – Darwin to Perth Day 11

The cliffs at the Quobba Blow Holes

On day 11 we had to backtrack just a little to go see the Quobba Blow Holes since we came through too late the day before to see them on the way. It’s about 70km’s or 50 minutes drive from the Wintersun Tourist Park back up to the blowholes, making it a two hour round trip by the time we got out, looked around and took some photos.

Read moreCarnarvon to Monkey Mia via the Quobba Blow Holes – Darwin to Perth Day 11

Myall Lakes National Park – A Detour Off The Pacific Highway

Boat in the Reeds at the Bombah Point Ferry

We regularly commute up and down the Pacific Highway, and as more towns have been bypassed it has gotten quicker. The downside? It’s easier to miss some of the special places that are off the beaten track. So, last week we decided to take a detour at the Hawks Nest exit, North of Newcastle and Port Stephens.

What we found was a lovely surprise.

A quick question

What’s the best place you’ve discovered when you’ve detoured off the beaten track? Let me know in the comments after this article!

Disclaimer:

This article is all our own experience. Everything we did was paid for by us, and no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking or purchase. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay or activity! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!

Matt Looking To Broughton Island from Myall National Park.
Matt Looking To Broughton Island from Myall National Park.

After turning off, it’s a short drive into the town of Tea Gardens. Yes, that is a town. If you don’t believe me, check it out on the map below.

Tea Gardens, Hawks Nest and Winda Woppa

Driving through the town, it turned out to be bigger than we expected, even featuring a golf course at Hawks Nest – the two towns kind of merge together, sort of. Once we reached the end of the road, a right turn took us down to the town of Winda Woppa through Hawks Nest while a left turn heads to Myall Lakes National Park.

We decided to visit Winda Woppa since we were there anyway. It’s just a housing estate, but it is surrounded by water, with the Karuah River on one side near where it empties into the Pacific Ocean and the Myall River on the other before it joins the Karuah at Corrie Island.

Myall River at Winda Woppa
Myall River at Winda Woppa

Here you can find beautiful, sheltered white sandy beaches that are 4WD accessible with crystal clear water. Looking across the wide river mouth you can see Tomaree Mountain, Shoal Bay, Nelson Bay, Port Stephens all the way to Soldiers Point.

4WD Tracks on Jimmys Beach Looking to Port Stephens
4WD Tracks on Jimmy’s Beach Looking to Port Stephens

A lot of the houses here are available for holiday letting, so while it was quiet during our visit, I suspect it gets busy in Summer, and why not with such a gorgeous beach.

There were only a few people at Jimmys Beach
There were only a few people at Jimmy’s Beach.

 

Boats Lined Up at Winda Woppa on the bank of the Myall River
Boats Lined Up at Winda Woppa on the bank of the Myall River.

After doing a circuit of Winda Woppa, we headed back into Hawks Nest and stopped at the Tea Gardens Hawks Nest Surf Life Saving Club to take some pictures of the nearby islands. The beach here is called Bennetts Beach, and it is not as sheltered as in the river mouth, but the sand is brilliant white. It looks like it’s the perfect spot for a swim with some waves!

Passing through Hawks Nest town centre on our way to Myall Lakes National Park, we decided to stop off at the Hawks Nest Takeaway shop. There is an IGA here and a few other small stores, but it was getting late, and not much was open except for the supermarket. We grabbed ourselves a burger each and sat down to a late lunch / early dinner.

They were some excellent burgers.

Myall Lakes National Park

Heading out to Myall Lakes National Park from Hawks Nest means heading north on Mungo Brush Road at the golf club, back where we had previously turned off into Hawks Nest and Winda Woppa. It’s only a short drive to the national park boundary, and it is a little confusing. On the Myall Lakes National Park website, it indicates that there is a park day use fee of $8 per vehicle, but there is nowhere at the park entrance to pay this fee, so we are still a bit unclear on exactly how it works or if the charge only applies for campers.

Due to our time constraints, namely, the sun going down and crossing the Bombah Ferry before it ceased operating at 6 pm, we decided to skip the first few stops in the park. I was disappointed we didn’t have time to go into Dark Point, but I was pleased that we pulled into the Hole in the Wall car park to check it out. The name is what caught our attention.

From the parking lot, it’s a 25-metre walk to Mungo Beach. There are some big dunes along the coast here, and this happens to be one of them. The path opens out to a picnic area at the top of a dune giving you a brilliant view of the beach, Broughton Island and the other smaller islands just off the coast.

Broughton Island from Hole in the Wall Picnic Area
Broughton Island from Hole in the Wall Picnic Area

The beach here is the same white sand as Hawks Nest, beware of the drop!

Watch Your Step at Hole In The Wall
Watch Your Step at Hole In The Wall

 

As we continued along Mungo Brush Road through the park, we saw a turn-off to the Mungo Brush Campground, but as the sun was starting to get low already, we didn’t check it out. It’s located right on Bombah Broadwater, between the Myall River and Two Mile Lake, with the ocean only a short distance away so it should be a great beach camping spot.

The Mungo Brush Campground turn-off is about halfway through the park to the ferry, and between the two are some other smaller campgrounds.

The Bombah Point ferry runs every half hour, and we got there just as it reached the opposite side.

Bombah Ferry at Bombah Point
Bombah Ferry at Bombah Point

So I took the opportunity to have a bit of a wander and found a sandy alcove hidden amongst the reeds that looks like somewhere you might find a boat hiding. It turned out that there were a couple of boats hiding there!

Boat in the Reeds at the Bombah Point Ferry
Boat in the Reeds at the Bombah Point Ferry

The ferry costs $6.50 for cars, and there are cheaper rates for foot passengers and bikes.

Bombah Point Ferry Prices
Bombah Point Ferry Prices

Once it’s time to board, the operator will direct you on and where to park.

Vehicle Leaving the Bombah Point Ferry
Vehicle Leaving the Bombah Point Ferry

The ferry takes about 10 minutes to get from one side to the other and only fits six cars at a time. Fortunately, though, the operator tells us that if there are more than six waiting, he comes straight back for them rather than forcing them to wait another half hour.

The Bombah Point Ferry carries 6 cars
The Bombah Point Ferry carries six cars

While you are on the way across, the operator will collect your payment. It’s cash only, so make sure you have some on you.

Parked right at the front of the Bombah Point Ferry
Parked right at the front of the Bombah Point Ferry

If you are fortunate like us, you might even get treated to sunset while you cross.

Sunset as we crossed the Bombah Point Ferry
Sunset as we crossed the Bombah Point Ferry

At the other side, at Bombah Point, you’ll find the NRMA Myall Shores Holiday Park. It boasts villa style accommodation as well as glamping, and camping. You will also find a pool, lake access, and on-site dining at the Barefoot Cafe and Pizza restaurant, the only restaurant within Myall Lakes National Park.

Myall Lakes National Park - A Detour Off The Pacific Highway

Heading past the resort on Bombah Point Road, it doesn’t take long before bitumen gives way to gravel. Soon the National Park ends, and you enter cattle and sheep grazing areas with stunning sunset vistas across the Myall River. Minutes later, the bitumen is back, and we arrived in the town of Bulahdelah where we merged back onto the Pacific Highway and continued our journey north.

I was amazed at how easy to access this scenic hideaway town is, and how close it is to Newcastle. It’s worth the detour off the highway, even if it’s just a quick trip.

Enjoy.

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Myall Lakes National Park Day Trip - A Detour off the Pacific Highway

First published on: May 13, 2018 @ 22:54

Special Daily Offers on a Transpacific Cruise aboard Radiance of the Seas

Radiance of the Seas at Circular Quay

Heading off on Radiance of the Seas from Sydney to Honolulu in Hawaii or the reverse is usually between 17 and 19 days of cruising. When you are headed off for that long, it can be hard to gauge what’s a good deal to book beforehand, so I thought I’d share what the daily deals were on our 18-day transpacific cruise from Sydney to Hawaii, via Wellington and Picton in New Zealand and Papeete Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora in French Polynesia debarking in Honolulu. These change all the time, but it should give you a good idea of what to expect, particularly for things that don’t change price frequently, like the internet packages.

Please note, there are a lot of images below so they may take a little while to load properly.

Read moreSpecial Daily Offers on a Transpacific Cruise aboard Radiance of the Seas

Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo / Hotel WBF Art Stay Superior Double Room Review – Non-Smoking

Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo Superior Double Room

Our top value hotel pick in Sapporo, Japan
There are a lot of hotels right in the heart of Sapporo, and most of them are close to public transport. We wanted one within walking distance from the Sapporo TV Tower though, so we picked the Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo / Hotel WBF Art Stay and booked a Superior Double Non-Smoking room. In addition to the excellent location, it also has high guest ratings on HotelsCombined and has car parking available for a decent price, something that can be in short supply around the heart of the city. It’s a little confusing when comparing prices because the hotel has recently changed its name from Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo to Hotel WBF Art Stay. On some booking sites and Google Maps, it is still going by the old name.

A quick question

If you’ve stayed here as well, either in a deluxe twin room, or another room category, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. I’d also like to know what your favourite things to do in the area are. Let me know in the comments after this article!

Disclaimer:

This article is all our own experience. Our booking was paid for by us, and no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, many of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking or purchase. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay or activity! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!

Why we chose to stay at the Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo / Art Stay

Our primary reason for selecting this hotel is the location. It is right in the heart of Sapporo, but more importantly, it’s in easy walking distance to the Sapporo TV Tower and Odori Park. Being right here is important because we were travelling by car and didn’t want to have to pay for parking both at the tower and at the hotel.

Our secondary reasons for this choice were:

  • Car parking is available on-site at a reasonable rate.
  • The high average ratings by guests. It gets an average overall rating above 8 according to HotelsCombined reviews.
  • The rate included breakfast.
  • We liked the look of the room in the photos; it looked modern and comfortable.
  • Everywhere was expensive during Obon Festival when we visited, but this was one of the cheaper options that met our criteria.

About Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo / Art Stay and the Superior Double Room

This hotel is extremely well located in the heart of Sapporo and holds a three-star rating. In spite of a big sign, it’s a little bit inconspicuous from outside with a partially hidden entry-way, but inside there are some neat little surprises. Reception is open late but is not 24 hours, so make sure to confirm your check-in time with them in advance, and carry your keycard when you leave just in case. You need it to get back into the building at night. Opposite the reception desk is a nice little surprise. Free drinks and snacks in the hotel lounge!!!

Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo Free Lounge
Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo Free Lounge

Besides the obligatory coffee that you can expect pretty much anywhere in Japan, the free drinks include orange juice, wine, iced tea, Appletiser, mineral water, and assorted teas. Snacks include mixed nuts and other small finger foods. I found the nibblies quickly disappeared each time more were brought out.

Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo Foyer Coffee Machine
Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo Foyer Coffee Machine

The lounge itself is a surprisingly quiet, relaxing space. Even though it’s located at the front of the hotel and right next to reception, the area is relatively peaceful, and the lounges are comfortable. We had too much to do to spend a lot of time here, but it’s great that it is available to chill in during check-in and out or while you are waiting for a taxi.

Check-in

I was surprised actually at how little English the front desk staff knew. I don’t expect anyone to speak English in Japan, but I’d read that hotels in Sapporo typically have someone on all the time that knows some English due to its popularity with Australian tourists in snow season. So just keep in mind that you might need to do some charades. That said, the check-in process itself was very straightforward. As is usual for foreign travellers in Japan, they have to take a photocopy of the passports of all guests, and they have English paperwork available for everything else.

Matt checking in at Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo
Matt checking in at Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo

The only thing that presented a bit of a challenge with the language barrier was organising parking for our hire car. We had to communicate how big it was so they could determine if it would fit. Fortunately, we were parked near their side window so I could point to it. Then they had to communicate how the multi-story carpark worked and what we had to do to get in and out. So, here’s a quick rundown on how it works:

  1. Drive into the car park entrance behind the reception area.
  2. Get your bags out of the car as well as anything else you will need for the night.
  3. Wait for hotel staff to come out if they aren’t already there.
  4. Once staff open the doors to the car lift, they will direct you to drive in.
  5. Hop out carefully as the surfaces are uneven, and head on out.
  6. They will give you a ticket that indicates what number you are as well as a receipt that assigns your ticket number to your room number. The ticket is required to get your car out.
Parking Ticket and Receipt
Parking Ticket and Receipt

When you need to get the car out in the morning, just give them your ticket at reception, and they will get your car ready for you. Once it’s all ready, someone will come and get you, and you are all good to go!

Our car all ready to go from the Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo car park
Our car all ready to go from the Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo car park

The Superior Double Room

The superior double room is quite small. We were in 602, which is at the end of a hallway.

The small size seems prominent because it has an enormous king size bed squeezed into it, which is fantastic! In spite of the cosy size, it does have everything that you need in it.

Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo Superior Double Room
Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo Superior Double Room

The decor is simple with an earthy colour scheme and floral patterns. It’s quite elegant and feels very upmarket.

The room includes the typical things you might expect, including a TV, fridge, work desk and air purifier. You’ll also find an ice bucket, shoe horn and polisher, and slippers.

You may have noticed there is also a tall window at the end of the room. It opens, however, it falls into the room about 10cm from the top, meaning you have to push the weight of the window back up to close it, and you can’t see much outside. What you can see is just the wall of another building about 1-2 metres away.

There is free wifi included with the room rate, and while the speed wasn’t brilliant, it was sufficient.

The bathroom

The bathroom is small, pretty similar to most Japanese pod bathrooms. However, that also means it has identical inclusions, such as a bidet toilet, and a little bath with overhead shower. It’s entirely sufficient for two people passing through but could start to feel a bit claustrophobic for an extended stay.

How did we sleep?

The bed is quite firm, but not hard. We found it quite comfortable as stomach sleepers. It is firmer than most hotel beds in Australia, but we got a great sleep. Not to mention, being a king size bed, you hardly even notice you are sharing it. Now, it isn’t a real king. It is two mattresses pushed together to make a king, so you do have that join down the middle. That said, the join wasn’t particularly prominent like it can sometimes be.

How was breakfast?

Breakfast was buffet style in the hotel restaurant, Tapio Sweets Garden.

Tapio Sweets Garden Bar
Tapio Sweets Garden Bar

The atmosphere here is serene. It is located on level three of the hotel and features a variety of both real and artificial plants and vines. These plants serve both to freshen the space and block out some of the city buildings across the road.

The view from Tapio Sweets Garden
The view from Tapio Sweets Garden

The tables look like they belong in an outdoor setting so combined with the plants you almost forget you are inside.

Outdoor atmosphere indoors
Outdoor atmosphere indoors

The food itself is decent and contains a lot of the typical breakfast buffet items you will find at most hotels around Hokkaido. The options include miso soup, salad items, fried food, steamed vegetables, rice, pickled vegetables, bread and bread rolls, teas and of course, coffee. A couple of the unique items we found here are Hokkaido Stew, a local dish, and kiwi jam, something I’ve never encountered before. If you are vegan, there are stacks of options here to enjoy!

Pros

  • Central location.
  • Close to public transport.
  • Comfortable, big bed.
  • The lounge is great.
  • On-site parking available.
  • The room is quiet.
  • Buffet breakfast available with plenty of options.
  • Recently updated rooms.
  • Free wifi.

 

Cons

  • Insufficient space for bags and suitcases even when we just had a small carry-on size suitcase each and a backpack.
  • Expensive around holidays and festivals.

 

Overall

We personally really enjoyed this hotel. The room was modern and comfortable, though definitely on the small side. The location was excellent with a MosBurger just around the corner for dinner and a short 5-minute walk to Sapporo TV Tower and Odori Park. The lounge downstairs was a pleasant surprise, and we enjoyed the overall hotel atmosphere. Breakfast was excellent with a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan-friendly choices. There was also plenty of English around the hotel with all of the hotel and breakfast information available in English as well as Japanese. For a 3-star hotel, we thought it was excellent and probably deserves a rating more like 3.5 stars.

Attractions near Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo

    

Getting to Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo / Hotel WBF Art Stay

If you are flying into Sapporo, you can rest assured that the main airport is nowhere near the city CBD, it’s technically in a different city altogether, Chitose. So to get to the hotel, you will want to either take a train, limousine bus, taxi or hire a car.

The address is:

1-2-2, Minami2-jonishi,
Chuo-ku Sapporo-shi,
Hokkaido, 060-0062

Train

If you are travelling by train, the closest station is Odori Station via the Nanboku Subway line. From here, it’s a short walk. If you push it, you can do it in 3-5 minutes. If you take a more leisurely pace, it’s about a 5-10 minute walk.

So if you are coming from Chitose Airport by train, you will first take the JR Rapid Airport Liner to Sapporo Station and then change to the Nanboku Subway line. Look for exit number 35 as this is the closest exit to the hotel. All up it will take you about 60-70 minutes from the airport.

Limousine Bus

If you get the limousine bus from the airport, it will take about 70 minutes to get into the city. The stop you want is Susukino bus stop. Getting off here leaves you about seven blocks from the hotel, or 600 metres so you should allow about 10 minutes for the walk.

Taxi

It’s about a 30-minute drive into the city, but this does vary depending on traffic. It can be hectic around the airport and on the expressway into the city so if you are arriving at peak times in the morning and afternoon this can be expensive and the train may be faster.

Hire Car

Prices vary quite a lot depending on what company you go with and how long you are renting. We usually book with Avis, but always check booking comparison sites, particularly in Japan where the multi-national providers aren’t quite so prevalent. In this instance, we booked with Orix through a Hokkaido-based travel agent called Shiretoko Tourist Co., Ltd using their Kakuyasu Rent-A-Car booking site. The airport depots are very helpful and have dedicated staff for foreign language guests, but you can still expect to spend a decent amount of time transferring by bus to the rental car depots and then going through all the paperwork. Once you are on the road, like a taxi, you can expect the drive to take about 30 minutes as long as you aren’t in heavy traffic.

You’ll take the Hokkaido Expressway into Sapporo, so In addition to the car cost, you will also have the toll cost. If you are a foreign tourist, you can get a flat-rate ETC card that will cover you for a designated period. Using one of these cards can work out the most economical if you are on the expressways a lot on your trip.

Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo has 30 parking spaces available in a multi-storey car park (or as I like to call it, a car elevator). You can’t pre-book, so if they run out of space, you will have to park in another parking lot. There are a number of them within the surrounding area.

Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo Multi-Story Car Park
Hotel WBF Sapporo Chuo Multi-Story Car Park

Rates and other costs

We researched hotels using HotelsCombined and ultimately booked with Agoda for AUD $237.27 for one night including buffet breakfast. The price we got was with a 10% off Agoda coupon. We were here during Obon Festival, making accommodation expensive. Travel away from festivals to save some money here. The room we booked normally goes for around AUD $90 – $100 per night outside of festivals and holidays.

If you need parking, the current rate in their multi-story carpark is 1200 Yen per night. You can expect to pay slightly more at some of the nearby parking stations.

Make sure you compare prices though as the best rates do vary, and some include breakfast while others don’t.

Opening hours

Check-in is available from 3:00 pm and check-out is by 11:00 am. Reception is open from 5:00am until 2:00am. However, the front door may be locked during night hours so make sure to let them know your expected check-in time.

Links:

 

Don’t forget!

If you’ve stayed at this hotel too, either in a deluxe twin room, or another room category, I’d love to hear what you thought about it. I’d also like to know what your favourite things to do in the area are. Let me know in the comments after this article! My personal favourite is Ishiya Chocolate Factory and Shiroi Koibito Park.

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Our top value hotel pick in Sapporo, Japan

First published: March 30, 2018, 5:58pm