Kia ora! Greetings! Hello! Welcome! It’s great to meet you. Even though we are not meeting in real life I’d like to virtually shake your hand, give you an elbow bump or reciprocate an East Coast wave – whatever’s allowed these days. My name’s Tom and I’m a first-year student here at the University of Auckland, studying towards a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and physics. (Yes, go ahead – call me a nerd all you want but it won’t change the fact that both chemistry and physics are awesome.)

Now, I might be a bit late with this one (I’m taking the stance that a few months still counts as fashionably late), but March Madness has returned once again. This time, in July.

For the uninitiated, March Madness is the period in late February to early March (duh) when Auckland’s trains, planes and automobiles become inundated with floods of people due to the culmination of schools and universities returning as well as inner city workers arriving back from their holidays.

Despite its description as being a period of insanity, Aucklanders appear to remain at a usual level of psychosis during March Madness. The only visible sign of March Madness is the greater proportion of “Bus Full” signs taunting you as you sit at the bus stop. But, if you’re nervous about getting your head getting bitten off by a mad Aucklander in your first week of university, here’s a few tips and tricks to survive March Madness (or, in our case J- July – I can’t for the life of me think of a synonym of ‘mad’ that starts with the letter ‘j’).


A relatively quiet day on the train.

  1. Hop Card at the Ready


There is no easier way to annoy a native Aucklander than to disembark a train at Britomart Station (Auckland’s central city public transport hub) and attempt to exit the station through the automatic gates before realising your Hop Card is somewhere at the bottom of your bag. On the topic of Hop Cards, make sure to get one as soon as you arrive in Auckland. And be sure to update your card to a Tertiary Concession. With both the Hop Card and Tertiary Concession, I save almost $30 a week on public transport – almost $1500 a year!

  1. Um…

Well, there isn’t a second (or third, or fourth, or fifth…) tip. Having a Hop Card at the ready is the only one I can think of, mainly because Aucklander’s aren’t going to tear you to pieces for doing something ‘wrong’ whilst commuting.

Instead, I’ve compiled a few ideas of things to do to keep yourself sane whilst commuting; whether that be by car, train, bus, motorcycle, scooter, ferry, bicycle, helicopter (I wish) or you’re simply walking from Grafton Hall.

  1. Podcasts

Arguably the best cure for bus-boredom, podcasts can make an hour-long journey fly by in five minutes. And the best thing is, they’re usually free!

  1. Read

Books, magazines, websites anything. Taking time to read for enjoyment – as opposed to university related reading – is shown to reduce stress. How good’s that!

  1. Sleep

This one’s probably better for those catching public transport, although riding a bike with your eyes shut would be pretty impressive. Just make sure not to miss your stop.

  1. Commuter Mates

If you catch the same train, bus or ferry everyday – there’s bound to be many others doing the exact same. Strike up a conversation with one of them, especially if you’re from outside of Auckland. There’s no better way to get to know the city than from its inhabitants. And bonus, I once got given a bar of chocolate from one of my commuter mates! Though I wouldn’t always condone accepting food from a relative stranger.

  1. Appreciate It!

Auckland is one of only two cities in New Zealand with commuter trains, and Auckland’s buses and ferries navigate through some of the most picturesque places in Auckland. A walk to university though the Auckland Domain often is interrupted by native birds. Commuting is the perfect time to stop and appreciate this.

Although your first March at university might be mad for many reasons (you might be moving out, you’ll have new experiences, meet new people), commuting can be that one time of day where everything remains sane. And please, if you’re really stuck with how to fill your time commuting, try and think of a synonym for ‘mad’ starting with the letter ‘j’. I’d really like to know.