Your New Zealand Trip Cost - Full Insider’s Guide to Planning and Budgeting
I’m confident that after reading this guide, you’ll be an EXPERT on estimating the costs of traveling in New Zealand! You’ll have a clear idea on all the things you must consider when planning and booking ahead. Also, you’ll be able to find a slew of resources I’ve compiled for you. So whether you are planning to travel on a budget or you are going all-in, this is for you! What makes this guide SO good? I’ve been living and touring the country for 5 years and I love sharing my insights!
New Zealand has a reputation for being very expensive. I’m not gonna lie, it kinda is! Even for me that have been enjoying the perks of living in New Zealand for 5 years. So estimating the cost of a trip to New Zealand and being wise regarding your budget is key if you don’t want to go bankruptcy JA!
In this practical guide for budgeting your trip to New Zealand you’ll find:
Visas and flights
2 Budget proposals
All the costs in this post are in New Zealand Dollars. In general lines, NZD 1 equals USD 0.55. The exchange rates change often, so better double-check! Also, even I update this guide every few months, some prices do keep changing! So please, if you find something off, drop me a line!
If you are planning to stay, check out the guide to the cost of living in New Zealand!
The countries with a “Visa Waiver” do not need to apply for a visitor visa before arriving. From the 1st of October 2019 though, travelers from countries with Visa Waivers need to apply for an NZeTA -New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority! Even though it's cheap -$9- and it has a fast processing time -from 10 minutes to up to 3 days- you'll need this to enter the country!
In any case, always check the Immigration New Zealand’s site for more details.
How much do flights to New Zealand cost?
Regarding flights, of course, it depends where you are coming from. But to make it simple for example, if you are coming from the United States, Europe or South America, let’s say that the standard cost of flights in economy class to New Zealand ranges from $1300 to $1900 (NZD) return. In USD these would be $700 - $1200 return. During high season or holidays, flights do get way more expensive!
Transportation and getting around New Zealand
Deciding how to get around efficiently can be a little bit of a puzzle sometimes. In New Zealand, the most popular way of traveling is with a self-contained campervan, which is not only transport but also accommodation. Needless to say that if you have your own transport you’ll be able to get to more isolated outdoors spots.
But, of course, there are pros and cons to this. So if we talk about transport in New Zealand it may certainly cross paths with your accommodation budget. So here’s my advice:
Recommended for trips of 4 weeks or more
Buying a middle-sized car or a campervan
You can find a car starting at $1200. You can go to a car reseller, but many people do it through Facebook groups or Trademe.
There are many Facebook Groups. Just type: “buy sell trade cars in New Zealand” or “cheap cars +(city)”.
There’s a huge market for buying and selling second-hand vehicles. Changing ownership is very simple, here’s the link to the New Zealand Transport Agency. For $9, you can get yourself a car.
If you prefer the convenience of renting a vehicle, many companies will sort you out quite easily! It's not too expensive to rent a small car -cheapest at about $ 35 a day plus insurance and extra gadgets. Expect prices to go way up if you are renting a self-contained campervan!
The final cost of the rental will depend on what type of extras you choose for car insurance.
Recommended for trips of roughly 2 weeks
So, what’s the cost of renting a car in New Zealand?
Let’s say you are renting a car or campervan for 15 days. Bear in mind that prices change with seasons!
Rent of economic car at $ 40 NZD for 15 days without insurance: 600 NZD + $ 190 return in a different city = $ 800 NZD
Rent of campervan at roughly $ 80 NZD for 15 days + insurance full "stress free" + return in a different city: $ 1600.
Honestly, it is not unreasonable to rent a car without full insurance since the routes are very safe, especially in the South Island, which has less than 1 million inhabitants. That said, it is up to each one to decide whether to risk having to pay high costs if they ever have a problem with the vehicle. I ALWAYS rent with full insurance!
You can also DO CAR RELOCATION! Which would reduce your transportation costs quite a lot, but you gotta be flexible regarding your itinerary. We did it just 2 weeks ago -I booked a Thrifty deal from Queenstown to Christchurch. It included a petrol tank and the rental was $0. I only paid $32 for partial insurance cover. Pretty sweet deal!
How much does petrol cost in New Zealand?
The liter of petrol costs between $ 2.10 to $2.26. In very touristy places it can get to $ 2.35.
Crossing with the Ferry
It has an approximate cost of $65 per person, but if you take a car you have to estimate approximately $170 extras.
Average total for 2 people + a car: $230. In the image is an example of 1 person fare for a one-way trip.
Air New Zealand promotions on flights within the country are published on Grabaseat.com. For example, a flight from Auckland to Christchurch costs from $59 to $85, one way. This is quite cheap considering that flights between Christchurch and Queenstown can cost more than $ 300 during high in season.
Traveling New Zealand by train with the Kiwirail
If you want to enjoy a scenic trip through some of the most impressive landscapes of New Zealand, maybe your best option is the Kiwirail.
It is not necessarily more economical -no,no-, but by playing with the menu in each section you can build an itinerary that allows you to make the experience without going over budget. I did the route connecting Christchurch to Greymouth and back in the same day, the cost was $300 -yikes! Hands to heart, it was too expensive for the experience! I reckon it’s because this was just after summer, therefore there was no snow in the mountains -that’s gotta be a game changer!
The trips usually start at $ 79 but if you wanted to do, for example, the crossing with the Transalpine, the cost is $ 179 (per 250 km).
Cheapest way to get around New Zealand
Find deals in public transport. Check the Intercity web!
Hitchhike. Get informed with Hitchwiki. Luckily, this is very common in New Zealand!
Find a buddy on a Facebook group!
Health System and Medical Insurance in New Zealand
Take for example a World Nomads quote. For 30 days, the basic coverage is approximately $170. This insurance covers adventure activities, so it is a good option when traveling through New Zealand.
And although I recommend 100% that you come to NZ with health insurance, I want to tell you a bit how the health system works in New Zealand.
New Zealand has a system that I don’t know if exists in other countries and that covers everyone who is in kiwi territory. Residents, citizens, working holiday-makers and, of course ... travelers.
Accident Compensation Corporation
This is a partial health coverage system that comes into play in case of injuries generated by various types of accidents.
The basic idea is that it doesn’t matter who or what is responsible for the accident. Also, it's not relevant how the events occurred; the same benefit can be applied and received. This system is called "no-fault".
Check their website for a better understanding! In any case, I 100 % recommend you purchase travel insurance before starting your trip!
How much does food cost in New Zealand?
If you are traveling to New Zealand, you will do it for the stunning nature, not necessarily for the food. This doesn’t mean that there are not good gastronomic options, but let's say it is not…Italy –the country where I spend my entire budget on pasta and Spritz ha!
Here’s some insider’s advice!
Buying food from a food truck or a take away: It may be between $15 - $20 per person --with a drink.
Sitting at a cheap restaurant can cost about $ 20 to $ 25. If it's something a little more sophisticated, you may spend $ 30 to $ 50 per person.
The cheapest option to eat, sometimes, is to buy the pies sold at petrol stations for $ 3 - $ 4
Buy at the supermarket and have your gas stove always ready. This is a good way to eat well without spending a fortune.
Drinking a "Flat White single-shot" coffee costs $4- $5.
Local markets are a good option to buy fresh, organic and quality products.
Pay attention to the signs on the sides of the road. Farms sell products at very good prices. Some places put together all the vegetables and fruits that are about to expire and sell them for $2- $3. Sweet deal!
Something great to save a lot of moolah on food is head to any cafe or food store just before they close. They may sell you the "leftovers" of the day for a few dollars. This is how I get to eat sushi every day!
Packnsave is the cheapest chain of supermarkets. Then comes Countdown and finally all the others.
Cost of the main groceries
- 1 liter of milk: $2
- Bread: $0.95 to $5
-Cheese 1 kg: $8
- Butter: $5
-Marmalade: $2 - $5
-Ground coffee: $6
-12 Eggs: $5
-Ham 100 g: $2
-Yogurt 1 liter: $4
-Muesli: $4 - $8
-Beef 1 kg: $13 - $20
-Fish 1 kg: $12 - $30
-Apples 1 kg: $4
-Bananas 1 kg: $3
-Orange 1 kg: $4
-Lettuce (per package): $4
-Potatoes 1 kg: $3
- Onion 1 kg: $2
-Tomato 1kg: $3 - $10
-Almonds 100 g: $4
-Seed sunflower 100 g: $2
-Buffet-packed food: $4 - $8
-Tuna can: $3
-Soda drinks 1.5: $3
Cost of food per day per person
In general, we always calculate a budget of $10 per person per day. If you are going to cook with the gas stove, consider that the small gas canister costs around $7 - $10.
For those who are wondering how much vices cost, grab your pockets that here comes the harsh reality Jajaja
Tobacco and Spirits
-Rolling Tobacco, known as “rollies”: 30 grams + papers + filter: $52 - $65 (yes, a fortune).
-Pack of cigarettes of 20: $28 (Yes, again, another fortune).
-Box of 6 beers: $12 - $18
-Cheap wine: $7 - $15
- Spirits: $40 and up.
Ah! The water is very good. In all the establishments they are obliged to give you free water. It’s from the tap but 100% drinkable.
How much do activities cost in New Zealand?
This is the other part where we all hug and cry together.
The activities that give New Zealand its fame are expensive. There are ways to reduce costs though. For example, you can subscribe to the Groupon or BookMe pages. Or you can gather a group of people and get a special discount.
These are the costs of some of the most "famous" activities:
Altitude activities, such as parachuting - Skydive - vary the costs depending on the height/time of free fall. Prices range from $289 to $429.
To this cost, we add $150 for video recording, which is optional.
Canyon Swing is one of the most popular adrenaline activities in New Zealand for having the highest "swing" in the world. This costs about $210.
Depending on the height, the costs can range from $ 160 to almost $ 300.
Cost of Daily pass for Sky Centers
If you are thinking about staying to enjoy some winter sports: you can get ski passes on Early Bird prices. This is sold before the winter season starts and cost about $300.
If you are going only occasionally to one of the many ski resorts, the cost of the pass per day is around $100 - $150.
If you have to rent clothes, board, etc; it will come up to about $50 - $70 more.
The cost of a helicopter flight in New Zealand would be around $300.
Kayak or swim with dolphins
Kayaking or swimming with dolphins can be around $130.
Can you think of anything else? Leave me your comment below!
How much does accommodation cost?
Let’s move on to lodging costs. For the travelers that want to save some dollars, think of using Couchsurfing, Helpx, Woofing, and Workaway.
I will not go into details about the free lodging options because I want to tell you the costs of accommodation in general:
Hostel shared room: $25 per person
Private hostel room - hotel: $60 - $100 per couple
Airbnb rental: Starting at $35 per person.
In New Zealand, it is widely used to rent holiday homes among several people, thus reducing costs per night. Maybe for $20 a night you can stay in almost luxury homes. To find these rentals you can see Bookabach and Holiday Houses.
Many of the houses in New Zealand have 4, 5 or even 6 rooms, so if you join a group of up to 10 people, the costs become much cheaper.
Campsites operated by the Department of Conservation: $ 8 - $20 per person. The cost depends on the area and the facilities.
Private campsites (bathroom, kitchen, electricity): $15 - $20 per person
Free camping: $ 0. Note that there are fewer options nowadays! Many places that used to be free now have a cost.
Huts (shelters): Those who are in the Great Walks: $ 20 to $ 70. For non-residents over peak season, the huts can get even more expensive -UP TO 160!!! Whaaat?! The rest of the huts can cost between $0 to $15. Check the DOC’s website!
People traveling to New Zealand, download Campermate. It is an impressive database that will save you from big expenses. All the information is about campsites, showers, service stations among many other things can be found in this app.
General purchases and other expenses
In general, all travel from North to South. But in reality, this option can be more expensive because it is the most touristy. Even if you arrive at Auckland airport, for a few dollars you can buy tickets to Christchurch or Queenstown and then start your tour.
Again: the Bookme page offers good deals on activities for days of the week and not so busy hours. Groupon is good mostly to save on eating out.
When you arrive at the airport, be sure to take one of the "Arrival - New Zealand" magazines. At the end of the edition, you will find discounts that can be very useful.
Cases of scams, cloning of cards or theft to tourists are rare. The prices are practically the same everywhere and the inhabitants are very honest and will always charge the right price.
If you have to buy camping gear, it is best to join the facebook groups since there are constantly published all kinds of camping things. From gas canisters to sleeping bags, chairs, tables, cutlery.
Average Costs and Budget models
We will PLAY AROUND WITH ESTIMATING 2 travel budgets. One is for sort of "backpacker-style" travelers -no hardcore though keep that in mind!. The 2nd Budget is more "comfortable" let's say.
Just to be clear! These costs are GENERAL and finals costs will depend on the experience that each one wants to do in the country. And of course, the season.
6 Weeks in New Zealand “Backpacker-style” during shoulder season
Take a look a the graph and the breakdown below! CONSIDER THIS IS ALL IN NEW ZEALAND DOLLARS!
Visas and tickets: $2600 (total for 2 people)
Transport: $2000. Let’s say you purchase of old but good campervan + calculating $20 of petrol per 100 km and doing 100 km per day for 45 days + Island Ferry crossing for 2 people with a car: $ 230.
Let's take into account that the car will be sold at the end of the trip for let's say $ 1500.
Total: $ 500 (camper) + $ 900 (petrol) + $ 230 (Ferry) + 450 others (some fixes, insurance, or extra gasoline) = $2000
Medical Insurance: $200 per person
Food: $60 per week per person
Activities: All free, such as hiking, open museums, etc.
Lodging: Alternating campsites "honesty based" or huts, $ 10 NZ with free camping spaces: $300 per person.
General purchases and other expenses: basic equipment for second-hand camping stuff $200. I'm not counting clothes! That's convenient to bring as it is expensive to buy new trekking shoes, jackets, etc.
Totals and daily average
So, let's make an average daily accounts for 2 people if they travel the country from end to end in 6 weeks in a campervan:
$ 2600 tickets + $ 2000 total in transfers + $ 400 medical insurance + $ 0 Activities + $ 600 campsites + $ 200 used camping equipment + $ 720 food- TOTAL = $6520 ($ 72 per day per person, including air tickets).
Keep in mind that if you adjust even more you can spend less, but it wouldn't be easy since the cost of petrol itself, while compensated by mostly free lodging, can still be quite high.
Some travelers only do Hitchhiking and Couchsurfing and get to reduce their budget even more. In this case, I decided to make a general budget for those who want to travel in a camper, which is the most usual way of traveling n NZ.
“Economy-Style” Vacationers for 3 weeks
This is an example for those who are going to travel New Zealand during their holidays looking for a balance between rest, budget and some activities. Here are some ideas for 3 weeks of travel. By “Economy-Style” I’m referring to mid-generous budget. Many things can definitely be taken out though! Again, this is just an example!
Visas and tickets: $3000 (total for 2 people). I calculate it a little more expensive assuming you travel during the higher season. Flights can be even more expensive, keep that in mind!
Medical insurance: $160 (per person)
Food: Total $720. $120 per person per week (going out to eat occasionally, buying coffee, or eating prepared food)
Transport: $1100 (renting an economic car with full insurance) + $315 ($15 gasoline per 100 km and averaging 100 km per day) + full tank when returning car $ 80nzd + ferry crossing $230 = $ 1725
Activities: $ 400 per person.
Lodging: $ 40 per night per person. 2 people at $ 80 per night, the total for 3 weeks: $1700
Purchases and general expenses: Every time I travel and buy gifts I spend between $100 to $300.
Totals and daily average
So, let's make average accounts a day for 2 people if they travel for 3 weeks in rental cars and staying in hostels or Airbnb rooms:
$ 3000 tickets + $ 1725 transfers + $ 315 medical insurance + $ 720 food + $ 800 Activities + $ 1700 lodging + 300 between gifts and extras. TOTAL = $ 8560 (average per day per person $203, including air tickets in the account).
OMG! I didn’t even realized I had so much information stored in my brain jaja! I really hope you’ve found this more than useful for planning your New Zealand adventure! Come and enjoy the beauty of Aotearoa :)
These are very estimated budgets but both are realistic and come from a person that has been living and traveling the country for 4 years -ME!
Leave your comments and tell me about your travel experience in New Zealand!
Yippee ki-yay -no mfs! jajajaja! 🙂