Budgeting for travelling is not a “one size fits all” type of thing. Estimating the cost of a trip to New Zealand can be a bit daunting. But chill! I’ve prepared this guide to help you wrap your head around costs and ways to save during your visit. If what you are after is the cost of living in New Zealand, keep reading as this will also be a treat for you.
The Islands have the reputation of being very expensive. I’m not gonna lie, they are. Even for me that have been living here for nearly 4 years. So estimating the cost of a trip to New Zealand and being wise regarding budget is key if you don’t want to go bankruptcy JA!
In this practical guide I’ll take you through:
- Visas and flights
- Medical Insurance
- General Costs
- 2 Budget proposals
All the costs in this post are in New Zealand Dollars. In general lines, $ 1 NZD equals $ 0.65 USD
Visas and flights
The countries with “Visa Waiver” do not need to apply for a visitor visa before arriving. Tourists of these countries are allowed to stay for 90 days. Check the Immigration New Zealand’s site for more details.
Regarding flights, of course, it depends where you are coming from. But to make it simple, let’s say that the standard cost of flights to New Zealand ranges from $ 1200 NZD to $ 1800 NZD. In USD these would be $ 700 – $ 1000 return. During high season or holidays, flights do get more expensive!
If visiting New Zealand is just one more stop in your World Tour, you can save money if you choose your stopovers wisely. The main connections can be done through Asia Hong Kong, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok would be your go-to choices, or you can come straight from Australia.
Around the world fares
This type of flight fares allow travellers to combine continents when the beginning and the end of the trip are in the same city. This is great because if you have to buy each ticket separately, your cost would be much higher.
It can be quite tricky to build these fares because there are a lot of options. I always go to a Travel Consultant that helps me refine my options. This works best if you have some flexibility regarding dates and destinations.
Deciding how to move around in an efficient way can be a little bit of a puzzle sometimes. In New Zealand, the most popular way of travelling is with a 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:
For trips of 4 weeks or more:
Buying middle sized car or a campervan
You can find a car starting from $ 1000 NZD. You can go to a car reseller, but many people do it through the Facebook groups or Trademe.
There are a thousand Facebook Groups. Just type: “buy sell trade cars in New Zealand” or “cheap cars +(city)” or “car under $ 1500 new Zealand”.
There’s a huge market for buying and selling second-hand vehicles. Changing ownership is very simple. For 9 NZD, you can get yourself a car.
If you prefer the convenience of renting a vehicle, the company that I use is Jucy Rentals. I’m including this website only as an example, but there are many others (this is NOT an affiliate post).
Throughout the country, there’s a great focus on customer service, so in general, car rental companies are reliable. If you are looking for something “cheap”, you can rent a car or a “budget” campervan for $ 40 NZD per day.
The final cost of the rental will depend on what type of extras you choose for the car insurance.
So, what’s the cost of renting a car in New Zealand?
Rent of economic campervan at $ 40 NZD for 15 days without insurance: 600 NZD + $ 190 return in a different city = $ 800 NZD
Rent of campervan at $ 40 NZD for 15 days + insurance full “stress free” + return in a different city: $ 1300.
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.
How much does petrol cost?
The litre of petrol costs between $ 2 to $ 2.26 NZD a litre. In very touristy places it can get to $ 2.30.
Crossing with the Ferry
It has a cost of $ 65 NZD per person, but if you take a car you have to estimate approximately $ 170 extras.
Average total for 2 people + a car: $ 230 NZD
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.
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, 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.
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).
Ways to save wildly in transportation!
- Find deals in public transport. Check the Nakedbus.
- Hitchhike. Get informed with Hitchwiki.
- Do Car Relocation
Medical Insurance and everything you need to know about the ACC
How much does a health insurance cost for New Zealand?
Take for example a World Nomads quote. For 30 days, the basic coverage is approximately $ 170 NZD. This insurance covers adventure activities, so it is a good option when travelling through New Zealand.
And although I recommend 100% that you come to NZ with health insurance, I want to tell you how the health system works in New Zealand.
What is the ACC and how does it work?
Whenever I travel I research how the Health System for tourists works. It is important to make informed decisions if anything happens.
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 … travellers.
Accident Compensation Corporation
This is a partial health coverage 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. It is also not relevant how the events occurred; the same benefit can be applied and received. This system is called “no-fault”.
Let’s say you broke your leg skiing or you ended up like shrimp for not putting on sunscreen, the ACC would take care of a part of the expenses associated with your doctor visits and/or treatment.
How to get assistance?
If you had a setback like these, the first thing you have to do is go to the doctor or emergency centre. Once there you will be treated by the doctors and they will help you complete the form for the ACC. Later on, they will send the form to the ACC.
The ACC’s coverage is NOT total, so you will have to pay for some things. It’s better if you still do all this through your health insurance so you can rest assured you’ll be covered end to end.
It is always important to have the receipts of all the expenses that you do. If you were to receive co-payment by ACC, they will return the money once the coverage is accepted.
The ACC can also coordinate transfers and other issues associated with what happened but beware! It does not operate as travel insurance. There is no repatriation, no refund for delays, etc.
The injuries covered by the ACC
- Sprains, strains.
- Dental problems caused by accident
- Hearing loss
- Loss of consciousness
The causes of what they cover
- Medical treatment
- Sexual violence
- A condition that was generated by work (this does not count if we are only travelling)
The Cost of a trip to New Zealand: How much does food cost?
If you are travelling 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 NZD 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 NZD.
- 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 NZD. Sweet deal!
- Something great to save a lot 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.
Costs of the main groceries
– 1 litre of milk: $ 2
– Bread: $ 0.95 to $ 5
-Cheese 1 kg: $ 8
– Butter: $ 5
-Marmalade: $ 2 – 5
-Grinded coffee: $ 6
-12 Eggs: $ 5
-Ham 100 grs: $ 2
-Yogurt 1 litre: $ 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 grs: $ 4
-Seed sunflower 100 grs: $ 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 NZD per person per day. If you are going to cook with the gas stove, consider that the small gas canister costs around $ 7 – $ 10.
It’s always more convenient to buy in larger cities. In the villages, the supermarkets have very little variety and they are more expensive.
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: $ 46 – $ 55 (yes, a fortune).
-Pack of cigarettes of 20: $ 28 (Yes, again, another fortune).
-Box of 6 beers: $ 12 – $ 18
-Economic 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 in relation to 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 NZD.
Depending on the height, the costs can range from $ 160 to almost $ 300.
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 NZD 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 NZD.
Can you think of anything else? Leave me your comment below!
Let’s move on to lodging costs. For the travellers 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 accomodation in general:
- Hostel shared room: $ 25 NZD 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 NZD 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: $ 5 – $ 20 per person. The cost depends on the facilities.
- Private campsites (bathroom, kitchen, electricity): $ 12 – $ 20 per person
- Free camping: $ 0
- Huts (shelters): Those who are in the Great Walks: $ 20 to $ 70. The rest of the huts can cost between $ 0 to $ 15.
All those who are going to travel to New Zealand, need to download Campermate. It is a really 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.
Budget models to travel New Zealand
We will estimate 2 travel budgets. One is for “backpacker style” travellers. Mainly focused on all possible savings. 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.
Backpacker 6 weeks “shoulder” season (between seasons)
- Visas and tickets: $ 2400 NZD (total for 2 people)
- Transport: $ 2000 (purchase of old but good campervan) + calculating $ 20 NZD of petrol per 100 km and doing 100 km per day for 45 days + Island Ferry crossing for 2 people with 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
- Lunch: $ 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. This can be reduced to almost 0, if, for example, they use the public showers quickly. Campermate will be your best travel buddy to save on accommodation!
- 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:
$ 2400 tickets + $ 2000 total in transfers + $ 400 medical insurance + $ 0 Activities + $ 600 campsites + $ 200 used camping equipment. TOTAL = $ 5600 NZD ($ 62 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.
There are travellers who 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 travelling n NZ.
Vacationers for 3 weeks
Those who are going to travel through New Zealand in their holidays, look for a balance between rest, budget and some activities. Here are some ideas for 3 weeks of travel:
- Visas and tickets: $ 2800 (total for 2 people). I calculate it a little more expensive assuming you travel during ahigher season.
- Medical insurance: $ 150 (per person)
- Lunch: $ 120 per person per week (going out to eat occasionally, buying coffee, or eating prepared food)
- Transport: $ 1200 (renting an economic car with full insurance) + $ 300 ($ 15 gasoline per 100 km and averaging 100 km per day) + full tank when returning car $ 60nzd + ferry crossing $ 230 = $ 1800
- Activities: $ 700 per person (combining 3 activities such as bungee jumping, sky diving and helicopter flight or visiting kiwis in Queenstown, Rotorua hot springs, etc.)
- Lodging: $ 40 per night per person. 2 people at $ 80 per night, total for 3 weeks: $ 1700
- Purchases and general expenses: Every time I travel and buy gifts I spend between $ 100 to $ 300 NZD.
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:
$ 2800 tickets + $ 1800 transfers + $ 300 medical insurance + $ 700 food + $ 1400 Activities + $ 1700 lodging + 400 between gifts and extras. TOTAL = $ 9100 (average per day per person $ 212 nzd, including air tickets in the account).
Do you have any questions?
These are very estimated budgets but both are realistic and come from a person that has been living and travelling the country for 4 years –ME! jajaj-
Leave your comments and tell me about your travel experience in New Zealand!
Goodbye folks! 🙂