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The Cost of Living in New Zealand – Full Guide!

Mt Cook landscape - Learn all the costs of living in New Zealand

Are you coming to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa, a Student Visa, or a Work Visa, and need to learn the cost of living in New Zealand? Then this guide is for you! 

I’ve created this comprehensive article that in 15 minutes will get you on the right path to getting ready for life in this country. I’ve been here for 6 years now, so trust me, I know this s**


(Disclosure: Certain links to products and/or services are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission for any purchases that you make. This will not be at any cost to you.)

Table of Contents

More Resources -Gear Up!

As you’ll see in the ‘get active’ section of this guide, gear in New Zealand can be quite expensive. So check out some really cool gear guides on the blog. Gear up before you show up!

Check out the Ultimate Guide to the Best Budget Hiking Boots

Find the Best Waterproof Tent for all your camping adventures!

If you are new to TGC, you may not know I’ve been living in New Zealand for 6 years. Although I’m based in Christchurch, I’ve included a few hints on the costs of living in other regions of the country.

Are you a proper-city-bum? Then take the time to explore Auckland or Wellington and see if they strike your fancy before you comit to any of them. I’m not breaking the guide down to any specific city or town, but it’s fair to say both main cities and Queenstown are, on average, 15-25 % more expensive than other spots.

New Zealand is an AMAZING place and it’s known as one the of world’s best countries to live and work for many good reasons! I find that whenever I’m doubtful, reading through other peoples’ perspectives puts me at ease. I hope this guide will give you all the insight you need on the cost of living in New Zealand!

What’s the Cost of Living in New Zealand | Hiking the Kepler Track - Reaching Mt Luxmore Summit | The Global Curious Travel Blog

What’s the Cost of Living in New Zealand | Hiking the Kepler Track – Reaching Mt Luxmore Summit | The Global Curious Travel Blog

How Does This Guide About the Cost of Living in New Zealand Work?

I wanted to make it as user-friendly as possible, so all the information is quite synthetic and includes a whole lot of links that will direct you to the main sources!

Moving to a new country is a whole new experience involving research, brainstorming, and getting organized! I hope this guide will help you plan and map out your experience with ease!

A few months ago, I posted a full guide with all the costs of traveling in New Zealand, including budgets and many other things I’m not adding here. So, you have to check that one out!

Numbers are in New Zealand Dollars. Please keep in mind the costs of living are quite personal, this post is just for your reference -not including costs of purchasing a house or extra expenses of moving here with the kiddies.

Getting Ready: Cost of New Zealand Working Holiday, Essential Skills, Student and Skilled Migrant Visas

Yes, I know she’s not pointing at New Zealand LOL - Still liked the pic :) Cost of living in New Zealand - How much do Visas cost? | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Element5 Digital

Yes, I know she’s not pointing at New Zealand LOL – Still liked the pic 🙂 Cost of living in New Zealand – How much do Visas cost? | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Element5 Digital

So, here’s something you need to know: the same visa may have a different cost -and set of rules- for people from different countries.

If you are coming from the States it has no cost, but if you are from Germany, you’d pay $245.

I’m telling you this because we all have well-intended friends that tell us something and then it turns out they are wrong just because…they have different passports! 

Visa Costs vary from country to country. If coming from Germany, you do need to pay for your Working Holiday Visa. Contact New Zealand Immigration if not sure about costs and guidelines.

Be sure to do your due diligence!

Moving on, here are some cost estimates that will give you a rough idea of how much you’d pay for your visa.

Working Holiday Visa

$0 – $245

This is one of the most common ‘entry’ points for foreigners keen to live and experience the country. So obviously, understanding how to apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa is an absolute MUST to ensure the process goes smoothly.

Extension or Balance of Your Working Holiday Visa

$0 – $245

Essential Skills Work Visa


Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa

$530 -For the Expression of Interest

$2710 -If you are already living in New Zealand

$3310 -If you are residing outside New Zealand. I just found that people from Japan don’t have to pay to get a Residency?! Interesting.

Fee-Paying Student Visa

I don’t know a whole lot about coming to New Zealand on a student visa, for what I’ve researched, the Fee-Paying Student Visa is the most usual:

$0 – $295

If you follow this link, it will take you to Immigration’s Fee Visa Finder, so check it out!

Getting Ready: Cost of Immigration Medical Examinations

Cost of living in New Zealand - Cost of going to the doctor in New Zealand | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Hush Naidoo

Cost of living in New Zealand – Cost of going to the doctor in New Zealand | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Hush Naidoo

People from different countries intending to stay for x amount of time may have to do Medical Examinations to get a visa! 

Peeps from many different countries must do Chest X-Rays and/or Medical Examinations to get their Visas for New Zealand approved.

In my case, I had to do the Chest X-Rays as Argentina has a “risk factor” for Tuberculosis. When later on I applied for Residency, I had to do the X-Ray again but also a full Medical Assessment.

You’d do these only at centers approved by Immigration New Zealand, and you can find these all around the world. I did the first X-Ray when I was in Denmark.

The cost of the examinations can vary but usually, it’ll end up being $150 for the X-Rays and, in case you need to do both, it’ll cost between $300 – $400.

This link will take you to the full Health Requirements and the list of approved doctors from all over the globe. Budgeting and prepping are key, so these expenses in when estimating the cost of living in New Zealand.

Studying English: Cost of Doing the IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge B2 (FCE)

You may have to sit an English exam to get your Student or Residency Visa! This applies to those who are not from English speaking countries. In some scenarios, the partner of the applicant would have to do it too.

I did mine at the ARA Institute and paid $385 to sit the exam. But as the exam fees usually vary slightly, again, you need to do your research!

Here are the estimates I found, with screenshots and everything—what a pro! 



Check this very comprehensive guide in which I tell you all my tips and tricks for doing the IELTS!


$380—note that the fee of $ 270 in the screenshot is in USD!


$ 330

Studying in New Zealand: Getting a Degree

Cost of living in New Zealand - Cost of Studying in New Zealand | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Element5 Digital|

Cost of living in New Zealand – Cost of Studying in New Zealand | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Element5 Digital|

As institutions here can set their own tuitions, it can be quite costly to study in New Zealand. But here’s a quick hint:

For a bachelor’s degree: $22k -$32k per year

For a postgraduate degree: $26k -$37k per year

You can expect to pay more for longer careers. Quite the numbers, right? Luckily, you can get a part-time job if you are an overseas student!

Find more on New Zealand’s official website for studying in the country.

Get Your Paperwork Right: Cost of Getting the IRD Number and Opening a Bank Account

You don’t have to pay to get your IRD. The IRD number is your taxpayer number! If you hold any type of visa that allows you to work in New Zealand, then you must get this right off the bat.

There are different banks you can choose from to get your account up and running—and earning!

Westpac, ANZ, and BNZ are the ones most people I’ve met use. Opening an account is free, but note that BNZ charges a $5 monthly fee for the account “YouMoney”.

Westpac charges $10 one-off for a debit card, whereas ANZ and BNZ charge $ 10 annually.

Health: Insurance, ACC, and Public Health

Let’s dive into medical care as an important aspect of estimating the cost of living in New Zealand. First the short version:

If you don’t have Public Health, a visit to the Doctor would likely cost $75 – $85. If you do have Public Health it’s around $45.

Consider that when it comes to health and what’s covered, it’s more a case-by-case thing!


If you come to New Zealand with either a Working Holiday or a Student Visa, you’ll need to have medical insurance.  At this stage of your life in New Zealand, you wouldn’t be able to access the benefits of the public health system.

In my case, when I came to the country as a working holiday-er, I had travel insurance purchased in Argentina. When the 12 months of the visa expired I got insured through Orbit ProtectAt that time we were not eligible for public health.

I chose Orbit Protect because they seemed to be the most widely used -and affordable- insurance company in New Zealand. As they have coverage options for people doing manual work, I thought they were a good fit for my needs. As you know, during my first years in New Zealand, I had all sorts of “backpacking jobs”

Luckily, I never had to use it!

Once Diego got a 3-years Work Visa, we registered into the public health system. We’ve been on that one since then. 

Public Health

Check who is eligible for public health. This information comes directly from the Ministry of Health

But, there’s more to this!

The Accident Compensation Corporation is an injury scheme that provides financial compensation to anyone that has suffered an injury in kiwi soil. Note that this scheme doesn’t cover illness, which is another reason why it’s so important to have insurance!

In the End, What’s the Cost of Medical Care in New Zealand?

Let’s say you are feeling sick…

You typically go and see a GP (general practitioner). The cost of the consultation varies slightly among practices but in most places, it costs $80.

If you have public health and arrange an appointment with your doctor, then you’d be paying around $40 to $50.

If you follow this link, you’ll find a quite comprehensive list of fees for different services.

I’m also including a site that lists their fees for dental services.

Private Health

I’ll touch on this very quickly. If you are keen, you can enroll to get private health, one of my friends, for example, has Southern Cross. They have plans starting at $14 -the fortnight- and I think it could be good if you need to take better care of your dental health, or need to pay a visit to the optometrist. Honestly, I can’t speak for myself here, so take a look and see if this is something you’d like to invest in.

Before we keep moving along this guide to the cost of living in New Zealand, I want to be clear and say that I don’t intend to influence your choices when it comes to health providers and I’m not a partner of these providers.

Get Around: Buying a Car and All the Expenses You Need to Consider

I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of purchasing a car but let’s get clear on the expenses of getting and maintaining a vehicle! Truth is, to head on your next kiwi adventure, you’ll most likely need a car. The public transport network is truly not huge.

It’s possible to buy a car for as little as $1500 -or even less. Of course, don’t expect a Ferrari, but a cheap car can get you places, at least until it breaks down lol -been there, done that! Being clear on car expenses is a must when estimating the cost of living in New Zealand, expecially if you drawing your monthly estimates.

Transfer of Ownership

All-in-all, after you’ve found a car that fits your needs and budget, you’ll need to do the ‘transfer of ownership’ which costs $9. Cheap as chips!

Warrant of Fitness Inspection

It’s important to know that cars need to undergo a WOF Inspection -Warrant Of Fitness- from time to time. To do so, you need to get it checked at an official mechanic shop. It costs around $50.

Licensing (rego) Fees

Cars in New Zealand also need to have a current ‘Registration.’ You can renew it online and the cost is $30 for 3 months and $109 for a whole year.

Car Insurance

Last but not least! Hear me out when I say GET INSURANCE. I know way too many folks that got into trouble and didn’t have insurance. Call it BS! More so, when car insurance can be quite accessible here. I won’t get into a lot of details as what you’d end up paying relies on your type of car, year, etc.

GET INSURANCE. I know way too many folks that got into trouble and didn’t have insurance.

But, I’ll tell you this. We have a Subaru Forrester from 2007 and pay $32 a month, for third party and theft cover. It’s super easy to get your car insured. I did it over the phone in 10 minutes. 

Cost of Petrol

Petrol in New Zealand costs around $2.05 up to $2.50 or so -it varies. Now, in 2020, the prices are around $1,69. I find that it’s particularly expensive in Queenstown, so pay attention when on the road!

Get Around: Cost of Public City Buses

Cost of public transport in New Zealand - Christchurch - Auckland and Wellington | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Martina Gossi

Cost of public transport in New Zealand – Christchurch – Auckland and Wellington | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Martina Gossi

If you are a bus-bunny -I am ’cause I don’t drive- then you may find public transport is quite scarce, especially in Christchurch. Auckland and Wellington are way more developed but all the people I know own cars! I try to bike whenever possible, which I know may be tortuous if you are based in Wellington!

Public Bus in Christchurch

$2,65 with the Metrocard

$4,20 without Metrocard

This is just a reference as the prices are for Zone 1

Public Bus in Auckland

$1,95 with the At Hop Card Fare

$3,50 without the card

Public Bus in Wellington

Fares starting at $2,50 for cash fares

Keep in mind there are also other ways to get around town, so just follow the link I’ve included.

Housing: Renting a Flat or a Room

Costs of renting a house in New Zealand | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Ian Voce

Costs of renting a house in New Zealand | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Ian Voce

Bear with me here! When estimating the cost of living in New Zealand, rent obviously is one of the main expenses. The cost of flatting or renting a full flat/house can vary greatly!

I’ll speak for what I know to be the truth here in Christchurch. Cities like Auckland, Wellington and I’ll add Queenstown tend to be between 15-25% more expensive. Ouch!

However, there’s a really cool way around this that works for many responsible slow travelers and working-holiday makers…and that is…house sitting! If you are keen to live rent-free (I mean, who isn’t?) and to help homeowners while they are away, then becoming a House Sitter in New Zealand is a GREAT alternative.

A few months after moving to Christchurch I moved into this epic shared “party house” in Riccarton, a really nice and well-located neighborhood.

I was paying $120 weekly, including power and wifi, for a room next to the kitchen in this old house that in winter was pretty much like living in Antarctica. 

Later on, Diego and I stepped up in life -yeah sure, JA!- and moved into this two-level, big and more modern house just meters from Hagley Park -the main park in the whole city, which is part of the CBD. Here we were paying $260 weekly. We were sharing the house with between 1 to up to 4 more people.

So Now, Let’s Dive Into How the Rent Is Usually Divided:

  • Let’s say you live in a shared house and you are just renting a room. Some landlords ask for a fixed price that includes rent + power + wifi. In summer you spend way less and in winter the cost of electricity just skyrockets! So by paying the same throughout the whole year, the rent balances out.

  • Other landlords would charge based on the weekly electricity expenditure which is divided among all flatmates. for example, over summer you’d pay $150 + $10 per week, but in winter it could be $150 + $25 per week.

  • Sometimes landlords rent the whole house at a fixed price, which means someone “owns” the lease and does all the admin. I guess it can be beneficial sometimes to do this if you are willing to commit—which we weren’t, lol.

  • Renting a small flat, let’s say, just for you and your partner in Christchurch, would cost at least $350, this including WIFI but again, bear in mind power fluctuates a lot. Two of our friends were renting this really funky small apartment just 1 street off Sumner Beach for about $ 380.

  • Roughly, renting in Auckland, Wellington or Queenstown would cost about 15 % to 20 % more.

  • In conclusion, if you want to pay little, you could find a small room in a shared house with a good location for $120 in total -for 1 person. If you rather live more comfortably you could spend up to $200 -again, per person.

Landlords or property management agencies, typically require a bond for the equivalent of 1 week’s rent plus 1 or 2 more weeks. So, do the math. If you are moving into a $120 room, your bond would be $240 or $360.

Generally, once you give notice that you are moving out, you can either not pay the weeks you already paid for in your bond and get the bond itself back once you moved out or pay till you finish the lease and get the whole refund.

Housing and Cost of Living in New Zealand: Internet and Power Bills

Internet plans in New Zealand can cost between $50 to nearly $100 – $130. If you are just renting, many times this will already be included in the overall rent cost. If you are the one hiring the service, make sure to check if the modem is included and for how long you need to commit.

If you have any questions, you can check the New Zealand Tenancy Services website. I never had to use it, but just in case, it’s good to have the information handy!

General Costs: Cellphone Networks and Cost of Monthly and Prepaid Plans

Cellphone networks, pre-paid and monthly plans in New Zealand | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Liz Weddon

Cellphone networks, pre-paid and monthly plans in New Zealand | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Liz Weddon

The three main providers in New Zealand are Spark, Vodafone, and 2 Degrees. There are other companies of course, but this is to give you an idea of what your hard-earned dollars can get you!

I use 2 Degrees and pay $19 for a prepaid plan that auto-renews once a month as long as I have topped up my credit! 


You can get monthly plans starting at $39,99 or a prepaid plan for $19.


Prepaid plans start at $19, they also have MyFlex, which allows you to choose how many minutes, data, and text messages you want to get! Their monthly plans start at $59,99.

2 Degrees

Their monthly packs start at $30. You can get a prepaid carryover combo for $19. What may be cool about their plans is that their site is quite easy to browse and you can get add ons and a free hour of data every day -haven’t tried it yet!

General Costs: Buying Groceries

Cost of living in New Zealand - General costs of groceries | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Jakub Kapusnak

Cost of living in New Zealand – General costs of groceries | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Jakub Kapusnak

In the guide to traveling in New Zealand, I wrote the costs of most basic groceries and some good tips to save money on food when you are getting around here and there.

So in this article, I’m focusing more on how much someone that’s fairly settled in the country would spend. Because organizing your meals and groceries when you are living and working in a new place is not the same as if you’re solely traveling.

We do our grocery shopping once a week, and then we always treat ourselves over weekends. Usually, we spend about $150-$180 for both of us, covering all meals for the 7 days of the week.

Our Weekly Grocery Shopping

So this is how we buy, what we cook, and how much we spend to give you a fair, realistic idea! Consider as I said before that we also buy in the market and what’s on special!

  • Veggies and fruits: We usually spend $30 – $40.

  • Dairy: $15 weekly.

  • Meat: We try buying big pieces of meat and then we just cut it to make schnitzel or steaks or we throw it into the slow cooker. It comes up to $40 or $50.

  • Things for breaky and others: Between $30 to $60.

Consider that we don’t buy ALL of this very week. A coffee pack for the stovetop lasts like 1 month.

Total Cost of Grocery Shopping in New Zealand

Between $115 up to $165. Meaning the average cost per person each day is between $8 to $12. Note that we don’t usually buy processed or frozen food. 

Get Active: General Costs of Gear in New Zealand

Okay then! There are so many outdoorsy activities you can do here –I’m into hiking-, that I thought to include a wee comment on this. Buying brand new gear can be quite expensive, especially if you are coming from the US and are used to getting your goods at a lower cost!

For example, if you are into snowboarding you can expect to pay between $300 to $700 for a snowboard. 

If climbing is your jam and you need shoes, expect to pay about $200. I bought my bike for $473 -a great balance between good and cheap. But they can easily cost way more.

I trust that if you are already into any of these outdoor sports you’ll have an idea of how much things cost.

This said, there are many pre-loved goods you can purchase through Facebook groups to save A LOT of money! To find these groups, just get to Facebook and type something like…

“Buy-Sell (name of your city)”

“Buy Sell Trade (name of your city)


Get Active: Going to the Gym, Yoga, and Classes

Cost of living in New Zealand - Get active: Cost of gear | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Diego Donoso

Cost of living in New Zealand – Get active: Cost of gear | The Global Curious | Ph Cred: Diego Donoso

Gym memberships start at about $25 a month but can easily climb to $100.

Drop-in classes are usually around $20 -$25. If you are a student -or retired- you can get plenty of discounts.

I’m deep into my Yoga practice, I pay $170 for a full monthly membership. This means I can go as many times as I want for the fixed fee.

If you want to go for a swim, head to one of the City Council’s recreation centers and get to enjoy some spa action -my fave! If you are in Christchurch, for example, you’d pay $6.20 to gain access to the pools and the spa area.

If you were keen to take a casual class, expect to pay about $10.

What’s the Monthly Cost of Living in New Zealand

Okay then! To make it easy, I’ll go all in and share some of my MONTHLY expenses to give you a rough estimate. Again, take this with a grain of salt as price varies from city to city, but you’ll get the idea:

Accommodation: $440 monthly -including power and internet in a shared house

Food: $320 

Yoga: $170 

Transport: $80

Phone: $20

Extra activities: $200

Others: $100

Car Insurance: $20

Total: $1350 (Approximately $900 USD)

You could spend way more or a bit less -I’m quite frugal, also because I have blogging expenses that I haven’t included here. 

Get Paid: Wages in New Zealand

Let’s say you come to New Zealand with a Working Holiday and get a minimum wage job, -you can definitely earn more, but it will depend on your personal/professional experience and level of English- you’d be getting paid $18,90 an hour -updated July 2020.

This means that if you work for 40 hours a week you can get a decent income and save quite a bit of money -if you behave! Booze and rollies are like gold in this country.

Laboring, non-qualified construction, or even admin jobs pay between $20 to $26 hours -roughly. 

The way I used to think about it back when I was on full-time ‘working holiday’ jobs was: 1 day’s work for rent, another for expenses, and the rest for savings!

All-in-all, I just want to make it clear that New Zealand is all about the lifestyle in many ways. You could earn much more in Australia as wages are higher, but here everything seems more accessible somehow. It’s quite a personal choice. 

New Zealand is a fantastic place to be, so I encourage you to get it together and come over!

So, this is it for now! I really hope you find this guide to the cost of living in New Zealand useful, and please, SHARE IT. Leave me a comment answering if you reckon NZ is more expensive than your own country!

Is there anything else you’d like to see in this guide?

Easily keep this article handy! Save my Guide to The Cost of Living in New Zealand to your favorite Pinterest board ❤



Hey u! I’m Martina, from Argentina. I’ve been combining travel and life overseas since 2013 in a quest for living alongside with creativity, joy and personal growth.

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