This guide will give you a clear idea of how much you can expect to spend if you want to make the most of New Zealand in a week. You’ll also find a suggested New Zealand itinerary for the North Island and another for the South Island. I’ll tackle from costs of food to transport, accommodation, itineraries, and activities.
For a full, wildly comprehensive costs guide including flights, visas, and tips for saving money, head to the full guide to the costs of traveling in New Zealand.
(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.)
Are you gonna hike in New Zealand -and need great hiking boots that won’t break the bank? Check out my guide to buying the best hiking boots -on a tight budget!
In this guide you’ll find:
South Island itinerary (7 days)
North Island itinerary (7 days)
Cost of renting a car for a week in New Zealand
Cost of accommodation in New Zealand
Cost of activities in New Zealand
Cost of food in New Zealand
Averages, summary and conclusion
This article IS for you if…
You are planning a quick visit to New Zealand and want to ensure you make the most of your time here without spending a fortune BUT knowing this is a quite expensive country.
This article is NOT for you if…
You are planning to backpack and save as much money as possible. Why? ‘Cause you know, by rule of thumb, the fastest you move the more you spend! Saving money most times equals staying longer!
The exception I’d make is if you come to NZ to hike a specific walk. If that’s the case, head to my guide about doing the Queen Charlotte Track and find out how I planned and budget my adventure!
South Island New Zealand itinerary (7 days)
Most visitors staying for a short amount of time prefer to focus on the best places to visit in New Zealand, particularly in the South Island.
Why? Because that’s where most of the top famous highlights are! People usually prioritize visiting Queenstown, Milford Sound and Lake Tekapo -and for good reason, although I absolutely love the North Island too!
So here’s a very simple suggested itinerary that’s doable in a week. To get your travel juices flowing, check out this guide to the best landscape photography spots in the South Island.
I highly suggest you get a rental as public transport can be quite limited. This said, many people would rather not drive and prefer to pre-book tours which is also a great way to see the country -especially because in New Zealand people drive on the left side and many folks are not used to it!
In this example, you’d start in Queenstown and make your way to Christchurch. Be mindful of this as your flights would have different arrival – departure points.
Day 1: Arriving in Queenstown -pick up your rental at the airport, go sightseeing, take a stroll around town, hang out by the lake.
Day 2: Visit Arrowtown for half a day, make your way back to Queenstown and go up the famous Skyline.
Day 3: Start early and drive, or book a day tour to Milford Sound. It’s quite exhausting to do all the driving yourself. If you decide to go on a tour, maybe move day 2 to day 3 so you save some money on the rental car.
It’s a 3.5-hour drive one way but there are many amazing places for quick stops! Once in Milford, take a stroll around the main walkway and then take a 2-hour cruise. Once you are ready to head back, jump in the car and chill in Queenstown for the night.
Day 4: From Queenstown, you’ll make your way to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. It’s a 2.5-hour drive and I highly recommend an early start as you’ll be hanging out here for the whole day. There’s a lot to see and discover here! After a nature-packed day head to Lake Tekapo for the night.
Day 5: The views from Lake Tekapo are just crazy. Even though I’d been there SO many times, I still need to pinch myself at the stunning views. I’d suggest to take it easy this day as so far you’ve been moving quite fast. That said, there are really nice hot pools in Late Tekapo plus the St John observatory, which is truly worth a visit.
Day 6: Today, you’ll be heading to Christchurch. This is a 3-hour drive and if you feel rested and keen you can enjoy the city’s main sights during the afternoon.
Day 7: So…things must come to an end! This is obviously the day when you return the car at the airport -which is only 15 minutes away from the city center- and head back home! If, on the contrary, you still have a day to spare, enjoy Christchurch or take a short day trip to the Peninsula Banks.
I hope I’ve given you some good and simple insights into some of the top things to do in New Zealand’s South Island!
North Island New Zealand itinerary (7 days)
For this itinerary I’ve picked, again, the main things to do in New Zealand North Island. And although 7 days is not enough -at all- visitors will get a fair share of stunning spots, crazy geothermal activity, and some well-deserved beach action. Let’s go!
Day 1: Arriving in Auckland. If you get there early, go sightseeing!
Day 2: You won’t need a rental car yet for this day. If you’d like to check out the city highlights you can spend the day Auckland. If you are more of an island bunny then head to Waiheke for either a half or a full day. Waiheke is one of my favorite spots in New Zealand. If you are visiting just for a couple of hours I highly recommend to get a tour or plan ahead and pick just a few spots to visit. I spent a whole week on the island and just fell in love with it!
Optional: Book a day tour to the Coromandel Peninsula. I mean, you can drive the of course, but it’s quite far for a day trip and it’d be exhausting to try and pack it all up on your own.
Day 3: Rotorua is a 3-hour drive from Auckland and it sits on the route that touches on all the main highlights -not like Coromandel. It’s one of THE most interesting places in New Zealand not only ‘cause it smells like fart -lol- but because the geothermal activity here is off charts! Upon your arrival, spend the day exploring some of the many sights found here!
Day 4: Although you could easily spend 2 or 3 nights here, it’s time to keep going as Taupo also has a wealth of amazing places to visit. I’d suggest to spend the morning in Rotorua and then drive to Taupo -it’s a short 1-hour drive. Upon your arrival, enjoy the sights of Taupo Lake!
Day 5: 1.5 hours south of Taupo sits the Tongariro National Park, which is also one of the top places to visit in New Zealand. If you are up for the challenge, go hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing -allow 8 hours to complete the 19-km hike. Otherwise, still head there and explore this unique UNESCO World Heritage site.
Day 6: Day 5 was definitely intense so before you begin wrapping up an intense week, enjoy some of the top activities in Taupo.
Day 7: If you are heading home during day 7, I hoped you enjoyed this itinerary! If you still have a day to spare you could allocate one night in Coromandel or make a stop in Matamata and visit the Shire from The Lord of The Rings -halfway between Auckland and Rotorua.
Cost of renting a car for a week in New Zealand
I’ll just assume that you’ll be moving around quite a bit and therefore need to rent a small car for a week with a different drop-off location.
The exception to this would be if, for example, you are planning to spend a week in Auckland just exploring the city.
My parents visited me in New Zealand 2 months ago and we rented 2 cars: one on Waiheke Island and one in Queenstown.
I mention this ‘cause we spent way more in the Waiheke rental (and the car wasn’t even so nice, and was really dirty) than in the Queenstown one. Why? Well, there are not many options in Waiheke so you just need to roll with it.
In Waiheke, the company charged us $79 per day (f*!). In Queenstown, we paid a total of $363 for a whole week, full insurance coverage, and drop-off in a different location.
The costs of petrol vary but they range between $ 2.15 – $ 2.36 per liter.
Let’s add this up and create an average of the cost of car rentals and petrol:
Scenario – 2 People that have come to explore the South Island for a week, rent a fully insured, small car in Queenstown and return it in Christchurch with a full tank.
Car Rental: $ 320 – $ 400
Petrol: Let’s say 2 to 4 tanks? $70/$80 APROX each time you fuel up.
Total: $ 500 – $ 600
Cost of accommodation in New Zealand
If it’s up to me, I’d sleep on a hostel’s bathroom just to save money -not entirely true now that I’m 32, Ja!
But here’s what I found after planning the trip with my parents: there’s a lot of cheap accommodation and there’s a lot of expensive accommodation. I couldn’t really find a lot of options in between.
I’ve slept in cute hostels for $25, but my parents were not that keen on the idea…so I went on a quest to find good quality-price relation and it was hard to find!!!
Airbnb and Booking.com ended up being my go-to options. Booking is good even for hostels! You can always use a booking referral discount link which means that if you book with this type of links, you get a 10 % discount. I have so many! Email me (email@example.com) and I’ll send you some of my own links you can use.
Let’s add this up and create an average of the cost of accommodation for a week in New Zealand:
Scenario – 2 people that will stay 4 nights in Queenstown, 2 in Tekapo and 1 in Christchurch. You decide that you’ll stay mainly in hostels, but for a few nights, you’ll get a private room or maybe an Airbnb.
Consider that the cost of accommodation varies greatly according to the season! Spots like Queenstown are always expensive though.
You can get a bed in a shared dorm for about $25 per person, or a private room starting at $95, roughly. So you’d spend a minimum of $175 per person if doing 7 nights in cheap hostels or approx $350 per person for 7 nights in a cheap private room.
Total (average): Let’s leave it at $300 per person, $600 in total, guessing you’d do a bit of a mix. Again, if you want to stay in a nicer hotel, you can expect to pay from $200 the night.
Some cities and areas of the country are cheaper, for example, Hamner Springs. But it’s not very likely that you’d spend the night there if you are just on a 7 days trip!
Cost of activities in New Zealand
The way I see this is: I research, set a wee budget, and then I decide what to do. For example, if you’ll go bungee jumping or skydiving, then that would cost between $200 – $350.
You can visit Milford Sound on a full-day tour for $105, go wine tasting for $0 to $15, visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (in the North Island) for about $24…etc.
You can always find great deals and discounts on BookMe.com.
There’s a huge array of things you can do for free as well! Mostly stunning hikes!
To make things easier, I’d say that if you are someone that enjoys going to a place and doing stuff, then estimating a $250 – $400 on activities should be okay. Of course, this will depend on what you choose to experience! If you go on a helicopter trip, you could easily blow the whole budget in an hour…well…you get the idea!
Let’s add this up and create an average of the cost of activities:
Scenario – 2 People visiting the South Island and wanting to visit Milford Sound (self-driven), go bungee jumping, do a wine tasting, or doing the Gloworm caves in Te Anau…
Total (approx): $300 per person, $ 600 in total.
Cost of food in New Zealand
This tends to be an expensive country if you just roll with it. When traveling fast or if staying in hotels, you may not have time to cook and prepare your meals, but here’s a reference! All prices are in NZD.
If you buy at the supermarket, prepare a nice breaky and snacks to take with you during the day, you can estimate a minimum of $15 per person on groceries per day. Some towns don’t have the cheapest supermarkets (Pack N’ Save), so you’d end up buying in New World, Four Square or Countdown, which are more pricey (Countdown is not super expensive though).
If you head out for food on the go, you’d typically get a pie, a coffee, fish and chips, a kebab or something along those lines. Estimate an average of $12-17 per person. It can be a bit less but after 5 years of living here…if I spend less than that I always end up hungry!
If you go to a restaurant for a cheap but nice meal, you can expect to pay not less than $20/25 per person. If you want to spend more go on! When we go out for dinner to our fave “fancy” restaurant here in Chch we spend about $ 50 per person.
Let’s add this up and create an average of food costs for one week in New Zealand
Scenario – 2 people on a mid-budget for 7 days, not wanting to miss out on cool dining spots but also saving a bit of money, therefore buying at the supermarket stuff for an abundant breaky, having quick lunches and going out for dinner some nights.
$ 250/350 Per Person – APPROX between $500 / $700 in total for 2 people.
You can add to this as much as your budget allows!
If you are on the ‘broke-traveler’ side of things, you can stretch a dollar and spend as little as $120 – $ 150. I honestly don’t think you can get away with much less than that (again, this is not a backpacking trip).
How much for a week trip to New Zealand?
$ 175/$300 Per Person // $300 – $600 in total for 2 people.
Total: $ 500 – $ 600.
$175 -$300 per person, $350 -$600 in total.
$ 250 NZD per person, $ 500 in total.
Return tickets to and from Australia
$ 400 – $ 800 in total
Add about $1000 if traveling from a different country other than Auss!
Medical insurance – Visas
$100 – $200 (a very rough estimate)
Average of TOTAL Costs!
“Cheap-but-not-backpacker” Aprox $ 1100 per person
Mid $ 1250 – 1600 per person
Total for 2 $2200 /$ 3200 for 2 people.
I always like having money for extras and keep an eye on my expenses as well! As I said at the beginning, this is a rough estimate, please go ahead and do more research- I love Nomadic’s Matt Guide, as he mentions, this country is a money vacuum!!! I was sweating bullets when traveling with my parents!!!!
Also, if you wanted, you could spend MUCH MORE MONEY! So keep that in mind as well!
Finally, you CAN travel for less!!! This article is more geared towards travelers seeking a balance between leaisure and savings.
Please comment YES if you found this article useful! This helps me stay on the go and connected with you!
Keep this guide to the costs of spending one week in New Zealand handy!
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.
queen charlotte track
travel the world