If you have decided to travel to New Zealand, in the near future, unless you are lucky enough to be earning plenty of money, the question of budget will arise! I have just returned from a 3-week road trip in New Zealand which naturally led me to want to share with you the budget you’ll need for such a trip. Like the thorough article I did on the budget needed for a trip to French Polynesia, I will try to do the same here.
Knowing your travel budget when planning a trip abroad is always a complex issue and every traveller will have their own ideas based on their income, how long they plan to be away travelling, what they hope to do on their travels, etc. Some people love the preparation process, including planning their budget, while others just think about turning up with a backpack on their back looking forward, quite simply, to discovering new places and making new friends. Here I will give you an overall view of the type of expenses you are likely to encounter on your trip to New Zealand. Are you someone who likes to plan everything before you set off or are you just looking forward to having an adventure?
Whether you are travelling around the world and hoping to discover the Pacific Islands or simply planning your first trip to New Zealand, this article is for you. A road trip here remains one of the classics when doing a round the world tour. Many backpackers even stop for several months to work here (with a WHV / PVT = Working Holiday Visa / Permis Vacances Travail). They very often continue their journey to Southeast Asia, New Caledonia, Easter Island or South America. So, how much does a trip to this distant island cost?
The system is changing in New Zealand and having a Visa will be mandatory for French people from October 2019.
For those of you looking for activities over here at rock bottom prices, I’m used to compared prixes on this great website.
How much does a stay in New Zealand cost for travelers? In my opinion there are 6 main expenses to calculate into your budget. On your trip, expect: the flight to get there, the travel between the main islands, how do you want to travel during your trip, accommodations, activities and food.
In addition, there will, of course, be incidental expenses such as souvenirs, travel insurance, gifts, credit card withdrawal taxes, in short, all the typical expenses which occur when you’re travelling around the world.
Just so you know, $1 NZL = €0.58 (when I was there)
If you are in Europe, you can find flights (with stopovers) to New Zealand from almost any capital city. From Paris, London or Berlin, you will find flights from around 600€ if you are flexible on dates. For me, this is relatively cheap with the distance I have to travel. Do have a look at this super flight comparator that I have been using for more than 10 years for finding cheap flights.
From the USA, similarly, all the major cities offer flights to New Zealand, starting at $700 from the west coast, where flights seem to be cheaper than in other parts of the country. Especially if you’re flying out of San Francisco or Los Angeles, directly to Auckland. However, the cheapest flights from the United States to New Zealand are from Hawaii, with flights for under $400/500 round-trip.
For Canadians, you will find flights starting at $900 Canadian dollars, flying out of the major cities.
It’s worth noting that it is often possible to include New Zealand when purchasing a round-the-world ticket. Something to think about?!
maybe New Zealand is one of the cheap flights at the moment?
I spent 3 weeks in New Zealand on the North Island, by choice as I find that I now prefer travelling at a more leisurely pace.
Travel between the North and the South islands is something to consider when calculating the cost of your trip to New Zealand. For those who want to travel between the islands, there are several options available:
- If you are travelling in a vehicle (car, campervan, mobile home), you will have no choice but to take the ferry that connects the 2 volcanic islands. This is also an opportunity to see the beautiful landscapes. There are two ferry companies you can use: Interislander and Blue Bridge. Expect approximately:
- 200$ for a car with one person, 270$ for 2 people (150€),
- 420$ for a campervan or a mobile home for 2 people,
- If you are on foot : it will cost 65$ NZL (38€) per person making the crossing.
If you are travelling by bus or are hitchhiking across the country you do not have to take the ferry to reach the island opposite. Air travel is much cheaper than travelling by ferry. This is one of the ways to save money during your trip to New Zealand if you are planning to go around on foot. Here are some of the average prices:
- One-way ticket Auckland – Christchurch: 45 €
- Auckland – Wellington: 40 €
- Wellington – Christchurch : 40 €
- Christchurch – Dunedin : 70 €
- Auckland – Dunedin : 50 €
If you are looking for the cheapest domestic flights from New Zealand’s major cities to other parts of the country, you can use the best flight comparator, the very one I have used for years.
Depending on how you choose to travel and what you plan to do, this is the time when your budget can explode and you find yourself spending more than expected. There are plenty of options available to you no matter what your budget, from the most economical to the most expensive. I have already written an article on driving in New Zealand and you will find a lot of useful information there. Here I am talking about the 3 means of transport which most people usually choose.
Rent a car in New Zealand
As everywhere, the price of renting a car is very variable, depending on many hypotheses: the person renting (age, number of years driving, etc.), kilometers of the car, its maintenance, the type of insurance chosen, etc. I particularly recommend this site. I’ve booked twice via this great car rental comparator and found great prices!
The lowest prices start at around 15/20 $ NZL per day for a small low-end car (certainly not one of the newer models…), at around 150 $ NZL for a large 4×4. I’ll tell you about my personal expenses and experience with car rental in New Zealand which is at the end of this article.
Renting a motorhome / campervan in New Zealand
This is one of the options that many choose, often for simplicity. In my opinion, based on what I’ve heard during my three weeks in New Zealand, this is not the most economical option when travelling in New Zealand. However, that’s another story and one I’ll tell you about in an article about travelling with a small budget in New Zealand. To rent a campervan, prices range from $70/80 to about $100 per day for a small campervan. The prices for renting the large motorhomes are crazy and unless you rent one of these beasts between several people, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Travelling by bus in New Zealand
This is also one of the possibilities when travelling on a limited budget in New Zealand. However, over a few weeks or months, this is not the best option as the cost is far too high.
There are two main companies in New Zealand: Kiwi Experience and Stray Travel. Prices vary widely depending on the duration of your bus pass and your desired route. Both companies offer travel passes which last a few weeks, months, or even a year. These are usually valid for 12 months.
Prices range from $650 for a 15-day pass to over $1500 for a one-month or 1.5-month pass. This may be an option for those wanting to go to all the top tourist spots in a limited time. Unfortunately, with these buses you have less freedom of movement and you might find yourselves on more of an organised excursion.
Hitchhiking and carpooling seems to work rather well in New Zealand and is definitely the most economical way to travel around there. The only downside is that this takes more time and is less certain. So, how do you think you would prefer to travel?
Things get more complicated here. Depending on what you want for your accommodation, you should be able to find something from very cheap to very expensive. Here I’ll give you the main options for accommodation in order from the cheapest to the most expensive.
Camping in New Zealand
This is obviously going to be the cheapest option and was the one I chose during my trip. Prices vary from $6 to $20 per person per night, depending on whether you are staying on a very basic campsite (toilet only) or one with all the creature comforts (laundry, internet, etc.). There is a great application that offers a map of all the country’s campsites.
There are also a number of free campsites scattered across the country. I provide the details for these in my article on camping in New Zealand. Beware of camping in the wild as it’s very regulated….
Airbnb and Bed & Breakfasts in New Zealand
This is a more expensive option than camping, but one which is still quite reasonable. Prices start from $30 for 2 people and go up to around $70/80 depending on the location.
It is quite possible to find beautiful Airbnb rooms at very reasonable prices.
These can be found in all medium and large cities in New Zealand. Prices generally start at 20/30$ for a bed in a dormitory. You can expect 50/60$ for a private room.
With a little hindsight, I would have preferred to sleep in an Airbnb in Auckland rather than staying in a youth hostel (Base Backpackers).
I personally did not stay in any of the hotels during my stay, but from what I saw, the prices vary from $100 to $150 per night for 2 people.
This is clearly the most expensive option when finding a place to stay in New Zealand and if you’re on a limited budget I suggest you find another path.
Below is a selection of the best places to stay the night. I have stayed in some of them, others have been recommended a number of times by other travelers, especially by friends who go to New Zealand regularly. Living in Polynesia, New Zealand is almost next door, and I can count on friends to give me the best “sleeping tips”.
The price of a trip to New Zealand will also depend on what you want to do there. I am not necessarily in favor of paid activities and don’t think you need to partake in them in order to have a good time, quite the contrary actually. However, New Zealand is an expert in making money and there is very little you can do here for free.
There is a wide range of offers on canyoning, rafting, bungee jumping, helicopter rides, climbing, boat trips, etc. To put it bluntly, activities in New Zealand are expensive!
It will cost between $50 and $80 for one activity per person. At that price, you will have to think about what you really want to do, especially if you don’t want to blow your whole budget on a few activities.
There are discount cards and offers available on some websites at very attractive rates, especially for ‘thrills’ and extreme sports. I will tell you more about them in my article on travelling cheaply in New Zealand.
Another thing, almost none of the tourist sites are free and those that do exist are not easy to find. For example, a visit to the geothermal site of Wai O Ta Pu (next to Rotorua) costs 65$ for 2 people. Hobbiton (The Lord of the Rings shooting location) 158$ for 2 people -> Generally, Hobbit / Middle-earth fans can’t resist visiting this spectacular site.
Anyway, it all adds up fast.
On the other hand, for those travelling economically and/or with a passion for grandiose landscapes and wide-open spaces, you will have enough to enjoy without breaking the bank. Hiking to see the geysers, fjords, volcanoes, glaciers, rainforest, snow-capped peaks and others amazing sights will guarantee that you have a worthwhile visit to New Zealand without financial ruin. The great tour of the Coromandel Peninsula in the north of the country offers a large number of hiking trails and beautiful white sandy beaches, for example, and you will be relatively far away from the tourist attractions of the south of the country. The country’s national parks offer the opportunity to discover beautiful landscapes at a low cost as well.
From North to South, the landscapes seem to change greatly. New Zealand’s wildlife is much more beautiful on the South Island, and you can see breathtaking scenery! I was told it was a hiker’s paradise! So, don’t focus on paid activities, they are not compulsory, simply take the time to enjoy what this wild nature has to offer: lakes, hiking, penguins, sea lions, endemic flora and fauna, hot springs, etc. The beautiful areas in the South Island are not to be missed, and I hope to see them on my next visit.
For those who prefer to book their activities before leaving home, here is a site that lists a set of fun things to do, some of the most classic and some of the more off the beaten track. Here is a selection of 5 very cool activities to do once in New Zealand:
The Last point to consider for the budget on your trip to New Zealand: food.
Living in Tahiti at the time of writing this article, my opinion may not be the same as those living in other parts of the world. Overall, I found the food relatively cheap. The French people I met over there told me that the food was a little cheaper than in France, in general. Even restaurants are “relatively accessible”.
Here are some prices to expect to pay for food in New Zealand:
- A dish in a restaurant: between $20 and $30,
- A burger in a snack bar: $15
- A muffin in a supermarket: $1.5,
- One litre of milk: $1.89,
- FCheese (Cheddar) 1 Kg: $12
- Pad Thaï Noodles: $1.5/2 per package
- A coffee (on the road or in a bar): $5
And so we come to a roundup of the type of budget to expect when travelling to New Zealand. First, I’ll clarify some points about my trip:
- We travelled in a group of 3 people: 2 adults and a 2 year old toddler (there will soon be a full article for tips on travelling to New Zealand as a family, with a baby),
- We opted for the most economical option, in my opinion (car rental + camping),
- We did not choose the smallest and most economical car (because of the baby and for fear of having problems with the car…),
- We are generally used to travelling economically,
- We stayed mainly in the better campsites, those with hot water (for the little one and for us), electricity and internet,
- We only ate twice in restaurants during our stay, the rest of the time we bought food and cooked in the evenings at the campsites,
- We did not do any of the paid activities, other than to visit natural parks and similar visits,
- We were there in October and November, so before the tourist season.
Here are the main expenses of our trip:
- Airfare : 600 € (We only paid for one ticket, the other being “free with airline miles” + free for the baby)
- Accommodation : 522 € (An average of 23,72€/night for 22 nights)
- Paid activities : 255 €
- Car rental : 380 € (for 19 days, or about 20$/day),
- Petrol : 300 €
- Food/Coffee/Restaurants : 920 € (including expenses for the baby)
TOTAL : 2980 € all included.
In the end, I think we did quite well considering that we stayed for 3 weeks and were travelling with a baby, which always involves additional expenses.
If you arrive from outside French Polynesia, the price of the flight ticket will probably be higher given you’ll be travelling further and, of course, I only paid for one.
The rest of the expenses could be about the same if you rent a car, do some camping and don’t spend too much on the paid activities. Another point to note, we drove 3500 km in 3 weeks and we stayed on the North Island. If you plan to drive more than that and perhaps go to the South Island, the budget will clearly increase (petrol + ferry between the 2 islands). On the other hand, you may well have less food expenses if you’re travelling without a baby or small child.
My guess would be that for 2 people, spending 3 weeks in New Zealand, you can expect to spend something like 4000€ including your flights, although this could be 500€ more or less depending on the type of activities you want to try and the accommodation you choose.
I would say you need to allow 800€ per week once in the country for 2 people. It will obviously be possible to spend less than that if you stay in the free campsites, and don’t eat in restaurants!
If you don’t want to plan your trip to the South Pacific Ocean yourself, there are a large number of travel agencies in New Zealand and around the world which will organize tailor-made trips or accompanied tours for you. Although that’s not my preferred way to travel, that way you will at least be certain that you don’t miss out on any of the country’s must-see attractions. However, please note that you lose freedom to wander off the beaten track when you go down that route.
I hope that this article on the travel budget necessary for a trip to New Zealand has given you lots of ideas. I wish you luck with your preparation!
If you have any questions about this article, and specifically your travel budget, I would be happy to answer them! So, are you ready to immerse yourself in New Zealand?
See you soon,