New Zealand on a Budget

Planning a trip to New Zealand? Realising you’ll have to stretch those dollars a little further than expected? Here are a few ways to get the most out of your money in New Zealand.

New Zealand on a Budget: Bob's Cove Peninsula, Queenstown
Bob’s Cove Peninsula, Queenstown: Photo by Tom Hall / CC BY 2.0

Travelling to New Zealand on a Budget


New Zealand is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and much of the country’s tourism involves getting amongst it. Popular activities include bungee jumping, caving, skiing, snowboarding, and skydiving. There’s no real way around it—these things are all expensive, and the most you can do is to budget everything else accordingly so you can actually afford to enjoy what New Zealand has to offer.


At NZ$20–30 per night, backpacker hostels are standard fare in low-budget travel itineraries. However, work exchange programs are also becoming increasingly popular. Workaway, HelpX and WWOOF are organisations where accommodation (and sometimes food) is provided in exchange for roughly 20 hours of labour per week. Otherwise, you can always meet lots of friendly locals on Couchsurfing, although there’s no guarantee that you’ll get along with your hosts!

Food & Drinks

Generally speaking, budget-conscious travellers won’t be eating out very often in New Zealand. Dining in cafés and restaurants can easily add up to NZ$50 per day, whereas that amount can last a week for those willing to do the work. If your accommodation has cooking facilities, preparing your own food will save some serious dollars that can go towards more expensive activities. Of course, not everyone has a kitchen at their disposal—or the skills required to use one—so, like in many other countries, fast food is often the refuge of the poor traveller.

New Zealand on a Budget: Restaurants by night in Parnell, Auckland
Restaurants by night in Parnell, Auckland: Photo russellstreet / CC BY-SA 2.0

Drinking in New Zealand isn’t cheap either, with beers costing around NZ$8 each and a glass of wine sitting somewhere between $6–12 NZD. While we can’t suggest the same money-saving tactics as above (in fact, we strongly advise against making your own alcohol), there are still ways to reduce your expenses here. Savvy drinkers will take advantage of the discounted wine and spirits available at Aelia Duty Free—prices here are much lower than at the average New Zealand bottle shop, and you can even pre-order online to have cheap booze ready and waiting for when you touch down at the Auckland, Queenstown, Christchurch or Dunedin international terminals.

New Zealand on a Budget: Church Road Wine from Hawkes Bay
Church Road Wine from Hawkes Bay: Photo on Flickr by Salman Javed / CC BY-SA 2.0


It doesn’t get much cheaper than some good old-fashioned hitchhiking, but it only takes one B-grade horror movie to put you off the idea completely. Luckily, bus tickets are fairly cheap, and purchasing a bus pass will save you even more money. Nakedbus offers a 10-trip bus pass for NZ$254, with which you can comfortably make your way from the northern town of Paihia down to Queenstown. For travellers with more time (and money) on their hands, it might worthwhile investing in an unlimited pass (NZ$597) to get access to as many bus trips as you can fit into a 12-month schedule.

While your coins might count for less in New Zealand than in other backpacker destinations, some careful planning and research before departure can turn an otherwise short-lived holiday into an adventure to remember for years to come.

2 Responses

  1. 5 Money Saving Tips for New Zealand Travel | Go 4 Travel Blog

    […] Hitchhiking is incredibly popular throughout New Zealand if you are looking for money saving tips for New Zealand travel. You’ll spot fellow travellers along the road all the time, trying their best to catch a ride. Locals are usually more than happy to pick up hitchhikers in exchange for a friendly chat; so you’ll never be waiting very long. As always, use your common sense and be smart about it before you jump in anyone’s car. […]

  2. Avatar for IsaacLai23

    Jack Braithwaite

    Hi Isaac, Id love to hear why you didn’t talk about relocating a camper! It seems like a great way to cut down on hiring a rv while still giving you all the flexibility of having a rolling home and your own transport! Rental car relocation seems like a good place to start for anyone else interested 🙂


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