On our recent trip to New Zealand, we really wanted to try and save as much money as possible by eating cheaply, sleeping in our campervan as much as possible and generally cutting out any expenses that were going to hurt our budget. This was backpacker style of travel and so was the budget.
New Zealand is not a cheap country. Far from it. When you factor in activities such as bungy jumping, cave tours, walking on glaciers and going to thermal parks such as those in Rotorua, you quickly find that your budget doesn’t go very far. We had a rough budget of NZ$70 per day when we were in New Zealand AFTER paying for our campervan and we consider this to be low-cost for New Zealand..
Here is our breakdown of expenses during New Zealand. Our New Zealand travel budget.
As you can you can see, we spent very little on accommodation. When we first arrived in New Zealand, my dad paid for some accommodation in a hotel for us which helped us greatly otherwise we would have paid for a hostel by ourselves. Also, we got free accommodation in Queenstown because of a booking from my dad. Queenstown is quite expensive and forking out for accommodation here would have hurt the budget because there is no free camping in the Queenstown region.
The other money we spent on accommodation was a night in Dunedin due to awful weather, a night in Wellington to freshen up and a couple of nights in Auckland at the end. It would have been difficult to do this much cheaper. We were also grateful to have one of Susan’s friends let us stay at her house for one night which really did help our budget.
When you look at the total cost of food, it was one of our major expenses. We ate very cheaply on the road and rarely ate at restaurants and cafes. We only did so when Susan really needed some Asian food, I really needed some quality cafe food and we both needed just something comforting. But it wasn’t often. Most of the time we bought groceries from local supermarkets with Pak n Save being our favourite choice because it was so cheap. But still, we spent over NZ$900 on food during 34 days in New Zealand and it was tough to do it much cheaper unless we just ate rice and tofu for every meal.
Cost of activities in New Zealand
Activities are where you can really blow the budget in New Zealand with things like bungy jumping costing hundreds of dollars. HUNDREDS! So we chose VERY carefully and had to skip some things we would have liked to do like climbing on the glaciers. In the end, we chose to cruise on Milford Sound where we got half price tickets through our Jucy Campervan rental, soak in hot pools near the glaciers, see some kiwis at a Wildlife Centre (rip off), tour through Waitomo Caves and walk around a couple of thermal parks around Rotorua. To be honest, that was enough. We could have saved money by not doing these things, but they were fun. Of course, most people would probably do many more activities and that would add massively to this expense. We spent NZ$328, but it could very easily have been NZ$1500 or NZ$2000. EASILY.
Transport costs in New Zealand
Of course transport was always going to be our biggest expense. Mainly because petrol is expensive in New Zealand and the fact that we hired a van for so long. We got a bargain on the van with it only costing NZ$24 per day to hire. But we averaged about NZ$50 per day in petrol! New Zealand looks small, but you do travel quite long distances every day and this adds up to increased petrol costs. One of the advantages of staying in a place like Queenstown for a few days is that you save a lot on petrol. Anyway, the total of transport costs came to NZ$2059 over the 34 days which did inlclude a few buses in some cities. We booked directly through the Jucy Campervan website, but we now know of a site that can get better prices by comparing all the different companies. It’s probably best to try them out first to see if they can do a better deal. They’re called Camper Hire Australia.
The miscellaneous column is a catchall for everything else we spent money on such as a modem so we could access the internet on the road, postcards, parking, some showers and a couple of rain ponchos when we had to walk around a thermal park in the rain. Overall we did quite well in this section and you could do it much more cheaply if you didn’t buy the modem/internet.
So over the course of 34 days we spent NZ$3753 which is a lot of money — NZ$110 per day. But long-term travel in Western countries is extremely expensive and cutting down the costs is very difficult to do. Could you do it cheaper? Probably. But for us it would not have been fun to cut down costs much further as we would have had to live at a standard we aren’t used to.
We had a great time in New Zealand. If you have any questions about our expenses, just leave a comment! If you want to know how much it costs to do a similar trip in Australia, we wrote an article about Australia travel costs as well.