Traveling in New Zealand: Costs and How to Save Money

Traveling in New Zealand: Costs and How to Save Money

New Zealand is a country of diverse landscapes; from icy glaciers to active volcanoes, and snow-topped mountains to underground caves. Unfortunately it also requires a bit of a deeper pocket than other places. Here are some tips to save money in New Zealand.

In New Zealand the cheapest accommodation is around 30NZD, gas prices are high, and adventure activities like skydiving and bungee jumping can add up too. I’ve been traveling in New Zealand for month and a half. This trip has not been budgeted as much as usual. I knew ahead of time that I wanted to enjoy everything this place had to offer without depriving myself. With that said I stayed in the cheapest hostels, asked people I befriended for rides, and took the InterCity bus instead of renting a car. I did a lot of hiking (nature is free) and I eat vegetarian.
This list is exactly how I spent my money on a 6 week trip in New Zealand. This made me realize that I spend a lot of money on cappuccinos and ice cream, but thats okay!

So How Much Did I Actually Spend?

  • Groceries: 126.75 USD
  • Accommodation: 816.88
  • Transportation: 355.41
  • Activities: 90.68
  • Restaurants: 118.17
  • Coffee and ice cream: 93.80
  • Shopping: 177.46
  • Spark phone and data: 48.25
  • Orbit Health insurance: 80.00
  • Total: 1277.40

How to Save Money in New Zealand


1. Don’t Take the Kiwi Experience 

Backpacker buses like the Kiwi Experience and Stray Bus are good for travelers who want a trip a little more planned out from the beginning, however they tend to be expensive. The same route can be traveled more cheaply with InterCity bus hours or the north island’s uber-cheap Skip Bus. Use the Kiwi Experience bus route map to get ideas for where to go and what to see in New Zealand, but best to avoid this if your on a budget!

2. Ask people in hostels to drive you

I have had a lot of luck with this one. Especially on the south island, there’s a 50% chance that the other travelers are going to the same place you are because there’s only one highway. Build up the guts to ask that nice couple at breakfast if they have any room in their car – chances are they’ll  be happy to help!

3. Use Facebook groups like NZ Rideshare and RideShare New Zealand

There are tons of facebook groups to connect travelers and drivers. This might take a bit more time and coordination but it is a great cheap way to travel and to meet other backpackers. Usually you will be asked to contribute gas money and good conversation !

4. Hitchhike

New Zealand is very safe for hitchhiking. You will find many single travelers and groups alike hitchhiking on both islands. There is usually  one main highway between destinations, making it easy to get a ride from anyone going in that direction – chances are you are going to the same place! I never waited more than an hour for a ride. Make sure to have a brief conversation before you get in the car. – don’t get in if you feel uncomfortable, and always trust your instincts.

5. Use

This site has awesome last minute bus tickets at discounted rates. This is a great option if you have a bit of flexibility.


1. Book directly with hostels (not Hostelworld)

Hostelworld is great for travelers, but not so great for hostels. The app is super convenient and easy to use, but the small charge to secure your booking (typically just a few dollars) goes to Hostelworld instead of the accommodation. The hostel loses this money when you book with this provider, whereas if you book with them directly they retain this amount. Sometimes you can even get a better rate by booking directly through the hostel. 

2. Couchsurfing

Although not super popular in New Zealand, Couchsurfing is free accommodation option and a great way to meet locals. It is about an exchange – of cultures and conversation, not just a free couch! Couchsurfing has been a gateway to a world of kindness and amazing people, all while bringing down one of the biggest costs in travel.  

3. Check out the facilities

Hostels provide a range of amenities that can save you cash: free breakfasts, free hike hire, laundry service, free food and spices, free shuttle, etc. Look at the facilities before you book for extra savings. 

4. Work for accommodation

The formula is simple – work for a few hours each day in exchange for a place to sleep. If you are on a working holiday visa, have some extra time, or want to settle in one place for a few weeks, WWOOFing and Workaway are a great way to stretch your budget and meet other travelers. WWOOFing typically involves more farm work whereas Workaway advertises more hostel stays. 


1.Cook your own meals

This is the single best way to pair down costs. Depending on your budget, it’s great to treat yourself once in awhile to a meal in a restaurant but cooking for yourself is so worth it! Especially because the food scene in New Zealand isn’t that mind blowing. Most hostels have excellent kitchen facilities as well as oils and herbs to *spice* up your nightly pasta 🙂

2. Buy in bulk

Buying large amounts of  foods like grains, peanut butter, pasta and other non-perishable items is a great way to save money. Look out for deals on these staple items in major grocery stores. 

3. Shop at Countdown or Pak n Save (not New World)

Small towns might only have one option (or none at all!) but if you have a choice, go to Countdown or Pak n Save. These are cheaper than New World and tend to have better and more regular discounts. 

New Zealand: It’s Pricey But Worth It!

It’s no secret that New Zealand isn’t a cheap destination, especially when compared with countries like Thailand or Vietnam. However there are lots of ways to save along the way, and don’t forget to treat yourself every now and then. 

If you stick to cooking your own meals and only indulging in activities you really enjoy, it won’t break the bank. Outdoor activities are always free and no matter what your budget is, go to New Zealand: it is truly spectacular, and 110% worth it!

Check out the best info on budget travel in New Zealand.

Keep exploring,


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