New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world. Hiking, skydiving, caving, bungy jumping, skiing – everything here is geared towards getting you outside and doing something good. As a popular destination for backpackers and budget travelers, New Zealand is really affordable and offers many ways to save money. I loved my time in New Zealand – the people were friendly, the country was too beautiful (I can see why the shot Lord of the Rings there), and you meet a lot of great travelers there. It’s one of the best countries in the world and this travel guide can help you plan your trip there. It’s a place not to be missed.
Destination Guides for New Zealand
Accommodation – Hostel dorms cost between 20-30 NZD per night, while private rooms begin at 50 NZD, but you are probably looking at around 75 NZD for a double room. Budget hotels begin around 60 NZD per night for a double room, but prices average closer to 90 NZD. There are many camping places throughout the country. Campsites cost about 15 NZD per night. The city guides will give you my favorite places to stay in each of them.
Food – Eating out is really expensive here. A restaurant meal with table service can cost about 35-40 NZD. If you choose to cook your food, plan to spend about 75 NZD per week. You can find sandwiches for 8 NZD and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King will cost between 7-15 NZD. Drinks at the bar will cost around 8 NZD.
Transportation – Getting around the country is fairly cheap. The bus system is quite inexpensive and the Naked Bus (it’s just a name!) has promotional fares for 1 NZD if you book far in advance. Otherwise, most fares are about 20 NZD, slightly more if you are going long distances. Flying can be expensive since there isn’t a lot of competition among airlines here. Most single journey tickets are 120-240 NZD.
Activities – Activities run the gambit and can cost between 100-600 NZD. There are a lot of outdoor activities and tourism here is constructed around getting people outside. Budget extra for activities as they can really destroy a budget and will be your biggest expense while you are here. For more specific price information, visit the city specific guides.
Money Saving Tips
Free wi-fi – Internet on New Zealand is slow and expensive. McDonalds and libraries offer free wi-fi.
Learn to cook – Since eating out is ridiculously expensive, the best way to save money is to cook your own food as often as possible. Depending on your food needs, you could eat for about 75 NZD per week. While the cafes in New Zealand are good, you don’t miss out on a lot of top cuisine by cooking.
Choose wisely – Tours cost a lot of money in New Zealand. A few of these are enough to bust any budget and send home you before you had planned. Pick the ones you really want to do and save the rest for another trip.
Hit happy hour – The backpacker bars have cheap happy hours offering 5 NZD drinks. Hit them up and drink for cheap. Otherwise, plan to spend 9 NZD for a beer at the bar.
WWOOF it – WWOOFing is a great way to work for your accommodation and food. In return for working on a farm or B&B, you get free food and board. It’s a popular activity with travelers because it lets you stay in a place cheaper and longer. You can do it for a few days or a few months.
Clean for your room – Many hostels let you trade a few hours of cleaning and making beds for free accommodation.
Car share – Car shares are a popular transportation option for travelers looking to lower costs. All you need to do is chip in for gas. You can find rides on websites like Gumtree, Craigslist, or Jayride. Additionally, you’ll see people asking for rides on hostel bulletin boards.
Top Things to See and Do in New Zealand
Stay awhile in Queenstown – The action capital of the country, this is one of the funnest cities I’ve ever been in. There’s a lot of outdoor activities and sports (bungy jumpy is the most popular) to do in the area, amazing restaurants, and the best night life in New Zealand. Everyone who comes ends up staying longer than planned. Don’t skip Fergburger either – the best burgdrs in the country.
Hike Franz Josef Glacier – Hiking these glaciers is pretty amazing. There’s not much in this town besides the glacier hiking. Be sure to crawl through the glacier tunnels! They are pretty cool.
Get your LOTR Fix at Tongariro Crossing – Labeled the best one-day hike in New Zealand, this walk takes you through where they filmed Mordor in Lord of the Rings. You walk through volcanic terrain, near high peaks, and sulfur lakes before finishing off in a dense forest. The walk takes a full day. Be prepared to that your legs will be sore for a few days after. But it will be worth the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing the hike.
Relax in the Bay of Islands – North of Auckland, this area has some of the best opportunities for dolphin and whale watching, relaxing on the beach, swimming, boating, and eating seafood. The area is very low key. It’s a popular summer and weekend getaway place for Aucklanders.
Bungy jump – Any adrenaline seeker worth his/her salt will do the 500 foot Nevis Bungy Jump outside of Queenstown. If that’s too high, there are smaller ones in Auckland and Queenstown.
Skydive – Another popular adventure activity, skydiving is best over Lake Taupo. It provides the best backdrop as you plunge to Earth from 14,000 foot Taupo. There’s also sky diving in Queenstown.
Visit Abel Tasman National Park – Located in the south island, this national park looks like something out of Asia with its turquoise blue water, dense jungles, and warm temperatures. There are many multi-day hiking trails and beautiful sea kayaking throughout the park.
Hang out in Wellington – New Zealand’s capital has great architecture, character, fantastic nightlife, restaurants, and cultural activities. I found it to be the most “arty” city in New Zealand. There’s a lot of cultural activities to do here. Don’t be like other travelers and rush through. It’s worth a few days.
Experience the Waitomo Glowworm Caves – Explore these caves in sheer darkness with nothing but the glow of glowworms to guide your way. It’s an exciting activity as you float down rivers and jump over waterfalls and watch the “starry sky” in the cave. You can also tube and rappel through the caves too. It was an incredible adventure (just be warned the water is very cold!).
Maori Cultural Show – Maori culture is important to understanding life in this country. You find Maori symbols and words throughout the country. See a cultural show while you are there to get a better understanding of the life and history of the country’s native population (the most popular ones are in Rotorua).
Go dolphin and whale watching – Whether you go from the Bay of Islands, Auckland, or down in the south island, the country is the migratory route for many of these creatures and you’re bound to see lots of them no matter when you go.
Go skiing – During the winter months, the south island, especially the are around Queenstown, has snow covered mountains that offer some of the best skiing in the southern hemisphere.
Unwind in Rotorua – Rotorua is famous for its Maori cultural shows and for its smell. All around the city are sulfur mud pits that give the city a unique odor. If you are looking for a place to relax, Rotorua, with the variety of spas it has, is the place to go.
Get outdoors in Kaikoura – This is a coastal town, several miles north of Christchurch. It is set within a peninsula, which makes it an awesome place to enjoy the mountain scenery while watching for whales, dolphins, and winter-friendly animals. Additionally, there are is an interesting museum, a handful of historical sights, and the Maori Leap limestone cave.
Wander through Wellington Botanic Gardens – Of all the beautiful gardens throughout the country, this is perhaps the most popular. There is a vast tract of native forest, in addition to an international plant collection, a rose garden, and a landscaped area – complete with duck pond, playground, sculptures, a café, and more.
Ride the gondola – If you are in Christchurch, the gondola ride is highly recommended and a pretty fundamental experience. The ride starts on the Heathcote Valley floor and takes you up the side of Mt Vaendish. There is a nice restaurant at the top that allows you to peer out over the landscape as you eat. Many people cycle back down, but there is also a tram ride available.