Known as “The Garden City,” Christchurch, New Zealand boasts beautifully-sculpted parks and gardens reminiscent of Victorian England. The city has a lively student population, is multi-cultural, and is a popular backpacker destination (it even has its own wizard!). Though severely damaged by a few earthquakes in the last few years, the city is slowly being rebuilt and the city is moving forward. It’s still a wonderful place to see and the people there are super amazing and friendly.
Hostel prices – Hostel dorms in the city cost between around 25-40 NZD per night, while private rooms begin at 50 NZD and go as high as 140 NZD. Free WiFi is standard, as are self-catering facilities. For those traveling with a tent, expect to pay between 10-28 NZD per night depending on the quality of your campground and the amenities included.
Budget hotel prices – You can expect to pay at least 70 NZD per night for a double room. Free WiFi is generally standard, and many budget hotels also offer self-catering facilities. Many hotels also offer free breakfast. Airbnb is also available in the city, with shared accommodation starting around 35 NZD per night and entire apartments around 110 NZD per night.
Average cost of food – A typical restaurant meal will cost you at least 18 NZD (likely more). If you choose to cook your own food, plan to spend about 70-90 NZD per week for typical staples like pasta, rice, vegetables, and meat. You can find sandwiches around the city about for 8 NZD, and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King costs around 11 NZD. Many Japanese, Korean, and Chinese restaurants will also have meals for as little as 10 NZD. Expect to pay around 8 NZD for a beer at the bar.
Transportation costs – The historic tram is up and running again after being closed for two years because of the earthquake. A ticket costs 25 NZD, though children ride for free. Local bus fares start at 2.55 NZD for a single trip but fares are cheaper with a Metrocard. Expect to pay around 8.50 NZD for a ride to the airport (though it’s only 2.55 NZD if you have a Metrocard!). Bikes are available for rent, though prices aren’t cheap — expect to pay over 30 NZD for a full-day rental.
Suggested daily budget – 70 NZD / $50 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
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Money Saving Tips
- Buy a Metrocard – If you plan to spend extended time in Christchurch, you can save money on public transportation by buying a Metrocard. These reloadable cards cost 10 NZD and must be loaded with an additional 10 NZD to work. However, this card is well worth it since it makes bus fares 25% cheaper.
- Take a free walking tour – If you want to learn more about the history, culture, architecture, and people be sure to take a free walking tour. Free Christchurch Walking Tours offers daily tours, so check them out if you want to get beneath the surface of the city.
- Stay with a local – If you want to cut down on your costs, try staying with a local. Not only will you save money accommodation but you’ll get a chance to live with a local, someone who can answer all your questions about the area and provide suggestions you might not find in your guidebook.
- Cook your own food – Since many hotels and hostels have kitchens you should be able to cook your own food with ease. With restaurants being quite expensive, this is a simple way to stretch your dollars and keep your budget intact!
Top Things to See and Do in Christchurch
- Visit the Antarctic Center – This tourist attraction near the airport is worth considering if you’re interested in Antarctica. There is a lot of information on the environment and wildlife of the continent. It features a simulated Antarctic environment and you can even ride in a Hägglund Antarctic vehicle. Tickets are 59 NZD for adults, with discounts available for students, families, and children. Xpress tickets are available for 39 NZD for those who don’t want to see the 4D show or ride the vehicle.
- Pull out your Binoculars at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve – This wildlife park focuses on native bird life and it is best known for its excellent nocturnal kiwi tours. Adult admission is 29.50, and there are discounts available for seniors, students, families, and children.
- Ride the Christchurch Gondola – This gondola ride in Christchurch’s southern suburbs offers excellent views of the city center and surrounding areas. Adults ride for 28 NZD, while children ride for 12 NZD.
- Visit the Port Hills – The trails in the Port Hills are an outdoorsy way to catch the best views of Christchurch and the Southern Alps on one side and beautiful Banks Peninsula on the other. You can walk or bike them and they are a popular spot for exercising locals.
- Explore Cathedral Square – This is the main center of town where all the markets, fairs are, and where locals hang out. During the weekend, there is usually an event occurring. The cathedral is still closed due to being ruined in the earthquake.
- Check out Canterbury Museum – This free museum includes colonial, Maori and natural history sections, Antarctic exploration display, and visiting exhibitions. General admission to the museum is free, though donations are appreciated.
- Cycle Through Hagley Park’s Leafy Glades – Admire the stately English trees, colorful themed flower beds in the Botanic Gardens and the tranquility of the meandering Avon River. This is a great place to run, cycle, or just relax! It gets busy here with runners at night.
- Check out a festival – Christchurch is the hub city of festivals in New Zealand. There is typically something going on every month. The Festival of Romance is perhaps the most unique with a 10-day celebration prior to Valentine ’s Day.
- Shop at Lyttelton Farmers Market – Whether you are looking to stock up on some groceries or just want to check out an authentic market, this is the place to stop. Many locals contribute and shop here, stuffing it with only the freshest, seasonal produce, bread, cheeses, honey, eggs, relishes and more. There is always great people-watching and sometimes also music to enjoy.
- Tour Mona Vale – This is a traditional, Elizabethan-style home on a huge plot of beautifully manicured land. The inside of the house is pretty cool, but the neat thing about this place is the pre-made picnics. You have to order them the day before because of the high demand and attention to detail they put into every meal. Entry is free.
- Visit the Bone Dude – Learn how to make your own bone carving. The original studio was destroyed in the quake, but the owner has set up a temporary studio in the garage at his home. He currently offers only 1 session per day, costing 60 NZD per person.
- Wander through SoMo – The area ‘South of Moorhouse Ave is the hippest, most creative area in Christchurch, consisting of neighborhoods Sydenham and Addington. Spend an afternoon exploring the streets, eating at the unique cafes and restaurants (like Honey Pot Cafe or Burgers & Beers), or check out some of the live music that can be frequently found here in the evenings.
- Experience Maori Culture – If you haven’t been exposed to it yet, you can get a sense of traditional Maori culture by visiting Kotane, a cultural center located on Willowbank wildlife Reserve. The full package includes a tour of the village and wildlife reserve, a performance show, and a four-course dinner, but prices are high at around 165 NZD, though discounts are available for families and children. This is a pretty upscale production, so prepare yourself for a full day immersion.