New Zealand’s name inspires pictures of mountains, glaciers, forests, pristine lands, and lots and lots of sheep.
The country is the adventure capital of the world. Hiking, skydiving, caving, bungy jumping, skiing — everything here is geared towards getting you outside and doing something incredible.
Backpacking New Zealand is one of the most popular activities in the world, with thousands of people making their way there on their round the world trip (backpackers sweep up those working holiday visas!).
Whether you’re a backpacker or just a budget traveler, New Zealand won’t let you down.
I loved all my visits to New Zealand. The people are friendly, the country is beyond beautiful (I can see why the shot Lord of the Rings there), the wine is cheap, and you’ll meet a lot of travelers here. It’s one of the best countries in the world. I’ve never heard anyone not love their time in the country.
It’s easy to spend money here if you aren’t careful.
However, as the land of backpackers, budget travel in New Zealand is quite easy to do if you know a few tips and tricks on how to save money.
Use this New Zealand travel guide to plan the adventure of the lifetime – and on a budget!
Table of Contents
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Top 5 Things to See and Do in New Zealand
1. Explore Fiordland
2. Heli-hike Franz Josef Glacier
3. Relax in the Bay of Islands
4. See the Waitomo Glowworm Caves
5. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Other Things to See and Do in New Zealand
1. Try bungy jumping
Any adrenaline seeker worth their salt will do the 500ft Nevis Bungy Jump outside of Queenstown. If that’s too high, there are smaller ones in Auckland and Queenstown. The price of adventure isn’t cheap, however, with a single jump at Nevis costing $275 NZD ($190 USD).
2. Go skydiving
Another popular adventure activity in New Zealand is skydiving. The best place for this is over Lake Taupo. It provides a stunning backdrop as you plunge to Earth from 15,000ft. A jump from 12,000ft will cost you around $300 NZD ($205 USD), while a jump from 15,000ft that includes a video, photos, and t-shirt is $550 NZD ($380 USD).
3. Visit Abel Tasman National Park
Located on the South Island, this national park looks like something you’d find in 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. Entry is free, though you will need to pay $15 NZD ($10 USD) for a campsite if you plan on staying over. Huts are also available for $40 NZD ($30 USD) per night.
4. 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 “artsy” city in New Zealand. There’s a lot of cultural activities to do here so don’t be like other travelers and rush through — it’s worth a few days!
5. Go dolphin and whale watching
Whether you go from the Bay of Islands, Auckland, or somewhere on the South Island, the country is within the migratory route for many of these creatures and you’re bound to see lots of them no matter when you go. Expect to pay between $60-150 NZD ($40-100 USD) per person for a tour.
6. Hit the slopes
During the winter months, the South Island (especially the area around Queenstown) has snow-covered mountains that offer some of the best skiing in the southern hemisphere. Prices will vary depending on where you go, how you get there, what equipment you rent, and how long you go for, but expect to pay a few hundred dollars per person for a lift pass.
7. Unwind in Rotorua
Rotorua is famous for its Maori cultural shows and for its sulfur smell. All around the city are sulfur mud pits that give the city a unique odor. But the upside is that there are a ton of thermal spas in the area to relax in!
8. Get outdoors in Kaikoura
This is a coastal town several miles north of Christchurch. It is set in a peninsula, which makes it an awesome place to enjoy the mountain scenery while searching for whales and dolphins. Additionally, there are is an interesting museum, a handful of historical sights, and the Maori Leap limestone cave.
9. Explore Wellington Botanic Gardens
Of all the beautiful gardens throughout the country, this is perhaps the most popular. There is a vast native forest, an international plant collection, a rose garden, and a landscaped area — complete with duck pond, sculptures, a playground, and a cafe. Best of all, entry is free!
10. Ride the Christchurch 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 Mount Vaendish. There is a nice restaurant at the top that allows you to peer out over the landscape as you eat. Many people cycle or walk back down. Adult tickets are $30 NZD ($20 USD), while children pay only $12 NZD ($8 USD).
11. Stay awhile in Queenstown
The action capital of the country, Queenstown is one of the most fun cities I’ve ever visited. There’s a lot of outdoor activities and sports (bungy jumping is the most popular) to do in the area, amazing restaurants, and the best nightlife in New Zealand. Everyone who comes ends up staying longer than planned. Don’t skip Fergburger either — they have the best burgers in the country!
12. Watch a Maori cultural show
Maori culture is important to understanding life in this country; you’ll find Maori symbols and words throughout the country. See a Maori 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 shows are in Rotorua and cost around $120 NZD ($85 USD) per person (including dinner).
13. Explore Milford Sound
Milford Sound is such an amazing fjord, it deserves its own mention. Located in Fiordland, Milford Sound is best known for the towering Mitre Peak and its surrounding rainforest environments. Waterfalls like Stirling Falls and Bowen Falls cascade down the mountainsides, and the fjord itself is home to seal and penguin colonies. You can often see pods of dolphins frolicking in the waters, too. Explore by boat, and check out the Milford Discovery Centre and Underwater Observatory to see rare black coral and other underwater life. Cruises start from $45 NZD ($30 USD), while admission to the Discovery Centre is $36 NZD ($25 USD). You can save money by getting a package deal if you plan on doing both.
14. Visit Wanaka
Wanaka is a ski and summer resort town on New Zealand’s South Island, set on Wanaka Lake and framed by snowcapped mountains. From here you can explore the Southern Alps’ Mount Aspiring National Park, with its many glaciers, beech forests, and alpine lakes. Wanaka Lake itself is perfect for boating enthusiasts, including jetboaters, sailors, and kayakers. If you’re a skier or snowboarder, you’ll want to check out the Treble Cone and Cardrona ski resorts nearby. For some quirky fun, go to Puzzling World just outside town. It’s an outdoor maze and sculpture gallery that’s good for a laugh! Admission to the maze is $18 NZD ($12 USD) for adults and $14 NZD ($10 USD) for children.
15. Travel to Hobbiton
Journey to Middle Earth with a visit to the Hobbiton movie set featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. This is easily one of New Zealand’s most famous activities, so you can expect crowds. To see Hobbiton, you’ll have to take a tour. It starts with a drive through the owners’ 1,250-acre sheep farm with some epic views over the Kaimai Ranges. From here, you can explore Bag End, wander around the hobbit holes, and visit the Green Dragon Inn. If you’re a LOTR fan, you can’t pass this up. Tours start around $85 NZD ($60 USD) for adults and $40 NZD ($30 USD) for kids under 16.
16. Visit Stewart Island
Stewart Island is located 19 miles south of the South Island. Over 85% of the island is National Park, and most people come here for the hiking and birdwatching. The island has just 28km of road, but 280km of walking tracks suited to short walks, day hikes, and multi-day excursions. Walk the three-day Rakiura Track and you will get the full experience of Stewart Island’s wild beauty. Stewart Island is a haven for brown kiwi (or Tokoeka), which outnumber humans on the island and are active day and night. Blue penguins and the rare yellow-eyed penguins waddle among the rocks. Offshore, on Ulva Island, you’ll find a predator-free bird sanctuary with dozens of native species. Getting to Stewart Island means you’ll need to take a ferry or flight. Ferries depart from Bluff and take approximately 1 hour, with round-trip tickets costs $135 NZD ($90 USD) for adults and $70 NZD ($50 USD) for children. Flights depart from Invercargill Airport and take approximately 15-20 minutes, costing around $215 NZD ($150 USD) round trip.
17. Relax on a scenic rail journey
New Zealand’s challenging landscapes demanded some remarkable feats of early railway engineers. While their rail network isn’t vast, thanks to their skill and determination, there are some incredible rail journeys on offer. Travel through remote national parks, along beautiful coastlines, and over rugged volcanic landscapes. Kiwirail routes include the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific, and TranzAlpine. I took the TransAlpine and loved every minute of it. You pass rivers, mountains, cross gorges, and vibrant green farmland. It was the highlight of my trip in New Zealand and one of the most peaceful experiences I had. I can’t recommend it enough. It costs $199 NZD ($135 USD) one way.
18. Take one of the Great Walks
New Zealand has thousands of miles of hiking trails but sitting above them all are the nine Great Walks that journey through the country’s most magnificent places and iconic locations. On the North Island, the Lake Waikaremoana Track will take 3-4 days and will lead you through prehistoric rainforests and beautiful wildlife areas. The famous Tongariro Northern Circuit is a grueling 3-4 day excursion where you’ll see active volcanoes, emerald lakes, and epic waterfalls. The South Island has its own unique routes, as well, including the Milford Track, which winds its way through the fjords of Milford Sound.
19. Explore wine country
New Zealand’s wine regions extend 1,000 miles from sub-tropical Northland down to Central Otago, home to the world’s most southerly vineyards. The Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago are signature New Zealand wine regions and home to a number different vineyards. Smaller wine-producing areas include Auckland, Gisborne, and Waipara. If you’re keen on seeing the best of what kiwi vineyards have to offer, check out the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail – a wine-tasting adventure through the heart of New Zealand’s grape growing regions. If you don’t have your own vehicle, there are plenty of bus (and even bicycle) tours available.
20. Visit Mount Cook National Park
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home to some of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. Here you’ll find sky-scraping peaks, sweeping glaciers, and permanent snowfields. Although it encompasses 23 peaks over 3,000 meters high, this park is very accessible. State Highway 80 leads to Aoraki/Mount Cook Village, which is situated beside the scenic Lake Pukaki. Far from city lights, the stargazing here is magnificent – Aoraki Mount Cook National Park forms the majority of New Zealand’s only International Dark Sky Reserve. Mountaineers regard the area to be the best climbing region in Australasia, while less skilled adventurers will find plenty of enjoyable hikes with stunning views of the area.
For more information on specific destinations, check out these guides!
New Zealand Travel Costs
Accommodation – Hostel dorms cost between $20-40 NZD ($15-30 USD) per night, while private rooms begin at $80 NZD ($55 USD). Free WiFi is common, though very few hostels include free breakfast and only some hostels offer self-catering facilities. Budget hotels begin around $70 NZD ($50 USD) per night for a double room. Airbnb is widely available with shared accommodation starting around $25 NZD ($15 USD) per night and entire homes starting at $70 NZD ($50 USD) per night. There are also a ton of campgrounds throughout the country with rates around $15 NZD ($10 USD) per night. Couchsurfing is huge here, too.
Food – Eating out is generally expensive here. A restaurant meal with a drink with table service can cost about $35-40 NZD ($25-30 USD) per person. Of course, you can find cheaper meals if you stick to Chinese, Korean, and Japanese restaurants (sushi is actually quite cheap). They cost around $10-15 NZD ($7-10 USD). You can find sandwiches for $8 NZD ($5 USD) and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King will cost between $7-15 NZD ($5-10 USD). A beer at the bar will cost around $8 NZD ($5 USD). If you choose to cook your food, plan to spend between $65-80 NZD ($45-55 USD) per week for basic food stuffs.
Activities – Activities run the gamut and can cost between $100-600 NZD ($70-410 USD). There are a lot of outdoor activities and tourism here is constructed around getting people outside. Budget extra for activities as they will be your biggest expense while you are here. For more specific price information, visit the city-specific guides.
Backpacking New Zealand Suggested Budgets
How much does it cost to visit New Zealand?
On a backpacker budget, prepare to spend $80-105 NZD ($55-75 USD) per day. That will get you a hostel dorm room, bus transportation, happy hour drinks, plenty of free nature (but one or two expensive activities like bungee jumping or a scenic flight), and mostly self-cooked meals (around 70-80% of your meals). If you eat more or plan to do more activities, expect to spend more.
For a more mid-range budget, expect to spend between $290-330 NZD ($195-220 USD) a day. This will let you travel carefree and basically do anything you want (within reason). Fly, take scenic trains, tours, get private hotel/hostel rooms, and enjoy nice meals with wine. As long as you aren’t getting the most luxury of activities, you’ll be fine.
A luxury budget of around $670+ NZD ($450+ USD) a day will get you four star hotels, any activities you want, wine tours, private guides, five star meals, and the best the country has to offer. You can also fly between cities on this budget, or take a scenic train journey.
This chart can give you a rough idea of day to day costs (prices are in USD):
New Zealand Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips
Costs in New Zealand can skyrocket quickly if you aren’t careful. Eating out is expensive and all those adventure activities can really add up. In New Zealand, you have to pick and choose your battles or you’ll blow through your budget within the first couple of days.
Here are all the high impact ways you can save money in New Zealand:
- Learn to cook – I know this is going to sound crazy but: the food scene in New Zealand isn’t that mind-blowing. Yes, there are nice cafes, some hip gastronomy, and really delicious meals but nothing blew my mind. There’s good food but there’s not great food. At least not great enough when you are trying to save money. Heck, even getting a burger and fries is $20 NZD ($15 USD). If you want to really save, cook your own food. When it comes to buying groceries, the cheaper supermarkets are Pakn’Save or Countdown.
- Choose wisely – Tours cost a lot of money in New Zealand. A few of these are enough to bust any budget and send you home 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 ($3 USD) drinks. Hit them up and drink for cheap. Otherwise, plan to spend around $8 NZD ($5 USD) 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. Keep in mind, most farms will require you to have some experience, as too many inexperienced workers have caused trouble in the past.
- Clean in exchange for your room – Many hostels let you trade a few hours of cleaning and making beds for free accommodation. Ask when you check-in if this is possible — it might just save you some money!
- 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 or Craigslist. Apps like Carpool New Zealand and Thumbs Up NZ are also great resources. Additionally, you’ll see people asking for rides on hostel bulletin boards.
- Couchsurf – While there are not a ton of options available in the country, there are hosts in all of the major cities. If you don’t mind sleeping on a couch or floor, this is a great way to save some money and meet locals.
- Hitchhike – Hitchhiking is easy in New Zealand and it’s one of the main ways to get around. There are plenty of people who will pick you up. Additionally, you can just ask around at any hostel and find a ride. Everyone is doing the same circuit. I got from Wanaka to Queenstown to Fiordland that way.
- Take a free walking tour – There are a few free walking tours in New Zealand, like Auckland Free Walking Tour in Auckland or WellyWalks Limited in Wellington, that offer visitors (and locals!) insight into each city. If you want to get beneath the surface of New Zealand then this is a great place to start.
- Get a campervan – Campervans litter New Zealand, especially on the nature-heavy South Island where people hike and camp because they serve as accommodation and transportation all wrapped up in one. For budget-conscious travelers, that’s a win. Be sure to download the awesome Campermates app, which lets you find nearby campsites, gas stations, and dump stations.
- Find cheap activities – The book.me.nz website provides last-minute discounts on activities (and pub crawls) throughout the country. Most of the activities are last minute, but if you’re flexible in when you want to do things, you can save up to 60% off attractions! I can’t recommend it enough.
- Skip the backpacker buses – While fun, things like the Kiwi Experience, Stray, or Haka are expensive so it’s best to avoid them if you are on a tight budget. If your budget isn’t so tight and you do want to check them out, be sure to sign up for their mailing lists. There is always a sale on them.
- Enjoy nature – Remember that nature is free! New Zealand, home to the great walks of the world, has tons of free outdoor activities. While the adventure sports, wine tours, glacier treks, and boat cruises can eat into your budget, there are plenty of free trails and walks to keep you busy!
- Grab a bus pass – I tend to buy transportation last-minute so I never scored those super discount fares, which is where bus passes come in. I bought the $135 InterCity FlexiPass for 15 hours. I’d buy a FlexiPass since it is hours based and lasts forever. It will save you a lot of money versus booking last minute tickets on the bus.
Where To Stay in New Zealand
The hostel scene in the country has vastly improved since I first came here in 2010. There’s much more variety and quality now. It’s a much better time to be traveler there and many of the hostels have stepped up their game in this competitive environment. Here are the ones where everyone should stay during their trip:
- Nomads (Queenstown)
- Haka Lodge (Queenstown)
- Ponsonby Backpackers (Auckland)
- Bamber House (Auckland)
- Rainbow Lodge (Taupo)
- Kiwi Paka (Waitomo)
- Urbanz (Christchurch)
- Canterbury House (Christchurch)
- YHA Wellington City (Wellington)
- Trek Global (Wellington)
- Montrose (Franz Josef)
- Mountain View Backpackers (Wanaka)
- Bunkers Backpackers (Stewart Island)
How to Get Around New Zealand
Public Transportation – Most towns and cities in New Zealand have buses, and Auckland and Wellington both have rail services. One-way fares start around $3 NZD ($2 USD), and increase depending on what zone you’re traveling to (most cities and towns in New Zealand are sprawling). Check to see if there are transit cards available. For example, Wellington has an Adult Snapper card which will save you nearly half your fare, and the same goes for Auckland’s AT HOP card.
Backpacker Tours – One of the most popular ways travelers get across New Zealand is by backpacker bus. These buses offer a hop-on/hop-off service that allows travelers both the flexibility to go at their own pace and the convenience of having activities and accommodation organized for them. New Zealand has two major hop-on/hop-off buses:
On the Kiwi Experience, a 14-day pass for the entire country starts from $999 NZD ($685 USD), while a 14-day Stray pass starts from $875 NZD ($600 USD). There are many different options for both islands, or just the South Island or the North Island.
Trains – New Zealand has three train lines: Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific (currently closed because of the earthquakes), and TranzAlpine. These are scenic train rides complete with viewing platforms, audio commentary, information packets, and big windows for taking photos.
The Northern Explorer route (Auckland-Wellington) is $199 NZD ($135 USD) one-way; the Coastal Pacific route (Christchurch-Picton) is $159 NZD ($110 USD) one-way; and the TranzAlpine route (Christchurch-Greymouth) is $199 NZD ($135 USD) one-way.
They are not a good way to travel on a budget!
Buses – Buses are the best and cheapest way to get around New Zealand. Buses stop in every town, and there are frequent departures from even the smallest cities. InterCity, New Zealand’s largest public bus network, your only option.
You can also find tickets as low as $1 NZD (less than $1 USD) if you book at least two months in advance. Typical fares include Christchurch-Queenstown for $55-75 NZD ($40-50 USD), Auckland-Wellington for $30-40 NZD ($20-30 USD), and Franz Josef-Wanaka for $45-65 NZD ($30-45 USD).
Flying – Flying in New Zealand isn’t that cheap, as there are only two companies that dominate the entire market: Air New Zealand and Jetstar — and on most routes, it’s just Air New Zealand. While you can find some cheap fares on shorter routes or by booking a few months in advance, unless you are really pressed for time or traveling from island to island, I’d skip flying.
One-way routes from Auckland to Queenstown start at $250 NZD ($170 USD), Queenstown to Church from $110 NZD ($75 USD), and Auckland to Christchurch from $120 NZD ($80 USD).
Campervans and Car Rentals – This is a popular way to travel New Zealand, especially on the nature-heavy South Island, where people hike and camp. There are five main rental agencies:
Prices vary a lot. Your daily rate will change depending on where you pick the vehicle up, if you are dropping it off at a different place, how long you are renting it for, how far in advance you book, and when you book (going during the high season? Prices seem to double!). For same pick-up and drop-off locations, you can rent a car for a daily rate starting from $17 NZD ($12 USD), while a two-person camper daily rates starts from $20 NZD ($15 USD). The daily rates for 3-5 person campers are from $20-85 NZD ($15-60 USD). Remember: these prices can double during the high season!
Hitchhiking – Hitchhiking is easy in New Zealand, and it’s one of the main ways to get around. There are plenty of people who will pick you up. Additionally, you can just ask around any hostel for a ride — everyone is doing the same circuit. Check out these apps:
When to Go to New Zealand
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning when most North Americans are dealing with snow and freezing temperatures, Kiwis are enjoying their beaches. The climate is temperate. Summer is from December-February, and it’s the most popular time to visit the country. (Kiwis also take their holidays during this time, so things get busy!) Days are long and sunny, nights are mild. The average daytime temperatuer is 68-77°F (20-25°C).
Fall is from March-May, and it’s one of the best times to visit. The crowds have dispersed, prices are lower, and the weather is pleasant. Some areas still have very warm temperatures, like Auckland.
Winter is from June-August, and it’s a great time to visit if you’re into snow sports. Queenstown and the Central Plateau are winter playgrounds during this time, but especially in June and July! Temperatures on the South Island can drop as low as 50°F (-10°C). Spring (September-November) is also a nice time to visit, especially on the South Island. There’s really no bad time to visit, depending on the sort of things you’d like to do. Since New Zealand is so expensive, shoulder season is one of the best times to visit.
How to Stay Safe in New Zealand
New Zealand is a safe place to backpack and travel – even if you’re traveling solo, and even as a solo female traveler. There is a relatively low crime rate and the healthcare system is excellent. Take normal precautions like you would at home, like carrying a cellphone and being aware of your personal belongings at all times. Make copies of your important documents, like your passport. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.
The emergency number is 111.
Overall, you’re unlikely to encounter anything problematic here.
Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. If that driver picking you up seems weird, don’t get in the car!
If you don’t do it at home, don’t do it when you’re in New Zealand. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
New Zealand Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel to New Zealand. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are always my starting point when I need to book a flight, hotel, tour, train, or meeting people!
- Momondo – This is my favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here first.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is another great flight search engline which searches a lot of different airlines, including many of the budget carriers that larger sites miss. While I always start with Momondo, I use this site too as a way to compare prices.
- Airbnb – Airbnb is a great accommodation alternative for connecting with homeowners who rent out their homes or apartments. The big cities have tons of listings! (If you’re new to Airbnb, get $35 off your first stay!)
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Intrepid Travel – If you want to do a group tour around New Zealand, go with Intrepid Travel. They offer good small group tours that use local operators and leave a small environmental footprint. If you go on a tour with anyone, go with them. And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get exclusive discounts when you click the link!
- STA Travel – A good company for those under 30 or for students, STA Travel offers discounted airfare as well as travel passes that help you save on attractions.
- Rome 2 Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. Just enter your departure and arrival destinations and it will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost. One of the best transportation website out there!
- Couchsurfing – This website allows you to stay on people’s couches or spare rooms for free. It’s a great way to save money while meeting locals who can tell you the ins and outs of their city. The site also lists events you can attend to meet people (even if you’re not staying with someone).
- bookme.co.nz – You’ll get some really good last minute deals and discounts on this website! Just select what area you’re traveling in, and see what activities are on sale.
- treatme.co.nz – The locals use this website to find discount hotels, restaurants, and tours. You can save up to 50% off things like catamaran sailing lessons or three-course dinners.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
New Zealand Gear and Packing Guide
In this section, I’ll give you my suggestion for the best travel backpack and tips on what to pack for your trip to New Zealand.
The Best Backpack for New Zealand
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something smaller or different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for more tips and tricks on how to pick a backpack – as well as more pack suggestions!
What to Pack for New Zealand
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 6 T-shirts
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 8 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Doctor-prescribed antibiotics
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Canvas bag/stuff sack (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (a water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
New Zealand Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
Island of the Lost: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World, by Joan Druett
Auckland Island, located 285 miles south of New Zealand, is a place with year-round freezing rain, wind, and little food (but apparently a lot of seals). Simply put, it’s not a place you want to get shipwrecked on. Yet in 1864, Captain Thomas Musgrave and his crew did just that — and a few months later, on the opposite side of the island, so did the crew of the Scottish ship Invercauld. This well-written account of the how the two crews survived (and didn’t survive) was a wonderful juxtaposition on leadership, camaraderie, and coming together in crisis.
The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton
Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize-winning book is a parody of the 19th-century novel is considered a modern classic. The year is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to New Zealand to get involved in the gold rush. When he arrives, he happens upon 12 men who have met in secret to talk about several mysterious events, including the disappearance of a wealthy man and a prostitute’s attempt to end her life. Moody is drawn into the circle, and the book soon turns into a thrilling page-turner that will keep you hooked the whole way through.
Squashed Possums: Off the Beaten Track in New Zealand, by Jonathan Tindale
This one is a fun, humorous travelogue that will get you super excited about your trip. In Squashed Possoms, Tindale talks about his adventures (and misadventures) from a year spent exploring the lesser-explored areas of New Zealand. He makes himself a home in an abandoned caravan, and then lives out four seasons getting acquainted with the terrain – including the coldest winter in decades.
A Land of Two Halves, by Joe Bennett
After having spent ten years in New Zealand, Joe Bennett decides to figure out why he’s still living there. A notorious restless traveler, Bennett finds himself examining all the reasons why these two islands have captivated him for a decade – so he packs his bags and heads out on a hitchhiking adventure around the North and South Islands. His encounters along the way are an enlightening look at life in New Zealand!
My Must Have Guides for Traveling to New Zealand
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Kristin Addis writes our solo female travel column and her detailed guide gives specific advice and tips for women travelers.
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My best-selling book will teach how to master the art of travel so that you’ll save money and have a more local, richer travel experience.
New Zealand Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on New Zealand travel and continue planning your trip:
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