New Zealand is the most breathtaking and picturesque country I have been to thus far. From cliff side beaches to snow capped mountains, every twist and turn has something new to offer. As enticing the country may be, airfare can be expensive and island life does not come cheap. However, I recently traveled New Zealand for two weeks on less than $500 USD per week and here’s how:
One of the priciest pieces of travel is the plane ticket alone. I flew to New Zealand from the United States and found a cheap, round-trip ticket from Los Angeles in early September, about 4-5 months prior to my departure, for about $800. However, I knew ahead of time that I would be travelling in January and was watching the flight prices fluctuate for quite some time. Seeing that I traveled during New Zealand’s Summer, prices from the States were more than double (about $2,000+) by the time I left. To guarantee yourself the cheapest flight options, I would take into consideration the following:
- Determine your dates in advance, especially if you plan on traveling during New Zealand’s Summer or Peak Season (December-March)
- Once you have your dates determined, use flight search apps and websites to set up alerts. Some of my personal favorites are: Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kayak, TravelPirates, and Hopper.
- If you are comfortable booking through third parties, you may save a few hundred dollars. However, there are a few things to note regarding bookings through third parties: 1) If you do not receive a confirmation number from the airline in your e-receipt, contact the airline for this yourself, 2) Reserve your seats and obtain boarding passes through the airline as well. I’ve found that giving them a quick call a few months out will suffice.
- Again, these flight options and prices vary by route. Understandably so, flying from the US or Canada may be a faster and cheaper route than flying from Europe for example.
Unfortunately, New Zealand does not have a large train system to route individuals around the country. However, there are multiple ways to travel throughout the country cheaply.
- Bus Passes: My original intent was to rent a car, but seeing that I intended to travel solo, I realized that a bus may be a cheaper and more practical option. That being said, I chose a ‘Backpacker Bus Pass’. The primary difference between a City Bus Pass and a Backpacker Bus Pass is that the backpacker bus pass allows you to hop-on-hop-off for flexibility at an affordable price. Two of the largest Backpacker Bus Passes in New Zealand are Stray and Kiwi Experience. I traveled with Kiwi Experience and it was one of the best decisions I have made travelling! I would recommend waiting for their sales as they have them frequently. It is well worth the wait!
- Car Rentals: This is an easy way to maneuver your way around the country at your own pace. I cannot speak from personal experience on renting a car in New Zealand, but I would recommend comparing car rental prices at Compare New Zealand Rental Cars.com.
- Hitch-hiking: New Zealand is more or less an amazing country run by backpackers. I have had numerous friends who have hitch-hiked from town to town in New Zealand with no negative experiences. However, as you would in any country, take precaution and use common sense if deciding to hitch-hike, especially if travelling alone.
While travelling New Zealand, I stayed in hostel dorm rooms which saved me at least $50+ per night. $50 may not seem like much at first, but it does add up if you plan on travelling New Zealand for an extended period of time. I also prefer hostels because they offer a cheap alternative to flexible travelling where you can book a room the day you arrive. I would make note that you will want to book accommodation at least 3-5 days in advance when travelling New Zealand during the Summer months as hostels fill vacancies fast.
As in most places, eating out at restaurants every day is expensive. While backpacking through the country, the bus made frequent grocery stops and we prepared homemade meals nightly. I would highly recommend cooking as an alternative option since restaurant meals can be at least $15-$20 NZD at a local pub for example. To ensure travelers were fully prepared, every hostel I stayed at had a full kitchen, complete with stove tops, cutlery, utensils, and dinnerware.
To sum up my spending, I spent about $500 per week while travelling New Zealand (excluding airfare, bus ticket, and three activities/excursions). This $500 included:
- $20-$30 nightly hostel expenses
- $20-$25 daily grocery store expenses to cover breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks
- A few miscellaneous and outstanding expenses for excursions, treks, souvenirs, etc.
Budget travel is one of the most rewarding ways to see a country. Not only are you saving money, but you are experiencing the country in ways you might otherwise have not. From finding the best airline ticket to budgeting for transportation, accommodation, and food, New Zealand can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it. Now, I think it is time to have yourself an affordable adventure!