It’s time to break down the nuts and bolts of our New Zealand budget travel. Almost every traveler wants to go to NZ but all you hear about is how expensive it is. Since we’ve had a ton of questions on budget we thought we’d deep dive on this location and tell you where our dollars went.
First off, let’s throw a few numbers out there:
6 Weeks- We spent exactly 45 days in NZ. We were able to see almost everything we wanted to in that amount of time and not feel rushed.
4000 US Dollars- Total spent in NZ not including flights and travel insurance. Those two factors are highly based on individual needs so you can never make an apples to apples comparison. Your flight is gonna cost you what it’s gonna cost you.
$45-If you do the math, we spent the equivalent of $45 per person per day. In a country that is notoriously expensive to travel through that counts as a win.
This list will start with the biggest spend areas of our budget and progress toward the smaller buckets. If you have any questions please go ahead and leave a comment! We always reply and are interested to hear how other people traveled NZ and stayed within budget.
New Zealand Budget Travel: Campervan Rental $1806
Before arriving in New Zealand we looked at every campervan rental company in the entire country. We specifically chose Wicked Campers for the low cost- none of the competition even came close on price. The specific model we chose was the second cheapest option through Wicked Campers. The only less expensive option was literally a car with a tent on the roof rack.
The cost to rent the van for 43 days was $1806. We didn’t have to pay for any additional insurance to Wicked because of our travel insurance covered it. We did however have to pay a $3k NZD bond on the van that was refunded upon return. Baked into the $1806 was was a one way fee, a booking and admin fee, as well as a $100 bond processing fee which was non-refundable.
The one way fee was non negotiable although we certainly tried. It was still much more affordable to pay the fee and not have to drive all the way back to Christchurch after we had arrived in Auckland.
Even with all of those fees, Wicked was still the most affordable. Was it the nicest? Probably not. But it got the job done and we got a really reliable Toyota Voxxy. If you read reviews online about Wicked you’ll see that the quality of the vehicle you rent can vary greatly. I would recommend that you inspect the vehicle yourself before signing on the dotted line.
New Zealand Budget Travel: Groceries $757
At home we do most of our own cooking and tend not to eat out that often. This was much the same case as when in NZ. We stopped at grocery stores every 2/3 days since we were using a cooler for cold storage. We hit up Countdown and New World are pretty comparable in price. The best place to head is Pak’n’Save. They had the best deals by far and every time we went in there we found something new. Pak’n’Save became entertainment in it’s own right.
Since we knew that we weren’t going out to eat we decided not to skimp on food at the grocery store. We ate a ton of food that was grown or sourced in country including lamb, salmon, apples, grapes, and wine. We stayed away from goods that were unreasonably expensive such as chicken, bananas, and beer.
New Zealand Budget Travel: Fuel $667
I get it. $667 worth of fuel over 6 weeks sounds like a lot. That’s because petrol is expensive in NZ…the equivalent of $5 USD/ Gallon if you do all the conversions.
On the plus side, the fuel economy of the Toyota Voxxy we had rented was somewhere close to 30mpg.
That’s what it’s supposed to get anyway. In reality, we came nothing close to that sort of fuel efficiency. The amount of backroads, gravel, dirt and mountain roads we were on absolutely killed our economy. We also did a lot of backtracking from tourist sites back to main roads. That’s all part of a roadtrip though.
New Zealand Budget Travel: Campsite/Hotels $317
Staying at hotels in New Zealand was an idea that we tossed right out before we even though about visiting. It’s simply too expensive. During this trip we only stayed at two hotels a total of three nights the entire time we were in country and one of those nights we used points to stay for free.
The majority of the time we stayed at Department of Conservation campsites that cost anywhere from $6-$10 per person. Many of them had payment on the honor system but since we’re not scumbags we always paid. The very least you can do when visiting a foreign country is support their conservation efforts.
*Special Announcement: Lot’s of campervans and young tourists in New Zealand don’t pay camping fees and even worse, they make a huge mess at the campgrounds. Don’t be like those guys.
New Zealand Travel Budget: Dining Out $64
We only ate out twice the entire time we were in NZ. Once at a small fish/chips place while it was raining out and we needed to use the internet and once at Dominoes in Queenstown. IT WAS AWESOME.
New Zealand is not world renown for their cuisine. While there are many nice restaurants to visit we chose to skip eating out since it put more money in our pockets for activities.
New Zealand Travel Budget: Cellphone: $50
NZ Vodafone SIM with 3 Gigs Data that we had to reload with more data. When we were visiting the best deal for a SIM card was only available in airports.
After we posted our budget video on youtube, a native Kiwi who goes by subculture NZ online commented “Spark is our main provider, it offers 1 gig free a day from wifi hotspots that are connected to the fiber network as well as mobile data and free spotify.” Might be something to look into if you’re visiting in 2017 or later.
New Zealand Travel Budget: Miscellaneous Costs: $339
We had a lot of random things pop up that set us back a few dollars at a time. It’s important to remember that no matter how meticulously you plan surprises will happen:
-Had to buy a new table for the camper when we forgot one at a campsite.
-Entrance fee for public pools
-Speeding Ticket (2kmph over the limit! Come on!)
-Bus ticket after tongariro crossing
How could we have done this cheaper?
We could have eaten cheaper food/ lower quality food. We certainly didn’t skimp on groceries. There is an old saying “An army travels on it’s stomach”. We have a newer saying. It goes “Eat good food and be full and you’ll have a better time and feel nice”
We also could have saved money by renting the car tent instead of the campervan. We would have gotten better gas milage but likely at the expense of our comfort when trying to sleep. Would have been pretty awful since it got really cold on the south island and there were times when the wind was so strong we barely slept as it was.
Where we wish we had spent more money?
Wish we’d gone to Hobbiton.
Wish we’d done bungie jumping. Maybe not nevis but SOMETHING.
Wish we’d done the hangliding in Queenstown.
All in all, it felt like we had a flagship experience in New Zealand. The best things there truly are free.
If you’re heading to New Zealand for a campervan trip of your own you may want to consider what you’re packing. We have information on the gear we were glad we brought along with us.