Throughout our trip, I kept detailed notes on all of the money we spent. I’m sharing financial figures on how we made a multi-country and month trip work without spending our life savings. In each location, we set a specific budget for food, accommodation, transportation, and activities. Here’s how our spending went in New Zealand.
As a side note: I’m not including our flight into each country within the country budget breakdown. Flights were definitely a factor in our overall budget, but prices are relative based on where you’re flying from. This post outlines how we spent money on the ground once we were in New Zealand. If you’re interested, we spent $540USD on two one-way flights from Nadi, Fiji to Auckland, New Zealand.
Accommodation: $671.14 ($39.48 a night)
We were in shared hostel accommodations for 13 out of our 17 nights in New Zealand. Our hostel rooms ranged anywhere from a 4-bed to an 8-bed dormitory room. Three nights we were in a private hostel room and one night we stayed at a family’s airbnb. New Zealand and Australia were the most expensive places we stayed for accommodations, so we knew we’d have to go the hostel route to stay within our budget. My original budget for our accommodations was $40.00 a night and we came in right at $39.48 – pretty close!
New Zealand was the first time I’d slept in a hostel since I studied abroad in Spain during college. It was a little strange at first to be back in a shared sleeping, showering, and eating situation, but we quickly adjusted. Positively reviewed hostels were a necessity for booking and I’m happy to say all of our accommodations were safe, clean, and in good locations.
After staying in hostels throughout several countries on our trip, we found that bunkmates in New Zealand tended to be the quietest and most respectful. There’s a lot of hiking and outdoor adventure happening in New Zealand and it seemed like this caused people to keep an earlier bedtime. Early bedtime = less partying and general rowdiness. I was also careful not to book the as advertised “party” hostels.
Even with a bigger budget, I would consider staying at the hostels in New Zealand again. They were great places to meet people and normally centrally located to popular sites. I might just opt for the private room more often. 😉
Transport: $367.38 ($21.61 a day)
Throughout our 2+ weeks in New Zealand, we travelled from city to city almost exclusively on buses. Intercity and Naked Bus were our providers of choice. Before our trip, I researched pricing on renting a car, renting a campervan, flying, and taking the bus. Taking the bus was easily the cheapest option.
Tourism buses are huge in New Zealand. Most of the companies offered either pre-arranged trip routes, blocks of tickets based on travel time, or individual tickets. It took more planning in advance, but the individual tickets were the best way for us to see both the North and South Island. I spent a ridiculous amount of time before our trip planning out the bus timetables and locations. The times and routes did limit us a little in terms of what cities we could visit, but for what we were paying, it was only a small inconvenience. Also, these buses were a definite step up from the normal Greyhound route you’ll see in the US. Most buses had WIFI, all were comfortable, and the drivers often gave tips and details about New Zealand and the cities we were visiting.
To get from the North to the South Island we took the Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry. It was a nice little trip that connected us within walking distance of the ports to our hostels.
Food: $432.06 ($25.41 a day)
Our original food budget in New Zealand was $60.00 a day for the two of us. I based this budget on the average price of eating 3 meals out a day at $10 a meal. We were able to cut this significantly by shopping at grocery stores and cooking in hostels for most of our time. New Zealand isn’t really a place where I was dying to taste the local food. There were a few things like oysters and scallops in Kaikoura and Fergburger in Queenstown that I was really looking forward to, but otherwise, I was fine with cooking at hostels. I didn’t know it at the time either, but it was the last time that I had cooked for awhile. We ate out exclusively while in Asia, so now I’m thankful we had a little cooking time in NZ.
Fresh scallops along the peninsula in Kaikoura
New Zealand wasn’t really a place where I was dying to taste the local food. There were a few things like oysters and scallops in Kaikoura and Fergburger in Queenstown that I was really looking forward to, but otherwise, I was fine with cooking at hostels. I didn’t know it at the time either, but it was the last time that I had cooked while on the trip. We ate out exclusively while in Asia, so now I’m thankful we had a little cooking time in NZ.
Drinks: $79.28 ($4.66 a day)
We really didn’t drink much in New Zealand – or really on the trip overall. Cutting alcohol was one of the easiest ways to stay under our budget. Picking up a bottle of wine at the grocery store was key for budget and sanity.
Why go out when you can make friends and drink wine in the hostel?
Activities + Extras: $363
We had to be very picky about our activities in New Zealand. We knew this would be the quickest way to kill our budget. There are a million amazing things to do in New Zealand and while some are expensive, most are free. We spent a lot of time hiking, visiting museums, and just general exploring. Our tour choices included a day tour of the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo ($73), transport for the Tongariro Crossing ($30), the wine tour I mentioned above ($100), a walking tour of Queenstown ($15) and a day tour plus transport for the Milford Sound ($145).
Ridiculously happy at Milford Sound, worth the splurge
Total Cost for 17 Days in New Zealand: $1,888.86 ($111.10 a day)
Final Thoughts: I’m ridiculously proud of our budget for New Zealand. New Zealand was the place I was most worried about our budget. The combo of 17 days plus a million cool things to do made it very tempting to spend money. But luckily, we planned well, decided what activities were priorities, and were able to really cut our budget by eating and drinking in the hostels instead of at bars and restaurants.