New Zealand on budget
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--- The ultimate backpacking travel guide ---

By our host blogger nomadiciv@ who spent a year in New Zealand in 2016.
It is disputable whether New Zealand can be called a low cost destination. Prices in New Zealand are miles apart from those in Southeast Asia. And the first very expensive item on your budget is the flight ticket. BUT New Zealand offers wonderful possibilities to get lost in the wilderness and enjoy the solitude in the amazing landscape (be it a beach or mountains) that is definitely worth it.

Average cost per person: 40 USD per day (55 NZD)
including car rental 16 NZD, gas 12 NZD, accommodation 11 NZD, food 9 NZD, attractions 7 NZD

Check out also top things to see in New Zealand in my photo journey.


Transport

One of the biggest expenses when going to New Zealand are the flight tickets. Read our tips how to find cheap flights.

After arriving in New Zealand there is another “painful” decision to be made – to choose the mean of transport:

  • Hitchhiking is definitely an option. But let´s agree that it is really hard to stitch to your itinerary this way. However it works on the main routes, it might be a long despair on the remotes roads. Another option may be rideshare.

  • Local buses – there are bus companies (eg. Naked bus, InterCity), that operate among the main cities on both islands. The drawback is that buses go to every single small village so you may spend in the bus much more time than you expected. Moreover be careful for the fares are floating and so the ticket may cost you double the price the day before departure than two days earlier.

  • The best option for solo travelers is kiwiexperience buses (or similar). Although being a bit more costly, they take you to all the stunning locations with the group of other backpackers while having fun and wild parties in the bus and hostel.

  • The last option is car rental. This is also a bit pricy but provides you the luxury of going wherever you want. There are plenty of car rentals so just save some time to look through their offers. We eventually opted for nzrentacar.co.nz – the category Cheap and cheerful :-D. Our friend chose rentalcarvillage.com - Micro Campervan has a sleeping platform with a double bed so there was no need to have a tent. Having a caravan makes it even easier – on the most of the area of the New Zealand you can stay anywhere in case you have your own toilet.
    We rented a car for 21 days and it cost us 690 NZD plus 520 NZD for the gas.
Jucy cars
You will very often meet jucy cars with their amusing quotes on :) They were a bit ouf of our budget.

Accommodation

Accommodation is another item that can make your trip more expensive. Not if you download app Campermate. It displays on map all the campsites with the prices with available facilities. The cheapest options are DOC campsites. There is no need to say that we preferred those cheapest with only a toilet and source of drinking water (for 5 NZD per person) and sometimes we happily drove another 20km to stay in the campsite completely for free.
We spent 11 NZD per night per person. We searched normally for basic DOC campsites and welcomed those campsites completely for free. But we regularly stayed in classical camps with kitchen, shower and hot pool :)

Food

Food in NZ is not cheap. Stop dreaming about the lamb stew with roasted kumara (sweet potatoes) with glass of wine (Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc) in a restaurant – that would cost you a fortune. For those of us there are supermarkets New World or Countdown (in every village) with their Budget products. It is favorable to shop in Pak'nSave that is located in the larger cities.
We set a day limit for food and person 10 NZD, and finally we did it with 9 NZD. Good job! :)

Cheap food
You can make it on toasts, cheese, beans, eggs and pasta ;-)
Cheap food
My tips to taste
Hokey Pokey ice cream or other types (crushed biscuits, boysenberry). They are delicious and sold in 2 liter boxes (also handy for later use).
Layered Dip - Cream cheese with herbs and roasted vegetable (Medietrian, Calabrese, Margherita) for me it was a taste explosion and I became addicted. It had nothing to do with the fact that I spend last three months on pasta, beans and toasts :-D.

Attractions on budget

And almost the last but definitely not the least are tourist attractions. Your stay would surely be an unforgettable experience if you try surf lectures in Raglan, Black-water rafting in glow worm Waitomo Caves, kayak in Abel Tasman national park, fly with helicopter in glaciers Fox, cruise in Milfordsounds fjord, bungee jumping in Queenstown, sky dive in Taupo or do some of the 9 Great walks of NZ. Luckily New Zealand offer equally jaw-dropping sceneries for free as well. You can go off-the-beaten track to find your private place in the world anytime. Here are my tips for cheaper alternatives:
Attractions cost us in average 7 NZD a day.

If you want to see the pictures from New Zealand click here.

  • Rotorua Spas - lovely places with less lovely entrance fees.
  • Alternative: 35 minutes from Rotorua in direction to Taupo there is Kerosine creek. Take the gravel road for next 5 minutes to the parking and enjoy hot stream with a small waterfall. Or you can visit Tokaanu thermal pools (Taurangi), where you can have a warming bath for friendly price.

  • Waiotapu/Orakei Korako/Whakarewarewa - the Living Maori Village.
  • Alternative: Although I find Waiotapu worth paying the entrance fee, you can see some smaller geothermal phenomenon in other places: Central Kairau Park in Rotorua OR Tokaanu thermal pools (Taurangi). At both sites you will see steaming holes and bubbling mud pools as well.

  • Skip the Great walk - Because they are so famous. You need to book accommodation in advance (sometimes half a year in advance) and just a berth there is costly.
  • Alternative: As an alternative pick out another less known track. We chose Mt. Somers track that was equally beautiful and we met only two people during the whole day.

  • Cheat on the Great walk - I know, it is one of 9 Great walks so missing it would be like to go to Paris and not visit Eifel tower.
  • Alternative: Let´s look at Routeburn track. It can be made in 2 days trips – one from Routeburn shelter (Glenorchy) to Harris Saddle, other day go from Divine to Harris saddle. This way you don´t need to pay for expensive hut.

  • Penguin watching - There are places in south island (e.g. near Oomaru) where you can watch penguins in special breeding centers. But with a stroke of luck you can see penguins in many other beaches of the South island for free.
  • Alternative: Curio Bay and Slope point. In the furthest south of the South island you can kill two birds with one stone. There is a platform for Yellow penguin watching on the petrified forest.

  • Dolphin watching - There are also places like Kaikoura where you can do whale and dolphin watching. They surely know where to go to see them; anyway you will see only back and fins of these mammals.
  • Alternative: Curio Bay and Slope Point. Just over the cliff there is the beach where Hector dolphins play in the waves.

Map Attractions on the map

Top places to see regardless of price

  • Tongariro national Park – either Tongariro crossing or Tongariro circuit (yes that is one of the Great Walks). This volcanic area is completely different from what you can see in Europe – fuming slopes of hills, colored lakes, Mars-like landscape and rocky desert alternates with green bushes.

  • Abel Tasman national Park – also one of the Great walks – but you can make only 1 day hike and enjoy the turquoise sea with yellow sand beaches behind every headland. This so much recalled me of the Philippines.

  • The Catlins – Tunnel Beach Walkway – the south coast of the south island is kind of remote and tough. I really enjoyed Tunnel Beach Walkay (check low tide times) after half hour bush walk we reached vast beach with rough sea and tunnel shaped cliff.

  • Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland – located near Rotorua geothermal area and totally deserving its name “wonderland”. For those colorful formations, pools, lakes and you will not regret a dollar.

  • Te Papa museum in Wellington – huge museum of nature and culture. In a special house-like booth you can experience earthquake and a lot more. Watch you watches – you can easily spend there the whole day. And what is the most pleasing – it is for free :)

Other tips

  • If you lost, broke or forgot anything from your travel equipment, find one of many Salvation Army shops. You can get there clothing, kitchen ware, camping equipment, maps, simply anything other backpacker no more needed.

  • When you are in capital of adrenalin Queenstown waiting in a long queue for famous Feigburger and you have no time or mood, just go around the block to Devil Burger – honestly we found it as tasty as Feighburger and without waiting.

  • My experience with Hangi food is that I would not pay that much for a piece of veggies with sand and soil flavor anymore.


Check also my photo journey from New Zealand

More tips for traveling cheap here


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