Information, Oceanic

20 Tips for Tackling New Zealand on a Tight Budget

Bringing in the weekend we have an awesome post by Bethaney of Flashpacker Family. Here is a great list of how to to New Zealand on a budget!

New Zealand is top of many a bucket list. It’s a dream destination with towering mountains, icy glaciers, bubbling hot pools and sweeping scenes straight out of Middle Earth. The only catch… it’s expensive. If you’re making the trek all the way down under though you’ve got to make it count. It’s got to be a trip of a lifetime. Save yourself a few precious bucks along the way by trying out some of these simple tips.

New Zealand on a Budget
Cromwell, New Zealand

1. Take advantage of some Kiwi hospitality and Couchsurf. New Zealanders are a very friendly bunch and many will open their door to couchsurfers for a night or two. Locals always know of secret spots off the tourist trail so the insider knowledge is just as valuable as the free bed.

2. If you want to road trip at least a portion of the country, look for a relocation car rental. Instead of spending $60 a day on a car rental you can get a relocation between most major centres for $1 a day. There are quire a few companies who offer relocation. Some will even throw in petrol money and ferry tickets for the driver. The only downside is the limited time allowed for the relocation – from Christchurch to Queenstown usually just a day or two and from Christchurch to Auckland four or five days.

3. Wifi is notoriously expensive in NZ. A Vodafone dongle with just 2GB of data will set you back a whopping $69. Many cafés will have limited wifi (20MB) available with purchase. This isn’t going to get you very far. You will find free Wifi at McDonald’s and public libraries.

4. House sitting is popular in New Zealand. There are always plenty of properties in New Zealand on house sitting websites. Because the country is so geographically isolated, many Kiwis only take one or two long extended trips abroad in their lifetime. It’s common for couples & families to head off and explore Europe for six weeks, leaving their lovely homes behind. By house sitting in New Zealand you can save yourself a tonne of cash and extend your trip. Plus you get to live as part of a community and see what life is live for the locals.

5. Buy New Zealand dollars when they’re cheap. The NZ dollar is currently sitting at record highs against the US dollar but it does wobble around quite a bit. Back in the 90s, one NZD only bought about 40 US cents – now it’s over double that. This makes it even more expensive for Americans to visit Aotearoa. Monitor the currency and buy up your NZ dollars when it dips. You’ll need a lot of them while you’re here, this country ain’t cheap.

New Zealand on a Budget
Wellington Waterfront, New Zealand

6. If you want to extend your holiday, look for wwoofing opportunities. Wwoofing is a work exchange programme which gives volunteers free room and board in exchange for work on farms, vineyards and orchards. New Zealand is an agricultural country so there are opportunities for wwoofing all over the country.

7. Find bargains on group booking. New Zealanders’ love group booking sites and there a few around the country that offer deals on meals, activities, hotel accommodation and even car & camper hire. In general you save about 50% on the ticket price but occasionally there’s a really great deal on these sites. I’ve seen tickets for the Shotover Jet in Queenstown on sale for just $1… that’s 99% off! Check out my post on how to get cheap accommodation and activities in New Zealand for a complete list of these sites.

8. Sign up to Jetstar’s “Friday Fare Frenzy” alert newsletters. Jetstar only flies between the main centres but often posts fares for as little as $9 including taxes! Cheap fares are emailed out every Friday afternoon NZ time. You’ll need to move quickly to book them as they get snapped up fast.

9. Get to know Grabaseat. Air New Zealand offers up cheap flights in New Zealand through their fun Grabaseat site. There are quite a few different options for making the most of Grabaseat including auctions and standby tickets. For a complete rundown on the different ways to save money with Grabaseat check out my post on finding cheap flights in New Zealand.

10. Prepare to self-cater. Eating out in Aotearoa is one of the biggest ways to blow your budget. Bring or buy a plastic bowls, cutlery and utensils so you can prepare a few simple meals on the fly.

New Zealand on a Budget
Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand

11. Supplies are more expensive in smaller towns so stock up on essentials when you’re in the big city. If you’re self-catering in a camper, apartment or motels, do your grocery shopping in the main centres. Pak n’ Save is the cheapest major supermarket chain. Farmers’ markets are becoming increasingly popular and are great value.

12. Petrol is going to be a major cost if you’re roadtripping in a camper or car and it’s some of the world’s most expensive. Collect fuel vouchers from the bottom of your supermarket receipts to save a few cents per litre. Sign up for an AA rewards card at BP. This will give you 6 cent per litre discount every time you get gas at BP. Fill up in the main centres as they are cheaper than the small towns.

13. Clothes, books, electronics, sunscreen, cosmetics and medicines are particularly expensive in New Zealand. Bring these from home if you need them. If you do need to buy any of these items when you’re in New Zealand, The Warehouse is the cheapest store for almost everything.

14. If you need to get a sim card, Two Degrees is the cheapest network across New Zealand – $5 for a regular sim card or $20 for a micro sim card with 100MB of data.

15. New Zealand is paradise for adrenaline junkies and home of the bungey jump. Taking part in these thrilling activities will take a big bite out of your budget – a bungy jump in Queenstown will cost you NZ$180 plus another $45 if you want the DVD. Know when these big ticket items are coming around in your itinerary and keep money aside for them rather than trying to eek it out of your daily budget.

Christchurch to Greymouth Drive, Southern Alps, New Zealand, Sheep
Canterbury Plains, New Zealand

16. Balance the expensive activities with free activities. There are plenty of free things to do in New Zealand and most of them involve getting out into the great outdoors. If you really want to skydive then opt for the free walk to the Franz Josef & Fox glaciers instead of the heli-hike.

17. Bring a refillable water bottle. Tap water in New Zealand is safe to drink and tastes good especially in cities like Christchurch where the water comes directly from the melting snow on the Southern Alps. Much better than buying bottled water!

18. Steer clear of the travel in the peak season. New Zealander’s take their summer holiday at Christmas meaning that for three or four weeks between Christmas and mid-January every road, campground, jet boat ride and sunny beach will be chock-a-block. If you want sunshine, February and March are an even better time to visit than January anyway. Be aware that places like Queenstown and Wanaka fill up with snow bunnies in the winter.

19. Mix your modes of transport. Plan your route and then identify where you can get a transportation bargain. You can fly between Auckland and Wellington for only $29 any day of the week on the Air New Zealand Nightrider. You can drive from Queenstown to Christchurch in a relocation car for only $1. You can get deals on campers that include ferry tickets which, on their own, can cost you $250. It might be cheaper to buy a car and sell it on than to rent. I’ve got everything you need to know in this post about cheap transportation in New Zealand.

20. Whatever you do, make to most of your time in New Zealand. You’ve spent a tonne of money to get all the way down here and, chances are, you won’t be here again anytime soon. It’s cheaper to whack an extra $200 on that credit card today for your whale watching, bungy jumping or skydiving experience than to buy another $2000 return ticket to New Zealand in a few years time because you regret not doing it all when you were here the first.


Bethaney Davies is one third of Flashpacker Family – a semi-nomadic, globetrotting family from Christchurch, New Zealand. Bethaney, Lee and their toddler Reuben spend half the year at home and the rest out exploring and enjoying the world. Flashpacker Family has great tales from the road, tips on travelling on a budget & travelling with a toddler and information on living a location independent lifestyle. You can follow Flashpacker Family on Google +Bethaney Davies, Twitter and Facebook.

All images property of Flashpacker Family.

16 thoughts on “20 Tips for Tackling New Zealand on a Tight Budget”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing guys! I loved writing this post. It’s actually really useful for me to have all my NZ travel tips in one place. Hope you can swing coming to NZ at some point soon so you get to use them all.

    1. Thank you for writing for us! This has turned out to be an extremely popular post! I hope you’re getting some hits your way. 😀

  2. This is a fantastic post, which I know to expect from Bethaney! I buy things like sunblock etc in the US because that type of thing is so expensive here in NZ.

  3. Some great advice here! I haven’t been to NZ for the reason that it’s too much for my budget, but definitely will do in the future and use these tips to kee my costs down. Especially love to see WWOOF’ing on the list; after trawling through loads of free volunteering websites I always drool over the ones in NZ – there are so many incredible ones!

  4. So many great tips! We want to go to NZ so badly when we travel, but certainly worry about the cost of it. All of this helps ease my mind that we can do a budget trip to NZ.

  5. aloha,

    Great tips on getting around and saving some dollars in the various places and activities.

    I’ve always wanted to go, but now I’ll have to save up a bit to get to see some of those amazing landscapes.

  6. Ohh this would have been handy when we were there last January! 🙁 I think we hit the worst exchange rate too. Oh well. We did get to couchsurf and love drinking from the tap. Can’t wait to go back!

  7. Great tips! I hopped over to NZ a couple of years back while studying in Australia. What an amazing country! I was only there 10 days but I’ll definitely be looking into wwoofing or housesitting to make it last. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Who has never been in New Zeeland cannot understand its beauty. In a month time the winter will come in New Zeeland, but do not expect a Canadian winter, but a wormer one.

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