The Land of Long White Cloud – Aotearoa – is a beautiful country, with an abundance of tourist attractions. These include its unique wildlife, pristine beaches, sweeping mountain vistas, along with the country’s fascinating Maori culture.
However, a trip to New Zealand can be an expensive sojourn. Expenses for transport, food, accommodation and petrol (to name but a few) are relatively high. The first notable dent in your budget would be the long haul flight to and from your destination. However, you can still manage an enjoyable trip to New Zealand and have the full experience – even on a budget.
There are some things you can do to save money on every aspect of your trip.
- Join a group: Facebook is a very useful resource to take advantage of. There are many groups to facilitate buying second hand gear, finding travel partners to share expenses with and to find budget accommodation.
- Travel in the off-season: The seasonal characteristics of New Zealand are the direct opposite of those in the Northern Hemisphere. The high season is during summer, from December to February. At this time of year, prices are high and overheads such as flights and accommodation can skyrocket. It is more budget-friendly to travel in the quieter seasons of spring or autumn, or even during the winter. Tourism is at its lowest during the winter season, with the exception of skiing areas like Queenstown. Travelling and accommodation are cheapest in the shoulder season, which runs from April to May or October to November.
- Keep your trip focused: There are major sites on both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. Your budget might not stretch as far as needed if you intend to take in all the sites across both Islands. Focus on just one island and save on petrol. However, if you really do want to visit both islands, consider renting a camper van and save on accommodation costs by staying at camp grounds.
- Get airfare sales: Taking an international trip to New Zealand often comes with a costly airfare because of its remote location. However, major carriers like Qantas and Air New Zealand often run sales online. Take advantage through booking sites and airfare aggregators (www.kayak.com, expedia.com, tripadvisor.com, etc.) by signing up for fare alerts.
- Get good travel insurance. Also remember that your travel insurance should appropriately cover your intended activities. https://insurance.airnewzealand.co.nz/ can be tailored to suit your needs.
- Make use of credit cards: Credit cards are acceptable in the majority of restaurants, hotels, shops, and tour operators in New Zealand. Making use of credit cards (assuming your bank does not charge for foreign transactions) is a great way to save money on withdrawal charges and currency exchange rates.
- Make use of your ATM card: If you require cash and need to make withdrawals, you should skip the exchange counter and use your ATM card. Interbank exchange rates are better than rates at the counter. Make a sizeable withdrawal at the cash point each time to avoid an additional withdrawal charge.
- Talk to Hotel Staff: Hotel staff know the best deals to help you save money and will let you know if there are any free attractions in the area. They can also inform you of any special discounts offered by restaurants, other establishments, as well as local tours.
- Don’t tip in New Zealand, tipping is not a tradition and you don’t have to include it in your budget.
Activities and attractions
- Make use of discount deals: Book your activities with establishments that offer good deals on a variety of activities. BookMe, GrabOne and Groupon are just some examples.
- Find the free stuff: There are several fun activities that come free of charge or are very budget friendly. Taking hikes in most national parks, visiting museums (Te Papa Museum in Wellington) and art galleries (Auckland art gallery) are usually free or at least budget friendly. You could visit beaches, botanical gardens and lakes.
- Head to the i-Site: Make enquiries at tourist information offices. You’ll get good advice and info from local experts who are available to answer any questions you have.
- Consider a City Pass: You can gain entry to multiple city attractions at a cheaper rate than for individual admissions. Auckland and Wellington offer discount passes for multiple attractions.
- Take local buses: Several bus companies with tickets are as low as one dollar have routes across the country. Some of these companies also offer bus pass package deals. Look into Naked Bus and Intercity to see what their deals are like.
- Purchase a used vehicle: If you plan on staying a while in New Zealand, you may find it cheaper to buy a used car or a campervan rather than renting. You will be able to sell the vehicle to recoup the costs after your trip is over. You might even get a buy back guarantee from some dealers.
- Consider hitchhiking: Hitchhiking is common in New Zealand. The locals are happy to help out travellers and tourists and you’ll get a good ‘yarn’ (chat) too. Many backpackers rely on hitchhiking to travel around the country.
- Make use of grocery stores: You’ll be able to save a lot by shopping at grocery stores rather than eating at restaurants. You can cook your own meals in your hostel kitchen or your campervan.
- Drink from the tap: Tap water in New Zealand is drinkable, so you don’t need to spend money on buying bottled water.
- Try camping: There are numerous official Department of Conservation campsites and privately owned holiday parks where you can camp at affordable rates. However, don’t leave rubbish around your campsite as you can be issued a fine.
- Seek out affordable hostels: There are a range of affordable hostels which offer basic private rooms or bunking accommodation. Some of these hostels also have kitchens, where you can do your own cooking.
Save on your travel expenses by taking note of these budget travel tips. You can be guaranteed some of your best moments on your NZ trip will be absolutely free yet priceless! But make sure to go along with a few extra bucks for emergencies. Enjoy the adventure!