Budget travel in New Zealand for only 777 US dollar a month

Budget travel in New Zealand is possible! Are you interested in going to New Zealand but not interested in spending thousands of dollars? This blog is a guide how to travel on a low budget in New Zealand. This blog is interesting for budget travelers, people who know how to appreciate simple but beautiful life and for everyone else who has a dream to visit New Zealand (NZ) once without spending too much money. We provide you in this blog with key tips to travel around in NZ in a fun and very cheap way. This is your budget travel New Zealand guide.  

We managed to travel around in NZ for a budget of 777 USD per month per person, and that is including everything! (camping gear, buying and selling a car, return flights)

Budget travel New Zealand tip #1 – Buy your transport, don’t rent it

Our first tip is going to make a big positive impact on your NZ travel budget. When you are in New Zealand you obviously want to travel around to admire all that natural beauty. So you will need transportation. One budget option is to travel around in big buses (Naked Bus is supposed to be the cheapest). The disadvantages are: the crowd of fellow passengers is not so diverse (a lot of backpackers in their begin twenties, it can be fun if you are one of them), the buses are only serving the main touristic routes, and there is just a short amount of time reserved to get out to see some nice things along the way. You won’t be flexible at all. We don’t want to travel through NZ in these conditions. But we like to travel NZ in a budget way. Which options are left?

Renting a car or van is very convenient, but will cost you a lot of money. If you have at least 6 or 7 weeks it is highly recommendable for your budget to buy your own car or van. Don’t miss out on this tip when you want to budget travel New Zealand. 

Cost of buying a car in New Zealand

The cost for your car will be obviously the purchase. Buying a car in NZ starts around 900 NZ dollar. Of course you will need insurance; we paid 180 NZ dollar for three months. Registering your car on your name will cost you another 10 bucks. At every post office you can do this. And you will need an international driver license (although we didn’t have to show it at any moment). If you don’t have one and are already outside of your home country; you can arrange an authorized translation for 75 NZ dollars at the city councils. In Wellington is one for sure.

The good thing about buying your own car or van, is that you spend a lot of money in the beginning. But that you earn a big part of it, everything of it, or even more, back at the end of your trip when you sell your vehicle! Learn how we managed to earn 220 USD with selling our 600 USD car. 

For the real hardcore budget travelers there is of course the option of hitchhiking. The cheapest option for sure, and a great way to meet people. An advantage is that hitchhiking is relatively safe in NZ. 

Budget travel New Zealand tip #2 – Travel with a travel buddy

Be it your partner, your friend or a random stranger you met online or offline, travelling together is the best thing you can do for budget travel in NZ. There is room enough in the car or van for two persons, also to sleep at night. And it saves you a lot of money on your meals and petrol as well. Budget travel New Zealand in a sociable way with this budget do.  

Budget travel New Zealand tip #3 – Cook your own meals

Don’t even consider to eat out if you want to get by with 777 bucks a month. You can’t say you budget travel New Zealand when you eat out frequently. What you will have to do is to cook your own meals. There might be a small kitchenette in your van, otherwise you would have to bring or buy your own camping gear. The most basic camping equipment contains at least for two persons:

  • A small gas tank, a gas jet and a lighter
  • A saucepan and a scoop
  • Two bowls, and two spoons
  • A knife, cutting board, a jar
  • Two glasses

Our meals were delicious, but we were very picky in what we were buying in the supermarkets. Just the fruits and vegetables of the season and basic products could be found in our shopping basket. If you are a more fancy or exotic type you can count on spending more precious dollars than the magic 777 ones. Budget travel in NZ doesn’t involve expensive exotic fruits and ingredients. 

Cooking your own meals is part of the New Zealand fun. Slow down, stop at a nice spot, take your time for slicing and cooking, and enjoy the sunset over a meal at a beautiful lake. Bon appetit! Budget travel was never so much fun before.  Check out below our cooking gear.

Budget travel New Zealand
With this basic set we prepared all our meals – it will do!

Budget travel New Zealand tip #4 – Save on your alcohol expenses

We had three nice meals a day for only about $140,- per person per month. This is not including alcohol. Alcohol is expensive in New Zealand. And when you want to drink good wine instead of rubbish liquor, you can at least double this amount. Except when you visit the vineyards for a free tasting of course. We think budget travel New Zealand and drinking a nice bottle every evening is a conflicting combination. But you prioritize. 

Budget travel New Zealand tip #5 – Use information for free or cheap overnight stays and activities

Many nice things in New Zealand come for free. And that is very good to keep your budget in your pockets as long as possible. You only need to know where to find it. There are a lot of free campsites out there, most of the time managed and maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC). We found Campermate a very fine app to locate all those spots. Campermate will also guide you to petrol stations, worthwhile destinations and view points.  

Unfortunately free camping has been forbidden recently. When they catch you you will be fined for 200 NZ dollars per head. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it or it is not worth it :). Our best nights were besides a lake or the sea with no one around us. Be sure you don’t leave any rubbish and take care of the nature like it is your grandmother’s garden.

Hiking is for free! The DOC website provides you with very clear information about hikes all over the two islands. Moreover, the most popular and beautiful areas all host a local DOC visitors center where the friendly and knowledgeable staff is very willing to help you with all your questions.

Btw, swimming is for free as well and makes it a great budget activity. You will run into beautiful shores and lakes that beg you to dive in every few miles or so.

Budget travel New Zealand tip #6 – Arrange your own sleeping facilities

This tip is a big must for budget travel in NZ. Avoid staying over in hotels, hostels and guesthouses but arrange your own home. This means sleeping in your car or van or pitching your tent somewhere. We slept in our station wagon for ten weeks.  If you go shopping in the local second-hand stores you will find yourself a perfect cheap mattress and blanket. We found a thick blanket that saved us from the cold for only 10 NZD. You can find almost everything you search for in a Salvation Army. Be wise; shop second-hand!  

If you are craving for a real bed, faith might decide to let you run into a nice local who offers you to stay over for a night. Or two. We experienced that a few times. Otherwise, Couchsurfing is a very nice way to meet friendly and hospitable locals who offer you a bed or couch.

Budget travel New Zealand
Sleeping in your own car or van saves you a lot of money

Budget travel New Zealand tip #7 – Take your time

This advice might sound strange or just too obvious. But a lot of travelers forget about this one. Taking your time saves you a lot of money. The slower you travel, the lower your monthly budget. You will cover a smaller distance per week so it saves you petrol costs per month. You will spread the fixed costs over a longer period. For example your flights to get to and return New Zealand, the purchase cost of your car, and equipment will be relatively less expensive if you stretch your stay.

Budget travel New Zealand tip #8 – Save a lot of money on your flight with …

Your biggest expense is the return flight from your home country or from somewhere else far away. So it is really worth it to put some effort in decreasing this expense. One thing we did, and it turned out to be a great decision, is to ask for the help of an online flying expert: FlightFox. The promise they make: to beat your quote by more than their fee, otherwise their service is for free. FlightFox supports budget travel all over the world. Budget travel New Zealand gets closer with the services of Flightfox.    

Insight in our NZ travel costs

We will give you all the insight in what we spent in the ten weeks we were budget travelling in New Zealand. We were couchsurfing for five nights in Wellington (that is for free), and the rest of our time we were on the road with our own car. Our aim was to go around and have a great time without spending a lot of money.

So this meant, cooking our own meals, and only a few times per month a drink in a restaurant. We slept in our car during the whole period. We didn’t pay for hikes (or stay over in huts) but did one day hike and slept in a free hut once. So if you want to eat out, want to stay at fancier campsites, or are going to do one or more Great Walks, you have to add those costs on top of the budget of 777 USD per month. Logically, if you are going to spent less than 10 weeks in NZ your costs per month will increase (mainly because your flight will be a bigger part of the total sum). And vice versa: when you stay longer your costs per month will go down.

We have been all over the Southern Island for 6,5 weeks and drove for 2,5 weeks around on the Northern Island, from Wellington via Tongariro and Coromandel to Auckland. We spent one week in Wellington to prepare our road trip.

Several times we have been invited by very friendly locals for dinner and to spend the night at their place.

Long trip
Read here how to prepare a (long) trip in 22 easy steps

What did we spend per person per month in New Zealand?

In total we spend 777 USD per person per month while travelling through beautiful New Zealand. Below you will see an overview of the costs per subject. Keep in mind that we sold our car with profit, so we distracted $45,15 USD per person per month from the costs per person per month. If you want to learn some selling tricks, read also blog how we were able to sell our car with $220 USD profit!

To gain insight in the total costs spent per person you should divide the costs below by 4,3 followed by times 10 (weeks). So we spent per person 550 USD on a return ticket (236,50 / 4,3 * 10).

What Costs p.p.p.m. 
Return ticket Kuala Lumpur / NZ $ 236,50
Car Fuel $ 136,30
Extra expenses $ 53,10
Food $ 136,30
Campsites $ 60,00
Ferries 2 times 2 persons $ 67,60
Activities $ 10,00
Camping gear $ 108,36
Transportation (bus) $ 14,00

What you see is that the flight costs make up for ⅓ of the total monthly budget. Also striking is that the fuel for two persons (also called food) is approximately the same amount as fuel for the car. So as stated before, by staying longer, and by slowing down your pace, you will be able to lower your month budget drastically.

Why wait with visiting this dream country?

This blog shows you travelling in New Zealand doesn’t necessarily has to cost you a fortune. By being resourceful, being creative in how to get the biggest bang for your bug, and with this information, you will have the trip of your lifetime without being bankrupt at the end. Budget travel in NZ is possible and fun. 

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