How To Travel New Zealand On A Budget

free hike in martinborough

New Zealand is awesome, full of bucket list destinations. Yet trying to travel New Zealand on a budget is not easy. People always ask me ‘is New Zealand expensive?’

Simple answer, yes.

Having been born and bred in New Zealand I luckily stay with friends when I’m exploring (grateful). But it’s a question those who want to go one day always have, fair enough too. It’s a good idea to think of your budget before you go somewhere new.

Having talked to people who have travelled around New Zealand on a range of budgets, I’ve come to a conclusion.

You can travel in New Zealand on a budget, but it’s exhausting. Think about it, does hitchhiking, camping, eat empty carbs, and looking for free activities…back to back to back.

If you can target one or two of the following categories to save money on, you’ll be full of energy to enjoy the country.

The four major expenses: activities, transport, food, and accommodation.

Note: Booze in New Zealand isn’t cheap. If you’re on a budget but need to drink (you always have money for alcohol right) drink goon.

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vineyard grapes

How To Handle Activities In New Zealand On A Budget

New Zealand is full of bucket list items:

  • Skydiving
  • Bungy jumping
  • Hobbiton
  • Waitomo Caves
  • Glaciers etc.

Unfortunately, most of these aren’t going to be cheap. For many of the most famous New Zealand activities there are free alternatives.

Some of these alternative adventures are off the beaten path, and it can be hard to get back on the tourist track. Can you afford the time?

One example is seeing glow worms in a cave. Seeing them in Waitomo is awesome. but you can see them for free at the Waipu Caves in Northland and the Abbey Caves near Whangarei.

For many activities, you could consider treating them as either a HELL YES or a no. Unless you absolutely must do the activity otherwise you’ll cry on the plane in regret, look for cheaper and/free alternatives.

Speaking of free, New Zealand is a nature paradise which you don’t have to pay to see most of (hiking and beaches). If you’re stuck for ideas, I created this list of free things to in New Zealand.

fields new zealand

Getting Around New Zealand For Cheap

Buses are the cheapest form of intercity transport in New Zealand. If you’re heading to a small town they can still be pricey. Keep an eye on the and, both sites have some great value specials if you book in advance.

Luckily, New Zealand is a hitchhiking friendly country. Hitchhiking brings out every emotion imaginable. The highs of getting picked up right away by an awesome person who can take you straight to your destination and the lows of being stranded for hours (in Hamilton).

If you are looking to rent a car in New Zealand, look into one way rentals. These come about when rental car companies need to move vehicles based on supply and demand.

They’ll offer rentals for a low price if you can agree to get them to the next location within the time frame agreed upon. You’ll have a long kiwi road trip to complete in a short period, but on the brightside, you’ll experience some of the countries best scenic drives.

How To Eat Cheaply In New Zealand

Supermarkets. Pak’n Save is the cheapest supermarket in New Zealand. You won’t find one everywhere though, in which case try and look out for a Countdown or New World.

It’s tough to find any meal at a cafe, restaurant or pub that is less than $10 that you couldn’t make cheaper by making it yourself.

Buying fruit and vegetables in season is an easy win. That means no mangoes, and you’ll be best to avoid avocados altogether. Sorry.

You can eat for a couple dollars a day and survive, but it gets bland. Noodles, bread, and peanut butter for life.

Don’t buy bottled water! You should be able to source a tap with drinking water somewhere nearby at all times. In nature, if the water is flowing, drink away. Or for safety, get a water distiller.

cathedral cove NZ

How To Save Money On Accommodation In New Zealand

If you visit New Zealand in November to March, you can camp all around the country without freezing (much). There are lots of freedom camping spots up and down New Zealand and you can always wild camp.

Camping without any facilities isn’t easy long term though. You’ll want to feel clean so you’ll be left to sneaking into public showers around beaches at many of these venues. Or the classic shower in the river!

Finishing Up The Post

New Zealand is a bucket list country, a dream destination people must visit at least once. If you want to enjoy your experience err on the side of caution and save more money than you think you’ll need.

It is possible to travel New Zealand for cheap but it’s not easy. If you’re hitchhiking, what happens if you end up in a place where there’s no camping spots available or the weather is horrendous you’ll need to book an expensive last minute hotel or hostel.

My advice: Look for areas where you don’t mind sacrificing a bit of comfort and save money on those areas specifically.

Have fun!


  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

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