New Zealand is considered one of the more expensive countries to travel, but how much does it really cost? Here’s a complete breakdown of my travel budget from my 1 year working holiday in New Zealand. I’m sharing average costs for different things, plus the exact amount I spent! (Updated May 2020)
I spent most of 2016 living and working in New Zealand on a working holiday visa. I kept an extremely detailed log of every dollar I spent during that time. So I wanted to put that to good use and give you a realistic look at the true cost of traveling New Zealand.
I had a series called “New Zealand by the Month” where I posted a budget breakdown every single month during my trip. I thought it would be helpful to combine those expense reports and get some detailed stats out of it. After compiling all of that information, I’ve been able to create a FULL expense report for my year in New Zealand.
New Zealand is an expensive country all around, both for tourists and for residents. That doesn’t stop people from visiting, though, and it’s actually a really popular destination for budget backpackers. So don’t let the high price tag scare you.
Saving up money and creating a budget is a big part of planning any trip. So before you go, you’re probably going to wonder: How much does it cost to travel New Zealand?
I left the U.S. in March of 2016 to start my working holiday in New Zealand. My working holiday visa allowed me to live, work, and travel in New Zealand for up to one year.
My specific circumstances (the fact that I was working during part of this time) definitely had an impact on my expenses, but I’m going to break things down so you can figure out how much money you need to travel in New Zealand, whether it’s for one month or one year.
How Much Does it Cost to Travel in New Zealand?
Before I answer that question, here are a few basic things to know about money and prices in New Zealand:
- The currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
- 1 NZD = .61 USD / .57 EUR / .94 AUD / .85 CAD (as of May 2020) — you can easily get the updated exchange rate by googling “NZD to (your currency)”
- Food prices in New Zealand are one of the highest in the world. This is due to the small population and geographic isolation, as well as the high demand for New Zealand-grown foods in Asian countries. This results in price-y food in both supermarkets and restaurants.
- New Zealand is far away from most places in the world. Unless you’re flying from Australia or Southeast Asia, it’s likely the cost of your flight will be very high.
- If you’re from the USA, Canada, UK, etc. (as many of my readers are), you’re probably used to relatively cheap wifi. Well, get used to paying (a lot) for wifi in New Zealand. Unlimited wifi & data plans aren’t the norm here, so you will be paying by the MB/GB.
- If you will be working while you’re in New Zealand (on a working holiday visa), you can expect to make a minimum of about $18.90 NZD/hour. This is pretty typical for hospitality & backpacker jobs.
- All prices in this post will be in New Zealand Dollars (NZD) unless otherwise noted.
Typical Travel Expenses in New Zealand
I created a list of prices of some typical travel expenses. This includes the average costs for accommodation, transportation, and food. Prices range quite a bit on most items, but generally you can expect to pay on the lower end during low-season, and on the higher end during peak season. These are average prices based on my personal experience, and updated research in May 2020.
Hostel (Dorm Room): $18-$30
Motel Room: $100-$130
RV/Powered Site (Campground): $20-$25
Campervan Rental (Daily Rate): $35-$75
Bus Fare: $25-$40
Ferry from North to South Island: $50-$70
Meal at a Café: $12-$20
Pint of Beer or Glass of Wine: $8-$11
Tip: You can find prices for most attractions & activities online. Decide what you want to do before going to New Zealand so you know how much to budget (and then add a little bit extra).
Read More: Find out 13 ways to cut down on costs in New Zealand
My New Zealand Budget Breakdown
I kept detailed notes about every single thing I bought & every penny I spent while in New Zealand. My goal was to be able to create a post like this, but doing this also helped me see where all of my money was going. It’s always a good idea to track your spending while traveling.
Tip: Record your expenses in a pocket-size notebook or in the Notes app on iPhone (this is what I usually do). You can also use an app like Trail Wallet to help you record & organize expenses.
These are my upfront costs—all of the things I paid for before I flew to New Zealand.
- Airfare: $835 USD (one-way ticket)
- Insurance: $180 USD (learn more about the New Zealand travel insurance I used)
- Visa: $0 (the Working Holiday Visa is not always/usually $0, but for me it happened to be free at the time that I applied.)
I transferred $2,500 USD to my New Zealand bank account before arriving. When I landed in New Zealand, I had around $3,400 NZD ready to use.
Note: My initial costs will not be reflected in my final expense since these costs vary so widely.
Read More: The best way to transfer your money overseas
These numbers are a compilation of my entire year in New Zealand. This is meant to give you an idea of how much I spent in New Zealand on a working holiday. I created categories based on the main expenses, and this does include EVERYTHING I spent. I’ll break the numbers down further in other sections.
- Transportation: $1,487 NZD
- Accommodation: $4,715 NZD
- Food: $3,843 NZD
- Communication: $735 NZD
- Activities: $683 NZD
- Drinking: $550 NZD
- Shopping: $520 NZD
- Toiletries: $507 NZD
- Laundry: $89 NZD
- Coffee: $165 NZD
- Medical: $120 NZD
- Total Spent: $13,414 NZD
It cost me $13,414 NZD to travel in New Zealand on a working holiday
- Flights: $149 NZD
- Bus Fare: $940 NZD
- Train: $121 NZD
- Ferry: $277 NZD
- Total Transportation Cost: $1,487 NZD
Read More: Take the scenic train from Auckland to Wellington
- Hostels: $3,344 NZD
- Rent: $750 NZD
- AirBnB: $145 NZD
- Hotels: $476 NZD
- Total Accommodation Cost: $4,715 NZD
Read More: Ultimate New Zealand hostel guide
- Groceries: $3,055 NZD
- Restaurants: $788 NZD
- Total Food Costs: $3,843 NZD
- SIM Card: $5 NZD
- Cell Plan: $150 NZD
- Wifi: $580 NZD
- Total Communication Cost: $735 NZD
- Souvenirs: $315 NZD
- Clothing: $97 NZD
- Books: $108 NZD
- Total Shopping Cost: $520 NZD
Read More: Read my monthly recaps from New Zealand
How Much Money Do You Need to Travel New Zealand?
Ultimately, the cost of traveling New Zealand will vary greatly from person to person. It will depend on a few factors:
- How long are you going to be there?
- What kind of budget are you on (shoestring, moderate, luxury)?
- How much do you want to spend on attractions & activities?
These aren’t the only questions you should consider before you head to New Zealand, but they are a good basis for planning your travel budget.
For example: I was in New Zealand for about a year, on a backpacker-to-moderate budget, and I limited my spending on activities. This means I mostly stayed in hostel dorm rooms, traveled NZ by bus, mainly went to free attractions and activities, and cooked most of my own meals in hostel kitchens.
My overall cost of traveling New Zealand for the year was also lowered by the fact that I spent months at a time working, and was given cheap accommodation during those months.
- I spent significantly more during travel months than I did during months when I was working.
- In the months that I was working on staying in one place, I spent an average of $689/month.
- In the months that I was mainly traveling, I spent an average of $2,088/month.
- To break it down to a day-rate, I averaged about $69/day during travel months, and around $22/day during work months.
If your travel style is similar to mine, you can budget $70/day to travel in New Zealand. This is definitely a budget style, but it will allow you to travel comfortably, enjoy a handful of pricier attractions, and have a couple of splurge nights in nicer accommodation.
Notes to Lower Your Cost
It is definitely possible to spend less money traveling New Zealand than I did. There are even more budget-friendly options available, and if you’re just traveling (and not on a working holiday), then a lot of the costs I showed might not apply to you (for example, buying more clothes & toiletries, lots of Wi-fi, rent, etc.).
Here are a few quick ideas:
- You can work in exchange for accommodation (generally referred to as “WOOFing” in New Zealand).
- Hitchhiking is common in New Zealand, and generally considered safe. I personally did not do this, but I met a lot of travelers who did. And locals are pretty open to picking up hitchhikers.
- Take advantage of all the free activities in New Zealand! There are a ton of pricey attractions, but you can easily fill up your time with free things to do, and this will massively lower your daily rate.
- Rent or buy a campervan and freedom camp during your trip. This will also lower your overall cost, especially if you’re traveling with someone else.
- I shared 13 more ways to travel New Zealand on a budget.
I hope this post can help you create your own travel budget for New Zealand!
Like I said, this was all based on my personal experience traveling through the country for a year in 2016/2017 on a working holiday visa. So please keep that in mind!
New Zealand Travel Planning Resources:
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This is such a helpful article! I haven’t yet visited New Zealand but when I do I plan to do the same as you and work along the way, this post is definitely food for thought when it comes to how much I’ll need to have saved. Thanks! #flyawayfriday
Thanks for the detailed breakdown! Definitely not the cheapest country to live and travel in. Very cool to see your stats to get an idea of how much it would take!
Wow. That is a really detailed budget breakdown!!! We lived in NZ for a year too. Loved looking at how you laid this out. #flyawayfriday
Impressive breakdown! New Zealand is on my list, but only for a visit. Good to know what to anticipate for expenses. Thanks for such a helpful report!
You have seriously been acing these posts, Courtney! I absolutely love this and find it super helpful since as you know, I’ll be in New Zealand early next year for my honeymoon! Thanks for this! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday, hope to see you again this week! xo
Thanks, Kana! Can’t wait to join Fly Away Friday again this weekend. 🙂
Great rundown on New Zealand costs! My hubby wants to retire there in 40 years so hopefully this will help us plan 😀 I love Queenstown. I hope to go back someday. Hope to see you at Fly away Friday tomorrow 🙂
This is such a useful post. I had no idea that it was so expensive in New Zealand. I can see why you needed to work while you were travelling there. When I went backpacking after university I went to India which was a lot cheaper. I would love to go to New Zealand though – it’s such a beautiful country. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles
It makes sense why costs are so high in New Zealand and this is a great reference post for people looking for honest ideas about planning for a trip there. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, cheers from also notoriously expensive Scandinavia!
Absolutly first class review of NZ.
We have just started to talk obout touring NZ for a month in a hire car which we have done many times in many different country’s.
As we are both retired & have full intention of seeing as much of the world as we choose.
Eg 8 times to Asia 6 of those to India, 10 times to America spending up to 3 months at a time touring any one given country eg the whole length of Veitnam & Cambodia & the whole of the East side of India, you get the gist.
NZ has not been on our “must do list” but we have friends who have been & say its brill.
We are not sure its for us.
We live in Manchester Uk. We are into walking, open spaces, good food & good conversations & history etc. We are both pro-active for the most part.
We are not that interested in big city’s, museums, crowds, big chain hotel’s or restaurants.
We are fiercely indipendant & much prefer to do it ourselves most of the time.
Let me put it like this would you recommend your parents to go to NZ for a month?
We are a little concerned on the costs of food accomodation etc.
The most we’ve spent in any one vacation was £7000 aprox $9500 US.
What do you think?
I would 100% recommend New Zealand based on everything you said.
It’s a super popular destination for all ages. I met so many retired couples traveling by RV or campervan who were loving it. Most of the country is more rural, there aren’t that many big cities to begin with, and the landscapes are breathtaking. There’s endless opportunity for walking. Locals and travelers alike are super friendly and welcoming. Kiwis are generally independent types, so I think you’d feel right at home there.
It is an expensive place to travel, but this post shows a fairly average cost of travel in the country. If you were to travel by camper/car/RV, that would help cut costs a bit. And by avoiding the cities, staying at holiday parks or motels, cooking for yourself, and avoiding touristy attractions, you’d be able to cut costs even more.
I find people who travel the country with their own vehicles and with a partner tend to spend a bit less than solo travelers like myself who depend on public transportation.
A month in New Zealand (besides airfare) could be done for a reasonable price.
I’ve been in NZ for less than a week and want to come back to do a work holiday & this post let me realize that it’s very doable!! Thanks for the great post 🙂
It’s so doable! It was so much easier than I thought it would be. Check out my other working holiday posts if you haven’t already, and feel free to send any other questions my way.
Great breakdown of your time there and super helpful!! I’m planning on moving there for a year in a few months. You mentioned you had transferred money before you arrived, what bank did you use? Trying to figure out the best way to do banking there.
I used ANZ and I was really happy with their service! They have multiple accounts to choose from; I don’t remember the name of it, but I used the free account that is online banking only.
I wrote a bit more about the bank account in my FAQ post: https://goo.gl/qyQMEy
I also wrote about the process of transferring money in this post: https://goo.gl/KqQCNe
Let me know if you have any other questions!