6 Ways to Save Money While Traveling in New Zealand

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New Zealand is, hands-down, my favorite country in the world. I love the landscapes, the people, and the laid-back way of life. But, seeing how the country is located roughly at the end of the world, traveling to this South Pacific nation definitely comes at a price.

Yes, what you've heard is true: New Zealand is not a very budget-friendly destination.

It's basically not close to anywhere (other than Australia). The adventure activities New Zealand is so well-known for all come at a premium price. Hell, you can't even find free wifi in this country!

But, fear not. Having been to New Zealand four times in the past decade, I've come up with some tips to help you save money while traveling in New Zealand.

How to Save Money Traveling in New

Travel in the off-season

New Zealand's high season is in the summer (December-February in the Southern Hemisphere), though the top ski spots in the country like Queenstown and Wanaka also have a secondary high season in the winter months when the skiing/snowboarding is good.

If you want to find the best flight deals AND be traveling when transport and accommodation are the cheapest, visit New Zealand in the shoulder season: April-May or October-November. The weather during these seasons is generally pretty good (it's not too hot or too cold), and you usually don't have to compete with people to book rooms, rental cars, or popular activities.

I've traveled in New Zealand in just about every season, and my favorite times to be there were in May when the leaves were changing and November when everything was in bloom (like lupins!).

Lupin field in New Zealand

Rent a camper van

Having your own wheels in New Zealand really is a must if you truly want to explore the country and all its epic landscapes. IF you're down for camping in some of New Zealand's natural wilderness, you may want to consider renting a campervan. The bigger ones are great if you're traveling as a couple or with a friend or two. And the bigger, self-contained campers give you to ability to “freedom camp” — basically camp for free on public land.

Smaller camper vans will require you to overnight in an actual campsite, but this can still save you tons of money when it comes to accommodation.

RELATED: DOs and DON'Ts for a New Zealand Road Trip

Road to Mount Cook

Look into rental relocations

If renting a set of wheels isn't quite in your budget, look into doing a relocation (or multiple relocations) of a rental car or campervan. Rental car companies constantly need cars and vans driven from one drop-off location to another, and if you are willing to help them out, they basically give you the rental for free.

Popular relocation routes include ones between Auckland and Christchurch, and Christchurch and Queenstown. Most of the time these rentals cost about $1 per day and often come with one free tank of gas. And, if you need to get the car from one island to the other, the company usually throws in a ferry ticket, too.

This isn't the best option if you want a nice leisurely road trip (Christchurch to Auckland transfers, for example, usually have to be completed within 4 or 5 days), but it IS a really cheap way to get from one place to another while still getting to see the scenery along the way.

Good sites to check out include Jucy Rentals' relocation page, Transfercar, and Thrifty's relocation page.

Waiheke Island road

Take the bus

If driving in New Zealand is not on your to-do list, then I highly recommend taking a bus. Yes, bus rides in New Zealand can be long (allow at least 8 hours to get from Queenstown to Christchurch, for example), but they are comfortable and affordable. Nakedbus often offers $1 fares if you book far enough in advance, as does InterCity. Even if you book last-minute, though, you can often find long-distance bus tickets for $30-$50 — way cheaper than flying.

And I actually LIKE riding buses in New Zealand because it allows you to enjoy the scenery without having to worry about driving yourself.

Lupins at Lake Tekapo
A bus trip from Queenstown to Christchurch, for example, includes a lunch stop here at Lake Tekapo.

Use Airbnb

I used to recommend staying in hostels as a way to save money on accommodation in New Zealand. And they ARE a great way to save money, don't get me wrong. But I've outgrown my hostel days, and now try to find other alternatives to pricey hotels.

My booking site of choice? Airbnb. Whether you're looking for an entire flat or just a room to rent out, you'll find plenty of great options on Airbnb. On my most recent trip to New Zealand, I booked a room in a lovely house in Auckland for 4 days. My host was very friendly, I got to meet some other travelers staying there, and the room came with free breakfast and wifi! And it only cost me $65 NZD per night (as opposed to double or triple that at a hotel nearby).

(And, PS, I want to give you some free credit to use toward your first Airbnb rental!)

Airbnb in Auckland
My bright, comfortable Airbnb room in Auckland.

Bookmark Bookme

Lastly, let me tell you about one of my very favorite sites to use to book activities in New Zealand: bookme.co.nz. This site offers deals on everything from jet boat rides to cocktails at the Ice Bar to Milford Sound cruises. I got great deals on a bungee jump and a seal swim on my last trip to New Zealand by using Bookme.

The site defaults to the Queenstown region because you can usually find the best deals there. But you can change the region at the top of the page, so don't forget to look for deals in other parts of New Zealand, too.

The Remarkables in Queenstown, New Zealand

What to Pack for New Zealand

There are definitely a few things you'll want to make sure to bring in order to help you check off these bucket list items. Things like:

And, even though it’s not a tangible item, I also always recommend packing a good travel insurance policy! That way everything from lost luggage to a bad accident is covered – because you just never know! I recommend World Nomads for basic (and really affordable) travel insurance.

Check out more of my New Zealand packing tips here!


Do you have any other tips for how to save money in New Zealand?


"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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57 Comments on “6 Ways to Save Money While Traveling in New Zealand

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  1. Miss Our time in NZ! We did a relocation witha campervan for 15 days for 1 $ a day!!!

    New Zealand does get free wifi. I know because I live here. I totally get the point of posting an article on how to save money, hell, that’s why I’m here. It’s the way you’ve presented which made me want to place a comment. The article really does sound whinging more than anything. We’re not only an relatively isolated country, we’re also not sporting a high population. Try having some respect for a nation, even if it doesn’t meet your every need. See it as an opportunity to do something a bit different, not a nation that is lacking.

      I’m not sure you even read this post past that sentence, because this post is full of tips that I’ve used on multiple trips to NZ to save a little bit of money – no whining, as I’ve actually lived in NZ and have traveled there a lot. Free wifi is more widespread now than it was when this post was written (which was back in 2015), but it’s still not comparable to what you will find in other countries. Just trying to keep it real!

    Certainly helpful advice, thanks so much . Looking forward to my NZ trip in October.

    Thanks for suggesting self-contained campers. Most of us Kiwis are happy to share our beautiful country with people from overseas but we don’t like it when people poo on our roadsides or anywhere else that isn’t a toilet! Thanks for respecting our land and encouraging people to keep it in a great state for everyone else to enjoy too. Lots of us travel and and on a budget too so we do understand. My tip is talk to us – most Kiwis are laid back, friendly and willing to give you great advice if we can.

      I’m all about trying to make as small a negative impact on the places I visit as possible. I have a whole post about campervanning in New Zealand, and I definitely stress the need to camp responsibly!

    Great tips and I feel much better about going to New Zealand in MAY next month after I have read your post. I hope I get to see some beautiful colors.

      New Zealand is beautiful any time of year!

    Hi Amanda,

    Which area/ street would you recommend while choosing airbnb in auckland. Is auckland ideal fir shopping? Then should we be close to poison by. I found airbnb there expensive.

    If i will spend time travelling to main cjty shops etc by taking a place far awawwouldn’t it be a waste.

      Auckland is a pretty big city (the largest in New Zealand, in fact!), and I’m afraid I don’t know it well enough to recommend a specific street to stay on. There is shopping downtown, but I don’t know that you’ll find a good Airbnb right in the CBD. Auckland has a decent bus network, though, so you should still be able to get around regardless of where you stay.

    Hi Amanda, rentalcarrelocation.co.nz might be worth adding to your list, they have a great list of people who offer rental cars and campers!

      Thanks for the suggestion, Jack! I’ll have to check that one out, too.

    Great list. I spent 6 months traveling with my wife and we saw almost all we needed to see. You name it we have done it and yes it was my favorite place before we went. For us things got too complicated with the cost of living, renting cars and cost of apartments and food. It’s good to take buses but they do not go everywhere sometimes a car is essential. Worst thing that happened to us that we got our money stiles with credit cards and we had a hard time with it. We spent most of our nights while traveling in hostels and they were surprisingly clean and cheap.

      Yes, sometimes a car is essential, especially if you want to see it ALL. Hopefully you still love New Zealand, though!

    Thank you for the tips.They are very helpful.I wonder what I can do to rent a camper van. Does it need to book online? And would you please give me one or two websites about camper vans? Thank you so much.

      Hi Tina! Yes, you can book a camper van online. The most popular rental sites in New Zealand are Jucy, Spaceships, and Maui Campervans, but you can also rent from Britz, Wicked Campers, and more – just Google “camper van New Zealand” and you’ll find lots of options! Some are more expensive than others, depending on the kind of camper you want.

    Just found this post in my bookmarks again and I think I just stayed at the same AirBnB – will go back in December before leaving NZ 🙂
    Very helpful tips, thank you!

      That’s awesome! That was such a great AirBnB spot. 🙂

    I just recently studied abroad in NZ for 2 weeks, and I fell in love. I was very disappointed that mostly everything there is really expensive. One thing I did that helped a little was wait to buy souvenirs until we got to the south island. A lot of the prices drop once you go south.

      Yeah, it’s definitely not a cheap country! Good tip about waiting to shop – the South Island definitely CAN be less expensive (as long as you don’t do all your shopping in Queenstown).

    Haha I live in New Zealand and love hearing about peoples travel experiences here 🙂

      I feel the same about the US! 😉

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