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New Zealand On A Budget – How I Spent $2600 in 3 Weeks!

By 1 December 2016 October 5th, 2021 52 Comments

If you’ve stumbled on to my travel blog looking for a way to travel New Zealand on a budget, you’re in for a treat.

This article is for the travellers who are looking to travel New Zealand free and easy yet on a budget.

If you’re looking for a way to travel New Zealand cheap, make sure you get your pen and paper and bookmark this article, because I’m about to provide you a whole lot of details about how much a trip to New Zealand may cost and how to bring your New Zealand trip cost to a minimum.

Whether you want to backpack around New Zealand or do a free-and-easy road trip in New Zealand, this article offers practical information and detailed cost breakdown to help in your New Zealand trip planning.

“Is New Zealand expensive to visit?”

“How much does a trip to New Zealand cost?”

“How expensive is New Zealand, really?”

New Zealand is high on everyone’s bucket list because of the gorgeous scenery, the astounding hikes, the adrenaline activities, yet the seemingly high New Zealand vacation costs put many off.

Together with 3 others, I visited New Zealand’s North and South Island in May 2016 for 20 days as part of our graduation road trip. I was surprised at how little we spent in the 20 days we spent there!

I later went back to New Zealand in November 2017 for the Queenstown Marathon as part of a press trip, and subsequently stayed for 6 months on a working holiday program. That’s how much this country fascinated me!

I love it so much I regard New Zealand as my second home, and it is my goal that you fall in love with this country the same way I did through my New Zealand travel blog articles.

Through living in New Zealand for half a year, I’ve learned that it is actually possible to travel to New Zealand on a budget!

Hopefully you’ll be able to leave this article with some New Zealand travel tips to help you make your New Zealand holiday more affordable!

New Zealand Trip Cost – Budget Breakdown

Want to travel travel new zealand on a budget? This post tells you how it's done! From cheap car rental to affordable accommodation, find the exact cost to travel to #NZ and more #newzealand travel tips!

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How much a New Zealand trip will cost really depends on the time you visit New Zealand.

Nobody could believe me when I said I spent less than NZD 15/day for food, lived on NZD 20/day in hostels or that I rented a campervan for NZD 50/day for 4 of us when we did our trip to New Zealand!

Flying was also less than SGD 400 one way from Singapore to New Zealand. Unbelievable? It’s true, I booked with budget airline Jetstar!

This brought my entire 20-day New Zealand budget trip to SGD 2565/ NZD 2700.

We still had a whale of a time visiting the classic New Zealand spots such as Hobbiton, and surely we couldn’t miss some of New Zealand’s adventure attractions, like blackwater rafting or Fox Glacier hike? 😉

(SGD 1: NZD 0.95)

Here’s a cost breakdown according to how much we spent in each island:

Total cost in the North Island

Total expenditure for 7 days: NZD 623 (NZD 89/day)

Total cost in the South Island

Total expenditure for 10 days (with campervan): NZD 535 (NZD 54/day)

Total expenditure for 6 days (without campervan): NZD 472 (NZD 79/day)

Below I share a breakdown of our trip according to transport, food, accommodation, attractions and living expenses so you can get an idea of what the typical cost of living in New Zealand is.

Best time to go to New Zealand

new zealand lupinsThe cheapest time to visit New Zealand is during their winter off-peak season, which occurs in the middle of the year.

Visiting New Zealand during this period also means that you can find cheap accommodation and cheap car rentals all around New Zealand!

A. Flights to New Zealand

air new zealand flight view from plane town

View of New Zealand from plane

We started planning our trip to New Zealand very early on and monitoring flight prices from Singapore to New Zealand.

I’d like to think that we manage to find one of the cheapest ways to get to New Zealand. It might be something you could consider doing if you’re trying to backpack New Zealand and don’t mind flying budget and not flying direct.

Our flights stopped by Australia, which gave us a perfect excuse to stop in Australia and fit in a couple more days of holiday!

Here’s how much I spent taking budget airlines from Singapore to New Zealand:

Category Details  Amt (SGD)  Amt (NZD)
Transport-Flight SG – Auckland Jetstar +15kg  $399.06  
Transport-Flight Wellington-Christchurch Jetstar +10kg  $58.79  
Transport-Flight Christchurch – Melbourne Jetstar +15kg  $176.66  $182.00
Transport-Flight Melbourne – SG Jetstar +15kg  $303.62  292 AUD

Total for return flights: SGD 938.13

B. Getting around New Zealand

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With our trusty campervan in New Zealand!

The best way to travel around New Zealand is undoubtedly with a car. There are plenty of car rentals in New Zealand, and you can undoubtedly get cheap car rentals in New Zealand when you travel during the off-peak period.

Don’t get me wrong – car rentals in New Zealand are not always the cheapest. We got a really good deal because we went during the off-peak period in May just when it was starting to get colder.

Besides, a New Zealand road trip is the ultimate way of enjoying the spectacular nature views!

That said, we did get around by public transport at some point during our New Zealand trip. You can get an overall sense of how much it costs to rent a car, a campervan and if you went by the public bus below.

Transport in the North Island

Getting around by bus: NZD 150

Transport in the South Island

Campervan rental: NZD 500 (NZD 50 per day)
Petrol: NZD 550 for 272L, 1623km

Car rental in Christchurch: NZD 395 (NZD 79 per day)
Petrol: NZD 62.39, 31.37L
Parking in Christchurch: NZD 2.50 all day

Read: Driving In New Zealand The First Time?

C. Accommodation in New Zealand

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As I’ve mentioned earlier, travelling during off season offers a lot of chance for travelling New Zealand on a budget.This includes cheap accommodation all around New Zealand! It’s an important consideration as it brings down the cost of living in New Zealand by a lot.

Just look at how much we spent living off hostels around the country:

Accommodation in the North Island

Location Category Details  Amt (SGD)  Amt (NZD)
Rotorua Accom Rock Solid Backpackers Rotorua  $17.10  $18.00
Lake Taupo Accom Haka Lodge @ Lake Taupo  $24.70  $26.00
Hamilton Accom Backpackers Central @ Hamilton  $20.90  $22.00

Average per night: NZD 22

Check prices on HotelsCombined, Agoda and Booking.com.

Accommodation in the South Island

Location Category Details  Amt (SGD)  Amt (NZD)
Fox Glacier Accom Ivory Towers hostel  $24.70  $26.00
Haast Accom Non powered site  $11.40  $12.00
Te Anau Accom Te Anau Kiwi Holiday Park  $19.95  $21.00
Queenstown Accom Motorhome powered campervan site  $19.00  $20.00
Lake Tekapo Accom Holiday Park Non powered site  $17.10  $18.00
Christchurch Accom Airbnb 3 + 2 nights  $82.25  $86.60

Average per night (with campervan): NZD 19

While we slept in the campervan, we still had to pay a small fee for parking at camp sites.

Average per night (without campervan): NZD 17

As a rule of thumb (if you’re not staying in a campervan), the cheapest accommodation options are hostels and Holiday Parks. In general, even the cheapest hostels in New Zealand are decent – clean, spacious, with enough privacy and with a kitchen.

You can also check out Agoda and Booking.com as there are sometimes the best deals on the website.

If you’re travelling in a group (more than 2), you might want to consider Airbnb as it might be more cost-effective to rent a whole place than to book 2 rooms.

Here are other ways to save on accommodation.

D. Cost of living in New Zealand


NZD 4 per load


MSIG TravellerShield: SGD 78.50

The above is a Singapore insurance. If you’re not from Singapore, I’d recommend World Nomads, an established travel insurance for anyone from any part of the world. They have really comprehensive coverage as well as good service, so you’ll see many others recommending them as well.

Get your quote here:



fergburger, queenstown, new zealand, new zealand on a budget, new zealand trip cost, new zealand expensive, cost to travel to new zealand

Chomping down Fergburger was first on our list when we visited Queenstown!

New Zealand food prices are generally quite expensive if you eat out. If you don’t and cook your own meals instead, you can set yourself up for about NZD 3 to NZD 5.

Restaurants in NZ: ~ NZD 11

The cheapest food you can find would probably in fast food restaurants.

  • McDonald’s Sausage Egg McMuffin: NZD 4.90
  • Subway’s Meatball Sub: NZD 4.50

You can keep your food costs down by shopping in supermarkets such as Pak’n’Save, which would bring cost to ~ NZD 5 per meal.

Below is a breakdown of how much I paid travelling the North island and South island respectively.

North Island

NZD 13 per day

South Island

NZD 14.50 per day

This includes the occasional splurge on Fergburger, but most of our food were home-cooked since we were living in the campervan.

E. Attractions in New Zealand

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What’s New Zealand if we don’t splurge a little and discover the classic New Zealand attractions like Hobbiton, experience hot springs of the North or go on a little glacier tour? Better yet, see the glacier from up above with a helicopter! Would you say you’ve been to New Zealand if you don’t bring home some Manuka honey?

For ideas on where to go in New Zealand, you can check out the activities that we booked ourselves on. Further, here are my other articles for what to do in the North and South Islands:

Here’s a breakdown of the cost of some of the attractions that we did in New Zealand.

North Island

Location Category Details  Amt (SGD)  Amt (NZD)
 Matamata Tour Hobbiton  $76.75  
Matamata Tour Baggage deposit @ iSite  $4.75  $5.00
Waitomo Tour Blackwater Rafting  $-  *  $-
Rotorua Tour Maori Whakarewarewa tour  $-  *  $-
Rotorua Tour Zorb 350m @ Ogo  $47.50  $50.00
Rotorua Tour Polynesian Spa  $25.65  $27.00
Rotorua Tour Locker @ Polynesian Spa  $1.19  $1.25
Taupo Tour Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland  $30.88  $32.50

South Island

Fox Glacier Tour Helihike @ Fox Glacier Guiding Co  $-  *  $-
Queenstown Tour Milford Sound  $8.55  $9.00

*Disclaimer: Tours were provided complimentary in exchange for a review. Read more about my experiences:

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Evidently, a free and easy New Zealand vacation need not cost you much at all. Hitchhiking and Couchsurfing are big in this country as well. This explains why so many people (especially the Germans) like to backpack in New Zealand – it’s the surest way to travel New Zealand cheap!

Fresh out of university, this was our graduation trip. Hence, we set out travelling New Zealand on a budget. We compromised on Wi-Fi on-the-go, expensive food and comfortable lodging. That being said, we wanted to maximise our experiences, which called for splurging on some attractions. Learning about the Maori culture and hiking on ice at Fox Glacier are some of the most eye-opening experiences that were worth every dime.

There really are plenty of free things to do in New Zealand as well – the vast nature offers some of the best hiking trails, you can go fishing (or skinny dipping), camping and more.

Part of the reason why flights to New Zealand and car rental in New Zealand were cheaper was also because we travelled during the off-peak periods in May.

If you’re still hesitant about visiting New Zealand, DON’T.

The scenery is to kill for. Driving in New Zealand has never been easier. The adventure activities? You’ve got to try them once in your life!

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Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.


  • Hi! May I know what type/brand of camera did you used? Your photos are awesome!!

  • Lian Xin says:

    Hi there! Awesome posts, really helps a great deal in my planning for my upcoming 19-day trip in May! Do you think it’s possible to stay in a campervan throughout to save on accommodation fees? Is it worth it for two people to rent a campervan?

    • Isabel Leong says:

      Hi Lian Xin, how did you come across this article? I’m happy you found it useful!

      Yes you can stay in a campervan throughout, and it will be more spacious for 2 as compared to squeezing with 4 (although it’s suitable for 4 people for this size). The only time you need to check in at accommodations is probably when you need to borrow their facilities to cook and shower, which doesn’t cost you more than a few dollars.

      • Lian Xin says:

        Hi Isabel, many thanks for the swift response. I came across your blog via Google and I’m hooked! I’m a fellow Singaporean and it’s always nice to read reviews coming from another fellow Singaporean’s POV! One more thing, does the campervan consume more fuel as compared to a normal car? If we are doing a round trip around South Island, how much would you estimate our fuel costs to be?

        • Isabel Leong says:

          Hi Lian Xin,

          That’s just me being excited for your own road trip! Thank you for your kind words – it really makes my day even sweeter. (Happy V’day to you!)

          The campervan runs on Diesel, so fuel is not as efficient as a regular car. Also, don’t forget the campervan’s weight relative to a regular one. I did a road trip on the South Island as well, and mentioned in my post that it costed us NZD 550 for 272L, 1623km. You can roughly work out the cost per km and calculate your total distance and multiply accordingly. I also have a post on driving in NZ. Hope that helps!

  • Sounds like a really fun trip and it’s great you managed to do it so cheaply! We flew Jetstar internationally a few times and they are ok. It’s not our favourite airline but it’s great when the cost is cheap! Thanks for sharing all those cost details, very helpful!

  • Rhonda Albom says:

    Impressive. I live in New Zealand, and I can tell you, you did great. My vegetarian teen daughter just moved to Auckland for University and she spends about $50 each week on food. It looks like you enjoyed yourselves. And, I think that was a great price for zorb.

  • aneesharai says:

    This is just amazing! Bookmarking this, and tweeted as well. Great job budgeting, and the map is super useful.

  • Only By Land says:

    Wow, you guys budgeted really well for New Zealand. $2600 SGD is incredibly cheap for nearly 3 weeks. I wish I could have organized to be part of your trip! A lot of people are put off New Zealand by the high prices but you just proved them all wrong!

  • It looks like you were able to see and do a lot on that budget! I’d heard NZ is expensive and it looks like what I heard was correct. I would still love to go.

  • Carola says:

    Thank you for this comprehensive break-down. It certainly makes budgeting easier…
    I have to say that is still not cheap as a whole. Though, it seems like you can save a ton renting a camper van as a small group and moving/eating/sleeping in there during your stay.

    Thank you & happy continued travels!

  • mappingmegan says:

    $2600 for 20 days is really impressive – Australia and NZ are two of the more expensive regions in the world, so I’ve always found it difficult staying to a budget here! I haven’t managed to get to NZ (apart from 2 days in Auckland which isn’t really traveling the country), but am more convinced to bring it forward now that I know it’s possible to not spend a fortune 🙂

  • CHLOE LIN says:

    This is totally amazing! NZ has always been in my bucketlist but I’m always to reluctant to go as it will burn a hole in my wallet. Now you’ve inspired me!

  • Ahh, the good thing about being from Norway. Almost every country I go to seems cheap, so far I have only found Iceland to be more expensive. Your budget and expenditure of the trip is impressive. I wish I was better at saving money on my travels sometimes. I always blow my budget and have to live on almost nothing when I return home 🙂

  • Danik says:

    Great insight on what to expect when budgeting in NZ. It has put me off about the prices, but now you write it like this, I might be able to do this on this sort of budget. 🙂

  • Such a detailed post on New Zealand. It is really helpful for all of us. Further your photographs are awesome and seems you had lot of fun 🙂

  • rhiydwi says:

    $2700NZD including flights is insanely good! And reading your post it doesn’t even seem as if you held back much, which is always a plus. I’d love to go to NZ some day but would likely have to budget a little more only because flights from UK would be more costly!

  • Awesome job!! I’m totally impressed with how little you spent. New Zealand’s been on my list for quite some time. I’ll have to seriously consider renting a camper like you did. The cost savings is a huge draw. Good for you to pay for the things you really wanted to do. Otherwise you’ll regret it.

  • Cat says:

    Great job controlling your cost for 20 days in New Zealand! Thanks for detailing how much you spent on the tours and activities – that is very helpful. If I live in Asia, I would totally love to visit!

  • Kathy - Walkabout Wanderer says:

    What a great trip. Sometimes the expense of a camper van is so worth it. You get your transport and accommodation in one although I do get that you have to pay for your pitch. I have sometimes avoided the more expensive countries as I thought I could not travel on a reasonable budget. I am yet to go to NZ for this reason. Thank for your breakdown as now I believe I can travel their on my type of budget.
    Sounds like you had an amazing time 🙂

  • Nancy says:

    What an amazing deal! I live in Canada so flights are at least $1500. Many items are reasonable though even with the CDN/NZD exchange change rate.

  • Jean says:

    Wow great job with the budgeting! Living in Australia we can get the same cheap flights but I’d be spending way more on the amazing NZ wine. Probably as much or more then what you’d budgeted for your daily food.

  • Michaela Harrison says:

    Loved New Zealand thank you for sharing and reminding me of wonderful memories

  • travelwith2ofus says:

    Seems like visiting New Zealand is actually affordable after all. You got to do so many things for the 2700. I like that fact that it was quality activities as well. Campervan wasn’t that expensive either. Love how you gave details of every cent you spent.

  • What an amazing trip! I love the camper van idea for the long trips so you can eat and sleep which are the biggest expense – I guess the price of renting the van pays off in the long run for sure! Great list to help anyone traveling budget and see where to cut costs!

  • Like Australia New Zealand is high on my to go to list. I really wonder if 2600 would really work for me coming from Canafa lol. Great post though, very detailed and the pictures are fantastic too.

  • Ha @ Expatolife says:

    Your trip is amazing! I love how detailed your post is! New Zealand is one of my dream land and I hope to visit it soon.

  • Jen Joslin says:

    I loved this post! You’re exactly right, the cost is what has put me off from going to New Zealand as I had always heard how expensive it is. Thanks for sharing how you traveled there on a budget and breaking down your expenses. Super helpful!

  • Janine Good says:

    Wow this breakdown truly surprised me! I went to Queenstown for a WEEK and spent more than you did :/ but we were in Queenstwon where if you want to do anything adventurous the cost is through the roof. I love the Fergburger! We were lucky and only waited 15 mins for our meal 🙂

  • The breakdown of your budget trip has amazed me. You have really done a lot of thoughtful research and hence you saved so much without compromising on the travel experience. I am going to bookmark this and follow your footsteps through New Zealand.

  • galanda23 says:

    Thank you for posting this breakdown of your expenses. It seems to me you did pretty good if you’ve only spent $2,600 in 20 days and you still enjoyed yourself. I have to confess that I don’t like to nickel-and-dime myself when I go on vacation, but sometimes you have to do it if you want to travel more.

  • Tracy Chong says:

    Aa…reading your post makes me want to go back there to NZ! Haha..

  • Thanks for this illuminating article; I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but I would love to try travelling around NZ with a camper van like you guys!

    It’s actually not as expensive as one would imagine, and thanks for your tips!

    Keep up the great work 🙂

  • Ying Ying says:

    Hello there! Thanks for the really informative post! As I’m planning a trip to NZ in early-mid May, just wanted to find out if it is worth going? I’ve read some reviews on TripAdvisor saying May is not the best time to visit 🙁

  • uma says:

    Hi.. can i know more about, what do you mean by the tours were complimentary for an exchange of a review?

    can you explain?

  • Isabel Leong says:

    Hi Ying Ying, be prepared for lots of rain and little sunshine. It does get to almost 0 degrees come night, and days are short. On the bright side, tours and accom are much cheaper, and you still get to experience the beauty of NZ’s landscapes. 🙂 Let me know if you do decide to go this year! I’m still here at the moment!

  • Isabel Leong says:

    Hi Uma, they gave me a complimentary trip in exchange for a writing a review on my blog.

    • Uma says:

      Hi.. so they know you are a blogger?
      Cos i have started writting blogs as well..
      so is it possible to get free trips too? If i do agree to write in my blog?

      • Isabel Leong says:

        Hi Uma, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There’s a lot of work that goes into making a blog proper and credible before any brands agrees to work with you.

  • Wen Chuan says:

    Hello! Thanks for sharing such a comprehensive breakdown of your NZ trip. Really helps me a lot in planning for my graduation trip as well. I see that you rented a campervan from Jucy and by any chance, is it Jucy Condo? Coz I’m thinking of renting that from them as well but I’m not sure whether my driving license permits me to drive a campervan since I can’t find any information of its unladen weight on their website. Can I know what type of driving license were you using when you rent the campervan? Based on your video, you also went to Milford Sound right? Is there any problem driving there coz I came across comments from some forums about frequent road closure due to ice, snow and risk of avalanches during the winter season?

    • Isabel Leong says:

      Oh you’re going to have such an amazing time in NZ! Yes I rented a Jucy Condo. It’s the Singapore car driving license we used, which is international. 🙂 Milford Sound is worth a drive! It’s only classed as more dangerous because of slopes and sharp bends. As long as you’re careful, it’s fine. 🙂

  • Isabel Leong says:

    It will rain pretty often in May. Won’t be the best weather-wise, but everything is much cheaper during this season. Also, you’ll be seeing much more snow-covered mountain peaks!

  • sindhu says:

    its a great blog to read and get inspired
    Could you please share day-to-day itinerary of your trip ?


  • Dominic says:

    Hi, thanks for sharing such a comprehensive breakdown of your NZ trip. May I know where do you exchange the NZD? How about the currency rate with SGD? Thanks.

  • Terra says:

    May I know which tour did you go to when you’re in Milford Sound? Did you take the cruise? I’m intrigued that you listed you only spent less than $10 for touring in MS. My trip is coming up, and I’m in the midst of planning out my day trip outside Queenstown 🙂

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  • Awesome post, it helped me a lot when I was my own trip to New Zealand! Safe travels, Isabel!

  • Great article. New Zealand is a must see destination. Lots of good times.

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