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How to budget for backpacking New Zealand

So you’re planning your backpacking adventure through New Zealand, and you’re wondering how to go about budgeting for New Zealand?

That way you can know exactly how much to save for your trip and then it reduces the anxiety about ‘running out of money’. Totally understandable.

If you’re wondering how to start mapping it out and budgeting for New Zealand, you’re in the right place.

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The truth is though, it’s very hard to tell you exactly how much you’ll spend a day.

It depends on SO many things.

For example…

  • your eating habits
  • how much you like to go out drinking
  • whether you smoke
  • whether you’re a souvenir buyer
  • what kind of activities you’re interested in doing
  • whether you consider WiFi or phone data a necessity
  • whether you’re generous with your money (i.e. buying rounds at the bar)

All of the above will vary your spending quite significantly if you let it, its hard to be exact when budgeting for New Zealand.

For example… When I embarked on my first backpacking trip, my travel partner, who I spent every day with, spent nearly £1000 more than me in 9 weeks. She smoked, she drunk a bit more, lost a couple of phones and… I don’t actually know where the rest went. But the point is… every little thing can really can start to add up.

Whilst I can’t be exact on what money you’ll spend, I can give you a guide and an indication as to how much you may spend on different things and what’s on offer. This way you can calculate an estimate budget for New Zealand for yourself.

Here’s how to budget for backpacking in New Zealand…

Before you fly to New Zealand, you need to pay for…

  • Visa

Free for UK residents but fees for other nationalities may apply.

  • Jabs

You don’t need anything particular in NZ, but if NZ is part of a bigger trip that includes the likes of SE Asia, then you may need to see the nurse before you depart to get necessary jabs.

  • Flights

Obvious, but you gotta get there, hey. Walking just isn’t an option for this one.

  • Travel Insurance

Never travel without it!

When you get to New Zealand you need to pay for…

  • Transport
  • Hop on Hop Off Bus

The most popular way to get around New Zealand for backpackers is one of the hop on hop off bus companies. I recommend taking a look at Kiwi Experience and another becoming increasingly popular – Stray. Both offer routes around the whole of New Zealand with a fully trained bus driver/tour guide to add to the experience. Check out my guide to Kiwi Experience here.

These tours are perfect for solo travellers as you are guaranteed people to travel with, they cover all the main spots and you can just sit back and relax in the knowledge that all the hard work has been done for you.

You’ll need to add the pass cost to your budget for New Zealand.

How To Save Money When Travelling New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog

Money saving advantage of hop on hop off buses: If you book onto a bus tour as opposed to using public transport or car hire, you will save (via group bookings the bus does with the passengers on board) on pretty much all hostels and activities. This can be anything from $2-15 dollars a pop.

  • Cars

If you’re looking to drive yourself around but still stay in hostels, hiring a car is a good option. Prices range from season to season and start (in low season) at $45 a day inc. insurance, and can go up to and even over $80 a day inc. insurance (peak season).

  • Campervans

Another great self-driving option, with the added bonus that you sleep in the van and save money on accommodation. Prices range from season to season (quite dramatically), but generally lie between $90-200 per day.

Check out my guide to hiring a camper van in Australia and New Zealand here.

Money saving tip for self-driving options: Book as soon as you know your dates to get the best price. Last minute bookings, particularly in peak season (Nov-March) can be very costly and eat into your budget.


  • Accommodation

Hostel bed in a dorm for 1 night: $20-40

Money saving tips:
– Book ahead whenever you can, particularly for travel during peak times (Nov-March). Prices can rise within this period and availability can be low/non-existent if you leave it til last minute.
– Most hostels have free WiFi now, but if not, find a Starbucks or Woolworths Supermarket to log on for free!

A Guide To Budgeting When Backpacking New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog
  • Drinks


  • Spirit and mixer: $7-10
  • Beer or wine: $6-8

Happy hours and backpacker bars usually do $5 deals for a house beer, glass of wine or house spirit + mixer.

Money saving tip: Tap water in New Zealand is perfectly okay to drink so take a water bottle and refill it on your travels to save buying bottles of water everywhere! Shop my reusable water bottle here.

A Guide To Budgeting When Backpacking New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog
  • Food

Whilst food isn’t New Zealand’s most iconic tourist pull, there are still an abundance of amazing restaurants and pop ups to try as you make your way around the land of the long white cloud.

It’s not cheap to eat out, but having said that, when budgeting for New Zealand there are definitely some deals to be found eating out on the town and I’m sure at some point you’ll be treating yourself.

Here’s an idea of what you’ll spend eating out in New Zealand:

  • A meal out in a restaurant or chain: $8-14
    • Pita Pit Wrap $13.50
    • Ferg Burger in Queenstown $11.50-19
    • Dominoes deals $7-10+
    • Lunchtime meal deals: $7-10
A Guide To Budgeting When Backpacking New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog

Money saving tip: Some hostels provide free breakfasts which are usually toast with jams or basic cereals with coffee or tea. Some hostels provide dinner free (only came across a few), others will have a cheap dinner menu designed for backpackers ($5-7) and some will simply offer coupons for discounts at local restaurants.

Your cheapest option, as a backpacker when budgeting for New Zealand, is to do a big supermarket shop and cook your own food up.

Weekly food shop cost: approx $80 for a basic shop, depending on what you like to eat.

To give you an idea of prices, here are some things that I bought on my food shop in New Zealand:

  • Bread: $2-4 a loaf
  • Cereal: $3-9 a box
  • Brand own baked beans: $1.00
  • Cheese (500g block): $7-9
  • Crisps (sharing bags): $2-3
  • 12 eggs: $4-5
  • Soup bag/can: $4
  • Orange Juice (1 litre) – $3.50-5
  • Carrots: $3/kg (I paid $1.40 for two)
  • Peanut butter: $2.50-6
  • Chorizo: $3-5/100g
  • Tomatoes: $3.50-15/kg (I paid $1 for 2 big tomatoes, the cheapest ones to buy!)
  • Cranberries: $2.50-5/150g packet

Prices updated in April 2020 from

A Guide To Budgeting When Backpacking New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog
  • Activities

THIS is where to place your budget for New Zealand. Eat and sleep cheap and save for the adventure.

New Zealand has enough adventure to entertain you until the cows come home. In fact Queenstown (South Island) is the adrenaline capital of the world. From bungee jumps, black water rafting and glacier adventures to zorbing, Lord Of The Rings Tours and sky dives, NZ has it all.

These activities do come with a price tag, some of which will set you back a fair amount. But saying that, if you’ve made the effort and spent the money venturing to this side of the world, you’ve got to do them.

Make sure you don’t look back and think, ‘Damn, I should have just done it.’

For most people, trips to NZ don’t come around often and your adventure will be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so make the most of it whilst also budgeting for New Zealand.

Examples of prices for some popular activities:

  • $279 Skydive over Lake Taupo (12,000ft).
  • $275 Nevis Bungy
  • $40-50 Tongariro Crossing transfer
  • $60 Te Puia Springs Roturua, day experience
  • $485 Franz Joseph Glacier helicopter flight & guided hike
  • $130 Tamaki Maori Village concert and dinner
  • $60 Skyline gondola and 3 luge rides
  • $120 Paihia ‘Hole in the rock’ dolphin cruise
  • $150 Kaikoura whale watch

Don’t forget, it’s always cheaper to book online and in advance! It can also be cheaper to book in groups through your hop on hop off bus or your hostel.

Prices updated in April 2020.

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A Guide To Budgeting When Backpacking New Zealand | Where's Mollie? A UK Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog

Money saving tip: There are loads of free walks and hikes ALL OVER New Zealand. If you can only afford a couple of trips, you will still have beauty in abundance at your fingertips. Check out 8 hikes you must do in Queenstown here.


To summarise, when budgeting for New Zealand…

Base daily budget for New Zealand = $70

  • $30 average hostel night
  • $3-4 dollar egg based breakfast
  • Lunch $4-6 (average between eating at hostel and meal deal out)
  • Dinner $8 (average between eating in and eating out)
  • $20 flexibility (drinks, ice cream, smoothies, a meal out etc.)

+ activities, transport, flights, insurance, visas etc. as additional costs.

Check out more ways to save money in New Zealand in this blog post!


Have you been to New Zealand?

How much did were you budgeting for New Zealand? I’d love to know!

Love as always and happy adventuring,


How to budget for backpacking New Zealand
How to budget for backpacking New Zealand




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