Travel Costs: 1 Month in New Zealand

Find out how much we spent in New Zealand in 28 days.

New Zealand is our first stop on our round-the-world adventure back in January 2012. It rained on us. In fact, of the 28 days we’ve spent driving from North Island to South Island, we averaged just a handful of clear and sunny skies. The rest were slightly cloudy, mostly dreary and just plain awful. But despite the rain, we had a wonderful time.

NewZealand_map (1)

Going into this, we knew New Zealand would be a big chunk of our round-the-world budget. We were prepared for the steep cost but neglected to take into account the exchange rate. We didn’t splurge by any means, ate out occasionally for lunch but cooked most our dinners.

New Zealand’s Travel Costs

Just how well did we fair out — here is our New Zealand expense breakdown:


Total # of Days Daily / person
$5,961 28 $106.45 USD

By Category

Accomo Transport Gas Food & Drink Activities Misc








Accommodations: We spent most of our time in hostels and opted for a private double instead of bunking it with strangers. We used Airbnb for the first time in Wellington and Blenheim. Slept on a boat in Bay of Islands and couchsurfed in Queenstown. We also stayed in jail.. converted into a hostel in Christchurch.

Transport: We decided not to go the campervan route and went with a rental car. Most of our journey would be on the road and we just couldn’t bare the thought of living out of a car too. We rented two cars while in New Zealand, one for the North Island and one for the South to avoid the big ferry transfer cost.

Food: New Zealand doesn’t exactly have a “National” dish other than maybe meat pies, I guess. We ate various things, mostly fast food like fish ‘n chips and burgers. Most days we’d split Subway meals and cook our own dinner. Groceries are not cheap. Eggs & toast for breakfast, and pasta and stir fry with instant rice and/or noodles for dinner were easy and quick to make and cost efficient.

Activities: $60 to visit Hobbiton, $275 to bungy jump the Nevis and another $188 NZD to cruise the Bay of Islands. Riding the Shotover Jet in Queenstown, wine tasting in Marlborough and zorbing in Rotorua. New Zealand is where we said we’d explore the extreme outdoors and that’s exactly what we did.


Duration: 28 days total: Auckland (2) – Paihia (3) – Waitomo (1) – Rotorua (3) – Wellington (3) – Blenheim (5) – Franz Josef (2) – Wanaka (2) – Queenstown (5) – Christchurch (2)

Distance traveled: 3,146 km / 1,995 mi

Sick days: G- 0, Q- 7

Photos taken: 2,597

Beds slept in: 17  – 1 queen, 5 double beds, 8 bunk beds, 2 couches, 1 boat and 1 jail

Slices of toast eaten: 48

Jucy campervan rental spotted while driving: 67

Wine by the glass35 (We went tasting!)

Additional Facts

Best city: Queenstown. Queenstown reminds me of a ski resort. Surrounded by the Magnificent mountains and overlooking Lake Wakatipu, it’s truly a beautiful town with lots to offer. There’s plenty to do in QT from weekend markets to an awesome nightlife, and more importantly, outdoor extreme activities synonymous with New Zealand such as sky-diving, luging and bungy jumping to name a few.

Worst city: Waitomo. You can hardly call it a town. Maybe a hamlet. Our least favorite hostel of our entire NZ stay. Food was limited & mediocre at best. The only highlight of our Waitomo stay is our visit to the glowworm caves. Get in and get out.

Most valuable item we brought: Our GPS navigation. Spent the entire month road trippin’ from North Island to South Island and “Jane” never got lost once. Confused a couple of times due to new road work but never completely lost.

Favorite part about New Zealand: The drive. The drive was so beautiful, lush and serene, we forget some times we had 7+ hour drive. Distracted by funny road signs and the million sheep!


Must see tourist attraction: Hobbiton. This is for all you Lord of the Rings fan.

Most overhyped tourist attraction: Milford Sounds. Maybe it’s because we went on dreary day and were unable to see Mitre Peak, but I thought the cruise itself was lackluster and just plain boring. The drive to Milford Sounds is better than the cruise because of the sights along the way.

Best new experience: Glacier hiking in Franz Josef.


Biggest surprise: That we’re adrenaline junkies. We went bungy jumping, glacier hiking, luging and zorbing!

Best deal: Water! You can drink the tap.

Biggest rip off: Internet. $5 NZD for 1 hour at most hostels. You even have to pay for internet use at cafes and Starbucks! Ridiculous. The crazy part, you can get free WiFi at Mc Donald’s of all places.

What drove me nuts: One lane bridges

Best meal: Chakh Chaka Chakh chicken curry from Maharaja India restaurant in Blenheim.


Worst meal/ food: Weetabix. How much milk does it take?! Geez.. and marmite. Ugh.

Things we like: Fergburger, roundabouts, passing lanes, Queenstown, Marlborough wine region, hitch-hiking friendly, Kiwi’s willingness to help, butter chicken, the drive and sheep!

Things we dislike: Hidden freeway toll (we got a ticket), left/ right turns and confusion on who has the right of way, store closing early hours, paying for condiments including salt and pepper, passport required to purchase alcohol and the rainy weather.

Language lesson: Apparently, we’re the ones with the accent. I was once told at a Subway that the American accent is “low and dull”. And, ask to use the toilet because to their point, you don’t rest or bath in there now do you.

Kiwi = locals, what you call a New Zealand resident, capsicum = bell peppers, tomato sauce = ketchup, tramping = hiking, partner = boyfriend/girlfriend, chips = french fries, and my personal favorite.. heaps = tons or lots

Best souvenir: We picked up a hitch-hiker! Didn’t get to keep him though. He wouldn’t fit into our carry-on anyways.

DSC_0005 (3)

OK, so not exactly what we’d planned for in terms of cost, but New Zealand was everything we’d hope for. Such a beautiful country and the people are some of the nicest we’ve ever come across. So New Zealand is not the ideal location for long-term travelers, but then again, we never claimed to be your ordinary backpackers.

If you want to see more fotos from our time in NZ, visit our Facebook page!

How do you think we did for our first month on the road?


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47 Responses to Travel Costs: 1 Month in New Zealand

  1. Frenz September 5, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    hey guys! great article! Very helpfull, since i’m also going to New Zealand this year!
    I was wondering, wen did you travel around? was it this month? Because of the rainy weather….
    again, great story and a even better trip!!

    • Kieu - GQ trippin September 5, 2012 at 9:57 am #

      Hi there! We were in NZ back in January. It was suppose to be the best time to go weather wise, but the weather has been wacky lately. Even Kiwis were surprised by the amount of rain in January. When are you going?

  2. Adventurous Kate September 5, 2012 at 2:03 am #

    What an incredibly useful post! This breaks down NZ better than any post I’ve ever seen. You guys also travel in my style. Shame that you have to pay for Internet everywhere! Thanks for writing this.

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin September 5, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

      Thanks Kate. We were pretty diligent about keeping track of all our expenses and really surprised we remembered half the things we did. But OMG did it feel great once we got to Asia for the free wi-fi alone!

  3. thenorthernist September 5, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    Great post and budgeting breakdown. I think we spent more on accomodation, but less on transport (we bought and resold our van, and slept in it about 3 of the 7 weeks we were there). Funny how weather can shape your experiences; we had an amazing time on Milford Sound and went for the overnight cruise, but our weather sounded more cooperative. Agree with you about the drive though, it was truly stunning. Was Hobbiton that good? Husband’s a big LOTR fan but thought hobbiton sounded like a rip-off. Maybe we’ll check it out next time.

    • Kieu - GQ trippin September 5, 2012 at 10:00 am #

      Exactly! I saw pictures from friends at MS and they had the picture perfect, postcard experience. Shame we didn’t have better weather, but it goes to show, one persons experience shouldn’t dictate another. :) Hobbiton was AWESOME! And I’m not even a huge fan. Definitely made us want to go back and watch all 3 movies. :D

  4. purplekat99 September 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Sorry Waitomo was such a bust. I totally agree that there is nothing there (hell, I drove in from Hamilton for the day) but I did the Black Water Rafting in the caves and it was AMAZING!!!!!! And I LOVED one-lane bridges. I was always amazed on how fast I could read and interpret the signs on who has the right of way. So quaint!
    Otherwise, very glad you had a great time! One of my favorite places, like ever!

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin September 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      o0o. We heard the blackwater rafting was great. We wish we could’ve done that too. But all those awesome NZ activities were blowing our budget. =P

  5. Raul September 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Wow, my experience in Milford Sound was complete opposite. I guess the weather must have really sucked! I really liked the serenity of the cruise, looking at the dolphins swimming around, Mitre Peak, and the sun’s reflection. I like all the stats you kept track of.

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin September 5, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

      Seeing those would’ve helped our experience too. We saw no sun, no dolphin and not even Mitre Peak! It was covered by the low clouds. =( Oh well, can’t win em all!

  6. Leah Travels September 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    I LOVED Milford. Such a shame that your day was bad weather one. I was fortunate to arrive in the rain and got to see all the waterfalls. By the time I was leaving, the sun came out so I was able to see all the tops of the mountains. It was perfect. And I spent 21 days in New Zealand and spent about $10K, not counting flights. Looks like I need to take notes from y’all. ;-)

    • Kieu - GQ trippin September 5, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

      LOL, blame it on the exchange rates, Leah. Haha. Yea, I’m starting to think the rainy, dreary weather had a lot to do with our experience in MS. Oh well, more reason to go back next time. :D

  7. The World of Deej September 6, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    What I love about this post is it’s very realistic in terms of how I would travel. So many of these budget posts are a competition to see who can spend the least, by eating and sleeping places I wouldn’t consider myself. This one was well done… BTW, what is this Fergburger you speak of?

    • Kieu - GQ trippin September 6, 2012 at 10:57 am #

      Thanks! Lol, Fergburger is a gourmet burger joint in Queenstown that is deliciously amazing. :D

  8. Ayngelina September 6, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    New Zealand is definitely pricey but it’s only because there is SO much to do and you really don’t want to scrimp now do you. I spent a whack of money there and I don’t regret it at all.

    • Kieu - GQ trippin September 6, 2012 at 11:03 am #

      Yup, neither do we. The exchange rate kind of mucked it up a little bit but definitely no regrets.

  9. Terence Chang September 6, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Great post with the break down of cost. That doesn’t sound bad at all.

    Love the picture .. that hiker is really tall!

    Never been to New Zealand … Don’t know how their toilet looks like .. :)

    Never thought about staying in the Jail .. sounds fun!

    • Kieu - GQ trippin September 6, 2012 at 11:04 am #

      Lol, he was 18 years old and ginormous! Very sweet kid. The toilets are umm.. the same I guess. And staying in “jail” was both fun and eerie at the same time.

      • Terence Chang September 6, 2012 at 11:08 am #

        18 years old? OMG .. What have his parents fed him? LOL!

  10. dami September 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    This was very informative.. I never actually thought of NZ as a place to visit because I imagined it to be similar to the UK but now my eyes has been opened.

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin September 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

      There’s heaps to do in NZ. So much to explore that we barely tipped the iceberg!

  11. CaptainandClark September 8, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I love the breakdown of you trip to New Zealand. It’s such a great idea and is extremely informative. While you might have splurged on a few items/experiences, I think it’s worth it for the amazing memories. Bungee Jumping? Hecks yes!

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin September 8, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      Totally. We don’t regret those splurges at all. A small price to pay for memories of a lifetime. :)

  12. Sally Stretton September 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Great detail of the cost of your trip to New Zealand. You kept very accurate records…down to the toast you ate…wow! So it sounds a bit pricey in New Zealand. My mom when once to go skiing, but she only stayed 10 days and it was a group package deal. Perhaps next time you can find a place to rent with some of the people you met along the way to help share the expenses and keep cost down.
    Sally Stretton

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin September 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

      Yeah. We would’ve loved to couchsurf more often. That would’ve definitely help us save on accommodations and maybe food too! Food in general is super pricey as well. Even at the supermarket.

  13. September 9, 2012 at 11:37 am #

    Your adventures sound great! We’re curious to know, how do you budget for and fund your travel? Keep on trippin’, we love your site!

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin September 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

      We funded our travel by working the 9-5 in the corp world and saving up for the last few years. Budget we just go by some other sites and see what other people spend. This was one site that was one resource:

  14. Amy September 10, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks so much for this! My boyfriend and I are headed to NZ in March to kick off our RTW trip (you previously answered some of my questions about NZ via email). I can’t wait to get there now! Keep up the cost posts please – we’re off to Australia after NZ, so it would be great to see a breakdown of how much you spent there!

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin September 15, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      How fun! NZ is a great place to start off an RTW trip. OZ might be on its way up soon. :) Where else are you headed on your trip?

      • amy&andrew September 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

        We’re planning to spend at least a year exploring Asia after we’ve been to Australia – can’t wait to leave! Seeing all your posts makes me even more impatient to get going!

  15. Jetting Around September 10, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    Interesting info… I’ve thought of bungee-jumping for a while, but never really gave thought to how much it costs. I’d love to go to NZ and definitely do some driving there.

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin September 15, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

      Yup. It can be pretty expensive. But worth it in our book! More of a rush than skydiving

  16. suzyguese October 14, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    It sounds like for New Zealand you need to budget for a lot of activities! I bought a GPS navigation for Ireland and also named her. It was my saving grace about that country. I think if you are planning on road tripping a country, it is definitely worth the expense.

    • Kieu - GQ trippin December 1, 2012 at 5:58 am #

      I totally agree. And with a place like NZ, it’s a shame not to drive. You’ll miss out on so much. Ireland is one I’d like to roadtrip through.

  17. Kate - CanuckiwiKate October 14, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    As job guys! I’ve been living in various parts of NZ for the past 4 years, but still love to read others experiences and perspectives on places that I’ve been to. I’ve become unwillingly accustomed to the cost/speed of the internet, the use of one way bridges and that stupid right of way law that they recently changed over just to add continued confusion and my vocabulary has adapted to the kiwi way (I blame the 6 year olds that I teach, as they don’t understand me if I don’t lol)

    Even though I’ve been here for so long, I can’t wait to get back to roadtripping this beautiful country in January – I’m taking my Grandma on a Cross-country journey and am so excited to be reunited with the south island again! Since I am travelling with my grandma, who is also a frugal traveller, I know she won’t be up for bunking up with 6 others either, so this is more likely the style we’ll travel as well :)

    • Kieu - GQ trippin December 1, 2012 at 5:57 am #

      Roadtripping with grandma, how cute! We had success with airbnb in New Zealand, maybe you can try that. The drives in NZ is definitely my fave part about this beautiful country..

  18. Freewheeling November 30, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Hi you guys our experience is totally different from yours. We have been here a month and the weather has been perfect. Not once paid for salt and pepper!!!Was this a joke? The food we have had had is fresh and delicious. We shop at the New World Supermarket at the moment and the quality of the fish,meat and fruit and vege is tops and is less expensive than at home. We are in absolutely positively Wellington at the moment and the Wii Fi is free in all the inner city areas-compliments of the local Council. Wellington is awesome ..cafes,bars,galleries,beaches,TePapa Museum(free) and they have just celebrated the film premier of the Hobbit..this city rocks.
    We have used bookabach site on several occasions,as well as Youth Hostels and Backpackers…all good.Waitomo?Just a visit not a place to stay but loved Napier,Art Deck City in the glorious HawkesBay where loads of great vineyards are…looking forward to the glorious South Island. Love these friendly Kiwis would love to live in this free,safe,idyllic country.

    • Kieu - GQ trippin December 1, 2012 at 5:55 am #

      LOL, sounds like you guys got the better of New Zealand in terms of weather.. and salt! Hehe, I really enjoyed Wellington as well even if it did rain on us the entire time. So jealous you get to be there for the Hobbit premiere. You’re going to LOVE South Island.. Kiwis are so awesome, right? Safe travels!

  19. Ian Figueroa December 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Hey G and Q, whats up!!! I’m planning my New Zealand itinerary now. Will be spending a month also. I’ll be renting a car. Just wondering if its possible to rent a car at Auckland, make my way down to Wellington and drop it off there? Then rent another car in South Island and drop it off at queenstown at the end of my travels. Will I have to pay more as a result of dropping a rental at a different location? I’m trying to budget my itinerary. any car rental company recommendation? I’m not really sure how it works, and was wondering if you can fill me in the process? Or what is your suggestion? Thanks

    • Gerard ~ GQtrippin December 28, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      Hey Ian. Driving through NZ is the best! Yes. You can do exactly as you described. For renting a car from Auckland to Wellington, I’d recommend Omega or Go rentals. For the South Island, I’d recommend Apex for pickup from Picton to Queenstown. This way you also avoid that big interisland ferry fee!

      • Ian Figueroa December 31, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

        Cool thanks bro. How was it driving on the left side of the road? I’ve never driven a car where the steering wheel was on the right side. Hopefully it’s something I can pick up really quickly as soon as I get there.

        • Gerard ~ GQtrippin December 31, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

          Its umm… interesting. Haha. The weirder part is driving in the ‘front passenger seat’. But you’ll get used to it.

          • Ian Figueroa March 5, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

            Alrite, will be leaving for NZ at the end of the month. really appreciate the NZ blogs and advice to help me out along the way. what gps did you get by the way? i’m looking at some online, i can’t believe the NZ map which i will have to buy extra for the gps is so expensive, almost as much as the gps device itself. they say NZ is pretty easy to travel around in, but i’d rather have the gps help me out along the way so I can stay focus ond driving on the “opposite” side of the road.

          • Gerard ~ GQtrippin March 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

            Garmin Nuvi 260W. Look for the SD card map on eBay. Sometimes you find a good deal for a used one.

          • Ian Figueroa March 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

            thanks gerard, will check out ebay.

  20. sushma gupta November 16, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    Its a very useful blog.I love to go to new Zealand for a drive., It would be a great opportunity for me to visit this country. Thanks for sharing this post..


  1. Travelling Around New Zealand | Our New Zealand Itinerary - October 26, 2012

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