Backpacking New Zealand on a Budget: Exactly How Much I Spent

milford sound, new zealand

New Zealand has a reputation for being expensive. It’s definitely not the cheapest place I’ve visited, but it’s honestly not the most expensive either. Traveling New Zealand on a budget is absolutely doable, and here’s your proof. On my own solo trip for seven weeks, I spent US$2921 (NZ$4787 / €2680 / £2396)*, excluding flights. That works out to under US$59 per day. Curious what made this all up? Scroll down below for the full budget breakdown!

*Exchange rates as of New Zealand summer/fall 2020.


Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand
Mt Cook Aoraki, Hiking trails, South Island, New Zealand
Milford Sound, South Island, Fiordland, New Zealand


$1397 (NZ$2289 / €1282 / £1146)

Unless you’re couch surfing or trading work for accomodation, this is going to be your largest expense. I spent an average of $23 a night, staying primarily at YHA hostels in shared dorm rooms. I definitely travel on a budget, but I don’t skimp on housing. I like to be in a clean and comfortable spot, so I’ll pay a dollar or two more a night to get a 4-bed over an 8-bed, or a spot right by the main bus stop over one an extra bus ride away. If you don’t mind inconveniences like those, you can definitely get by on less than my own $23 a night.


$521 (NZ$854 / €478 / £427)

This was the first trip where I cooked regularly, and it truly made huge savings for my budget. Staying in hostels allowed me to cook for myself in the communal kitchens, so I was able to spend just $10 a day on food! I still ate out every now and then, but I actually really enjoyed never having to walk around looking for a spot to eat. I always had food waiting to be made when I woke up or got back to the hostel, and I could even prep sandwiches to take on longer hikes. Like housing, food is another area where I have a budget, but don’t skimp out on. I won’t choose the unhealthy version of something just to save a buck or two, and there’s only so much instant ramen a girl can eat! So this is another area where you can spend even less than I did if you would like.

Pro tip: If you like hot sauce on eggs for breakfast (or anything else unique) – bring it from home. I love Tepatillo and can’t stand Tabasco, but there was practically none in sight in New Zealand. I finally found one tiny bottle left on the shelf after one month and guarded it with my life for the remainder of my trip!


$405 (NZ$664 / €372 / £332)

New Zealand excursions are the easiest way to blow your whole budget. This country has got it all, helicopter-hikes, bungee jumping, water rafting… the list goes on and on. If you’re keen to do anything and everything in the adventure capital of the world, definitely look up costs for each activity before your trip, tally them all up, and save enough to meet the amount of money necessary. Luckily for me, most of the activities I personally wanted to do in New Zealand were free hikes (post coming soon!). I did splurge now and then, though, mostly because some free or cheap activities required a tour to get there (since I did not have a car). Below are the activities I did do, as well as quotes for popular activities I skipped out on.

  • Surf lessons in Raglan: I paid $59 (NZ$88)
  • Water rafting in Rotorua: I paid $57 (NZ$85)
  • Return shuttle for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing: I paid $48 (NZ$71)
  • Abel Tasman kayak and hike day trip from Nelson: I paid $100 (NZ$150)
  • Queenstown gondola and luge rides: I paid $40 (NZ$61)
  • Milford Sound day trip from Queenstown: I paid $100 (NZ$150) for a nicer tour at a discount from BookMe, but you could snag a Jucy tour for NZ$45 there too if booked in advance
  • Hobbiton entry fee: normally $60 (NZ$90)
  • Waitomo glowworm caves tour: normally starting from $27 (NZ$40)
  • Franz Josef Glacier helicopter-hike: normally $270 – $335 (NZ$400 – NZ$500)
  • Bungee jumping from Queenstown’s famous bridge: normally $135 (NZ$200)


$411 (NZ$674 / €377 / £337)

There are many different ways to travel New Zealand, from hitchhiking, to living in a camper van. After doing my research, I decided the best option for a solo female two-month budget trip was the InterCity Flexipass. This travel pass was the bulk of my travel costs, plus a ride-share here or shuttle there. There were a few times when I questioned if I should have rented a car instead, so you can see the pros and cons of the InterCity decision here

Travel Insurance

$118 (NZ$193 / €108 / £96)

For peace of mind, I purchase travel insurance before my trips these days. I purchased a five-month plan for both New Zealand and Australia, but sadly never made it to Australia due to the novel coronavirus. The entire plan cost was $350.

Tourist Entry Fees

$31 (NZ$47 / €29 / £25)

The cost to enter New Zealand will vary based on your country of passport and how long you are visiting. As an American on a tourist visa, I had to apply for the NZeta and pay the tourist tax before departing. If you’re under 31, you can apply for a working holiday visa to stay and be able to work for up to one year. The price for this would obviously differ. Check the official New Zealand immigration website (links are above) to decide which you would like to apply for.


$26 (NZ$43 / €24 / £21)

Honestly, I was surprised with how little laundry I did. I packed enough undergarments for two weeks, and I got by hand washing smaller items until I was able to have a full load. On average, expect to pay NZ$4 – NZ$5.50 (US$2.45 – US$3.45 ) per wash and per dry cycle. Some places also charge NZ$1 – NZ$1.50 (USD) for a scoop of detergent. Every hostel I stayed at had a clothesline where you could hang-dry clothes to save on the drying costs, if you wanted. This is more reliable of an option on the North Island, where it rains much less than in the South Island.

Grand Total

$2921 (NZ$4787 / €2680 / £2396)

And there ya have it folks – exactly how much it cost me to backpack New Zealand!! My grand total for 50 days in New Zealand came out to $2921, or just under $58.50 per day (excluding flights). As I mentioned several times through this article, there are plenty of easy ways to drive this cost down even lower, if you need. And considering I spent $83 a day for five weeks in Northern Italy last year, I think New Zealand is pretty alright for traveling on a budget!


Have any more questions on traveling New Zealand on a budget? Or traveling New Zealand by bus? Drop a comment below, and I’ll get back to you.

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Wondering how to travel New Zealand on a budget? Well, I accomplished New Zealand budget travel on $59/day. Here's the exact breakdown of how much it all costs and how to save money.

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