Skip to Content

New Zealand Road Trip Budget Breakdown (And Infographic)

Like this post? Save and share!

New Zealand is without a doubt one of the most beautiful countries in the world. There is a huge variety of landscapes and the people of New Zealand are very friendly.

The country is easy to travel, the roads are generally in good condition and you can travel around for years without running out of things to do in New Zealand.

If I have to think of one downside to New Zealand it has to be that it’s not the cheapest country in the world…

But don’t worry, it’s possible to travel to New Zealand on a budget!

In this post, you will find a full New Zealand road trip budget breakdown and clever budget-saving tips in order to make the most of your money in New Zealand.

New Zealand road trip budget

Queenstown New Zealand

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!). I’m very grateful when you use my links to make a purchase:-).

Why you should visit New Zealand

New Zealand’s landscapes are really varied.

Are you looking for beautiful mountains? Visit the Southern Alps.

Do you want to climb a volcano? Hike the Tongariro Crossing.

Prefer to spend some time at a beautiful lake? Just pick your favorite, there are plenty to choose from.

I can go on, there are the ocean, tropical forest, waterfalls, beaches, hills, spectacular cliffs, and much more. You name it, New Zealand has got it.

Besides the beautiful nature, the people of New Zealand are incredibly friendly.

If you’re having a coffee, they’ll have a chat with you and proudly tell you about their amazing country and awesome places you should visit. These are usually the kind of places you won’t find in the Lonely Planet, so it’s worth keeping your ears open.

If you are lost or so much appear to need anything, a friendly Kiwi will surely help you out.

What’s more, the country is geared towards tourists and backpackers, traveling around New Zealand is very easy and straightforward.

Now that I’ve convinced you to visit New Zealand, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty details of our New Zealand trip budget.

Nugget Point - New Zealand travel budget

Have you always dreamed about doing a working holiday in New Zealand? Check out Global Work & Travel and get a €100 discount with the coupon code PHENOMENALGLOBE.

New-Zealand-working-holiday-Phenomenal-Globe-Travel-Blog

New Zealand travel budget infographic

Since you are reading this post, you are probably curious about our average daily travel budget in New Zealand.

During our 6-week New Zealand road trip we spent around €101/$114/160 NZD per day as a couple!

In the infographic, you can find our complete New Zealand budget breakdown and how much we paid for our campervan, accommodation, food & drinks and activities.

How to travel New Zealand on a budget! A trip to New Zealand doesn't have to be expensive, we spent €100/160 NZD per day during our road trip across New Zealand. Read a detailed budget breakdown and information about the costs of renting a campervan, campsites expenses, petrol prices and how much we paid for food & activities in New Zealand. #NewZealand #travelbudget

New Zealand budget travel: important facts and figures

  • I traveled to New Zealand with my husband, and all expenses mentioned are for the two of us together.
  • It does not include plane tickets to New Zealand.
  • Our NZ trip started in Christchurch and ended in Auckland. We spent 6 weeks in New Zealand: 4 weeks on the South Island (which definitely has the most beautiful nature) and 2 weeks on the North Island (where you find more history and a lot more Maori culture).
  • While driving in New Zealand is not necessarily difficult, there are some important things to know when you are going to self-drive in New Zealand.
  • In total, we drove over 6500 kilometers of beautiful road, and still, there is so much more to see so I definitely plan on going back to New Zealand in the future.
Purakaunui Falls Walk in the Catlins, New Zealand

New Zealand travel expenses: categories

Our New Zealand expenses are divided into four categories:

  1. Accommodation accounted for 53% of our travel expenses, on average 83,74NZD per day (=€53 = $60)
  2. Transportation took up 22%, on average 35NZD per day (= €22 = $25)
  3. Food ate up some 17% of the travel budget, on average 27NZD per day (=€17 = $19)
  4. Paid activities accounted for 8%, on average 13,26NZD per day (=€8,50 = $9,50), though if you are into extreme sports this could easily be a lot, and I really mean a lot, more)
Hike Cathedral Cove Coromandel New Zealand

Cost of accommodation in New Zealand

In total we spent 3601NZD (= €2294 = $2572) on accommodation, averaging 83,70NZD (=€53 = $60) per day. Our New Zealand accommodation costs are split into three categories:

• Campervan rental fee (check prices here)
• Campsites
• Hotels

Campervan in New Zealand

Costs to rent a campervan in New Zealand

For our New Zealand road trip, we rented a campervan and truly fell in love with van life. It was the first of many (campervan) road trips but certainly not the last…

The freedom of having your own wheels, going everywhere you want, driving winding (gravel) roads, pulling over anywhere you want to enjoy another spectacular view… In my personal opinion, it’s the best way to travel!

The total costs for our campervan were 3060NZD, read more about renting a campervan in New Zealand here.

How to save on campsites in New Zealand

The second category of accommodation costs is campsite fees, which costs us 360NZD for the 41 nights we spent on various campsites (Holiday Parks, DOC campsites, and free campgrounds). 

Read all about the campgrounds we stayed at in this post.

Purakaunui Bay DOC campsite

The days when you could carelessly pull over anywhere and stay the night are long gone.

Because more and more tourists are coming to New Zealand, the government put stricter camping regulations in place and those not obeying those regulations risk a 200NZD fine.

This site contains more information about freedom camping.

That being said, there are still lots of places you can camp for free. In fact, of the 41 nights, we stayed on campsites 18 nights were completely free!

Don’t stay at hotels in New Zealand if you want to save money

We only stayed in one hostel and one hotel in NZ because we spent all the other nights in our campervan.

The day we arrived in Christchurch we stayed at Jailhouse Accommodation, a former prison built in 1874 that has been converted into a beautiful and comfortable hostel.

We stayed in our very own prison cell, luckily we also had our own key…

Jailhouse Hostel in Christchurch New Zealand

The day before we left New Zealand we stayed at Ibis Budget Hotel Auckland Airport, which was fine but nothing special.

We stayed here because it was a 15-minute walk to the airport, very convenient because of our early flight the next day.

Cost of transportation in New Zealand

While there is public transport available in New Zealand, I highly recommend renting a campervan (or renting a car if you prefer to stay in hotels or hostels).

Public transport requires planning and will only bring you to the main hubs, not to trailheads or off-the-beaten path locations.

Also, while I haven’t done the exact math, I think it’s cheaper to travel by campervan if you’re traveling as a couple, as a family, or as a group of friends.

In total, we spent 1506NZD (= €960 = $1076) on transportation, averaging 35NZD per day (= €22 = $25). Our New Zealand transportation costs can also be split into three categories:

  • Petrol
  • Boat ticket from South Island to North Island
  • Bus fees
Mount Cook New Zealand

Costs of petrol and how to save on fuel in New Zealand

As I said before in this post, having your own wheels is the best and I definitely recommend this way of traveling in New Zealand.

But unfortunately, our loyal campervan didn’t run on love alone so we ended up stopping for petrol every other day.

In total, we spent a whopping 1257NZD on petrol which comes down to 30NZD a day. We paid anything from 1.50NZD up to 2NZD per liter when we were there.

Two tips to save money on fuel:

  • Get a free AA card, which entitles you to a discount per liter of petrol (the amount changes daily but is usually around 6ct). Read more about the AA card here.
  • Do not, and I repeat, do not find yourself in the position of having to fill up your tank in Franz Josef. We paid 2NZD p/l (yes, really!) because the nearest petrol station was over 90km away (we only just got enough petrol in Franz Josef to get to Hokitika where the petrol price was only 1,70NZD p/l).

Particularly on the South Island, there are a couple of stretches where you’ll find no petrol stations for more than 100 km.

So before hitting the road, check the level of your tank and your planned route for petrol stations to avoid getting stranded or paying the premium price.

Lake Hawea South Island New Zealand

The Cook Straight ferry: how much is a boat ticket?

We rented our van in Christchurch and dropped it off in Auckland. And so our trusted camper crossed the Cook Straight with us, to travel from the South Island to the North Island.

For 2 adults and our (less than 5.5 meters and therefore falling into the category ‘Private Car’) campervan, we paid 226NZD with Bluebridge Ferries.

Bluebridge has excellent customer service, they responded to my email requesting a date change within the hour and carried out the change without extra charge.

Our bus fees in New Zealand

We only took the bus twice in New Zealand so we only spent 23 NZD on bus fees.

We paid 16NZD (8 per person) to get from Christchurch International Airport to the city center and 7NZD (3,5 per person) to get from Jailhouse accommodation to a shopping mall at Riccarton Road and back again.

Cost of food in New Zealand

In total we spent 1161NZD (= €739 = $829) on food, averaging 27NZD (=€17 = $19) per day. Food costs can be split into two categories:

  • Groceries
  • Food, drinks, snacks
Mangawhai Clifftop Walk

How much do groceries cost in New Zealand?

We spent 877NZD on groceries, which is approximately 20NZD a day. In my opinion, 20 NZD a day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for two people isn’t much.

Cooking your own meals is an absolute key to keeping your New Zealand road trip budget in check!

Our advice to save money on groceries in New Zealand:

  • Buy your groceries in large supermarkets such as Pak ‘n Save, New World, FreshChoice, or Countdown! This is much cheaper than shopping in small villages where there is usually only one small store (mostly the Four Square). Of course, buying fruit, veggies, eggs, etc. from farms and stalls by the road is a great way to support local farmers, also, these products are usually excellent quality and really fresh.
  • Get a free New World membership card, which gives you discounts on selected items.

I loved cooking meals in our van and having lunch or dinner while looking over a beautiful lake or listening to a trickling stream or the rushing ocean.

Eating out in New Zealand: costs for drinks and snacks

In total, we spent some 284NZD on various food and drinks. While it’s good to monitor your spending, you should also enjoy your trip and have that ice cream after hiking for three hours.

Or that cold beer after climbing Mount Doom. Or a good cup of coffee every now and then.

Although, one piece of advice if you’re also into coffee: we found a little espresso maker in Westport which reduced our coffee costs because we made our own delicious espresso and cappuccino once we got that.

Freshly brewed coffee in  campervan

Cost of activities in New Zealand

Last but not least, we spent 570,50NZD (= €363 = $408) on paid activities, on average 13,26NZD per day (=€8,50 = $9,50).

We didn’t do many expensive things, but we did take a cruise around Milford Sound, went on an eco-friendly dolphin tour, and visited the hot springs in Hanmer Springs, amongst other things.

So it’s definitely possible to have fun and travel around NZ on a budget at the same time. And if you really don’t want to spend a dime on activities, there are plenty of beautiful hikes in New Zealand!

That being said, there are countless amazing tours and activities to be found in New Zealand, such as skydiving in Queenstown, going on a wine tour in the Gibbston valley, or cruising Lake Wakatipu on the legendary TSS Earnslow.

Plan your New Zealand trip like a pro with these tools:
🚐 Rent a campervan for your NZ road trip (or a car via Rentalcars.com).
🌐 Arrange your NZ working holiday with Global Work & Travel.
📱 Stay connected with a New Zealand SIM card.
📖 Plan your journey with the New Zealand Lonely Planet.
🛏️ Find the best hotel deals on Booking.com or Agoda.
😎 Join the best tours in New Zealand via Get Your Guide or Viator.
🗺️ Travel safely and get reliable travel insurance from Safety Wing.

Unforeseen costs: the parking accident

I’ll be honest with you, there is one expense I did not include in all budget breakdowns… The truth is, I had a teeny tiny parking accident with our rental van which resulted in this:

Dented car due to campervan accident in New Zealand
Oops…

Stupid. Mistake. As mentioned in my detailed post about renting a campervan, we had paid a fee of 390NZD for 0-liability, so the damage I caused was paid by Rental Car Village.

They were very kind about it, but I felt rather embarrassed nonetheless…

The thing about their Zero Excess policy is that it only covers one accident (which I think is totally fair since it is a very reasonable fee, much lower than what I have seen at other rental companies).

So we had to decide if we would pay the Zero Excess fee again. We had 17 days left, meaning we would have to pay 17*19NZD = 320NZD. Definitely money I would have preferred to spend on something more fun.

Nevertheless, we decided to purchase Zero Excess again. We just didn’t want to run the risk of having to pay up to 3000NZD.

If by some streak of bad luck or my apparently not-so-good parking skills, we would have another accident it would mean cutting our trip short because we wouldn’t have enough money left for the remaining months.

Lesson learned.

My recommendation about traveling, in general, is to make sure you have a buffer for unforeseen expenses, say 10% of your total budget.

Because a lot can (and will;-) happen on a long trip and it’s better to be prepared.

Mount Ngauruhoe Tongariro Crossing

More New Zealand money-saving tips

  • Look into car or campervan relocations, sometimes you can find great deals for as little as 5NZD a day!
  • Traveling in shoulder seasons will save you money as well, the daily rental rate of a campervan is lower and often campsites also charge less per night.
  • Travel from South to North. We did this as well, but most people fly into Auckland and then travel south. So you might find some good deals doing the opposite. For example, if you plan on buying a car or campervan instead of

Budgeting in New Zealand: in conclusion

I know, it’s a long post. But you made it to the end, congrats! Now you know all about our New Zealand expenses.

Even though it was the most expensive place we traveled to during our 5-month trip, it was also our favorite country.

I fell in love with the incredibly varied nature, the beautiful wide skies, the friendly people, and the relaxed pace of things which altogether added up to an ultimate feeling of freedom and happiness.

New Zealand is one of my favorite countries in the world and I hope this post has convinced you that you can make a New Zealand budget trip.

Below you can download the New Zealand budget breakdown infographic, happy travels!

Also read these New Zealand posts:

This post was updated in October 2022.

Like this post? Save and share!

Brian Fisher

Thursday 23rd of January 2020

Hey Lotte, crackin' post! Loads of useful information. So Hi, I'm Brian from near Manchester UK. I am currently considering a 4 week trip to NZ. I will be travelling alone and I would love my own campervan - just a small one. Are there plenty of places to wild-camp? I don't like the idea of having to use campsites, full of kids and noise - selfishly I would love a wild camp with an ocean or mountain view and none or very few folk about.

Lotte

Friday 24th of January 2020

Hi Brian,

You can check out this post for campsite ideas: https://www.phenomenalglobe.com/where-to-find-the-best-campsites-in-new-zealand/. Please note you CANNOT wild camp in New Zealand, while there are several free sites these are often only for self-contained campervans, so that's something to take into account when renting a campervan.

As more and more tourists visit New Zealand, the government has taken measures to preserve the pristine nature of NZ and that's why wild camping is no longer allowed. If you are looking for ocean and mountain views, DOC (Department of Conservation) campsites are the place to go. These sites are very basic but often offer the most gorgeous views. Enjoy your trip!

Lotte

Jeroen

Sunday 29th of December 2019

Hi Lotte. Your article is very helpfull and detailed! We are planning a trip right now and have a question about the driver's license. Is a Dutch license enough? We are now travelling and not in the position to get a international license. We read different stories on the internet. Thanks!

Lotte

Monday 30th of December 2019

Hi Jeroen,

Most welcome, happy to hear you found the post helpful:-) Regarding your question, I'm sorry but I can't give you a conclusive answer. We weren't specifically asked for our International Drivers Permit however, I don't know if different rental companies have different policies. It may even just depend on the person behind the desk... Sorry I can't give you a final answer, I hope you get to go to NZ anyway and have a fabulous trip!

Lotte

Rowan

Thursday 19th of September 2019

Hi!

Love this post!

Just to clarify - Did you guys spend 6838 NZD as a couple? So 3419NZD each?

Thanks so much!

Lotte

Friday 20th of September 2019

Hi Rowan,

Thanks so much for your kind words! Happy you like the post:-) To answer your question, yes we spent 3419NZD per person. Have a great NZ road trip!

Lotte

Jen

Tuesday 16th of July 2019

That’s a great guide. Gutted about the car damage. When I hire a car I’m always in two. I do about whether this extra insurance is really worth it... clearly it was for you guys!

Lotte

Saturday 20th of July 2019

Yeah we were pretty unhappy about the car damage too... It would be so great if there was a way to know beforehand weather or not you should take out the insurance, something about predicting the future;-) But I guess in the end it's just best to choose what you feel most comfortable with.

Philipp

Wednesday 15th of May 2019

Hey Lotte,

g\Great article! Lots of useful tips. I think one more thing to save some money that is worth mentioning are car / campervan relocations.

Also try to go during shoulder seasons and travel from south to north. Most people fly into Auckland and then travel south. So you might find some good deals doing the opposite.

Cheers guys

Lotte

Saturday 25th of May 2019

Hey Philip,

Thanks for reading and thank so so much for the great tips! I've added them to the article, hopefully it will help other travelers in their NZ trip planning:-)

Happy travels! Lotte