New Zealand is often considered by tourists to be an expensive place to travel around. I thought this was the case before coming too, especially as I had lived in Australia and heard lots of people complaining about how pricey it is in New Zealand. But while the cost of travelling here is not like Southeast Asia or eastern Europe, little by little I discovered many ways to keep costs down.
I collected these in my latest book, Super Cheap New Zealand, which I hope to be a perfect companion to a budget holiday in Middle Earth. Here are 7 tips for cheap travels in New Zealand, which should hopefully get you inspired and excited about your trip!
Use multi-saver deals
In tourist hotspots such Queenstown, Auckland or Rotorua, there are at least a handful of tour operators that offer more than one kind of tour. For example, Real Journeys in Queenstown offer Milford Sound cruises and the ferry over to Stewart Island. Often they will have multi-saver deals, so if you buy more than one tour, you’ll save 20% off the lower-priced one. Many operators and museums also offer student discounts, so always ask what deals are on and if any juicy offers are coming up soon!
Cook for yourself
One of the first things that may surprise you in New Zealand is the restaurant prices. Especially in places such as Queenstown, prices can easily go over $20 for a good meal, meaning that you might end up spending more than $50 a day on food and drinks. Head to a supermarket, or a local market on the weekend, for the best prices. Most hostels have excellent kitchens, with all the utensils and cutlery you’ll need, plus hanging out in the lounge with your food is a perfect way to meet other travellers, exchange travel tips and possibly try out each other’s culinary concoctions!
You should also make use of the free water fountains located in some towns and cities, or fill your bottle from the tap and the hostel before you head out to skip the cost of bottled drinks. For example, pricey Queenstown has several free water fountains around town, while many budget travellers pop into the library in Auckland to refill their water bottles rather than head to the convenience store. New Zealand water is clean and can be enjoyed straight from the tap, so there’s really no reason to buy plastic water bottles.
Stock up at PAK’nSAVE
Similar to Costco in other countries, PAK’nSAVE is a pile-them-high kind of megastore. Unlike Costco, you don’t need to join up as a member, and in addition to food, they also have an array of travel items and everyday essentials. Heading to PAK’nSAVE is highly recommended if you are in the city or a big town and about to proceed into the countryside and its higher prices. If you need more choice or want to buy some cheap clothes, The Warehouse is also worth checking out.
Also, note that other supermarket chains offer discounts with easy to join member card schemes. As you go around the two main supermarket chains, New World and Countdown, you’ll see red tags all over the place with sometimes pretty decent discounts for members. New World has a special temporary card that can be used by those coming to the country on a short trip, while both New World and Countdown have normal member cards for those with an address in the country.
Visit in the offseason
The crowds are much smaller outside the peak season, so it’s easier to enjoy New Zealand’s wonderful nature and tours are less likely to get booked up. Try to come just before or after the peak season, so you should still get good weather, but without the sometimes higher prices.
Get early-bird passes
There are many superb ski resorts in New Zealand, but they can be hideously expensive if you just turn up and buy a day pass. It’s probably too much for most people to buy a normal season pass too, which can go into the thousands of dollars. Save yourself up to 60% on these season passes by getting an early bird pass with your preferred resort. Many have their early bird pass deadlines in February or March, but buying the year before can sometimes be even cheaper.
Book your hiking trips early and save money
It’s also worth booking the famous hiking trips as early as possible. For example, on the Milford Track, much of the accommodation is booked up more than a year in advance. Spots may be available with the more expensive guided tours, but for budget travellers, it’s important to get accommodation at the cheaper Department of Conservation huts or nearby hostels.
Try free activities first
There are countless fun paid-for activities to try here, but the prices can be shockingly expensive for things such as going up the Sky Tower in Auckland. Try to do the free activities first, then if you feel you need to do more, try the paid-for activities. For example, after finding a free hot spring it might not be worth booking an hour at a pricey spa, or after a free hike around Queenstown, it might not be worth buying that gondola ticket the next day for yet another mountain.
Also remember that if using a service such as Stray Travel, you’ll have access to special deals for tours or activities. Stray customers get access to the Stray Mate app and exclusive deals on activities and accommodation.
All in all, New Zealand is packed full of things to do for budget travellers. If you’re just a little flexible with your travel plans, plan well and are open to new experiences, you’ll have the best holiday of your life!
Written by Matthew Baxter, author of the best-selling Super Cheap Japan guidebook. His latest book, Super Cheap New Zealand, is the ultimate travel guide for budget travellers in this beautiful country.