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Posted by on Jun 26, 2013

How Much Does it Cost to Travel in New Zealand?


When I asked Dave if there was anything we didn’t do in New Zealand that he wished we would have (you know – the fling himself from a bridge, roll down a hill in a giant ball kind of things), his response was that he wouldn’t change a thing about our trip. I guess I took him to enough wineries.

But, honestly, there really is nothing within our control that we would have changed. We would have given our left arms for some more sunshine and less cold days, but we have learned Mother Nature isn’t one for negotiating. With a few bad weather days, we did miss out on things like visiting Milford Sound, but it couldn’t be helped.

A sunset on the Kapiti Coast. Pure, free beauty.

A sunset on the Kapiti Coast. Pure, free beauty.

We knew that heading to New Zealand right after Japan could negatively impact our budget, but it has been a bucket list country for both of us and we weren’t going to skip it.  Amazingly, even after buying two full cases of wine throughout our time here, we have managed to come in at our planned budget of $125 a day.

Our saving grace has been the famous campervan and what it lacked in creature comforts, it provided us with wine money. Fair enough.

In general, New Zealand is a really expensive country. We were lucky that the U.S. dollar got stronger while we were here to help us, but everyday costs like groceries, gas and toiletries are far more expensive than the U.S.  Eating a meal at a sit down restaurant guarantees at least $25 a plate per person and a pint of beer at many bars is close to $10. For people living in New Zealand who have an average yearly salary of $40,000, it makes living here difficult. Everyday folks we spoke with were struggling to make ends meet. I don’t think I’ll be moving to New Zealand anytime soon.

By the Numbers

We spent $4,370 in 35 days in New Zealand at an average per day cost of $124.83. We spent an additional $170 on an inter-island ferry trip. This was also the first leg of our RTW trip that required us to pay for an international flight. We used our United miles to fly from Japan to New Zealand, but had a few itinerary changes which resulted in a fees. At less than $300, this was still substantially below what two full-priced flights would have cost.

Another unplanned cost throughout New Zealand has been Internet charges. Free WiFi, or just WiFi in general, has a long way to come here. The concept of a coffee shop with WiFi is difficult to come by, and the only truly free WiFi we could come by was at local libraries. We bought a pocket WiFi device that helped us stay connected, but we did buy daily WiFi credit along the way as well (usually around $5 a day).

Item        Cost    
Lodging  $973
Food & Drinks  $1,720
Inter-Country Travel $170
Ground Transportation (cost of the campervan plus gas)
Misc.  $120
Sightseeing  $133
Visas  $0
International Flights  $287


I won’t spend anymore time here extolling the virtues of a campervan, but suffice to say it was our main form of lodging over the course of the trip with 25 nights spent in Howl’s Castle. We spent five nights in hostels when we needed a break from the van and also had a trip fairy who gave us a gift to allow for four nights in a simple, but so luxurious wine country cottage in Hawke’s Bay. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tom's Cottage in Hawke's Bay

Tom’s Cottage in Hawke’s Bay


We self-catered almost all of the time in New Zealand – cooking meals in holiday parks and hostel kitchens or slathering peanut butter and jelly on some bread in the camper. Our biggest splurge was on a platter and glasses of wine at Poppies Winery in Martinborough and it was pure bliss. We also had our fair share of seafood at the Bluff Oyster Festival, which curbed most of our other seafood cravings.

Wine country platter at Poppies.

Wine country platter at Poppies.

Our food and drink costs also took a hit due to the wine and beer “research” we were conducting. For those of you meeting us along the way in the next few months, you may be the lucky beneficiaries of some of our studying.

RTW Costs to Date

We have spent $15,247 in 159 days of travel for an average per day cost of $96. This does not include our visa fees, international flights and significant inter-country travel expenses, which are outside of the daily costs. I am shocked by how little we have really spent given the experiences we have had and the places we have traveled. Living at home in our normal routine would have cost us much more already.

Item   Cost  
Lodging  $5,716
Food and Drinks  $5,346
Inter-Country Travel  $287
Ground Transportation  $2,250
Misc.  $1,273
Sightseeing  $662
Visas  $196
International Flights  $1,305

In a post a while back, I provided some tips on how to plan for a trip like this. From a budget perspective, there is nothing that has helped us more than having a stockpile of airline miles on a couple of carriers. We will continue to do all of our travel on miles throughout the next legs in Australia and then on to England. It is saving us an incredible amount of money. Our Chase Preferred Sapphire credit card is working hard for us here too. Our purchases on travel and dining receive double points so by the time we make our way through Australia, we should have enough points for at least two more major flights. Long story short, if you want to travel more but don’t have a credit card working for you with airline mileage credit, get one ASAP!