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You’ve probably heard it before – New Zealand is an expensive place to visit, but how much does it cost to travel New Zealand really?
We spent almost 2.5 weeks in New Zealand’s South Island and we have visited the North Island on multiple occasions too, so we’ve had a chance to experience the cost of travel in New Zealand
For the purpose of this article, most of our focus will be on the cost of campervanning New Zealand, however, the information will be relevant no matter how you decide to see this beautiful country.
THE TRUE COST OF TRAVEL IN NEW ZEALAND
In the past, New Zealand has been considered a budget-friendly destination and an easy side trip from Australia. These days the whole world is starting to catch wind of how stunning NZ actually is.
This means the NZ dollar has grown in strength. But more so, it means the cost of most things have risen to match the new demand for New Zealand as a top travel destination in the world.
But don’t let this put you off. You can still absolutely have a budget holiday in New Zealand!
Planning Your New Zealand Travel Budget
The thing about New Zealand is that you don’t want to just fly over and spend your entire stay in a hotel in one spot and expect to see the best bits.
You need to get out and explore, which means you are far better seeing New Zealand by road trip – whether that be campervan like we did, pitching a tent and doing it real cheap, or staying at hotels or hostels along the way. Either way, you need to get mobile!
Don’t get me wrong, you can still have an amazing time in one city. We have done a couple of short breaks to Auckland and surrounds and made the most of it. There are plenty of day tours if you’d rather not hire a car.
But having your own transport is easier!
HOW MUCH DOES IT REALLY COST TO TRAVEL NEW ZEALAND?
We will be sharing with you the exact expenses from our South Island campervan trip plus, drawing also on our North Island travel experiences for comparison.
Note: Most of these prices are based on the winter season in 2019 for South Island, which is considered an off-peak season for campervans, but high season for skiing and snow holidays in the South Island. Some of these prices will fluctuant during different times of year, while others will be relatively stable.
For transparency, we collaborated with Wilderness Motorhomes during our campervan trip. This meant we only paid $99 towards our motorhome rental and this was for the VIP upgrade.
However, the total cost of all the inclusions we were provided for the length of our stay would have been approximately $3700 NZD.
This would have been equivalent to $231.25 NZD daily for the duration of our stay. This is a similar cost to a mid to high-end hotel for a family of 4 as a comparison.
This amount included the hire of an Outback 4 motorhome, upgraded cover, unlimited WIFI, snow chains, BBQ hire, kids car seats, GPS and camp chairs.
Wilderness Motorhomes are a luxury campervan company and we were planning to book with them prior to our collaboration, simply to have the extra comfort on the road when travelling for that long with young kids. We were fully self-contained certified.
The hire price will differ depending on time of year, size and model of the vehicle, level of cover and extra inclusions you require, but if you want it all, the price above is a good guide.
Budget Campervan Options
Alternatively, you could book a cheaper campervan. There are endless options for campervan companies in New Zealand, from very budget non-self contained options that limit where you can camp, to other luxurious models like ours.
To give you a guide on motorhome hire costs in New Zealand, check out Motorhome Republic – a rental comparison service.
Based on our exact same dates in 2020, vehicles range from $250NZD for 16 days through to over $7000NZD.
Note: These campervan variation prices are not inclusive of any optional extras such as upgraded cover and equipment hire.
If you are camping New Zealand, either in a campervan or tent, you will potentially be subject to campground fees.
It is possible to free camp your way around New Zealand, if you are happy to stay a bit further out of the way and if you are certified self-contained.
If not, you likely will need to spend sometimes to stay somewhere with facilities. You will also need to power up occasionally even if you are self-contained.
We did freedom camping for more than half of our trip, which was a great saving. However, a few times we wanted to stay somewhere that was more convenient, which meant paying.
The most expensive campground we stayed at was in the centre of Queenstown at Lakeview Holiday Park. We paid $79 NZD for a family of 4 for a powered site.
On the cheaper end, we stayed on private property along Lake Tekapo for $25 NZD.
Freedom camping is clearly marked around New Zealand. Most places will tell you if it is permitted and any conditions. Use free phone apps to find campsites around New Zealand.
As a rough guide, here are the approximate costs of camping in New Zealand:
- DOCs campsites: Typically around $6-10 NZD per person
- Non-powered site at a Holiday park: Around $10-15 NZD per person
- Powered site at a holiday park: Around $15-40 NZD per person
OUR TOTAL: $235 NZD spent on campgrounds ($147 USD)
Note: We also spent $138 NZD on 1-night accommodation in Christchurch upon arrival as we arrived late at night.
Getting around New Zealand is one of the most expensive parts. The cost of fuel is high. It is usually upward of $2 NZD per litre for fuel. The cost of Diesel in New Zealand is cheaper.
On the plus side, New Zealand is a small country so distances aren’t long. They feel longer than they are simply because they wind so much.
Our campervan took diesel fuel and the cost to fill the tank from near-empty was approximately $100 NZD. We filled up approximately every 4 to 5 days during our trip, as we aimed to only drive 2-3 hours maximum per day.
OUR COST: Approximately $400 NZD ($251 USD)
Extra Campervan Expenses
When travelling via campervan, you will likely need to refill gas bottles during your trip. Whether you are using gas for cooking a BBQ or for powering up the appliances in your campervan, this will differ depending on the time of year.
Our gas refill costs were higher due to travelling by campervan in winter. Our campervan had a gas heater which we used to heat our campervan overnight.
We needed to change our gas bottle approximately every 4 days. We used the Swap and Go option at petrol stations rather than refilling. This was approximately $36 per swap.
OUR COST: Approximately $150 NZD ($94.23 USD)
COST OF FOOD IN NEW ZEALAND
The cost of food in New Zealand is on the more expensive side. A lot of products and produce are imported, which means higher prices. As we are from Australia, there were notable differences with some items, however overall it was not drastically higher.
We cooked and prepared most of the meals for our New Zealand stay in our campervan.
There are three main grocery store chains in New Zealand – Countdown, New World and Pak N Save.
We did recently visit a Pak N Save in Auckland for comparison and the prices on some items were better.
Tip: Grab a Countdown Onecard in-store when you first visit and scan it for discounts on certain items when you shop for groceries.
Cost of Groceries In New Zealand
Below is a price list of some common grocery items we purchased during our South Island trip in NZD:
- 1L Milk $2.79 ($1.75 USD)
- 1KG Apples $3.69 ($2.32 USD)
- 500G Beef Mince $4.85 ($3.04 USD)
- 100G Slice Ham $2.50 ($1.57 USD)
- 24 x 600ML Water Bottles $10.00 ($6.28 USD)
- Loaf of Sliced Bread $2.00 ($1.25 USD)
- 1KG Bananas $2.99 ($1.87 USD)
OUR COST: Approximately $330 NZD for a family of 4 ($207 USD)
Heading to NZ soon? Check out our ultimate guide to what to pack for New Zealand for adults & kids.
Dining Out In New Zealand
The cost of eating out in New Zealand is expensive. But they have some amazing food so you can’t skip it totally! You’ve at least got to get yourself some amazing lamb shanks during your visit.
Apparently we did a lot of indulging during our trip, despite cooking more meals in the campervan than eating out.
OUR COST: $738 NZD ($463.66 USD)
I’m actually horrified looking back at this figure. Remember this is for a family of 4. It also includes drinks. But whoa….
You can definitely dine out on a budget in New Zealand and cut this expense drastically. A few of our meals were around $100 NZD because they included drinks as well. Simon loves his craft beer so we dined at Monteiths Brewery and Speights Ale House.
It quickly adds up, especially when alcohol is expensive in NZ. I am not a big drinker but did get caught up in trying some of the amazing New Zealand wines.
Average Dining Costs
Here are some approximate costs for eating out in New Zealand:
- Takeaway meal from restaurant chain: $12 NZD ($7.53 USD)
- Inexpensive restaurant meal: $18 NZD ($11.30 USD)
- Mid-range restaurant meal: $25 NZD ($15.70 USD)
- Expensive restaurant meal: $35+ NZD ($21.98 USD)
Personally I am not a coffee drinker, however, Simon is on occasion. He mostly prepared his own in the campervan each day. Sometimes it is nice to have someone else make it.
Here are the approximate costs for coffee in New Zealand:
- Takeaway coffee: $4 NZD ($2.51 USD)
- Takeaway cappuccino: $4.80 NZD ($3.02 USD)
Cost of Entertainment & Attractions in New Zealand
We did not splurge excessively on attractions and entertainment, simply because there is so much you can see and do for free in New Zealand. The South Island is definitely a place you go for the scenery, so the best entertainment is getting out and exploring for yourself.
That being said, New Zealand is famous for thrills, with a lot of adrenaline-pumping attractions. Visiting with a 4 and 6-year-old meant we were limited on the number of thrills we could have this time, and that’s fine.
There are a few attractions we do recommend doing. These are the ones we did including the cost:
- Christchurch Gondola & Tram Combo Pass: $50 NZD for adult
We did not pay for this experience so the price above is from their website. We were guests of Christchurch Attractions and had a wonderful time experience the city tour and sky gondola.
Alternatively, you may want to do the Queenstown Gondola and Luge experience from $61 NZD per adult. We didn’t get the chance to do this one, which is a pity as the luge is meant to be great fun for kids.
- Tour of Emmerson’s Brewery: $28 NZD per person
Simon loves craft beer so he did this one solo while us girls explored Dunedin for the day. He loved it and recommends the tour. He would have linked to do the Speights tour as well but we did not have the time for both.
- Milford Sound Day Trip with Jucy Cruises from Te Anau: $273 NZD for 4.
This was our big splurge but something we always planned to do. We booked 2 days before our cruise and it included a bus from Te Anau, Milford Sound cruise and lunch. Kids under 5 are free.
- Snow Farm NZ: Snow Fun Zone $10 NZD per person for full-day & $15 NZD per hour for tube hire
We were guests of the Snow Farm NZ and did not pay for this attraction, however, it is an affordable option for seeing snow without having to spend a fortune on ski or snowboard equipment and lessons if visiting with younger kids who just want to see snow. We loved it!
- Puzzling World: $69 NZD for a family pass
This is a fun attraction in Wanaka the kids will love with optical illusions, puzzles and a giant wooden maze. The maze takes around 60 to 90 minutes to complete. It beat us!
- Willowbank Wildlife Reserve: $77 NZD for family pass
On our last full day, we visited Willowbank so the girls could see a kiwi. We were impressed. It’s an incredible place and bigger than expected.
You will find a lot of high priced attractions in the North Island, such as a visit to Hobbiton or Waitomo Caves, or any of the other top North Island day trip options.
One Attraction We Wish We Didn’t Spend On
We paid $85 NZD for a family pass into the Queenstown Below Zero Ice Bar. We don’t recommend this with young kids and it was the one attraction we feel we wasted our money on.
It was freezing even with our winter gear and their extra jackets and gloves. It’s also really tiny, so the kids were ready to leave after 10 minutes. Fast way to blow cash!
OUR COST: $458 NZD ($288 USD)
Note: The cost including the value of our compensated attractions would have been $692 NZD.
It adds up pretty quickly with the high cost of attractions so pick one or two you really want to do if you are on a small budget. Our pick would be Milford Sound for sure and you could cut those costs a bit by driving to Milford Sound yourself.
Our Total Spend: How Much Our New Zealand Vacation Cost
Here’s our spending break down in one place:
- Accommodation: $138 NZD ( USD)
- Campgrounds: $235 NZD
- Fuel & Gas: $550 NZD
- Groceries: $330 NZD ($ USD)
- Activities: $458 NZD ($ USD)
- Restaurants: $738 NZD ($ USD)
Total: $2449 NZD ($1413 USD)
Note: This total is what we spent, however, our biggest costs were compensated through partnerships. Refer to the below total for how much his trip would otherwise have cost.
TOTAL COST OF TRIP WITH COMPENSATED VALUES $6,383 NZD ($4010 USD)
This final figure is the most accurate cost of travelling New Zealand by campervan on a higher-end budget. We are grateful for the partnerships we had during this trip as it made a massive difference.
This was our first campervan experience. We loved the whole trip and would do it again in a flash. We definitely took glamping to the full potential and could certainly have spent less than we did dining out and on attractions.
There is no doubt, a luxury campervan trip around NZ is not a cheap holiday option, but it’s not crazy expensive either.
This was how much it cost to travel New Zealand as a family of 4, without focusing on keeping our budget low. If you are travelling as a couple or smaller budget, your total cost will be lower.
Make it work to your budget by deciding what is most important to you and cutting costs on the rest. It may be a budget motorhome or no dining out. Or a bit of both. Or perhaps you are happy to hire a car and pitch a tent!
What we can tell you though is that you will love New Zealand, despite the cost to visit!