Is New Zealand Expensive? Your Ultimate Costs Guide

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New Zealand is one of those countries that lands on everyone’s bucket list. You may be looking to spend a week partying in Queenstown, road tripping around the country for a few weeks, or perhaps you’re planning on moving to New Zealand for good. With so many different ways to experience New Zealand, answering the question of is New Zealand expensive isn’t as straightforward as you’d think. 

Renting a camper van and freedom camping can cost you as little as $70 a day. Whereas staying in a four-star hotel and ticking off all the activities on offer can add up to over $340 a day. Living in New Zealand isn’t exactly cheap either.

Along with New Zealand’s natural beauty comes a hefty price tag, which is due to one main fact. New Zealand is a remote island country, and most of the goods have to be imported. Add on substantial goods and services tax and income tax, and the question of is New Zealand expensive starts to answer itself. Let’s take a closer look!

What’s the average cost of a trip to New Zealand?

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The average price of a trip in New Zealand will be between $1000 and $1,500 per week. That’s assuming travelers will be staying in three-star hotels, eating at midrange restaurants, and enjoying a few of the many activities on offer. However, New Zealand also has options for both budget and high-end travelers.

Depending on how much time you have and what type of activities you’re looking to do, the cost of an average trip can fluctuate greatly. If you’re into hiking and stick mainly to day hikes while staying in hostels, you can travel around New Zealand relatively cheaply. However, if you want to go bungy jumping, sky diving, and enjoy fine dining, expect to pay an arm and a leg.

Since it’s nearly impossible to give one answer to the question of is New Zealand expensive, we’ve broken down the average cost of a one-week trip to New Zealand in three different categories, each priced per person.

  • Budget trip
    • Backpacker accommodation = $140 per week in a bunk room
    • Basic meals cooked in a hostel = $140
    • Bus between cities = $40 for one four hour ride
    • Cheap or free activities $100

A one-week budget trip in New Zealand, without flights and staying in one place, would average $420.

  • Standard trip
    • Three-star hotel = $570 per week
    • Some meals cooked, some eating out = $190
    • Budget rental car = $143 + fuel
    • Activities = $340

A one-week standard trip in New Zealand, without flights, would average $1,350.

  • High-end trip
    • 4 star hotel = $1000 per week
    • All meals are eaten out + beverages = $480
    • Rental car = $200 + fuel
    • Activities = $500

A one-week higher-end trip in New Zealand complete with all the activities, without flights, would average $2,300.

If you’re traveling with a family or significant other, the cost per person will lower slightly due to shared accommodations.

Is New Zealand expensive for hotels?

Is New Zealand expensive - hotels
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Put simply, it isn’t easy to find good, cheap accommodation in New Zealand. Even if you’re only looking for a bed in a dorm room, prices will still feel alarmingly expensive, especially in the more touristy destinations. For both those living in New Zealand and visiting, you can expect accommodation to equal roughly half your daily spending.

Even so, New Zealand is home to some truly awe-inspiring accommodations. Some of our favorites include:

  • Milford Sound Lodge – You’ll have to book well in advance as the Milford Sound Lodge is the only accommodation in Milford Sound, but it’s well worth the hassle. Very few places in the world can you sleep in luxury with best in the world views at your doorstep.
  • Bay of Many Coves – Located in Queen Charlotte Sound, you can only reach this luxury accommodation by water taxi. If you’re looking to see New Zealand at its finest, step away from the hectic world and enjoy pure relaxation – this is the place to do it.
  • Underhill Valley Glamping – Want to experience life as a Hobbit? Underhill Valley is straight out of a fairytale, and you’ll feel like you’ve landed yourself in Middle Earth. Be prepared for basic amenities and candlelit rooms, but it will undoubtedly be an experience you’ll remember for a long time.

Is New Zealand expensive for food?

New Zealand cafe
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Can you imagine paying $6 for an avocado? Welcome to New Zealand. While not all food is expensive in New Zealand, you certainly have to keep your eye on prices to avoid paying much more than expected.

As much of New Zealand’s food is imported, especially when it is out of season, prices can be astonishingly high. Hence, the reference to avocados. In summer, you can get this tasty green treat for only a dollar or two, yet come winter, when they’re not in season, it’s not unusual to pay $6 and up for a small and unripe avocado.

While New Zealand isn’t overly expensive, especially compared to larger US cities, Europe, and Australia, what surprises most is the lack of ‘cheap’ options. Even McDonalds can cost a small fortune, but in return, you’re getting much more quality food than elsewhere in the world. The same goes for coffee. Yes, a standard coffee might cost you $3.50, but it might be one of the best coffees you’ve had in your life.

When eating out, expect to pay $35 for dinner for two at an inexpensive restaurant. Dinner at a typical sit-down restaurant can set you back $60 for two, and for fine dining, expect to pay at least twice that.

Some of our favorite places to eat include:

  • Margo’s ($$) – A hip, Mexican-influenced restaurant in the heart of downtown Queenstown, you’ll always find a fun and upbeat buzz at Margo’s. Great happy hour deals on margaritas and tacos make it a favorite for the after-work crowd.
  • Federal Delicatessen ($) – If you’re in Auckland, you’ll have to seek out this unassuming New York style deli. Locals know it as ‘The Fed,’ and it’ll be jammed packed from the moment it opens for breakfast until it closes after late dinner service – but it’s well worth the wait.
  • Scorch-O-Rama ($$) – Located near Scorching Bay Beach in Wellington, Scorch-O-Rama is sure to bring out the inner child in you. Sit near the water and enjoy the quirky cafe packed with nostalgia.

Is New Zealand expensive to live?

Wellington houses
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Constantly rated as one of the best places in the world to live, many expats find their home in New Zealand. Similar to traveling here, it is possible to live both on the cheap and more expensively.

The most common expenses for living in New Zealand include:

  • One-bedroom apartment in city center = $1,300 per month / outside city center = $1,000 per month
  • Three-bedroom apartment in city center = $2,300 per month / outside city center = $1,800 per month
  • Monthly cable and internet = $75 per month
  • Basic utilities for a small apartment = $140 per month
  • Petrol is also very expensive compared to the USA, costing around $6.80 per gallon

Buying a home in New Zealand is also a sticker shock. In Queenstown and Auckland, you’ll be hard-press to find a house (even a small one) for under $700,000. However, further afield, prices drop significantly.

It’s not all bad news for how expensive it is to live in New Zealand, as the country comes with many perks. Besides New Zealand’s laid by culture and lifestyle, other main perks are its extensive healthcare and subsided education. All residents and travelers are covered by ACC, which means if you are injured in New Zealand, you won’t be stuck with a crazy medical bill.

Is there a high season in New Zealand?

Queenstown at night
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Yes, New Zealand’s summer of December through February sees a drastically larger number of visitors. With this, you’ll notice increased accommodation costs, higher-priced rental cars, and fully booked tourist excursions.

Although not as popular as the summer, winter also sees an influx of tourists, especially those looking to enjoy the many ski fields on offer. In places like Queenstown, known for its winter festivities and ski fields, you’ll notice prices are just as high as in the summer months. Other parts of the country see little to no tourists during the winter season, so it really depends on where you go.

Spring and fall are certainly the best times to travel to New Zealand if you’re looking for quieter trails yet still lovely weather for exploring. You can also find good deals on excursions and enjoy the country’s more relaxed and authentic pace.

Free things to do in New Zealand

hiking in New Zealand
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New Zealand is packed full of free things to do if you know where to look and enjoy a bit of an adventure. Some of our favorites include:

Hiking – One could spend a lifetime exploring New Zealand’s backcountry and never even come close to seeing it all. With easily accessible hikes across the country, all you need to do is a bit of research and pack a lunch, and you have an all-day activity free of charge. Always be sure to check the weather and tell someone where you’re going and when you’re expected back.

Hang out at the beach – If all-day hiking isn’t your thing, head to one of the many stunning beaches dotted along New Zealand’s coastline. Even at the most well-known beaches, you won’t be hard-pressed to find your stretch of sand. Pack some snacks, bring a towel, and spend your day between the sand and the sea.

Enjoy a personal spa – You don’t need to spend a massive amount of money to enjoy your own personal spa. In fact, all you need is a shovel. Head to Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel, and you can dig your hot pool heated from volcanic rocks sitting under the ground.

Chase Waterfalls – You may have been told before not to go chasing waterfalls, but we’re here to tell you to put that advice to the side when you’re in New Zealand. The country is overflowing with waterfalls, each as beautiful as anything you’ve ever seen. If you happen to be in Milford Sound during or after rain, be prepared to be wowed by thousands of waterfalls cascading off the cliffs.

Money saving tips for traveling to New Zealand

Is New Zealand expensive - money saving tips
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  1. Travel in the spring or fall. The summer months of December through February and the winter months of June through August will see increased prices and packed full trails. By going outside of these months, the weather will still be good to enjoy the many hikes, yet you won’t have to deal with the high tourist number and spiked summer prices. 
  2. Look for relocation deals on cars. Sites like transfercar.co.nz offer free rentals and even a tank of gas for you to relocate cars from one city to another. If your plans are open and you don’t mind a long drive, it’s a great way to travel for almost free.
  3. Don’t buy bottled water. New Zealand tap water is fresh and perfectly drinkable. There is no need to buy bottled water. Plus, ​​the environment and your wallet will thank you.
  4. Use deal websites. Head to bookme.co.nz and firstable.co.nz. These are the websites locals use to book activities and dining, but there’s no reason you can’t take advantage of them too.
  5. Consider freedom camping. You can camp for free in much of the country as long as you have a self-contained camper. This comes with many advantages and disadvantages, so do your research and decide if it’s the right fit for you.
  6. Take your time. Road distances in New Zealand can be deceivingly long, and the last thing you want to do is spend your entire trip behind the wheel. If you only have a week or two to explore, stick to only one island and explore it well. Plus, fuel is expensive and adds up quickly.

The final verdict – Is New Zealand expensive?

Is New Zealand expensive
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Yes, New Zealand is an expensive country to visit. Between high accommodation rates, expensive fuel and food, and plentiful activities you’ll want to tick off, New Zealand is not a destination that’s easy to do cheaply. However, with a few money-saving tips and taking advantage of the endless hiking opportunities, you can visit New Zealand without breaking the bank.

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