How much does 5 weeks traveling New Zealand cost?

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I sat at my kitchen table for nearly five hours one Saturday afternoon trying to figure out my plan, budget and life.

Unfortunately I am terrible at math (which is why I became a writer) and completely overestimated the money I would have coming in from my last pay check, but I did not realise it until about a week into my New Zealand trip. This was no bueno, but there was nothing I could do.

If there was one thing I knew about New Zealand, I knew that it was going to be expensive. Naturally, this was not a backpacking trip I really had planned or properly saved for, so when I learned that I had to leave Australia, I also learned that I had to make a choice.

Do I use my current budget and travel to New Zealand, a place I have always wanted to travel, knowing that I will run out of money quickly and travel for a shorter time, or do I head to places in Asia like the Philippines and go back to Indonesia, places where my money will get me further and that will allow me to travel longer?

I decided to go with New Zealand, because again I reminded myself that once I leave this part of the world, there really ain’t no coming back. New Zealand had been at the top of my bucket list for so long, and it was right there within my reach. I could not pass it up.

Are you dreaming of heading off to New Zealand anytime soon? Well, here is an idea of how much it will break the bank.

For this post, the totals are taken from my credit card bill and as such are written in USD. My financials are all out of whack, because technically I am traveling on a combination of the Aussie dollar and the American dollar. My every day account is Australian but my credit cards are American, so though the exchange rate seems favorable I lost a lot of money in the conversion from the Australian dollar to American dollar in order to pay off my bills, which needed to be done from an American bank account.

Regardless, for this post consider 1 USD = 1.17 NZD

Additionally, this is based off the budget of a solo backpacker staying in hostels and traveling by backpacker bus.


As I mentioned, my bus ticket that I purchased with Stray was $1,099. I also took a couple of public buses. Add on the cost of my flights to and from New Zealand along with ferry prices, and I spent a whopping total of $2,122.22

That is the first time I have added that total up. Ouch times one million.


This is the most difficult and heartbreaking part of traveling New Zealand. Though the option to couch surf around the country 100 percent exists, I did not find that many people that were traveling via couch surfing.

A typical hostel dorm bed throughout New Zealand will cost at least 27 dollars per night, and this is usually in a dorm room that is four or more beds.

Throughout the course of around 33 nights (two hotel reviews, one stint at couch surfing) I spent an estimated total of $841.36 (my best calculations), averaging each bed out to bed around $25 per night.

To a backpacker, that is mentally insane.

Food/Miscellaneous Products 


This is probably were I tried the hardest to save but in the end failed the most given all the supermarket stops made by Stray.

For the most part, my breakfast usually consisted of a piece of fruit and a granola bar, which is pretty reflective of what I eat in my every day life when I first get myself going in the morning.

For lunch, I lived off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the first three weeks of my travels before getting so absolutely sick of them I wanted to boycott the world’s peanut butter supply. Dinner became brown rice and veggies and instant noodles – the noodles were much more frequent (re: four nights per week) than the brown rice.

Often, though, my love for sweets crept into my budget and I found that I was sometimes substituting my meals with TimTams (fear of never having them again) or some kind of gummy candy I would munch on while I worked or sat on the bus.

Occasionally, and much more toward the end of my trip, I started to buy coffee at cafes that I knew was such a waste of money but that I needed to get myself focused to write. I went out to eat a couple of times, maybe three or four the entire time I traveled New Zealand, and there were a couple of times when my friends cooked for me and did not really ask for much in return.

I also brought the peanut butter over with me from Sydney along with some granola bars, free cereal from work and extra noodles that got me through my first week at least.

My total budget for all my food and coffee expenses (along with some small supplies like a tube of toothpaste every couple of weeks as I brought most other things with me) for five weeks was $289.91. 

That math seems completely wrong to me, because at points I was convinced really and truly that I was blowing so much money on food, but it seems like it averages out to around $8 per day.

Now, I wonder how it is that I left New Zealand a couple of kilos heavier than when I started…


This one I found I spent an insane and unrealistic amount of money on, but I blame New Zealand for being exactly like Australia and severely lagging in the wonderful world of the web. Often I used my phone as a hotspot to get internet, because most New Zealand hostels have a 24-hour wifi that you purchase for $4 but can run crazy slow at times when you are trying to get work done.

I spent $90.88 throughout the five weeks on buying credit for my phone, internet data and Skype credit.


This is the absolute bank breaker for New Zealand. The activities are the big hype around New Zealand, but they are also what kill travelers’ budgets. Even though I received a fair – and I mean fair – amount of my activities heavily discounted as well as free of charge, it still put a significant dent in my travels.


Majority of my money went within one weekend of Queenstown, and the total for the activities I am about to list was predominantly spent in that one weekend.

The ONLY activities accounted for in these calculations are my Skydive + photos; two bungy jumps and one canyon swing + photos; Queenstown gondola + luge; transport to the Tongariro Crossing Climb + equipment rental; entry fee to the Rotorua museum; and my Abel Tasman Kayaking tour. (Note that my Skydive and my kayaking tour were discounted.)

The total I spent on activities was $1,328,87. 

Now thing about the things you read about that are not included on this list or in that price estimation. My weekend in Franz Josef alone easily could have cost about $600-$700.


I did not do heaps of shopping whilst traveling, because when you are traveling with a backpack the last thing you want to do is carry crap around.

My shopping total was around $175 on rain jackets, a book and a couple of other little things.


As I said, I really went out only once, and throughout my trip I spent a total of $40 on alcohol, all of which was spent in one night when I decided to buy a round of drinks on my own birthday. I should have soaked it up the birthday glory a little bit more, but Fabian, Matt, Christian and Ricardo did a great job in helping me celebrate and making sure I had cake waiting for me to devour when I stumbled home.



All in all, give or take a few dollars, I think I spent approximately $3,560 throughout nearly five weeks in New Zealand, from my flights to my hostels to my food and activities.That averages out to about $700 per week.

At least I think all of this math is correct. When I paid off my credit card it felt like it was closer to $1 million total.

Most of your money will be spent in Queenstown with the activities like tandem sky diving from 15,000 feet in the air and the bungy jumping that has everyone in town living like dare devils, but the rest of New Zealand will not see you do as many activities and spend as much money in such a short amount of time.

I would say expect to spend an absolute minimum of around 600 dollars a week if you are staying in hostels, cooking yourself instant noodles, traveling by bus and picking your activities super wisely – which means hardly doing any activities at all.

Again, New Zealand can be a hard budget to suggest, because you can easily hitchhike your way around, which comes  at no cost to your wallet but instead possbily to your life.

If you are trying to live like a baller, I would say at least 800 or more to do all the activities that you want without holding back, because there are plenty to do outside of Queenstown. From sailing or kayaking your way through Abel Tasman National Park to climbing glaciers in Franz Josef or discovering the glowworms deep within the Waitomo Caves, many of these activities are well worth the dollar spent.

You only live once, right?

What do you think about this budget breakdown?

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