How to Travel to New Zealand on a Budget

It is the presumption of many that New Zealand is an expensive place to visit. There is indeed some truth in this statement, although it is still possible to travel to New Zealand on a budget. All you need is forward planning and the right tips!

If you are planning on visiting New Zealand and don’t want to break the bank in the process, a road trip is the best option. This way you can camp, get around cheaply, forget paying for accommodation and see loads of stuff for free.

I spent 3 months touring New Zealand in my camper, and believe me, I was on a tight budget. However, I still managed to see almost all of the top attractions. So, sit back and let me tell you all about it!

Best Time to Visit

New Zealand is a fantastic destination all year round, but depending on the season you chose, the price tags vary! Summer in New Zealand runs from December through till February, these months being the busiest and the most expensive times to visit with prices on hostels, attractions, and campervan hires all being inflated.

Winter is also an expensive time to visit, as this is the season for snowboarding and skiing, coupled with sub-zero temperatures, making winter a bad time for road trips. In winter you will find limited activities and accommodation open.

Save Money by Visiting in Spring or Autumn

In New Zealand, the month of October and November fall in spring. During these months you will find pleasant weather, perfect in fact for a road trip and hiking. Autumn is also a perfect time, March and April being a great alternative to spring.

So, first things first: Get yourself a Self-contained campervan.

A self-contained campervan is a van that has been converted into a home for cooking, living, and sleeping, and will generally include a gas cooker, a toilet, and storage space. When you rent a self-contained van, you can camp for free on the side of the road in New Zealand, taking advantage of “Freedom Camping”

Tips for Renting Campervans

• For the best prices on campervans, use a budget company such as Mad Campers, Jucy, Happy Campers, or Pod Rentals.
• Keep costs down by picking up and dropping of your camper in the same location
• Be sure to take out travel insurance that will cover your rental excess. This is vital and will cover you in vase you have an accident.
• Get the best deals by booking in advance

Where to Stay

When traveling around New Zealand on a budget, you have two accommodation options; hostels and camping. If you don’t plan to hire a campervan, and are averse to camping, hostels are your best option as there are plenty of backpacker hostels in all towns and cities with prices starting at around $25 per night. New Zealand however has some of the most stunning campsites, and I recommend camping over hostels any day.

Freedom Camping

As mentioned before, when you hire a certified, self-contained campervan, you can park up anywhere permitted by the local council for free. You will also find many designated freedom camping sites on your travels, these having the benefit of providing you with bathroom facilities you may otherwise not have. Campsites in New Zealand are cheap, and cost around $12 to $15 a night. Facilities are basic and include running water and pit toilets, these sites filling up on a first-come, first serve basis for anyone who wishes to use them. Paid holiday parks are another option, but these are pricier, the price is reflected in the facilities available onsite.

Money-Saving Tips

• Use deal websites like for the best discounts on tours and activities
• Freedom camp to save money, using the Campermate app to find all the best sites as well as information on where freedom camping is not allowed.
• Sign up for gas points rewards discount cards, fuel stations offering discounts of 4 cents per liter for signing up.

Things to Do for Free in New Zealand

Traveling around New Zealand is all about nature, and there are plenty of things you can do for free.

• Hiking is the perfect, free, activity in New Zealand, some of my personal favorites including Cathedral Cove, Ben Lomond, and the Pinnacles.
• Visit the Waipu Glow Worm Caves, the only free caves in New Zealand, located 3 hours of Auckland
• Self-drive Lord of the Rings Tour. Avoid paying $100 for a guided tour, mapping out your own tour and adventure.
• Milford Sound. Drive to Milford sound along one of the country’s most scenic road, stopping on the shore at the end to take in a magical sunset.
• Waterfall visits. Especially on the South Island, there are tons of waterfalls well-worth a visit, including Thunder Creek and the Mclean Falls
• Go to the Beach. New Zealand boasts not just free beaches, but black volcanic sand beaches.


New Zealand is a great country to visit, even on a shoe-string budget. So, start planning your road trip today!