I’ve just got back from a hectic three weeks travelling round New Zealand (and by the way, three weeks just ain’t enough). North and South Island; buses all the way. Ridiculous, I know. I wish I’d had more time. But in that short time I still managed to pick up a fair few tips on how to save some dollars here and there.
Don’t worry, this article isn’t going to be full of obvious advice. We all know that staying in hostels and shopping in supermarkets is the budget backpacker way. But I’ll be covering the less obvious stuff: which supermarkets and shops are the cheapest, and the specific companies that will save you money. So read on!
Before you start:
Tip #1: One of the most (surprisingly) useful resources for a trip around New Zealand (and Australia, for that matter), is Facebook.
There are tonnes of groups and pages out there which can help with lift sharing, buying second hand gear, and finding travel buddies, among other things. Most major cities will have a backpacker page (for example, check out Auckland and Queenstown backpackers), and there will often also be a dedicated buy-and-sell page, used by both locals and backpackers.
When you’re in a hitch, head to the search bar to find a relevant local page, and you might just save yourself a bundle! Plus, these pages are usually full of people able to offer you advice if you need it. So if you’ve got a question, head to one of these pages to find an answer!
New Zealand has a few supermarkets, the main ones being Fresh Choice, Countdown and Pak ‘n’ Save.
Tip #2: Pak ‘n’ Save is by far the cheapest (and most fun). Four Square tends to be the most expensive, so avoid it if you can!
With NZ being a fairly pricey country, most people cook for themselves in hostels, much like Australia.
Tip #3: A cooler bag is a good investment for this reason. It means you can more easily transport leftover food from place to place, instead of having to start again in every new hostel. It can also be a good idea to get some kind of Tupperware for the same reason – making meals in bulk saves time and effort!
Tip #4: For non-food items, The Warehouse is your one stop shop.
For everything from clothes, to camping equipment, to tech, it’s got you covered. We bought our tent and sleeping bags from there for our hike along the Routeburn track, and it was well worth it.
A lot of backpackers in NZ will choose to go with a company such as Stray or Kiwi Experience. In many ways these are great options: everything is laid out for you, and you get ready-made mates from the bus journeys. Many friends of mine have been on these buses, and loved it.
However, this can be a slightly pricey (albeit very stress-free) option, so here are some more budget options:
- Tip #5: Take local buses
There are several bus companies which have routes across the country. Famously some of their tickets go for as little as $1 – though only if you book a long way ahead of time. This can be great if you already know your projected travel days a little way in advance. Try Intercity and Mana Bus.
- Tip #6: Bus passes
Various companies do a kind of package deal for travelling by bus, which can shave some dollars off your travel costs, if you’re doing multiple journeys. Naked Bus and Intercity are the main ones.
- Naked Bus have multi-trip passes called the Naked Passport, and often have specials on which include the ferry crossing for a cut price or no extra cost. My 10-trip pass + ferry worked out as about $280NZD (£160).
- Intercity’s best deal is their Flexi-pass, which lets you choose a certain number of hours of travel. For 35 hours the flexi-pass is $279NZD (£160). But do bear in mind that the hours rack up very quickly! (Example: our three week trip saw us take three separate 9-12 hour buses in the space of just over a week.)
- Tip #7: Hitch hiking
Hitch hiking is another viable option for travel around the country. In New Zealand it’s very common and pretty safe because of this. This option is particularly good if you are not on a strict time limit – sometimes it might take a while to get a lift, especially if you’re going long-distance.
- Tip #8: Buy a vehicle!
Finally, a surprisingly good-value option is actually buying a car. Use one of the many Facebook groups mentioned above, and you can get a very good deal on a car or camper with all the necessary equipment. Often people are in a hurry to sell, as they are imminently leaving the country, so you can quite easily bag a bargain here. Plus, you can save more money on accommodation if you choose to sleep in your vehicle where you can.
- Tip #5: Take local buses
It’s well known that New Zealand is a fantastic destination for adventure sports. This is the country that literally invented bungee jumping. Sky dives, canyon swings, zip-lining, skiing, kayaking – New Zealand has it all. But these things are going to burn a pretty large hole in your pocket, so getting a good deal can be very important. So…
Tip #9: Use a discount deal
BookMe, GrabOne and Groupon are fantastic when it comes to finding a cheap deal. You’ll kick yourself if you book activities through any other route (I know we did – though luckily we had found cheap deals anyway). The great thing about these sites is the sheer variety of stuff you can save on. Anything from skydives to spas; dining out to day trips. I challenge you not to go to the site searching for one thing and come away wanting to do several more things. But think how much you’re saving…
Tip #10: Head to the i-site
Perhaps my one concession to obvious advice – because I think that it’s often under-utilised – is go and ask at the tourist information. The internet is a very useful tool, yes, but there’s nothing like a bit of good old-fashioned advice from a local who knows what they’re on about. They will be able to point out the best free activities for you, no problem – especially things like the most popular hikes to do around the area.
Tip #11: Don’t forget the free stuff!
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of adventure sports, but don’t let them command your whole attention. New Zealand is a beautiful country even without leaping off very tall things. Hikes are free. Sightseeing is generally free or cheap. Museums are often free or very budget-friendly. Save the expensive stuff for a special treat and have yourself some cheaper days out.
It’s an expensive country, New Zealand. But by being savvy and saving money where you can, you don’t need to leave broke. Hopefully these tips have helped you along the way!
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