How To Backpack New Zealand On A Budget

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After living in kiwi land for over 4 months, I feel I know enough and have made enough mistakes to show you guys how to travel and live in New Zealand on a budget. The price of living is high and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Prices are similar in some areas to those of Australia but with minimum wage being significantly lower, you will scratch your head by how fast your money will go!

So, here are a few tips to bring down the costs!

Bayswater, Auckland, New Zealand

Food

Countdown is your go to supermarket in New Zealand with massive stores across the country, you can pick up absolutely anything you can imagine. However, like with most countries, New Zealand has an alternative for those wanting to save a few bucks. That alternative is Pak n Save.

Scott and I tried it out and we went twice and never returned. Pak n Save is basically a huge warehouse stock pilled with food and cheap meats. However, when we actually looked, some tinned good were around the same price as Countdown.

belgium beer cafe mt eden

Backpackers and locals alike will go to Pak n Save for one reason, the fresh produce section is unbelievably cheap. But with cheap meats, cheap veg and cheap cheese. Do not expect the meat to taste great or the veg to last very long.

We aren’t snobs, we are backpackers and the meat we purchased turned my stomach. The colour, the smell, the amount of water and fat which poured out of it when it got thrown into the saucepan. Yikes!

So, what do you do? Well, we stick to countdown for now but like to get our fruit and veg from little Asian owned markets and always try to buy your meat from a  butcher! The quality will be impeccable and because you can literally ask for one sausage, you will save a fortune as a solo backpacker!

Accommodation

The most common accommodation option for backpackers are hostels and they are everywhere! It is hard to find super cheap ones so if you are staying for the long run (like on a working holiday visa) then you may want to opt for a share house.

The biggest website to use when looking for shared accommodation is TradeMe. A New Zealand based website which sells, well, anything and everything! However, as a couple, Scott and I had a few hurdles to jump during the process.

Most spare rooms are unfurnished. Yep. Now you’re asking, where the hell do we get furniture? Well, even though you may find the odd place which is furnished, it is unlikely and you will have to have some extra doe to get yourself at least a second hand futon!

Taupo Urban Retreat

We stayed away from shops such as Warehouse or Target furniture as they are all new and pricey. We headed to the Red Cross furniture shop over the road from our house and looked for a bed frame, willing to buy the mattress new. For obvious reasons. When we went in, there was a Queen sized bed and brand new mattress going for $250. Not an expense we had factored in but it had to be done. We then found a desk for me to work being thrown out by our neighbours and they said we were welcome to it and voila. We have a walk in wardrobe so luckily that wasn’t a problem!

When it comes to the legality of it all, most landlords who rent to backpackers just ask for a couple of weeks rent in advance (sometimes a bond as well) but no contract. You just pay month to month!

Give yourself extra time to find a place to live! We also found that lots of listings won’t rent to couples! So it took us around 2 weeks to finally move into a place!

Transportation

I’m going to break this section down into local transport and long distance options!

Long distance:

Depending on your budget there are a lot of options to getting between and around both islands. If you opt to go for a good old fashioned bus ride then your options are ManaBus and NakedBus. Both offer incredible $1 offers on their seats (yes, you heard me) and even if you miss the $1 deals, then their normal prices are incredibly low!

If you need to fly then jump onto Skyscanner or Google Flights to check out the best deals, with Air New Zealand and Jet Star normally offering the lowest fairs!

Boat from Auckland to Bayswater

Renting a car or buying a van is by far the best way to see New Zealand. The complete freedom to drive at your own pace and stop off anywhere you want! Rent a Dent is an awesome option with cars starting at $20 a day, we don’t use anyone else!

Auckland local:

Auckland is probably one of the easiest cities to get around in for it’s size, with boats, trains and buses running frequently throughout the city and it’s suburbs. If you do plan on staying in Auckland for a while, make sure you pick yourself up a Hop Card to save a tonne of travel costs! Plus it’s more convenient then sorting out change for every trip you take!

Attractions

New Zealand is the land of natural beauty… and free things! Why pay to stay inside a museum when you have some of the words most incredible landscapes right in front of you? Long day walks, thermal springs and mountain views are all free and are not hard to come by!

street performer auckland

Night life

The cost of living is high as I have already mentioned however, if you start earning the New Zealand dollar it doesn’t hurt your bank account so much when you’re earning $16per hour.

orbit resturant

A pint of cold beer will set you back on average around $10 and obviously buying your alcohol from a bottle shop is considerably cheaper. However, on a good note, kiwi’s love their happy hour so look out for some good deals if you want to save a few bucks when you’re out and about! To get the best deals, try finding some local backpacker bars or see if your hostel has a bar before you book!

If you are a smoker, then you will not like the prices of tobacco out here! Even more expensive than Australia as the government are trying to crack down hard on people smoking a 50g pouch of tobacco will cost you around $70 (MINIMUM)… I’l let that one sink in.

This post does include affiliate links to products or companies which I have personally used and would highly recommend! If you click on an ad, at no extra cost to you, I make a small commission from the sale. All of which goes straight back into my travels and my YouTube channel to bring you even more PsychoTraveller goodness!

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Hi! Name’s Aly! Originally from Birmingham, England, I have been discovering the world for over 3 years straight. I am a psychology graduate with a love for Pho and red wine. Whether I throw myself into a novel or from 14,000ft up out of a plane, I look at adventure big and small and say “Let’s do this!”
  • Leeann Ready

    I am LOVING the new look! So streamlined, sophisticated. I hope to visit New Zealand maybe within the next 5 years. And I will come back to this blog and vlog time and again. THANKS!

    • Aly

      New Zealand is awesome! 🙂

  • We Found A Way

    Love your new look on the blog! We’re currently watching all your Australia videos to get ready for our trip next year 🙂

    • Aly

      That’s awesome! Where do you think you are going to start in Australia? 🙂

  • Linn

    Hello Aly! Thanks for your awesome videos and blogposts, I’ve been following you for 2 years (that might sound creepy)! However, a big life goal for me is to do some backpacking during a year (or two…) before I try to get into colleges and get a career (perhaps). I’ve been saving for years and I’ll be graduating this spring. So my plan is to save up the last amount of money and then fly away to the country of my dreams since LotR: New Zealand. This would happen during the early September, which I suppose is winter in NZ. I live in Sweden, so I am really tired of short days, darkness and coldness, and I wouldn’t like to leave the swedish summer to shiver in a empty hostel.

    I would like to stay in NZ for some months and really get into the country. But I really want to visit Australia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, other SE Asian-countries and India. When would be the best time for me to visit you think? Should I rethink my route? It would be more practical if I went to India first (since it’s the least distance from Sweden), but I have never been outside northern Europe, so I am a bit afraid it would be such a shock getting there and hard to get into the culture before I find some kind of backpacking mode and really can appreciate India?

    I have been stuck with these questions for months! I know you’re up to a lot, and don’t expect you to answer, but I would really appreciate some expert thoughts!

    Keep up with being awesome!

  • Filip

    When first thought about going to Australia almost two years ago, I saw your videos. The first videos, the “young” Aly and now I have been in Australia for the last….I dunno. Long time. Yesterday I arrived in Auckland ready to start an amazing trip. Without a car (which I had in Australia), this time with bus services and hitchhiking. God, Aly, thank you so much for your tips and tricks, your videos and your blog. I startet one myself because your’s is so cool! You’re the best.

  • Ida Björnfot

    Hi Ally! I’m heading to NZ on a WH visa in September this year and after watching your videos I have decided to go with Nakedbus. However I am pretty confused, because on their website they sell bus passes, but then you say that they sell seats for $1? so let’s say for example that I buy a 20 trip pass for $439, would I still have to pay additionally when booking? And if not, if you could just buy cheap seats seperately, then why would I want to buy a bus pass?

    Thank you for all your tips!

    Ida, from Sweden 🙂