Travel New Zealand on a Budget: 11 Simple Tips

Do you think that we humans have an inherent ability to control our budget while we travel? I’m definitely a firm believer of that.

Even so, we struggled a lot when we were planning our budget as we tried to minimize cost as much as possible. Sometimes, the temptation can be too big.

I have compiled a few ways on how you can travel New Zealand on a budget, so you don’t have to take the long way around to do this like we did!

A little self-control can go a long way!

1. Buy a car in winter and sell it in summer

⬆︎Arranging our “kitchen” outside a supermarket

We bought our Toyota Estima for $2800 in June (winter), living roughly four months without a car prior in the summer months. We then “pampered” the car and spent thousands more. The final amount totaled up to about $4500

We then sold it in summer for $5500 when the demand was higher.

Buying a car in New Zealand is unbelievably easy! Just bring your passport and your international driver’s license, go to the post shop, fill up the form, pay the money, voila! Ownership transferred. 

You can check out Backpacker Cars New Zealand on Facebook or Facebook marketplace! Set your custom location and you can browse a car that you want at the location you’re at!

2. Rent and stay in a small car

⬆︎Our Toyota Corolla where we also sleep in.

If buying a car is not an option for you because you are traveling for a week or two, then consider renting from the local car rental companies. Oh, you will be spoilt for choices! The moment you get out of the airport, you will see car rental companies… EVERYWHERE!

We rented ours from GoRental. 

3. You may not need to book an accommodation at all!

⬆︎A freedom camp spot with a stunning backyard view of mountains and rivers.

With both cars, the Estima and the Corolla, we did not once pay a single cent for our accommodation. 

All we needed was the “Campermate App” and some guts.  

Elaborating more on the Campermate App, you can tweak your searches and look for campsites, toilets, public showers, library, information centre, gas station, grocery stores… Basically anything and everything that you may need.

By saving so much money on accommodation, our cost was cut down tremendously!


Some of the free campsites have the best possible sunset. A lot of them are situated beside the beach, a river, in mountain valleys and even beside waterfalls! 

Now what about… showering? I’m glad you asked.

4. Shower whenever you can/sometimes even in public

⬆︎Washing up outside a public toilet at the freedom camp site. The sign is meant for people who irresponsibly park in front of the toilet. Always heed the signs and park at designated areas only.

⬆︎After washing up at a public toilet in a local township.

Oh, boy. The shameful things we have done to save some money. 

We have showered in the sinks in public toilets, basically just washing our hair and wiping our bodies with wet cloths; showered plenty a times using the beach shower (be careful though, some of them don’t allow shampoos that are not Eco-friendly); showered naked in swimming centres (they just don’t have any privacy); and took a dip in a freezing-cold river. 

If you’re a person who needs to shower twice or thrice a day, this may be a struggle for you. However, showering so often in winter can be a torment. In winter, the beach shower will suffice, though many of them lack privacy.

5. Couchsurfing and WWOOFING

⬆︎Before we started traveling, we did work for accommodation on days when we had no work in the kiwi orchard. With that, our host kindly offered us the job to clean her garden and cut our rent by half or sometimes all.

I’ve never tried couchsurfing, but basically hosts allow you to stay with them for free for a few days in exchange of cultural exposures. You can perhaps spend time with the host, cook them some of your home-cooked meals, play with their kids, and the list goes on!

WWOOFING, on the other hand, is working for accommodation. You help them manage their place in exchange for food and a place to sleep. It can be gardening 3-4 hours a day; helping out in farms; taking care of their children as au pair, scrubbing the toilets and cleaning rooms in backpackers lodge or hostels,…

6. Eat easy-to-make meals or canned food

⬆︎Our staple – sandwich

This may sound silly or unbelievable to you, but we lived off sandwiches when we were traveling. Every single meal that we had: sandwiches.

Our staples were bread and tuna. Together, we ate 12 pieces of bread PER DAY.

Also, we spoilt ourselves quite often with fish n’ chips takeaways as well as a few Indian meals. The cravings want what it wants.

There were heaps of canned corns involved as well. Oh, that will supplement you with enough fibre that you will run to the bathroom the first thing in the morning the next day. It had gotten Louis into some pretty nasty situations.

7. Is a 9,000ft skydiving worse than a 12,000ft skydiving?

When you are booking for an activity, ask yourself this: Do I really want to do this? 

The idea of bungy jumping appealed to me, but when I looked down from the bridge and imagining myself falling head first, I decided that it was not my type of thing. Instead, I went skydiving – something that didn’t need me to fall head first. It was an extremely liberating experience

When booking for our skydiving, the lady encouraged us to pay more for an extra minute of free fall. It was just an extra minute of free fall. That will cost another $100 or $200. I used that money and got the handy cam package instead. No regrets. 

8. Nature is free

⬆︎On top of Isthmus Peak after Roy’s Peak (both in Wanaka) was closed for lambing.

⬆︎Another Isthmus Peak view

Most of our destinations were free. We stayed away from cities as much as we can. You are more compelled to spend when things are available. That’s how consumerism works. Out of sight, out of mind. Nature is free, make the most out of it.

9. Make use of deals

⬆︎Jetboating for free

When I booked the Milford Cruise in winter, they were having deals. With every purchase of the Go Orange boat cruise ticket, one can be entitled to a free jetboat ride in Queenstown. Yes! Yes, please!

There are always deals in New Zealand to help you enjoy New Zealand at the same time save money. A good website would be It was this website that I booked my skydiving activity. Just make sure that you’re always keeping an eye out for cheap deals!

10. Winter is cheaper than summer

⬆︎Traveling in winter in our Apollo motorhome. Look at the autumn colours!

Everything is cheaper in winter. That includes motorhome rentals, holiday parks and activity bookings. In summer, not only will it be crowded, things were more expensive as well. Places get filled up very quickly and you see people everywhere you go!

Of course, if it seemed too good to be true, it probably has its reasons to be. It can be extremely cold and painful to travel in winter. It rains sometimes and you will have to bear the excruciating pain when a breeze passes by. To balance it all out – you get to witness snow, like my parents did for the first time in their lives. 

11. Work your butt off! Literally working with butts.

⬆︎Milking cows in a milking shed.

Last but not least, work. 

We worked every possible chance that we got. The glamorous life that you see on pictures did not show how hard we worked; how we volunteered to work on weekends when everyone else just wanted their weekends off; how we insisted to work when no work was given to us; how we were willing to go the extremes just to get paid. 

Be willing.


⬆︎Went on a boat fishing trip with my host and ended up catching heaps of fishes!

There are all kinds of ways you can travel New Zealand on a budget! Most importantly, don’t compromise your experiences because you only live once (YOLO)!

Being frugal is not a bad thing. At least you come back with some money, not completely broke. 

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