Budget Basics to Estimate Your New Zealand Trip Cost

Cost of Living Compares to Urban America

Kaikoura Coastline, New Zealand

Melchor Gomez-Labagala/Getty Images

United States residents traveling to New Zealand on vacation typically find higher prices for some common consumer goods and lower prices for others. In general, you can expect to pay higher prices in smaller towns and rural areas, and lower prices in the major cities of Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Hamilton. For some things, the North Island tends to have lower prices than the South Island.

Use this breakdown of common essentials to help plan a budget for a trip to New Zealand. Similar to most Western economies, New Zealand enjoys low inflation and stable prices. But costs can vary widely throughout the country.

Current as of January 2018, listed prices reflect New Zealand dollars; use the XE currency converter to convert to your home currency.

Groceries and Restaurant Meals

For grocery items, supermarkets generally cost much less than small convenience stores (called dairies or superettes in New Zealand), much like in the U.S. and other developed countries. Groceries in New Zealand tend to cost more than in the United States, but most supermarkets run weekly specials and offer club card discounts (cashiers often keep a loaner card for out-of-towners; just ask to use it), so smart shopping can save you money.

Though you may be able to find familiar products from home, imported items nearly always cost more, so in general, stick with local brands and fresh food to save money.

In Auckland, you can expect to pay about $6 for a carton of 12 eggs, $2.25 for a liter (roughly equivalent to a quart) of milk, and $3.86 for a little more than 2 pounds of apples (1 kilogram). Local cheese and boneless, skinless chicken breasts both run about $8 per pound (500 grams), while a loaf of sandwich bread can cost anywhere from $1.50 to $10.

Artisan breads from specialty bakers typically cost more.

A bottle of wine from a supermarket generally runs between $8 and $30, while a flat white (the preferred coffee-house preparation of New Zealanders) costs about $4 at a cafe. Expect to pay about $8 for a domestic draft beer at a pub.

New Zealand's vast variety of restaurants ranges from cheap to world-class fine dining. You can also find ethnic restaurants from around the world with Thai, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese as the most common. Prices vary as widely as the menu choices, but in general, a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant costs $90 to $115. On the budget end, a Big Mac costs $6 with McDonald's combo meals ranging up to $11.

Tip: Ethnic restaurants often offer the best value and are usually BYOB too.

Car Fuel

Most cars in New Zealand run on either of the two grades of petrol (gas) commonly sold. The 91 octane, at approximately $2.13 per liter (0.26 gallons), costs less than 95 octane at $2.20 per liter, although using 95 generally results in better performance.

In theory, larger vehicles powered on diesel fuel cost less at the pump, with diesel priced at about $1.45 per liter, but a Road User Tax increases the actual price per liter close to that of 91 petrol.

The Road User Tax varies according to the weight of the vehicle; you must pay it in advance at any Post Shop, and display a card on the windshield.

Tip: Most supermarkets award fuel vouchers for purchases over a specified amount. Do your grocery shopping in bulk at a supermarket and get one of these vouchers, which can save you between 3 and 20 cents per liter.

Accommodations

As you would expect, accommodations in New Zealand range from campsites, backpacker hostels, and budget hotels and motels to luxury resorts and private lodges. Prices vary according to the season, with summer (from December until February) generally being the costliest. Prices also differ according to location; lodging in the most popular resort towns (such as Queenstown) generally costs more than the national average.

The following shows the average price range for a double/twin room (two people), during high season, per night:

  • Backpackers—dorm bed (single): $18–$25
  • Backpackers—private room (double): $45–$65
  • Motel unit—double: $90–125
  • Main city hotel (3-star, standard room)—$135–$170
  • Main city hotel (5-star), standard room—$150–$450

Public Transportation

Due to the challenging geography and small population, New Zealand has a relatively undeveloped rail network. However, it can be a good option for travel within Auckland and to other parts of the North Island. New Zealand also has a couple of enjoyable scenic tourist railway lines.

Buses and coaches are more widely available and can be an economical way to travel between towns and cities, with local fares ranging from $2 to $10 per trip. Taxi rides within the city limits on a business day cost about $29 per 5 miles of distance, but prices vary widely throughout the country.