This is Part 4 of our 4 part series on planning the ultimate road trip in New Zealand. We will cover every aspect – itinerary, accommodation, packing, driving, budgeting – of planning an unforgettable road trip in New Zealand
Read Part 1 – The Ultimate New Zealand road trip itinerary (opens in new tab)
Read Part 2 – Where to stay on your road trip in New Zealand (opens in new tab)
Read Part 3 – Travel Fashion – What to pack for a Road Trip in New Zealand (opens in new tab)
If you’ve reached this blog post, you’ve probably read our Itinerary for a summer road trip in New Zealand. When it comes to budgeting and costs, New Zealand can be quite expensive. It’s one of the more expensive countries we’ve visited on our travels (others include Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden).
Of course this also depends on the currency of your home country. If you’re coming from Scandinavia you won’t find it expensive. If you’re coming from Asia, you will find it expensive. Coming from UK, we found groceries and meals to be at par with most Western European countries. Here’s a detailed breakdown of costs, which will help you if you’re planning a summer road trip in New Zealand:
WHEN TO VISIT NEW ZEALAND
The million dollar question! New Zealand’s scenic panoramas are stunning in every season but weather can be a bit unpredictable during winter months (May-August). However it is the ideal time to go for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. Insofar as road trips are concerned, New Zealand’s winter is charming but its summer (December-March) is absolutely spectacular – expect sunny days, fields full of flowers, glistening lakes, and extraordinary hikes. It’s also possible to go on glacier hikes during summer.
New Zealand Dollar (NZD). £1 = 2.05 NZD (April 2016). We withdrew money from ATMs on landing in New Zealand.
This is the itinerary we followed:
- Fly into Auckland
- Explore Auckland
- Drive to Rotorua via Coromandel Peninsula
- Explore Rotorua’s geothermal areas
- Explore Rotorua’s Lakes
- The Thermal Explorer Highway and Taupo
- Explore Taupo
- Drive to Interislander Ferry Terminal via Wellington and cross over to Picton
- Whale watching and hiking in Kaikoura
- Arthur’s Pass National Park
- Drive to Wanaka via Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier, and Franz Jozef Glacier
- Explore Wanaka
- Drive to Queenstown
- Explore Queenstown and Glenorchy
- Milford Sound
- Optional: Doubtful Sound
- Arrowtown and Otago’s wineries
- Optional: Dunedin
- Drive to Christchurch via Mt. Cook and Lake Tekapo
- Fly out of Christchurch
Total: 20 days
Recommended Reading :- The Ultimate Road Trip in New Zealand : An Itinerary (opens in a new tab)
PACKING FOR NEW ZEALAND
As a rule of thumb, pack good-quality outerwear, hiking/running shoes, hiking clothes, breezy dresses for long days on the road, and swimwear.
Recommended Reading :- Travel Fashion – What to pack for a Road Trip in New Zealand (opens in a new tab)
Some average costs first:
- A cup of coffee on an average: NZD 4-6 (£2-3)
- A 500 ml bottle of coke : NZD 3-4 (£1-2)
- A regular can of deodorant (eg. Nivea): NZD 7-10 (£4-5). Yep, it’s best to stock up on toiletries before you come to New Zealand because you might end up paying three times the price for the exact same thing.
- 1 litre of fuel: NZD 1.6 – 2 depending on the place (£0.70-0.90)
- A meal: A casual café style meal will set you back by NZD 15-20/person (£7-10) while a mid-range meal at a restaurant can cost anywhere between NZD 40-50/person (£20-25)
Unfortunately wifi is paid in a lot of areas in New Zealand. Frequently ‘free’ wifi comes with a 30 minute or 100 MB limit (seriously what IS 100 MB? New Zealand up your wifi game will ya?!)
If you’re on holiday to disconnect from the world, then this is perfect for you. However if you like being in touch with friends and family back home, try to opt for hotels that offer free wifi. A number of areas, including Taupo, Arrowtown, and Tekapo, also offer free wifi to visitors. As for us, we’re data monsters. Wifi is a bit like oxygen when one is blogging on the go. So we ended up spending around NZD 50 (£24) on wifi when there was just no option and it hurt real bad 🙁 😉
Accommodation is of extremely high quality in New Zealand: motor lodges, motels, and B&Bs are usually a safe bet for road trips. Expect to find amenities befitting a 3* hotel. The amount you’ll spend on accommodation will vary drastically according to the season. Hotel prices skyrocket during New Zealand’s splendid summer (December-March). It is also much harder to find accommodation during those months. If you intend to drive through New Zealand during summer, make sure you book ahead. Expect to pay anywhere between NZD 80 and NZD 175 (£40-90) for a double room at a mid-range motel, hotel, or B&B. It’s easier to find great deals on accommodation during winter months.
The amount of money you spend on groceries depends on where you shop – Countdown and Pack n Save supermarkets offer large stores in most big cities. Stock up on groceries in larger cities: supermarkets are considerably cheaper in larger cities such as Auckland, Rotorua, and Christchurch as opposed to the countryside. They’re also much larger and offer more variety. We spent approximately around NZD 60 (£30) on groceries and coffee per day. These groceries include the cost of snacks, coffee, and a lot of meals because we picked up stuff from the supermarket and picnicked most days. We rarely ate lunch at a restaurant in New Zealand because the countryside offers such great opportunities for picnics.
We usually picked loads of fruits, salad leaves, some wine, cheeses, miscellaneous antipasto and freshly-baked breads for our picnics. New Zealand also has lots of pick-your-own farms and market stalls along the way – perfect for picking fresh fruits and vegetables bursting with flavour at competitive prices 🙂
Of course the amount you spend on activities depends solely on the itinerary you plan for yourself and your personal preferences. If you want to try your hand at sky diving or bungee jumping, then New Zealand is the perfect place for it. If you’re a big Lord of the Rings fan, then visit the Hobbiton.
As for us we went on a cruise of Milford Sound during our time in Queenstown. The cruise lasts 2 hours and costs NZD 80 (£40) per person. We also went to a number of thermal parks and hot springs in the Rotorua-Taupo region, which have nominal entry fees. We spent a cumulative sum of NZD 100 (£50) per person on this. Unfortunately we couldn’t go for a helihike at the Franz Josef Glacier due to unsuitable weather conditions but you should look it up, especially if you’ve never hiked on a glacier before. A helihike will set you back by NZD 400 (£200) per person but if you’re interested in just a scenic flight over the glaciers, you can enjoy those for as low as NZD 100 (£50) per person.
Fuel costs in New Zealand ranges from NZD 1.69-2 (£0.70-0.90) per litre depending on location. We drove 4000 kms (1000 kms on North Island, 3000 kms on South Island and spent fuel worth NZD 550 (£270) in 20 days.
We rented a car with Hertz. It costs approximately NZD 100 (£48) per day. Car rental costs increase during summer months. You can find better deals on car rentals during winter.
You don’t need a 4X4 for New Zealand because the roads are in great condition but you could rent a motorhome, which is a very popular option in New Zealand. Of course, the cost goes up considerably if you decide to rent a camper van or motorhome but you can save on accommodation and camp right in the middle of stunning surroundings.
Another thing to keep in mind when you are picking-up your car in Auckland and dropping it off in Christchurch is that you’ll have to change cars if you rent with major international rental car providers. You’ll have to drop your car off at Wellington ferry terminal in the North Island, cross over to the South Island in a ferry, and pick another car at Picton ferry terminal. That said, the process is seamless and you still make only one booking when reserving your car online.
Chances are that you will cross over from North to South island (or vice versa) at some point during your road trip in New Zealand. We had to drop our car off at Hertz Wellington ferry terminal office and cross over to the South Island. We used Interislander Ferry and a one-way ticket from Wellington to Picton costs NZD 65 (£32) per person.
Read about all our experiences in New Zealand here.
*All prices true of March-April 2016.