Cost of Traveling New Zealand By Camper Van
It’s no secret that New Zealand is one of the more expensive countries to travel, often compared to the likes of Australia. Its definitely much higher than our typical SE Asian budget, but we were prepared to spend a pretty penny as it has been high on our list of places to visit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a photo of NZ that didn’t make me want to drop everything and immediately book a one-way ticket and I’ve yet to talk to any traveler that has been disappointed visiting NZ. After spending nearly two months there ourselves, and a nice chunk of our savings, I have to say it was absolutely worth every penny spent.
We spent our first two weeks in a Mighty Deuce camper van beginning our journey in Auckland, making our way around the North Island and then crossing over to the South Island on a ferry to finish our trip. After our two weeks were up, we traded in the van for a rental car and headed to our 3 week house sit in Oamaru to hang out with our boy Rockett on the coast. From there, we headed further South to Dunedin and then into Fjordland where we took a cruise on the Milford Sound. Our last week was spent in Queenstown, which wasn’t supposed to be our last week, but when our websites were all hacked we were forced to head back to the States a few weeks early to clean up that disaster.
Looking back, there is really nothing about our trip I would have changed. It really was incredible and I’m grateful for every minute of it, even if it didn’t end on the best note. However, I have to say that the best decision that we made was to rent a camper van for the first two weeks. It was a decision we heavily debated, and had a lot of doubts about even after we booked the camper van, but it really was the best way to travel New Zealand and it significantly added to our NZ experience.
Having the freedom to go where we wanted when we wanted and not have to worry about booking rooms ahead of time or planning out an itinerary was truly fantastic. We could cook our own meals, which helped the budget a lot, and some of our lunch spots were amongst the most secluded and stunning scenery I’ve scene in my lifetime. And there was something about being able to wake up to the most amazing sun rise shining through the windows just steps away from beautiful Lake Rotorua, or sleeping under a sky full of stars at night in the Coromandel. These are moments I will surely never forget.
Like we did in Europe, we tracked our expenses while we were in the camper van to give other travelers an idea of what to expect when budgeting a trip of their own to New Zealand. Clearly, everyone has different standards of traveling so our budget might be higher or lower than yours, but we tend to think we fall somewhere in the middle of a backpacker’s budget and luxury travel. Here’s the breakdown of how we spent our money based on 1 USD = 1.55 NZD.
|Groceries||455 NZD||294 USD|
|Dining Out||284 NZD||183 USD|
|Campgrounds||387 NZD||250 USD|
|Laundry||20 NZD||13 USD|
|Entertainment||82 NZD||53 USD|
|Ferry: North to South Island||531 NZD||342 USD|
|Camper Van||916 NZD||591 USD|
|Fuel||365 NZD||236 USD|
|Total||3040 NZD||1962 USD|
Food and Alcohol: Food was quite pricey, dining out and in the grocery stores, but that was to be expected. We still found it was much cheaper to cook our own food, and many of days were spent eating sandwiches in the camper van. But sometimes that got old and we just couldn’t help but want to try some delicious New Zealand cuisine. For two people that don’t like fish, we ate fish and chips many of days in NZ and now find ourselves craving it often. Beer was insanely expensive, even for domestic beer, so early on we decided we were switching to wine. NZ has some fantastic wine anyways and its definitely a more budget-friendly option.
Campgrounds: We splurged a bit on the campgrounds as I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to wanting a clean bathroom. And although we had a toilet and shower in the camper van, it was a bit cramped so we never actually used them. The campground facilities were so impressive in NZ! The bathrooms were absolutely spotless everywhere we stayed. We were also there right before high season hit and many times we were the only people in the campground, which was actually kind of nice. If you are up for freedom camping, you can save much more money than we did just make sure to do your research so that you are not camping illegally. We did freedom camp one night in Taupo at a beautiful spot on the river. We also saved a few nights when we camped in our friends driveway in Picton.
Laundry: The campgrounds all had laundry facilities where you could do your own laundry. We usually just used the washing machine and would hang-dry our clothes to save money, but one night we got a heavy rain and had to throw our clothes in the dryer, which ended up costing 8 NZD for one load of laundry. This could definitely add up. This is more than we ever paid in Chiang Mai to have our clothes washed and folded by our laundry lady! But what can ya do?
Entertainment: This is what can eat up most of your budget in New Zealand. The activities are expensive and there are so many things to do! This is also what we managed to cut back on. Our only entertainment costs consisted of a visit to the geothermal park in Rotorua and a ferry ride in the Coromandel. Although we were tempted to do a number of activities, we really enjoyed just being there and taking advantage of the hikes and free activities. And there are plenty of free things to do to keep you busy.
Interislander Ferry: This is the ferry that took us and our faithful Mighty Camper from the North Island to the South Island. It was pretty expensive, but it was definitely worth the cost. It was a great ride with beautiful scenery. Plus we wanted to explore both islands by van so it was really the best option.
Mighty Camper Van: After doing tons of research, we found Mighty Campers to be best option for us. For the price, we got a great van with the perfect amount of space for two people for two weeks. The price was for 14 days and included two camping chairs and a table that we added. This also included a $50 one-way fee since we were picking it up in Auckland and dropping off in Christchurch. At 55 NZD/day, we thought this was a really fair price. We did notice that prices go up quite a bit as you get into high season. You can get some great deals in low season. Since we were right in between, I think we picked a great time to go and were lucky to have some great weather as well.
Fuel: We were so surprised at the great mileage the van got and the low cost of diesel. And then we got hit with the diesel tax when we returned the van, which tacked another $127 on to our fuel expenses. And then it didn’t seem so great anymore.
14 days really wasn’t enough to cover the North and South Island, and we were glad that we still had more time after returning the van to explore the South. If you only have two weeks in NZ, you might find its better to stick to one island and explore it a little more thoroughly. We only stayed one night in each spot, with the exception of our first two nights in the Coromandel, and we barely would have seen the South had we been leaving right after our camper van trip.