The Best Budget-Friendly Way To Get Around New Zealand

If you're visiting New Zealand with limited funds, then you'll need to consider how to spend your tight budget because, despite being a small country, it can get expensive for tourists there. In fact, it's one of the countries that are targeting wealthy tourists post-pandemic, according to Euronews.

Charlotte van de Sande shared in her blog, Charlotte Plans a Trip, that she and her partner spent about $2,800 per person for a three-week vacation in New Zealand, which would have been a three-month stay in some Southeast Asian countries. She attributed the high price tag to expensive activities, accommodation, and transportation. Matthew Kepnes of Nomadic Matt even goes on to say that travel expenses to the country can clean your wallet like a vacuum if you're not careful.

So, if you're a budget traveler, is there still a way to check off New Zealand from your bucket list? Or, should you just forget all about it and look for adventure elsewhere? Fortunately, you can still visit New Zealand on the cheap.

The best way to see New Zealand on a budget

New Zealand is a beautiful country with diverse landscapes – from bustling cities to shining glacial lakes to ragged mountain ranges to verdant forests. And, although only Queenstown owns the title "Adventure Capital of the World," there are plenty of other places in New Zealand that can quench your thirst for thrilling experiences. Admittedly, its famous outdoor jaunts are expensive, but many others are free, such as hiking at most national parks.

To see what this country has to offer, you'll need an affordable mode of transportation, cheap food and accommodation, and inexpensive or free attractions and activities. Backpacking tours offer all these benefits. Typically offered as hop-on, hop-off bus excursions that travel a set route, backpacking tours may or may not include food, accommodation, and activities, but in general, you don't have to worry about organizing anything so it's very convenient. Just fill your backpack with the stuff you need, come excited, and decide which attractions you'd like to experience on your trip. Plus, you'll be with other like-minded individuals who might become your friends long after the short journey is over.

New Zealand backpacking tour options

Let's start with InterCity, New Zealand's largest bus network, with more than 100 daily scheduled departures connecting over 600 places in the country. It offers discounts to backpackers through Flexi Fair, as well as FlexiPass, an hours-based bus pass that will bring you to select sightseeing tours (you'll pay entrance fees, food, and other extras). In addition, InterCity also has bus passes that follow a pre-planned itinerary and day tours.

Another tour operator is GreatSights New Zealand based in Queenstown, which offers a wide array of coach tour options that include informative commentary. Tours feature "Lord of the Rings" locations, glowworm caves, cultural sites, city sightseeing, and food and wine. Tours start from $55 NZD (~$35).

Haka Tours is a bit pricier but might be worthwhile if you like adrenaline-pumping activities. It offers Adventure tours that feature Māori culture from $699 NZD (~425) and Snow tours which will take you on a multi-day trip to New Zealand's ski fields (starts at $2,100 NZD or ~$1,400). Kiwi Experience offers bus tours for as low as $85 NZD (~$50) for a two-day jaunt to the Bay of Islands all the way to $1,599 NZD (~$980) for a fully customizable 27-day unlimited travel. Backyard Roadies has a similar tour to the Far North and Bay of Islands (four days for $1,099 NZD or ~$770) that includes a surfing lesson, a beach day at Matauri Bay, visit to the largest Kauri tree, and a dip in Kai Iwi Lakes. View more bus tours for backpackers here.