New Zealand Summary: Better Late Than Never

16 Mar – 7 April 2010, New Zealand

One helpful resource for planning our round-the-world trip has been other travel blogs. In most of our posts we describe our experiences as we traverse a country, but I’ve always intended to write summaries with final recommendations and costs. I’m hoping these posts will be helpful for our legions of readers who are also planning to quit their jobs, sell their cars, shoehorn their remaining possessions into a 10’ x 15’ storage space, and drop off the map for a year.

Determining an itinerary for New Zealand was relatively easy. The South Island is generally considered to be more beautiful and some travelers may chose to skip the North Island entirely. However, Allison had previously visited the South and definitely wanted to see the North during this trip. We felt that we divided our time appropriately between the two islands, with about one week above and two below.

Most budget travelers rent a vehicle to see New Zealand, and choosing between a campervan or car presented our only really difficult planning decision. Higher rental and fuel costs for campervans may be offset by the lower costs of campgrounds compared to hostels. Campervans allow easy overnight access to some of New Zealand’s picturesque national parks. We ultimately chose to rent a car, thinking we might save some money and also that our nightly accommodation would be more comfortable than if we were living out of a campervan. We rented from JUCY Rentals which very clearly markets to the young, budget-oriented crowd. The car was over ten years old and had higher mileage but was problem-free.

The Highs

  • The Doubtful Sound cruise was a much appreciated, albeit expensive, break from our impoverished backpacker lifestyle. It rained for the entire duration of our cruise, but the scenery was still impressive.
  • Wanaka was a pleasant, relaxing city with some great hiking options. Our accommodation at Wanaka Bakpaka was some of the best in New Zealand.
  • Accommodation in general was great in New Zealand. Hostels were consistently clean and many were somehow quirky or unique. Our favorites were Paekakariki Backpackers, Old Slaughterhouse, Te Nikau, Hogwartz, Fernlea Backpackers, and the aforementioned Wanaka Bakpaka. Check out photos of each of these places in the Gallery.
  • The Catlins, with fewer tourists, beautiful coastline, and great weather, was a definite highlight. I really enjoyed seeing the penguins at Roaring Bay.

The Lows

  • We grew a little tired of the rain on the West Coast, although with our raingear and occasional breaks in the clouds we were still able to enjoy our time there.

Cost Summary

Category Daily Average (USD) Notes
Transportation $47.50 Rental car, gas, and ferry transport between North Island and South Island. Airfare to and from New Zealand is not included.
Accommodation $34.88 Almost exclusively private rooms in hostels, split about even between shared and private bathroom.
Food $23.79 We bought groceries and cooked most meals at our hostel.
Entertainment $36.77 Museums and tours; the Doubtful Sound cruise and Waitomo abseiling trip constitute 85% of the total.
Communications $1.70 Internet and mobile phone (local SIM card and minutes).
Essentials $1.42 Laundry, toothpaste, etc. We’d incur many of these same expenses at home.
All $146.05 Daily average for all expenses in New Zealand.

New Zealand total: $3406.57.
Conversion to USD based on 1 NZD = 0.72 USD.

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