(Last Updated On: March 2, 2021)

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backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year
backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year

When Peter Jackson thought about turning the Lord of the rings books into movies, you can see why he didn’t need to stretch his imagination much, he just needed to see what was around him

This isn’t your usual type of guide to budget backpacking New Zealand. This overview doesn’t tell you how to plan your itinerary, cover ‘top 10 things to see and do’, what to pack, or offer a dollar by dollar account on what to spend.

However, in this post we do cover and provide you some useful tips, and advice, things to be wary of while backpacking New Zealand, and practical information for everyday life while backpacking New Zealand.

NOTE: I spent nearly a year living and budget backpacking New Zealand through 2013 and also returned for a while in 2015. I understand things will have changed since then but most of what I cover is still relevant to those looking to go budget traveling in New Zealand.

backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year

When you think of New Zealand, what do you think of?…Is it the little cousin in Australia’s shadow? Maybe dairy, rolling green hills and endless countryside, or just a country full of sheep. Well if that’s what you’re thinking, you are very much mistaken…

New Zealand is home to Kiwis, Mauri’s, the Haka, and the extreme sports capital of the Southern Hemisphere and the adventure travelers heaven.

With:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Caving
  • Skydives
  • Bungee jumps
  • Canyon swings
  • Mountain biking
  • White water rafting
  • It’s one of the worlds geothermal wonders, with
  • volcanoes
  • Black sand beaches
  • Hot springs, sulfur pools
  • Geysers
  • Wide mountain ranges
  • Glaciers.

Then there’s it’s natural charm, beauty and vibrant energy….Oh it’s the only place on earth you can eat a Fergburger!

There are not many places on earth that are like the two main volcanic Islands that make up New Zealand. This country has something for everybody and is one of the world’s biggest hotbeds for tectonic activity and geothermal phenomena.

Backpacking New Zealand is sure to get your adrenaline jacked to the max, put you in a state of zen, party like there is no tomorrow, be constantly amazed and in awe of what’s in front of you and make you feel like you’re in a make belief fantasy land.

backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year
Sometimes a traveling memory just pops into your head, it just did for me a I have to talk about neverland, AKA Queenstown, New Zealand

Budget backpacking New Zealand

In this country overview we are going to dive into and cover things you will need to know for everyday backpacking life: 

  1. Basic information for backpacking New Zealand 
  2. Visa options for backpacking New Zealand
  3. Practical tips 
  4. Things to be wary about 
  5. Budgeting information for backpacking New Zealand
  6. Local and national transport information
  7. Accommodation options 
  8. My personal experience of backpacking New Zealand
  9. Interactive map of New Zealand

Basic things to know before backpacking New Zealand

  • Language spoken: English
  • Other Languages spoken: Mauri
  • Currency: New Zealand Dollar
  • Backpacking in New Zealand is – Expensive
  • To check live rates click here XE.com

Visa options for backpacking New Zealand

New zealand is very backpacker and travel friendly, obtaining visas are simple for most nations around the world.

Although there are a lot of companies that will offer to do the visa process for you, It’s simple to do it directly yourself through immigration.gov.nz. Doing it yourself saves you in paying fees to companies to do it for you.

  • Visitor Visa Stay up to 9 months but cannot undertake any work with this visa.
  • NZeta – Different lengths of stay depending what country you’re from
  • Working Holiday visa – For people between 18-30, if you’re from UK or Canada you can choose from 12 or 23 months stay. You are allowed to work while you travel with this visa.

Practical tips for budget backpacking New Zealand

backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year

Basic things to know before backpacking New Zealand

  • Renting a car or campervan is a great way to explore and backpack through New Zealand rather than organized bus tours
  • Traveling through New Zealand will make you feel like you’re in a fantasy world
  • There are designated campsites throughout the country – some are very cheap
  • New Zealanders are known as ‘kiwis’ – they’re a friendly bunch but might take some getting used their accent. for example; eggs are pronounced as ‘iggs’ and chips are pronounced as ‘chups’
  • As you’re backpacking New Zealand you will come across so many hidden gems
  • New Zealand can be quite expensive – Be sure to budget well
  • Be prepared to see a lot of sheep
  • Not surprisingly New Zealand is known to have the best Lamb in the world, and also very big on its dairy
  • Be prepared to have your breath taken away every day
  • Take clothes for all-weather conditions  – Wellington is always windy no matter what time of year it is
  • New Zealand is the adventure capital of the Southern Hemisphere
  • Winter in New Zealand is when the South Island comes alive
  • If you’re planning on learning Skiing or snowboarding remember ski passes can be quite expensive
  • Backpackers go to Queenstown – And don’t leave! There’s a reason it’s known as Neverland
  • Try a Fergburger in Queenstown
  • Do a skydive in Franz Joseph (incredible views of snow-capped mountains and the glaciers) 
  • Drinking ‘just one more’ leads to being out until the sun comes out
  • Be sure to check out the Southern Fiords like the Milford sounds
backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year

Things to be wary of when backpacking New Zealand

  • Mosquitoes, they are everywhere: I had a war with them through my trip – One even gave me a fat lip!
  • Swarms of sand flies in the South Island – get everywhere, seen people bitten head to toe.
  • If you are renting a vehicle, make sure you take precautions for breakdowns.
  • Be wary of anybody that asks you to ‘stay for just one more’ – one more lead’s to drinking all night long.
  • Backpacking New Zealand can be expensive so keep an eye on your budget.
  • There’s a lot of tectonic activity under New Zealand so you are likely to encounter earthquakes at times. (tiny tremors to devastating)
  • Be careful on some hiking trips, especially in the winter and on or around mountains.
  • Make sure you notify the correct right people when going on long hiking trips (people have gone missing on mountains)
  • New Zealand has varied and rugged terrain, some roads can be quite dangerous so be careful.
  • Settling in Queenstown is dangerous for you and your liver – You might forget the rest of the world is out there and you will drink your body weight in alcohol?
  • New Zealand is generally a safe country but use your common sense

If you feel like you need Travel insurance for backpacking New Zealand, get a quote from World Nomads one of the worlds best travel insurance companies for backpackers.

backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year

Budget information for backpacking New Zealand

As amazing as backpacking New Zealand is, it can be an expensive country, even if you’re working whilst traveling.

If you are backpacking New Zealand on just a tourist or NZeta, visa, you can’t work so you’re going to need a larger budget than backpacking cheaper regions like South East Asia.

If you choose a working holiday visa, it’s still quite hard as unlike Australia where you can earn higher wages, New Zealand pays less but costs around the same as Australia. I won’t lie, saving money in New Zealand is a hard task but being a little savvy will help you save and replenish your funds.

Activities/tours/excursions

With New Zealand being quite expensive, doing organised tours and excursions can hit your pocket hard. However the silver lining is, New Zealand has so much natural beauty around there are lots of things you can do for free and still be left amazed. Backpacker hostels do also offer cheaper alternatives and there are countless free hiking and walking trails around the country.

However if you are looking to do specific activities, it’s worthwhile looking into how to do them independently rather than an organised tour. In most cities and towns there will be tourist information shops where you can pay for an excursion directly. I.E if you want to explore the glaciers in Franz Joseph, do a Skydive, experience a Maori village, or a tour around the Fiord lands and Milford sounds you do so directly from a tourist information shop.

backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year

If you’re thinking of doing some extreme sports while backpacking New Zealand, you might have to look into renting or buying equipment and apparel. Before you go off and buy brand new things, have a look around on message boards, a lot of backpackers pass things on, so you might be able to find cheaper options.

With prices changing all the time, it would be unfair to try and give you specific prices or tell you how much you should budget for. However if you want to check out some live prices these two sites will give you a better idea: numbeo and expatisan.

If you prefer to do organised tours, and want to get an idea of prices or even book in advance there are reputable companies like Intrepid Travel and Contiki with which you can check with first. The banners below will take you directly to their site.

Transport options for budget backpacking New Zealand

There are plenty of options for budget backpackers to get around New Zealand but I have to recommend getting a camper van or car if it’s within your means.

With Zealand’s volcanic and rugged terrain, public transport will stick to highways and main roads so you don’t really get a chance to really see a lot. However in you own vehicle you get to see a lot more of the country. Do some research into renting before hand, some companies offer ex rentals for a fraction of the price as a showroom rental.

If getting your own transport isn’t an option, there are some fairly cheap public transport options to get you from one place to another.

Vehichle sharing is also an option in New Zealand, check out notice boards in hostels, cafes, online facebook groups and you might yourself a traveling buddy.

Backpacking New Zealand tip: You can rent in the North Island and drop off in the south Island. I.E If you rent a van from Juicy in Auckland you don’t have to return to Auckland to drop it off. You can drop it off at your last destination as long as they have an office there

backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year

Getting around locally

  • Walking – Take in the sights.
  • Public buses – Regular buses within towns and cities.
  • Trams: Available in certain towns and cities.
  • Electric scooters – Fun way to get around
  • Taxi – Very expensive option.

Getting around nationally

  • Kiwi experience – Backpacker adventure tour operators with hop on-off options
  • Stray backpacker bus – Backpacker adventure bus tours
  • Naked bus – Cheap bus service
  • Juicy camper vans or Wicked camper vans   – A wide range of campervan options
  • Trains A number of scenic journeys available.
  • Boats – great scenic option to cross between north and south Island.
  • Flights – Domestic flights available. Quickest option but more expensive

Accommodation options for budget backpacking New Zealand

backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year

Have your fill with accommodation while traveling in New Zealand, sleep under the stars, or in picturesque locations with nature in a campsite, roll up to a lakeside in your camper or get to know some other backpackers in a hostel.

  • Hostels – Range from small quiet, party, to large hotel like franchises. (short or long-term)
  • House/apartment shares – It’s common for groups of backpackers to rent homes to call their own on short-term leases.
  • Traveler houses – A cross between hostels and houses, purely full of fellow backpackers.
  • Couchsurfing – Very popular in New Zealand.
  • Airbnb– Rent a room for some privacy in some amazing locations or city centres.
  • Volunteering – Exchange work for accommodation.
  • Your camper-van – Rent your own camper-van, stay off the beaten track.
  • Campsites – For those traveling in your own vehicles, New Zealand’s campsites have some of the most stunning backdrops you can imagine

Looking for a hostel while backpacking New Zealand? Use the booking form below to find your best option

Budget backpacking New Zealand: You will be amazed! 2

My overview of budget backpacking New Zealand

I can confidently say, the single greatest choice I’ve made backpacking was that sporadic choice to hop over to New Zealand after my two years backpacking and living in Australia

I’ll be honest, I had never really given any thought to backpacking New Zealand before, there was no desire to go there. However, I am so glad I gave it a chance. I can categorically say I love New Zealand. Apart from running out of money a few times (but that’s long term backpacking life) and dealing with a Baltic winter I have nothing bad to say about it.

For me, I preferred the South Island to the North. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything about the north. I had some great experiences up there like hiking the Tongariro crossing (mordor) walking through a crater of a volcano, abseiling into a cave to see glowworms, the coromandel, and experiencing a Maori village, It’s just I felt more connected to the South Island.

backpacking New Zealand post, forever roaming the world, covering practical information, accommodation, transport, an interactive map, visa options and my overview of backpacking new zealand for a year

I spent nearly a year there, and It’s one of few countries I kept returning to, my journey though New Zealand was as unpredictable as any other, I met and made lifelong friends along the way and experienced many firsts and furthered my backpacking education.

New Zealand was the first time I witnessed a lake in mountains, hiked through glaciers, saw geysers, it was the first time I stayed in campsites. This will sound corny, cheesy and very cliche but it was fucking magical. There are only a few places I’ve felt such a connection to and it will be an experience I never forget.

Interactive map of my route backpacking New Zealand

While backpacking Australia is like an introduction and pre-school into backpacking life, New Zealand can be compared to Primary school; Still easy but the next step up. You know the basis but you’re still learning. 

If you’re looking to go backpacking New Zealand but not sure of the route to take, this map below shows my route, places I stopped, and will hopefully give you an idea of the best route for yourself.

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This backpacking new zealand overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingnewzealand #newzealand #travelnewzealand #newzlealandtips #newzealandmap #newzealandguide
This backpacking new zealand overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingnewzealand #newzealand #travelnewzealand #newzlealandtips #newzealandmap #newzealandguide
This backpacking new zealand overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingnewzealand #newzealand #travelnewzealand #newzlealandtips #newzealandmap #newzealandguide
This backpacking new zealand overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingnewzealand #newzealand #travelnewzealand #newzlealandtips #newzealandmap #newzealandguide
This backpacking new zealand overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingnewzealand #newzealand #travelnewzealand #newzlealandtips #newzealandmap #newzealandguide
This backpacking new zealand overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingnewzealand #newzealand #travelnewzealand #newzlealandtips #newzealandmap #newzealandguide
This backpacking new zealand overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingnewzealand #newzealand #travelnewzealand #newzlealandtips #newzealandmap #newzealandguide
This backpacking new zealand overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingnewzealand #newzealand #travelnewzealand #newzlealandtips #newzealandmap #newzealandguide
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53 Comments

Jim · October 23, 2017 at 12:59 am

Your photos are amazing! I’ve heard from many people that NZ is a really beautiful place to visit, and I totally understand that now from your photos! I also can confirm their quirky accent…I have a friend who is a transplanted Kiwi (he’s lived in Chicago for 20+ years) but he still “talks funny” occasionally.

Thank you for your very practical tips on money, weather, packing, and getting around. I’m inspired now!

Christina · October 23, 2017 at 12:34 am

Ahhh I want to go to New Zealand so badly!!!! As always, great post of all the helpful tips for those wanting to visit New Zealand, like me ? Especially the tip about mosquitos, I hate them and now know to pack bug spray!

Harmony, Momma To Go · October 22, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Lots of great info, but I still want to know- what is a fregburger????

I dont think I could come here based on bugs alone! Is the scenery worth it?!?!? I hate bugs!

    foreverroamingtheworld · October 22, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    Haha you should Google fergburger….its a burger place but really popular and famous in new Zealand …but it’s not a chain or franchise, it’s even in lonely planet,I’ve seen tourists go there just to take a picture to say they’ve been there and not even taste the burger which I don’t understand…..u have to Google it haha ….and also yes the scenery is definetly worth it …best way to describe it would maybe a smaller version of Iceland ?

Tatjana · October 22, 2017 at 9:11 pm

New Zealand is beautiful. A few years ago I cycled both islands and the views were breathtaking. I totally missed Fergburger. I just looked at their menu and now I have en other reason to go back. Maybe backpacking next time!

    foreverroamingtheworld · October 22, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    We met people who cycled the islands when I was there,did you get attacked by sand flies in the south island? …haha I don’t think nz needs an excuse to go back to haha

Mrs Mary Ann Abbott · October 22, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Oh my goodness, you’re living the dream! Amazing post x

Ritika · October 22, 2017 at 7:41 pm

Excellent post. loved it..our next destination is Newzealand.. we plan to go in early april for 2 weeks. We are into hiking is april a good season for hiking or you think most of trails will already be closed. and are 15 days enough? 40-50 usd/day is kinda cheap no..i was expecting more for newzealand…even backpackers way..but thats a good news..one last thing where is that wild people pic taken? looks goof and would like to visit.

Janelle · October 22, 2017 at 3:42 pm

I’m headed to NZ next October and we were thinking of renting a camper can buy had no idea where to start looking! Thanks for the links! It sounds like you had an amazing time! I can’t wait to explore it!

Sreekar · October 22, 2017 at 11:17 am

Oddly enough, my friend too said just that when you backpack New Zealand you’ll forget the rest of the world exists. Guess I need to check that bit out soon. Sure your tips will come in handy

Indrani · October 22, 2017 at 10:54 am

Very useful guide and you have covered almost all points required to plan a trip there. The points to be wary of has scared me a bit. Can’t really believe about the mosquito menace. The stay part requires a bit of research for sure. Can’t afford too much luxury. And sheep… yes, I want to photograph them. ?

Medha Verma · October 22, 2017 at 10:50 am

You came across someone who does NOT like New Zealand, are you kidding me? I mean, I know Canada;s gorgeous and all but how can one not fall in love with the magic land that NZ is? Oh Fergburger, you’ve taken me back to Queenstown, my favourite place in New Zealand. I was supposed to skydive over Franz Josef and Queenstown but was so unlucky with the weather! And you’re right about being prepared for any kind of weather. I travelled in the thick of summer, and it rained for 3 days, it was SO cold, the one jacket I carried with me was not sufficient. It’s warmer in the North Island though as compared to the South Island. Fantastic read Amit, so comprehensive, like all your posts. Brings back such amazing memories ?

    foreverroamingtheworld · October 22, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Haha yeah medha my friend that I convinced to join me in New Zealand, she’s from Newfoundland and it just reminded her too much of home, and plus it was at that point where we were complelty broke….the sky dive over franz Joseph was amazing I have a video of it..i might have to write a post about it ???

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