How to camp and travel on a budget in New Zealand?

New Zealand

How to travel around New Zealand?

What you need to know

Transportation around New Zealand

New Zealand is bigger than it looks like. So when you plan your trip you should keep in mind that it takes some time to get around. We met people who spent more time on the road than at the actual sights of New Zealand. Make sure you schedule your trip roughly. We travelled around the South and the North Island for about two months and still missed out on some places.

Different ways of transportation around New Zealand.

4 tips how to get around

Traveling by bus

An easy and probably the cheapest way to get around is traveling by bus. See the list below to check out different companies which offer different kinds of bus passes. The reason why we think it is greater to travel by car or campervan is, that you will miss out on some of the nicest spots if you travel by bus. By car you have always the possibility to stop at amazing view points in the middle of nowhere.


Hitchhiking in New Zealand is probably really easy and safe. We saw many hitchhikers on the way and even picked up one girld on the way to Mount Cook. On Waiheke we hitchhiked several times and only met very nice people who drove further than they actually wanted to go – only because of us. Anyways you have to be careful and hitchhiking is also quite time-consuming.


Relocation basically means that some customer drop off a campervan or car in one city, but the company needs that vehicle somewhere else. So you can relocate that car or campervan from one town to the other for a very cheap price. You can get really good deals where they pay the fuel, ferry or insurance. But the disadvantage is that you only have a couple of days (around 1 to 6 days) to take the vehicle to the final destination. This can be a short time for traveling let’s say from Christchurch to Wellington. You can do it – but you won’t see that much on the way. On transfercar or Rental Car Relocation you can find an overview which cars or campervans need to be relocated, what is included and where to pick them up and where to drop them off.

Travel by car or campervan

Buying a car or campervan is probably a cheap option to get around New Zealand. Many backpackers have good cars they want to sell before leaving the country. So this is an easy way to find a car or campervan to travel around. BUT buying a car can also cause many problems: for example you maybe need to deal with high costs of repair and you need extra time to sell the car before leaving New Zealand. So the easier way is to rent a car or a campervan.

Some advice for renting a car or campervan:

  1. Don’t listen to advice people in agencies give you and rather book your campervan online! Many agencies (for example in Australia) try to rent you a car or campervan for a very high price. They will tell you, that it is almost impossible to rent a campervan or car when it is high season in New Zealand. We booked our campervan in January (two weeks before we flew to New Zealand) and we still got an early booking discount. We also booked the car we used on the North Island around one week before flying to Wellington.
  2. Compare many different car rentals. The price you will pay really depends on the car/campervan you choose and also the time period you want to travel (so try out the links you find below).
  3. You won’t need any navigation device. We only used the map we got from the car rental. It is so easy and a fun way to get around New Zealand: there are not too many streets you can take and not a lot of cities, so you will make it without any device for sure.
  4.  Pay some extra money for the fully comprehensive insurance. When you return the car or campervan they won’t even check it properly, because you are on the save side anyways.

List of car and campervan rentals:

All companies you need to check

How to find cheap campsites?

Top 10 Holiday Parks are great campsites if you need either a proper shower, a washing machine or electricity for charging your devices. But actually we preferred the very simple DOC campsites (most of the times, you only have a shelter and a toilet), because you can camp and sleep in the middle of nature at beautiful locations and these campsites are also much cheaper (around 0-12 NZD per Person/per night)!

Look for the visitor information centers (i-SITE). Here you can get a book of the Department of Conservation which contains a map showing all DOC campsites all over New Zealand.

Travel expenses for New Zealand

Hiring a car is cheaper than hiring a campervan. To save some money we split our trip (Campervan on the South Island and car on the North Island). We also flew from Christchurch to Wellington, which was really cheap. We only paid 50 NZD for the flight (per person) and it took us around 30 minutes. A single ferry ticket without taking your vehicle costs already around 65-70 NZD.

South Island
We hired a campervan at Backpacker Sleepervans: we paid 2.445,96 NZD for 25 days/98 NZD per day.
Total expenses for campsites: 201 NZD.
Petrol for 3.000 kilometers (1.864 miles): 557,76 NZD.

North Island
We hired a car at omega rental cars: we paid 650 NZD for 14 days/46,40 NZD per day.
Total expenses for campsites: 120 NZD.
Petrol for 2.500 kilometers (1.553 miles): 269,75 NZD.
Further camping equipment we needed (tent, gas cooker, dishes, pot, pan, blanket, pillows, sleeping mat): 176 NZD.

The prices for petrol vary depending on where you fill up the tank. In some areas it is quite difficult to find a petrol station (for example on the west coast of the South Island around Haas). So we paid between 1,63 NZD and 1,99 NZD for a liter of petrol.

In average we paid around 8 NZD per day for food.

How to do cheap grocery shopping in New Zealand?

The cheapest shop for grocery shopping in New Zealand is PAK’nSAVE. Countdown and New World are more expensive, but you can ask for a free Countdown Clubcard on the South Island to get some special discounts (Club deals).  At New World you can make use of free wifi (it also makes you shop longer).

If you need to buy cheap camping equipment, pots and pans etc. you should go to KMART. The Warehouse is also a cheap place to go. Here we shopped some blankets and pillows.

On the way you should also look out for food stalls. Here you get cheap fresh fruits and vegetables.  

How to use Apps and Facebook to travel cheap in New Zealand?

If you travel around New Zealand there are several Apps which could help you to travel on a budget.
WikiCamps is a great App to find cheap campsites. The App Campermate also shows cheap campsites, free showers, laundromats, petrol stations etc. The amazing part is, that you find campsites where almost nobody else is, like you see on this picture.

Facebook groups are really useful to find information about traveling around New Zealand. It is even possible to find cheap campervans, cars or camping gear. We were members of the following facebook groups:
Backpackers New Zealand  and Backpacking New Zealand.

I’m looking for someone to share in an adventure.