New Zealand is a picturesque country with tons of natural scenery, long walks and adrenaline activities. It is also an excellent country to road trip through. We started in Queenstown in the south island and worked our way up slowly to our finale in Auckland in the north island. Taking a popular tourist route, we had just enough time to pull over to admire the beautiful views, do short walks and explore small villages. It also meant this would be one of our more expensive countries as we spent $230/day or $5,300 in total for three weeks in the country.
When we first mentioned New Zealand as a must visit country, we met many people who warned us how expensive it is. I was anxious about our budget and played with the numbers to increase our funds for this leg of the trip. Laura and I didn’t want to go back to a shoestring-budget (like South America where we ate cheap, unhealthy food while counting pennies). So it was a surprise during the trip at how relatively inexpensive dining out and groceries were. We ate very well during our stay with comfortable accommodations and lots of activities. By the end of the trip, we were still $900 under budget!
I think the main reason for this is the strength of the U.S. dollar right now. It is one of the stronger exchange rates over the last ten years, and that makes a big difference when you spend $5,300. I think the second reason is that while the country imports many products, it also has excellent year-round climate for growing food, (i.e., less expensive local foods). Lastly, we did tons of shopping in New Zealand and picked up lots of clothing by local designers. As I mentioned, imports are expensive, even for cheap clothing brands because of the import taxes and transportation cost. And that means local designers can sell quality clothing at competitive prices. This is good for us since the dollar is strong right now. Smart shopping saves.
Another thing we did, which worked out well, is we designed our daily budget for food, dining, local transportation and incidentals to equal our average daily accommodation cost. This worked out perfectly for us and I would recommend this strategy when budgeting for a trip.
Here’s the breakdown of our costs:
Stay tuned for the trip cost wrap up and opportunity cost blog post!