Top Ways to Save on New Zealand Travel


New Zealand’s sweeping mountain vistas, pristine beaches, unique wildlife and fascinating Maori culture make it a dream destination for many travelers. But exploring the Land of the Long White Cloud doesn’t come cheap. An expensive long-haul flight will take the first chomp out of your budget — and once you arrive, you’ll find high prices for gas, food and excursions.


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Read on to learn how to trim tour costs, find a cheaper flight and eat well for less.

Travel at the right time. New Zealand’s seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere, so the busy summer travel season runs from December through February. Both international travelers and Kiwis swarm the country’s most popular sights this time of year, and prices rise accordingly for everything from airfare to accommodations.


Focus your trip. New Zealand may not look like a big country, but if you want to take in the major sights on both islands, a week or two just won’t cut it. If your time or budget is limited, concentrate on either the North Island or the South Island, not both. Staying focused will save you a mound of money on internal transportation; domestic flights or gas for long car trips can eat away at your vacation budget.

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Keep an eye on exchange rates. Along with fuel prices, currency fluctuations can have a noticeable effect on the cost of your airfare. I took advantage of this myself on a recent trip; I made my booking at a time when the U.S. dollar was strengthening against the Kiwi dollar, which resulted in lower fares from Air New Zealand.

Money Management

Put it on plastic. Forget the old “cash is king” rule. The vast majority of hotels, restaurants, tour operators and shops in New Zealand accept credit cards. If you’ve got a card through a bank that doesn’t charge you for foreign transactions, you can pay for nearly your entire trip without shelling out for ATM withdrawal charges or currency exchange fees.

Skip the exchange counter. To get cash, use your ATM card to make withdrawals rather than changing your own currency at an exchange counter; by doing so, you’ll get the interbank exchange rate, which is usually 2 – 5 percent better than the rates you’ll find at the counter.

Don’t tip. Tipping is not customary in New Zealand, so you don’t need to leave anything extra for your waiter, tour guide or bellhop unless the service was truly exemplary. Even then, 5 – 10 percent is plenty.

Attractions and Activities

Pick your poison. You could easily blow hundreds of dollars a day on tours, excursions and entrance fees, particularly if your New Zealand bucket list includes pricey once-in-a-lifetime activities like bungy jumping or helicopter flightseeing.

Find some freebies. In between all of New Zealand’s $150 dolphin encounters and $300 flightseeing excursions are plenty of free attractions to enjoy. It costs nothing to hike in most national parks, lie on a North Island beach, wander along the Rotorua Lakefront or stroll through botanical gardens in Queenstown.


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