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Old 06-01-2017, 02:46 PM   #935
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 3,491
Tips/observations for successful NZ trip - Budget

I and my wife spent two weeks on our first trip in NZ, particularly part of South Island and want to share here my thoughts and observations (which obviously could be subjective) to the audience.

Note: these notes are written from the perspective of budget oriented traveler who does his/her research and due diligence before travel and prefers to deals directly with service providers. If you only travel in Business class and stay 5* properties, or if you outsource all your travel worries to an TA - skip this, this posting is not for you. I'm sure your travel agent can find something 'Experience New Zealand in 10 days for just $15000 per person' - saw something like this at one glamour travel magazine.

So, the list:

Budget. Unless you are coming from Australia, or you are taking Antarctic/RTW cruise, NZ will be probably your most expensive vacation destination. As with every vacation, expenses are coming from five major categories - airfare, local transportation/logistics, lodging/accommodation, food and entertainment/extra stuff. Let me try to go with each category one by one:

- Airfare. Again, unless you are buying tickets on miles/points, revenue non-stop flights are expensive, especially during holiday seasons and NZ summer. Return non-stop ticket SIN-CHC during Christmas season was $2130 in economy (from here and to the end - prices are in NZ dollars which is 1:1 right now with SGD), booked eight month in advance and it was the cheapest available non-stop option. You might get cheaper option by trying to flight wish Jetstar, but this is a flight with connection, you are stuck for two 7h/6h flights at Jetstar seats which I think are designed for kids and you have to pay for every glass of water. And if something with Jetstar goes wrong, you are screwed.

- Transportation. Rental cars from first-tier agencies are more expensive than in US/Europe. Hertz wanted $1560 for two weeks rental for an intermediate car after discounts. I settled to second tier off-airport ACE Rental Car agency with 5 year old economy car with close to 100K km on odometer. It was $560 for the same period. Another transportation factor is fuel price. With $2.03 cheapest price per liter of 91 petrol. We drive 3090km and fuel costed me close to $420, while using coupons giving 6c or 10c off from liter of fuel and trying to filling at major population centers with lower gas prices.
Other means of transportation does not come cheap either - to get bus ride card at Christchurch, you have to pay min $20 ($10 the card cost and $10 min top up). Taxi ride from the Queenstown harbor to the airport was priced $45 for 5km ride - I saw plenty of people trying to hitchhike that distance while I was driving around the city center. When we stayed at Wakana at a hostel, people told us that if we can take two people to Queenstown (1h ride) they will pay $25 per person for the ride. Intrecity bus fares start from $55 per person for a ride one way from Christchurch to Queenstown and if you want to fly from Queenstown to Te Anau or at Milford Sound - expect to pay $400 for a flight which goes 20 min one way.

- Lodging. A room for two people at a motel starts from $120/night and sky is the limit during the Christmas season. If you want to stay at a hotel during Christmas season, you need to make your bookings at least nine month in advance. You might consider as an alternative staying at hostels - BBH/YHA/Holiday Park, but consider that at these places, even if you rent a room with double/queen bed in the room, you are charged per person, not per room. Number of hotels, even mid-range, charge for occupancy as well, so it is advisable to check this before.
AirBnB, VRBO/HomeAway (or local NZ network - is a viable alternative, but if you want to have have a room with non-shared bathroom, you still have to expect to pay starting from $80 for two people per night. Majority of AirBnB hosts also charge $25-$35 per person per night even when double/queen bed is available.

- Food. If you plan to eat at cafe/restaurants every day, budget minimum $100 per person per day, not including alcohol. Breakdown is following: breakfast - $12 (coffee - $5 and a roll - $6-$7), lunch - $25-$30 and dinner with starter/main - $55-$60. Add alcohol - $9 per wine glass or $35-$40 per bottle.
If you want to minimize expenses, there are some options but not much - you won't get kopi for 90c and fried mee for $3. Cheapest takeout food you can get is fish and chips for $9. I and my wife resorted stocking up at supermarkets and do quick cooking/making sandwiches, but yet, all these shoppings at supermarket cost $520 during two weeks period.

- Attractions. Depends what you want to see/experience. Boat tours around Milford start from $70 per person for 1.5h tours. If you want to go on smaller boats and avoid busloads of mainlanders, it will be more expensive. Doubtful Sound tours start from $200 per person. Scenic flights around glaciers and Sounds start from $300 for 20 min helicopter flights and to $600 and above per person for flight/boat combination for 6-8 hour activity. BTW, be careful with these flights because last year one such helicopter crashed to glacier last year killing everybody.
While small local museums and attractions (short steam train ride) are affordably priced around $5-$15 per visitors, while some other interesting places charge $20-$25 (Olveston House and Orokonui EcoSanctuary for example at Dunedin or Tram ride at Christchurch). However, high visibility and well known tourist traps are costly. Gondola at Queenstown with two luge rides costs $50 per person, to visit Royal Albatross Center and Blue Penguin colony will set you back $90 per person. At the same time, you can get see these penguins if you know where to go - at Oamaru, where visitor center charges $45 pp for penguin viewing, you can wait them to come ashore couple hundred meters from the visitor center.

- Gifts/etc. Completely up to you and thus vary. We brought back number of magnets ($3-$5 per piece) and as well as Cadbury chocolate bars - bought them at the factory at Dunedin where you can buy $2 for 200g bar with really wide selection. Locally made clothing from wool is really expensive - think about a jacket for $350.

That's about budget. Next post will be about planning and expectations.

Last edited by invisible999; 06-01-2017 at 10:06 PM..
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