1) Saving money getting to/from the airport
Taking the public bus to/from the airport is often more expensive than a typical bus ticket. When we landed in Christchurch it cost $8 NZD per person to take a public bus from the airport to the city vs. $3.50 NZD per person within the city. In the case of Christchurch, we found that if we walked about 5 minutes out of the airport to the Antarctic Center stop and waited for the bus it would save about $4.50 NZD a person.
2) Get the most out of your public transport tickets
Bus tickets will often be valid for a period of time (normally 1-2 hours) after the purchase, so if you change buses you may not need to purchase another ticket. This seems obvious right? Well not every city will explicitly list the time a ticket is valid for on the ticket or on signage at the station. In Christchurch, we found out through talking with some friendly passengers that our tickets lasted for two hours. You can transfer as much as you like for free as long as it’s within two hours of the ticket purchase. The rules for each city varies so check with the information desk or ask the bus driver for the most up-to-date information.
3) You don’t need to rent or buy a GPS
Our campervan company charged $8 NZD/ day for a GPS. This is absurd. New Zealand roads are extremely easy to navigate. There are signs everywhere and there are information offices (iSites) that will provide area maps for FREE all over the country. And if you really get into a pickle, make a friend and ask for directions. Kiwis will often go out of their way to help.
We will admit that having a GPS can reduce stress when driving in the “bigger” cities, namely Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, so if you really must, use the following simple and free Google Maps hack to figure out where you are going.
Enable the GPS location on your smart phone (you shouldn’t get charged long distance or roaming for this feature) and cache or save screen-sized copies of Google Maps onto your mobile device. Your GPS location service will indicate where you are with a blue dot so you can see the blue dot move along on the cached map as you walk, bike, or drive. We would occasionally use this when we didn’t have a chance to pick up a map of an area from an iSite location. There are some areas that aren’t supported by Google Maps caching feature, such as Southern Lombok, Indonesia. But this is a nice option for larger cities.
4) Save Money at the Pump
Most grocery stores will offer savings per liter when you shop and purchase over a certain amount. This will typically help you save $0.04/liter, but we have also seen savings as high as $0.20/liter after spending $200+ NZD at Countdown. In addition to getting savings at the pump from grocery shopping, you can also get an AA Travelers SmartFuel Card, which can be used to save $0.04 – $0.06 / liter at BP and Caltex stations. We found this card attached to the inside of a free traveling guide we picked up at an iSite.
5) Know your grocery stores
Knowing your grocery stores and where to get cheap eats can be a big help when traveling on a budget. We previously posted an article that gives you a run-down of the main grocery stores in New Zealand, but one tip we wish we knew before we started traveling around New Zealand is to look at where specific grocery stores are located before we started traveling. For example, we didn’t realize that once we left Wanaka heading for the West Coast that we wouldn’t run into a chain grocery store until a few days and a few hundred kilometers later in Greymouth. We could have saved some money if we had stocked up for that leg of the trip. In another instance while driving through the Marlborough region we stopped at the iSite in Nelson to ask where the nearest PAKn’SAVE was located, only to find that it was located in an town on the outskirts of the city which we had already passed.
6) Follow Surfers
Most travelers love to find those “off-the-beaten-track” spots away from commercialization and where the natural beauty of a place isn’t overrun with tourists, resorts, and shops selling t-shirts with the name of the location printed on it. If you’re by the coast that gets any kind of surf, most likely the surfing community has long been enjoying the spot. Whether you surf or not, going where surfers go is a great way to find diamond in the rough beaches and ocean-side nirvanas. In New Zealand, they publish a surf guide that details where the main surfing spots are in each area of the north and south islands. This book, along with recommendations from friends, pointed us to places that you will not find in guide books like Lonely Planet. Campbell’s Bay is a good example. It was one of our favorite camping spots located south of Oamaru. It also informed us of numerous beaches such as Te Arai Point on the North Island which turned into our second home where we lounged, surfed, and fished almost everyday we house sat in New Zealand. A special thanks to Greg for passing along his guide book and allowing me to borrow his spare surfboard while we stayed in New Zealand. We got some great surf and I finally was able to prove to my wife I could in fact surf 🙂
7) Caution! New Zealand punishments don’t match the crime
$400 NZD for overlooking some apples upon arrival, which are the exact same imported apples you find in the grocery store, is like charging only $200 NZD for dumping human waste from your motor home bathroom in undesignated areas. Oh wait, that’s already the case.
NZ also checks hiking boots and all camping equipment when entering the country – check out this and this for more information. Apparently, the work of the customs office is entertaining. Check out their TV show.
8) Find our other budget saving tips and travel hacks for traveling in New Zealand here