40 Tips for Backpacking in New Zealand

Backpacking in New Zealand

✅ Last Update: Apr 22, 2024 @ 1:16 pm

🎒 Backpacking in New Zealand: All You Need to Know & More

New Zealand is a world filled with adventure. Nevertheless, before backpacking in New Zealand, you must do all the necessary research and planning to ensure you fulfill all your needs for the vacation of a lifetime. 

Besides, the research process may be long and tedious unless you’ve been there before.

That’s why we’re here to help you learn all the fantastic tricks and tips to backpack New Zealand, that will enable you to have the time of your life in the land of the long cloud.

1. Be On The Lookout for Bargains

When backpacking in New Zealand, always look for specials. Loyalty cards and subscriptions have the potential to save you loads of cash with discounts on groceries and even fuel.

With only three major supermarket chains, it pays to have loyalty cards for each of them.

They are free and give you loads of rewards and savings with an average of 6 cents off at the petrol pump or general grocery savings.

For activities in New Zealand, look no further than BookMe. Just as you scout for bargains while shopping, BookMe ensures you secure unbeatable deals on diverse experiences.

From loyalty card-worthy discounts to exclusive offers, BookMe stands out as your go-to platform for affordable adventures across the stunning landscapes of New Zealand.

Experience incredible savings with discounts of up to 70% OFF on select activities.

🏄 Check cheap activities and tours on BookMe New Zealand

bookme website

2. Make a Budget and Stick To It

A budget is the focal point of any New Zealand backpacking trip. Having one ensures that you take care of priorities and get an idea of when your cash is starting to run out.

You can track your daily expenditure and make adjustments when you’re going to do additional activities.

budget for backpacking

3. Buying a Car or Campervan

Buying a vehicle or campervan might pay if you stay longer than three months. Here at Travel Cars NZ Ltd., we have a variety of backpacker cars, campervans, and self-contained vehicles for sale at the best prices around.

And to top it off, we offer fair buy-back agreements that will give you peace of mind and freedom for your stay.

Additionally, private sellers can list their cars for sale on our platform, meaning most of the listings available are from private sellers or backpackers traveling and selling their cars all around New Zealand.

🚘 For buying, you can check our homepage, where you can find vehicles for sale all around New Zealand: Cars & Campervans for Sale in New Zealand

travel cars nz

4. Renting a Car or Campervan

Numerous campervan businesses in New Zealand are enticed with various deals, yet prices vary significantly.

Our top recommendation is to compare between different rental companies and book in advance (at least 30-days ahead)

Remember that this post is all about uncovering the best possible deals for backpacking in New Zealand! 

🚐 For comparing all rental companies in New Zealand you can use our search tool: Travel Cars NZ | Rentals

spaceship rentals

5. Find Work

Contrary to popular belief, backpacking in New Zealand can become an expensive affair. But, to make some extra money and help your budget stretch longer, you can try seasonal jobs.

You will find plenty of customer care, bartender, and fruit-picking jobs during the summer.

It is an excellent way of earning your way through the land of the Kiwis, but you also get to meet new people and learn more about their culture.

🦺 If you are coming to New Zealand with a WHV Visa, we created a post about the most popular WHV jobs in New Zealand. You can check it out here: 12 Most Popular Working Holiday Jobs in New Zealand

whv job

6. Don’t Follow The Wind

It’s easy to get lost in the beauty of New Zealand once you land in Auckland. Don’t get stuck in a hotel or hire a car there, as it may be a bit more expensive than in other areas. 

Instead, start your backpacking adventure in the South, then work your way up to Auckland when you are near the end of your trip.

7. Elevate Your Social Experience

Traveling alone is an exhilarating experience that will help you forge your independence and confidence and equip you for the rest of your life, but it can get lonely, so make some friends along the way.

Feel free to start a conversation with a stranger or hang out in backpacker lodges to meet a few people on the same journey as you.

Kiwis are a friendly bunch, so you will have no shortage of friends in NZ, and with NZ being such a melting pot of culture, you will be surprised at how many different nationals you will have around you from the moment you arrive.

On Travel Cars NZ, we have a backpacker network we created on Facebook.

Plenty of groups are only made for backpackers coming to NZ, with thousands of members and over 200 new members joining daily.

You can find all the groups on the following page: 8 Most Join Groups in New Zealand

To elevate your social experience to the maximum while backpacking in New Zealandwe highly recommend exploring Kiwilanders.

This unique platform is intricately connected to our network, offering exclusive content and access to a vibrant community.

🗾 For more information, check their website here: Kiwilanders New Zealand


8. Ideal Accommodation

There are plenty of options for people who have yet to sell on the idea of backpacking and living in their campervans for months.

If you’re interested in backpacker lodges or hotels, there are plenty of those in New Zealand.

One of the most famous living arrangements for backpackers in New Zealand is baches: low-maintenance holiday homes that are perfect for holidays and long weekends.

For booking the cheapest deals, we can recommend HostelWorld. Their search engine has weekly special deals and highly competitive rates.

🏨 Find them on the following link: HostelWorld – Booking Deals


9. Be Always Safe

It’s better to be safe than sorry. Even if Kiwi land is one of the safest places in the world, you must be aware of the potential dangers of backpacking.

Learn about the safety measures you should implement, like not hitchhiking by yourself.

Always tell a trusted person about your plans and when you will return home after an adventure-filled day.

10. Layer Up

The weather in New Zealand isn’t something you trust, and it’s possible to experience all four seasons within the same 24-hour period.

Be smart and always pack extra layers of clothing.

Make sure to carry your windproof clothing with you if you’re going on a hike. Some thermal clothing will keep away the cold, too.

Even if you’ll be outdoors for just a few hours, a hoody is an essential piece of clothing you don’t want to leave behind while you backpacking in New Zealand.

11. You Have to Hike

Why would you ever go to New Zealand on a backpacker trip and not hike?

Any backpacker should be happy to visit Middle-earth and experience the different landscapes that it has to offer.

No matter where you are in New Zealand, there’s bound to be a hiking opportunity that shows up.

Make sure you get yourself a good pair of hiking shoes to avoid knock-offs embarrassing you in the middle of a hike.

hiking new zealand

12. Make Sure You Book Directly

Along your adventure, you must have opportunities to save as much cash as possible, is what backpackers do the best.

Need an agent to make a booking for you? Instead, you must book all your hostels, activities, and transport directly with the provider.

It will be cheaper for you if you book directly with the company, and if you get any discounts online, most companies will happily match your price.

13. Prepare Yourself for Less Connectivity

If you’re used to fast internet speeds and WiFi hotspots everywhere, you should be prepared to experience a big difference in New Zealand.

The internet speeds could be faster, but it’s an aspect you will be happy to share.

There are so many other exciting things to do as a backpacker in New Zealand that don’t require you to be hunched over a computer browsing the net.

If anything, you should be prepared to spend much more time without your phone as you immerse yourself in different activities and meet new people.

14. EFTPOS Cards Go a Long Way

EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale) cards are debit cards that let you pay for small purchases.

It is an excellent option for carrying large amounts of cash if you stay backpacking in New Zealand for a long period of time.

You must create a bank account and get the card to avoid changing exchange rates.

etfpos cards

15. Get a Wise Bank Account & Card

We know we’ve covered a debit card you need in New Zealand, but getting one is more important, specially designated for travel.

This card is one of the best credit cards to avoid hidden charges during an exchange.

You can use it many times while traveling, and it holds over 50 currencies. 

💳 Register through the following link and get your first transfer for FREE: Register – Wise

⭐ Bonus: Once registered, the App allows you to invite your friends and make money while you travel.

wise app

16. Backpacking in New Zealand Alone

Even if you have a partner you can’t abandon, you’ll probably experience much more if you’re a lone backpacker in New Zealand.

Think about the freedom of not worrying whether someone else is as entertained as you are.

You can cover your expenses and go anywhere without consulting a partner. Furthermore, traveling alone will give you a confidence boost that only a few other activities can.

Moreover, you will push yourself into socializing and meeting new people.

17. Get an NZ Driver’s License or Access Card

If you drink alcohol, there are three types of photographic ID that you should have in New Zealand.

It would be best to have your passport, an NZ driver’s license, or a photo ID card.

Your international or original driver’s license from home will not work because New Zealand has a rule that requires places selling alcohol to check IDs.

It’s risky carrying your passport everywhere you go. It’s better to get yourself one of the three cards we’ve mentioned, depending on the time you’re going to spend in NZ.

driver license form

18. Keep Your Mind Open

Whether backpacking in New Zealand for a fun adventure or work, you must keep an open mind.

Don’t cage yourself up. Instead, you want to learn to say ‘yes’ to experience new things or visit new places.

If you’re going to find work, you should be open to what’s on offer; otherwise, you may miss out on great networking opportunities.

Find the most random jobs and do them to the best of your ability.

keep mind open

19. Eat Cheap, Eat Well

It’s easier to stay healthy if you enjoy different adventures daily. Once you change your lifestyle for backpacking in New Zealand, keeping on track is hard, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

There is a way to ensure you eat healthy instead of chowing down on noodles every night.

There are great places where you can find healthy fruit and vegetables. You can learn how to make simple but wholesome meals at your hostel or join everyone else during potluck dinners

eat cheap and healthy

20. Be Random

Talk to anyone you know who’s been to New Zealand, and you’re bound to hear about Wellington, Christchurch, and Auckland.

However, there are plenty more places to fill your adventure while you are backpacking in New Zealand.

Some of the best experiences you will ever have include places you accidentally discover. 

The last heard of places offer fantastic opportunities, but only if you can experience what they offer.

21. Take Advantage of Free Activities

You’ll likely spend much of your money on activities you’ve researched and budgeted. However, there are a lot of free activities that you can take advantage of in New Zealand.

Go on hikes, relax in a natural hot pool, and visit rock formations, events, galleries, or waterfalls. You don’t necessarily require significant amounts of cash to have the best backpacking experience of your life.

free activities

22. Don’t Forget to Be a Tourist

Even if you’re keen on backpacking in New Zealand, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take part in any tourist activities.

Most activities or events in New Zealand are popular because people enjoy doing them.


23. Be Smart About Your Travels

As you plan to backpack around New Zealand, consider covering the whole country in a month. We’re sorry to burst your bubble. That will probably not happen.

NZ might seem like a small country, but even if you’re visiting for a year, you will only partially manage to soak in some of the places you travel to.

The best way to ensure you take advantage of your time while you are backpacking in New Zealand is to choose a few places to visit and then plan around your time, giving each location sufficient time to sightsee.

Covering ground only if you’re carrying the experiences with you.

24. Select a Network Provider

In New Zealand, you’ll likely use a different phone network provider than you did while back home.

You must choose carefully when selecting a provider for your phone network.

There are only four providers of phone networks, so you should be able to choose a SIM card easily.

Regardless, choose one that will offer you a prepay option with a flexible plan for your texts, data, and minutes.

network providers

25. Be a Smart Shopper

When shopping in New Zealand, things will differ from those in your home country.

Learn about the tax levied on goods and services and your rights as a consumer in New Zealand.

26. You Have to Move On

You’ve already planned to backpack through a country you’ve never been to. Even if you have, you are looking for new experiences. It’s easy to forget your goals once you find happiness in one location.

After all, you’ve made new friends, worked several jobs, and experienced a new culture. No matter what you have going on, you should move on and continue your journey of discovery.

Moreover, think about starting anew every time you visit a new place. There’s so much more to discover.

move on

27. Take The Backpacker Bus

Only some people are comfortable driving on the left side of the road. If you have yet to make plans to rent or buy a car or a campervan, your next best bet on affordable travel is to hop on/off the bus.

You must create an itinerary and pick the bus that runs through it to visit the places you want to see. There’s usually a guide on board who can help you out with your accommodation needs.

This kind of bus tour is a great way to visit lesser-known places in New Zealand.

For those seeking the best alternative in New Zealand to explore the islands via bus or curated experiences, we highly recommend Stray Travels. 

They stand out as the top choice for travelers looking to navigate and discover the region’s beauty seamlessly.

🚍 Check out the Stray Travels website

stray travels

28. You Have to Bungy Jump

Well, that’s if you’re an adrenaline junkie. Even if you’re not, you must open yourself to experiences that remind you to live.

Besides, nothing feels better than conquering nightmares; you get to do it while backpacking in New Zealand.

Bungy jumping is a rush, and it’s also one of the most terrifying things that you’ll ever get to do.

However, the thrill of the ride will make you realize that you can conquer everything you put into your mind.

bungy jump

29. It’s ‘Ok’ to Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb

Whatever you do while out backpacking in New Zealand, don’t try to blend in too much.

There’s no use in doing it. Enjoy your time as a backpacker.

If you try to fit in, you’ll waste precious time that you should spend seeing landscapes and enjoying experiences. 

Relax and spend as much time as you can visiting the places you want and doing things you love.

chill time

30. WWOOFING for The Win

You must try WWOOFING- (Willing Workers On ORGANIC Farms) if you stay backpacking in New Zealand for over three months.

It’s a unique system where you work on organic farms for free accommodation or food.

It will help you save money as you interact with Kiwis and get a feel of life in New Zealand.

🏡 Check the website of WWOOFING for more info on this unique accommodation system.

31. Visit and Walk On a Glacier

If there’s only one memory you can’t afford to miss making in New Zealand, it’s walking on a glacier.

Many wonders make NZ its beauty, and walking on a glacier is the closest to heaven on earth. You’re going to get to feel like an angel.

Any backpacker in NZ should look forward to walking on a glacier and experiencing the world at a different height.


32. Hitchhike

If you can’t afford to buy a campervan or rent a car, there’s plenty more to get around.

Hitchhiking is one of the ways you can get around the country while saving loads of cash you were going to spend on transport.

It would be best to take special care, though; don’t hitchhike alone or at night. Put your safety first.


33. Try Mountain Biking

After rugby, mountain biking is one of the sports Kiwis love. Rent or buy a bike at the many shops you’ll discover in town and find your way to Rotorua, the mountain bikers’ paradise in NZ.

You’ll enjoy burning off the calories you’ve gained backpacking through New Zealand.

mountain biking

34. Sample The Culture in Wellington

All work and no play will make your backpacking experience boring, and even if you’re fond of mountain climbing or hiking, you will need a more upbeat experience.

Wellington has some fantastic nightlife clubs and restaurants that you can sample.


35. Prepare Before You Go

Only a few people talk about this tip, probably because it concerns bathroom manners while out in the boondocks.

As a point of civility to everyone on a backpacking adventure like you, remember to buy and always carry your poop trowel. 

If you’re out on a hike, this little tool will help you do your business comfortably.

All you have to do is walk a little off the trail, dig a six-inch hole, and then cover it up.

Even when you’re out having some fun, nature will call, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t answer.

backpacking preparation

36. Know Your Travel Dates

You must align your travel dates to the seasons if you prefer particular weather. For instance, summer is between December and February, while winter is from June to August.

37. Shop for The Best Backpack Beforehand

Unless you’re a veteran backpacker, this is the first thing you should consider. When packing, only carry essentials and pack light.

Your backpack should be lightweight yet allow you to take stuff without hurting your back.

Remember to avoid struggling with heavy luggage while running for the bus.


38. Try Couchsurfing

Many people have backpacked through New Zealand while CouchSurfing, so that you won’t be the first.

It’s a great way of saving a few dollars while learning about the culture of Kiwis.

🏕 You can find the App ready to download at the following link. It’s FREE: Couchsurfing App Store

39. Camp Out

Camping out is an excellent way for backpackers in New Zealand to enjoy the outdoors on warm nights. Many parks offer camping activities with cooking and bathroom amenities.

If you cannot shower for a few days, try camping out in the wild.

camp out

40. Learn to Cook

Let’s face it; there are few restaurants dotting hiking trails. A backpacker tip is to learn to cook simple, nutritious meals that’ll give you the energy you need to go out hiking.

Take advantage of the supermarkets and stock up on groceries that can become easy, simple meals.

cooking tip

👨‍💻 Frequenty Asked Questions (FAQ) about Backpacking in New Zealand

1. Do I need a visa to backpack in New Zealand?

Most visitors to New Zealand need a visa. Check the official immigration website for the most up-to-date information and to see if your country is eligible for a visa waiver.

2. When is the best time to visit New Zealand for backpacking?

Summer (December to February) is popular for backpacking in New Zealand. However, shoulder seasons (spring and fall) offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds.

3. What is the Great Walks system, and should I consider it for my backpacking trip?

The Great Walks are a series of premier tracks through diverse and spectacular scenery. While they can be challenging, they offer a unique experience. Book huts in advance, as they fill up quickly.

4. How is the transportation system for backpackers in New Zealand?

New Zealand has an extensive bus network, and backpacker buses specifically cater to travelers. Renting a car or campervan is also a popular option for more flexibility.

5. What budget should I plan for my backpacking trip to New Zealand?

The budget varies, but on average, backpackers may spend around NZD 70-150 per day, including accommodation, food, transportation, and activities.

6. Are there affordable accommodation options for backpackers?

Yes, hostels are prevalent throughout New Zealand, especially in popular tourist destinations. You can also find holiday parks, budget motels, and campgrounds.

7. Is it safe to drink tap water in New Zealand?

Yes, tap water is safe to drink in most places in New Zealand. If in doubt, you can check with locals or hostel staff.

8. What are the must-visit destinations for backpacking in New Zealand?

Some popular destinations include Queenstown, Fiordland National Park, Abel Tasman National Park, Tongariro National Park, and the Bay of Islands.

9. Are there wildlife and nature experiences for backpackers in New Zealand?

Absolutely! New Zealand is known for its unique flora and fauna. Consider whale watching in Kaikoura, swimming with dolphins in the Bay of Islands, or exploring the glowworm caves in Waitomo.

10. How should I prepare for the weather in New Zealand?

The weather can be unpredictable, so pack layers and be prepared for sudden changes. Always check the weather forecast, especially if you plan to hike or engage in outdoor activities.

11. Can I find work while I’m backpackng in New Zealand?

Yes, there are opportunities for temporary work, especially in hospitality and agriculture. Check visa regulations and the local job market.

💬 Do you have additional tips to share? Leave a comment below! We would love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you, and may your travels be safe and enriching! ✈️🌄

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Travel Cars NZ is a platform where private sellers and car dealers can list their campervans, backpacker cars, vans, wagons and other types of cars for sale all around New Zealand. General and useful information about converted vans and small campervans for sale is available at the TCNZ blog.