New Zealand is a country that is somewhat of a fairytale for a lot of people. Depending on where you’re from of course, but often it’s the ‘end of the world’ and getting there takes a good deal of patience on an airplane. But once you’re there …. well you never want to go back!
Before I got to New Zealand (NZL), I didn’t really know what to expect. Of course, I’d bought a guidebook (Insight Guides really is the best 1 out there!) and read a bit into it but other than that, it was all a bit of a mystery to me. My trip to New Zealand was plannend after I did my internship in Adelaide, Australia, where I worked for a backbacker tour company (Groovy Grape Getaways) and at the same time, one of my best friends from Uni was doing her internship in Auckland, NZL and she gave me the tip to rent a camper(van) and explore the country on the road.
That tip was definately the best I could get. Actually I should say we, as I travelled it all with my boyfriend, Tristan, who’d accompanied me all the time during my internship getaway. Anyways, we checked out the best deals, which is really something you should look into when traveling indepently, and found the best deal at Spaceships. Like most students/backpackers, we were on a super tight budget so we decided to go with the cheapy, a Toyota Estima which converted into a 2-berth ‘house on wheels’.
In August, it was finally time to hit the road with our new best friend, Earnest (the van), and start exploring Aotearoa as the Maori (New Zealand natives) call their country. The upside of driving yourself rather then joining a tour, is that you can stop whenever and whereever you like so that you can find a mysterious and beautiful spot. With only 3 weeks time and a mini budget, we had to consider what and how we were doing it. Of course I wanted to go skydiving, cave climbing, visit Hobbiton (Lord of the Rings fans know what I’m talking about) and tke each and every exciting tour available, but that was simply no option. But not to worry … : ) as creative and inventive as we were, we just went ‘Back to Basics‘.
New Zealand is all about adventure and nature, so obviously this is what we would look for on our trip. The great thing about NZL, is that it is super tourist friendly with many DOC-campsites scattered across the land. Here you can stay the night either for free (none up to basic facilities) or for a small fee (like $7 p.night) with a few more facilities. You simply park you car/minivan/camper and start exploring, as most of these DOC’s are within a National Park and have many short- and long-distance hiking trails for all levels. I absolutely love walking around and discover new places, whether that is in a buzzling city or a quiet National Park!! These hikes will get you to the most awesome of places, places that you often wouldn’t find in a guide book or on travel television shows. You’ll find your place of tranquility, spot a native bird or maybe even spot a mysterious Kiwi, the mascotte of New Zealand and a kinda rare chicken-type of bird (click here to check how you can spot a kiwi). Unfortunately for me, I didn’t luck out, so the Kiwi is still on my ‘To-Discover-List’.
Get yourself a (mini)van, hit the road and use the DOC’s. Honestly, you safe yourself some dollars for something more exciting than sleep! OK, the DOC’s don’t always have a shower but isn’t that kinda like the stereotype of backpackers right? My tip is to balance camping parks (hot showers, general kitchens, tv-rooms and wifi-connections) with the DOC’s (compost toilet, water tap, million $ views and no noisy neighbors).Groceries don’t come cheap in NZL, nor does eating out but once you’re on the road all day, either driving or hiking, your body will need some nutrition to repair itself after a day of excitement. Simply get some lettuce with shredded chickcen, add some veggies and a dressing if you like, and you have a hearty and nutricious meal that will keep you going. Add a bottle of beer and pick out a random picnic table along the high way, and I bet you a $100 that you will get 1). a stunning view and 2). a jaw-dropping moment.
Now that you’ve saved some money on transport, accommodation, food and activities, it is time for some indulgement!
Hello!!.. you’re in New Zealand! If you get the chance to get to Lake Tekapo (South Island), check out the Day Spa with hot pools! It was my birthday present from Tristan and it felt so good to relax and hang back for a day! Book yourself a massage or better yet … jump into the pool! They’ve got 3 heated outdoor pools ranging between 36-40 degrees with a killer view over Lake Tekapo. If you feel revived after spending your time in the spa and the pools, then get your skates on and go ice skating, they’ve got combi packages on offer.
So I’ve given you a couple of my tips of how to get by in NZL on a budget without comprimizing on joy and adventure.
There are so many ways to do it and still experience all that NZL has to offer. However, don’t miss out on 1 of the countries most popular high lights. Yes, it is very touristy, but Milford Sound is a truly majestical place that you simply can’t miss! I won’t say too much about it, just take the drive up to the Fiordlands near Te Anau (west on the South Island) and hop on a boat, it’s totally worth it! Promise me you’ll do it!
I hope you enjoyed my little ‘Back to Basics’ story and hopefully it has inspired you to head down south and get adventurous in New Zealand! Let me know what you thought of it or share your own NZL/budget travel experiences.
Happy Travels xoxo