I’m writing this post because a year and a half ago when we were planning our move from Korea, I wish I had a reference point on living expenses in New Zealand . It was incredibly frustrating to be told “It’s super expensive” yet have nothing to base it off of. Living in South Korea was also pretty expensive, and I just wanted to know in comparison how much we were going to have to budget each month and overall to make our time in New Zealand not the worst thing ever on our bank accounts.
For all you fellow “I-want-to-travel-and-live-in-New-Zealanderers” hopefully you can use this as a general guide to help you get an idea of what things are going to cost while living, or even just visiting New Zealand.
PLEASE NOTE: our living expenses are relative to Dunedin, New Zealand. Cities like Auckland and Wellington are usually a little bit more expensive to live in, whereas places out in the country would be less expensive.
Pricing is in New Zealand Dollars. $1.00 NZD = $0.70 USD give or take depending on the currency rate.
We’ve already talked extensively about housing in New Zealand, but let’s recap for convenience sake shall we?
First of all, renting a place in NZ usually requires you to go through a property management company. There are lots of options available, but word of advice, read reviews on companies online before you choose to work with one. Some may seem like they’re great initially, but you never know who may try to pull a fast one on you because you’re a foreigner (sorry it happens).
Be prepared to pay a bond and letting fee. A property bond (refundable at end of tenency) is typically about a month’s rent, sometimes more if the place comes fully furnished. The letting fee (non-refundable) is typically about a week’s rent.
RENT (on average):
Student flat (living with other roommates): $100-200 per week
Stand alone house or apartment (1-2 bedroom): $280-400 per week
UTILITIES-water, garbage, property cleaning: No charge, but you ARE responsible for property upkeep and cleaning yourself.
GAS: $5-15 a month if your rental will be like ours and only uses gas for cooking and baking.
ELECTRICITY: $180-250 per month.
INTERNET: $55-75 per month. Because I work online, Derik and I paid $75 a month for Unlimited internet. A non-contract plan is usually a little bit more expensive than a contract, and $55 will get you 2-3 GBs a month. EEk. It’s well known that internet isn’t the best in New Zealand, but is still super expensive. What gives?!
There’s no beating around the bush on this one, food is expensive in New Zealand. The trick of keeping your spending down is buying things in season. Sure you can get cherries in the middle of the winter (imported from the US where it’s summer at the time), but they’ll cost you $20 for a kg. By limiting your produce to things that are only in season it’ll definitely save you a little $$$ each month.
COST OF GROCERIES PER WEEK: $120-150 for two people. Derik and I don’t go nuts at the grocery store and usually only purchase non-processed food…enough to make breakfast and lunch every day and 5 good dinners. Our grocery spending rarely included alcohol.
RESTAURANT AVG. MENU ITEM: $16-25 for a plated meal including sides (does not include starters, dessert, or drinks).
FAST FOOD COMBO MEAL: $8-10
ARTISAN COFFEE: $6-9 for a cappuccino, latte, or mocha.
If you’re in NZ on a working holiday visa or even just to visit for a bit, just get a prepaid sim card to put in your phone. The most popular service provider is Vodafone, and it’ll give you service in most populated areas of New Zealand (no, you will not get service out in the wilderness). You could try to get a full contract on your working holiday visa, but you’ll have to do it immediately upon arriving into the country, because the phone company knows you’re only there for a year and usually won’t approve you for one if you have less than 12 months on your visa.
PREPAID for smartphone: $19 a month gives you 100 local minutes, unlimited text messaging, 500MB data
OPEN-TERM CONTRACT for smartphone: $39 gives you 300 local minutes, unlimited text messaging, 1.5 GB data
24-MONTH CONTRACT for smartphone (includes new phone): $99 a month with 5GB data, unlimited text messaging and calls.
New Zealand is one of the most gorgeous countries on earth, and I think it would be a tragedy if you didn’t have a chance to get out on the weekends! Spontaneous road trips are a must. If you can afford it, the best way to do this would be to buy a used car — did someone say road trip?! If you’re not super picky and don’t mind buying something more than 10-15 years old, the cost of a used car actually isn’t that bad. My biggest piece of advice would be to get the car inspected before you buy it and make sure it has a current WOF (warrant of fitness) so you don’t have to pay for that right away as well. If a car isn’t on your list of things to buy while in NZ, there are still plenty of other options to get you around the country.
BUS: A one-way ticket into town from our beach house in Dunedin cost us $3.70NZD one way. Bus stops are everywhere, so getting around is relatively easy. If it’s something you know you’ll be doing on a daily basis, it might be cheaper to buy a monthly pass $90-150
TRAIN: $120+++ There are select railway routes in New Zealand, and if you get the pleasure of being on one, bring your camera. The views are most likely to be super epic! As a matter of fact, the TranzAlpine train track is world famous as one of the most beautiful alpine tracks in the world. The cost of a ticket depends on where you want to travel to, but we’ve found flying Air New Zealand or Jetstar(if you can get past the horrible customer service) is cheaper.
TAXI: Starting tariff $3.00, $2.80 per km
CAR: Buy USED: 1,500-3,000+ Be wary of buying something cheaper than 1,500 as it probably has a TON of kms on it and you may be spending more money fixing things than you did buying it.
BUY NEW: $35,000+ If you’re in to all that…
CAR INSURANCE: We bought our policy through AA NZ and it was $29 a month for comprehensive insurance.
GASOLINE: $2.05 a liter = $7.75 per gallon
WOMEN’S HAIR CUT: $45-60+
MEN’S HAIR CUT: $30-45+ depending on the quality of salon or barber shop you went to and if you wanted a shampooing or not!
HAIR DYE: $80-170+
GEL MANICURE: $40+
Overall, health care in New Zealand is ridiculously cheap. As a foreigner we have to usually pay a one-time fee (regardless of if you have insurance or not) to get in to the doctor, and receptionists usually feel REALLY bad about us having to pay it. I definitely don’t mind due to the fact that it’s still way cheaper than the US.
GENERAL DOCTOR’S VISIT: $35-50 walk-in fee. If you purchased travel/health insurance, you still have to pay the fee and then your insurance will re-imburse you.
PRESCRIPTIONS: Usually not over $10 (w/o insurance)
E.R. VISIT: $250 out of pocket not including medication, X-rays, or overnight stays.
All expenses above are a direct reflection of what we paid while living in Dunedin, New Zealand. The URLs listed below are a few additional reference points to help you get a good feel overall what you would be paying across the country.