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New Zealand SOUTH ISLAND Travel Budget || Breakdown of what I spent in 4.5 weeks

After five weeks exploring New Zealand’s North Island, it was time for us to head South! I continued to make a note of everything I spent money on, so I could see just how much our travels through New Zealand cost. We were still travelling and living in Cecil, our trusty campervan, as we drove from Picton to Queenstown. We spent 31 days travelling through Nelson, Marlborough, Abel Tasman, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook, Wanaka, Franz Josef, Twizel, Omarama, Arrowtown, Glenorchy, Milford Sound, Hokitika, Greymouth and Queenstown.


ACTIVITIES – $38.32 per day

**Although there were two of us travelling, all prices below are what I spent, so are PER PERSON!**

As with the North Island, activities were our main source of outgoings. I spent $505 in the North Island plus $529 on a skydive, totalling $1034. We spent a little more on the South Island – $1188.20.

Some of the biggest spends included a dolphin trip in Kaikoura, a stargazing trip in Lake Tekapo, a boat trip on Milford Sound and kayaking at Abel Tasman. The biggest spend by far was our Franz Josef glacier hike which was $449 out of the $1188.20 total, but totally worth every penny!

FOOD – $15.89 per day

With only $0.38 difference in our spend per day on food between the North and South Islands, we were pretty consistent! This remained to be our next biggest expenditure after activities. I’ve written more about what kinds of food we ate and how much we ate out on my North Island Travel Budget.

DIESEL* – $13.73 per day | ACCOMMODATION – $4.77 per day

With longer drives and a sharp increase in Diesel prices as we crossed over to the South Island, our spend per day on Diesel (and Diesel tax) went up from $6.43 per day to $13.73.

We happened to stay in a lot more campgrounds on the South Island too (instead of the Freedom camps) so our accommodation costs also increased slightly from $3.79 per day to $4.77. It was still a massive saving compared to staying in hostels at $30 a night!

*The price for diesel also includes paying for diesel tax.

EXTRAS (including clothes and van stuff)

This covered any extra spends that didn’t necessarily fit into any of the other categories – Eg. a new toothbrush or a haircut! I spent less on clothes and van stuff on the South Island compared to North Island.


I have listed the categories below, the total amount spent, and what this works out to be per day (based on averaging across the 34 days).

Accommodation – $148 / $4.77 per day

Food – $492.77 / $15.89 per day

Activities – $1188.20 / $38.32 per day

Diesel (and diesel tax) – $425.91 / $13.73 per day

Extras – $375.95 / $12.12 per day

Van Stuff  – $60 / $1.93 per day

Clothes – $53.99 / $1.74 per day

Lastly, here are some fancy graphs for those of you who are better at visualising things!

new zealand south island travel budgetnew zealand south island travel budget

I really hope this comes in useful so you can see roughly how much you can expect to spend on a trip to the South Island. Before our trip, we had NO IDEA what we were going to spend and we actually spent a lot less than what we’d read on the internet and budgeted for!

Also doing the North Island? See my travel budget breakdown for the North Island!

If you have any questions about my travels through New Zealand, or how much particular things cost, please let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you 🙂

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  • Reply
    March 20, 2018 at 12:05 am


    My boyfriend and I are about to head to south island for a roadtrip for about 13 days.
    He has saved $2-3,000 whereas myself i’ve only saved just about $1,800.
    Do you think between ourselves that will be enough for the entire trip? We are still to pay for a campervan and activities.
    What do you recommend we should do in the way of budgeting?
    Would love to have your help!
    Thank you, Anjali

    • Reply
      March 22, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      Hey Anjali! It sounds like you have more than enough – I spent $1188 in 4.5 weeks, so $2376 for two people which works out at roughly $75 a day for two people. However, we bought (then sold) our campervan so our only travel costs were gas. So you will definitely spend more on hiring the campervan but I would say you still have more than enough money! You could always grab some campervan quotes online and work out a rough budget if you want to be sure. Have an amazing time in the South Island 🙂

  • Reply
    April 19, 2018 at 5:03 am

    Thank-you this is amazing! Are these prices in NZ dollars?

    • Reply
      April 22, 2018 at 9:51 am

      Hey! Thank you 🙂 Yep, all prices are NZ dollars!

  • Reply
    July 2, 2018 at 4:01 pm

    Hi, I was looking to spend 5 weeks in the South Island, are you able to share your Itinerary as this is the longest trip I’ve been able to find so far in terms of just the South Island. Many thanks

    • Reply
      July 20, 2018 at 6:24 pm

      Hey Jonny! I am planning on writing a post all about my route/ itinerary but I haven’t quite got around to it yet!! But the basics are – travelled over into the South by ferry and headed to Blenheim for wine tasting… went across to Nelson and the Abel Tasman, then down to Kaikoura/ Christchurch via Hamner Springs. Across to Mount Cook/ Lake Tekapo and then down to Wanaka and Queenstown via lots of small towns on the way (Arrowtown/ Omarama etc). We also went across to Dunedin from Queenstown and did the day trip to Milford Sound. We spent around a week in Queenstown as we have friends there, so actual travel time was probably more like 3/ 3.5 weeks. Hope this helps!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2018 at 5:05 am

    Hi, can I ask how come your trip to the Franz Josef Glacier was the highest cost? Can you simply hike it without paying extra costs for transport etc?
    Thanks! 🙂

    • Reply
      October 11, 2018 at 2:22 am

      Hey! You can walk some areas alone, but be aware these glaciers are very dangerous and have taken many people’s lives in the past. You need to really know what you are doing, have all the correct ice hiking gear and even then, you can only trek certain areas as a lot is sectioned off with barriers. The glaciers move every day and the tours have to alter their routes daily to make sure they are taking people the safest way. Check out this link

      To be honest, I really wouldn’t recommend doing this independently. It’s worth the money for the gear, experience and safety provided by a tour. Plus you get to ride to the glacier in a helicopter which is pretty rad!! Hope this helps 🙂

  • Reply
    November 21, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    Hey really great information!!

    What’s like a ballpark price of how much the camper vans cost? And is it easy to sell them when leaving?

    I am exploring the options of maybe trying to buy a campervan, and stay for 3 or 4 monthes then sell it.

    How much do you think I would need to last for 3 or 4 monthes I won’t be doing too much other than surfing so not a lot of adventure costs.

    But I would want to buy a campervan that isn’t going to breakdown on me.


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