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Sophie Hilker hiking in New Zealand

6 Budget-Friendly Musts for Your First Week in NZ

Arriving in New Zealand for the first time was easily one of the most exciting experiences of my life. Soaring over mountains and landing near the ocean, I felt as though I had come to a truly magical place – and I was right!

New Zealand has so much to offer in terms of education, quality of life, and adventure. I wanted to go out and experience everything this wonderful country had to offer right away, but as a student, some things were not always financially feasible.

When you’re in such an enchanting place, the last thing you want to feel is constrained by your budget, so here are some of my top tips for how to make the most of your arrival without sacrificing your savings.

1. Check out your city’s Botanical Gardens

Almost every city has one. These free and stunning attractions provide a great setting for doing a bit of work on a nice day or taking a well-needed study break

botanical gardens

Explore your city's botanical gardens for free.

2. Familiarize yourself with campus

Explore, trace your class schedule from building to building, or take a tour! Make it a social event and walk around with friends. Campuses are often beautiful and sprawling, so it is good to get your bearings before classes begin, and enjoy yourself while doing it.

3. Go to the i-site and explore the city centre

Each city in New Zealand has an i-site, or information site, with helpful staff to answer any questions you may have about local life, and plenty of brochures to give you ideas for activities and trips around your area. After you’ve had your fill at the i-site, walk around the city center to get a feel for city life. Oftentimes the city centre is the cultural hub of the city, and the food scene there is unparalleled.

Pro tip: Once you have an idea of what activities you’d like to do, check out Bookme, a website offering discounted prices, to see what deals are offered in your area. Just make sure you know your schedule before you book because some activities are date and time specific and tickets are nonrefundable.

4. Enjoy New Zealand’s eclectic food culture

While cooking meals is cost efficient, I would seriously recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new every now and again. Meat pies are a cheap, delicious, and convenient way to experience New Zealand food culture because you can find them almost anywhere! Bakeries, cafes, gas stations, you name it. Buy them hot or frozen to save for later—trust me, you’ll be wanting more. New Zealand is also home to some seriously world-class seafood. If you’re eating on a budget, try fish and chips from a takeaway Chinese restaurant (often the cheapest and tastiest option, a win-win!) or seafood chowder at a local pub (rich in taste, relatively low in price).

seafood chowder

Seafood chowder: delicious, filling and inexpensive.

5. Figure out how to get from point A to point B

Explore the city’s public transit options and bus routes. For intercity travel, look into buses and railways, before you buy that plane ticket. If you’re traveling in a group, renting a car and splitting the costs can be extremely affordable. While it may take longer, ground travel is often cheaper and the views are so rewarding.

Pro tip: most public transit should offer student discounts, so always have your student ID handy when you travel.

6. See the ocean!

If you’re on the coast (chances are you’re near one), take a beach day! Wear sandals that are easy to kick off, so you can feel the soft sand beneath your feet. Explore the surf, hunt for seashells, and if you’re feeling adventurous, take a dip!

New Zealand beach

If you're in New Zealand, chances are you're not too far from the beach!

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Sophie Hilker

By Sophie HilkerUS Study Abroad student

Updated 1 month ago

Sophie Hilker is a Creative Writing major at Macalester College in the United States, who studied abroad at the University of Otago. Her favorite part of her study abroad experience was engaging with Dunedin’s vibrant literary culture.

*Views expressed are the blogger's own
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