Lucky for you, New Zealand has great infrastructure for travellers and getting around isn’t difficult. Yet, my experiences as a student here for the past three months have allowed me to realise that there is a learning curve to being a thrifty, competent weekend warrior.
Here are 5 travel tips for students wishing to get the most out of their weekends on a budget:
1. Hostels and campsites offer cheap accommodation
If you are heading out to a town or city, hostels will be your best option, running between $20-35NZ/night. They are often decorated elaborately, designed interestingly, and sometimes even have complimentary breakfast (I stayed at one that served free pudding every night!). The fun atmosphere also provides an easy way to meet other foreigners and make new connections! Hostels are such a staple in New Zealand that you can find one in almost any decently sized town.
Campsites are a great alternative for the adventurous student (and those with a tent) and provide convenient access to hikes and outdoor activities. Some Department of Conservation campsites can run under $10NZ, but most will be comparable to hostels at around $20-30NZ.
Just to be clear, these campsites I’m talking about aren’t in the middle of the bush with a long access trail. Most are flat, open patches of grass by roads, and therefore make a great option for the outdoorsy and not-so-outdoorsy student alike. Freedom camping is also allowed in New Zealand, but rules around it can be muddled so make sure you do solid research before committing to this option.
2. Try to avoid eating out – it adds up
This point is quite self-explanatory, but crucial nonetheless. Of course, occasionally splurging on good eats (Auckland is the hub) is encouraged, but the average weekend shouldn’t require such a monetary commitment. Grocery stores will be your best friend, as they are the cheapest avenue for your weekend sustenance.
3. Travel in a group for cheaper car rentals
The optimal method here is to pack as many people into the car as possible… it may be tight, but your wallet will thank you. As an example, if a car costs $60NZ to hire then you would be much better off paying $12 with four others than $30NZ with only one other. Clearly this factor has the potential to run trip costs way up and will often be the most expensive detail of your trip.
The other benefit a car provides is flexibility with your plans. If weather turns sour and the scheduled beach day doesn’t sound so nice then you’re group can spend the day in town instead.
4. Schedule extra time into drives
New Zealand roads are notoriously curvy (because of all those mountains) and can be quite stressful for international drivers. Just the other day I was forced to drive 30 minutes in a near circle to end up somewhere only 3 kilometers away (and no, I couldn’t walk)! On top of that, Kiwis are some fast drivers so you will probably be pulling off the road constantly to let others by. So, my advice is: take it slow and schedule some extra time to safely go from point A to B.
5. Check out your university’s outdoor club
Have no fear if you aren’t so keen at trip planning. Join your local tramping club and adventure around New Zealand with other students! This is a fantastic way to make friends and form a troop of interested people to fill those empty car seats of future trips.
Clubs are set up on a membership basis and foster a community setting, but other organisations, like University of Otago’s Outdoor Adventures, allow students to take the same type of rad adventures while joining trips anonymously and avoiding the commitment of a club. This type of weekend-tripping should be considered by anyone who mildly enjoys the outdoors.
Of course these tips aren’t the only things you should consider for planning your weekend trips, but they were important lessons I learned through my time as a student here in New Zealand!