Money & costs
In recent years the NZ dollar has gained ground against international currencies like the greenback, and burgeoning tourism has seen prices rise with demand. However, if you’re visiting from Europe or North America, it’s still a fairly economical destination, unless you’re throwing yourself out of a plane or jetboating every day. Activities like these generally top expense lists – think carefully about what you’ll spend your money on. Action-addicts should consider cheaper accommodation to help finance their exertions, while sedentary types who’d rather dangle a fork in some pasta than themselves at the end of a bungy should curtail the activities.
Gastronomes will find food to be surprisingly pricey – cooked breakfasts at snazzy cafés average around $16, while main courses at top-end restaurants cost $30 and beyond. Food in remote areas also costs more, without necessarily being of better quality.
If you do some sightseeing, eat out once or twice a day and stay in cheap motels or B&Bs, budget on at least $130 to $150 per day (per person, travelling as a pair), not including car hire or activities. Packing kids into your suitcases obviously means greater expense, but museums, cinemas, and tour and activity organisers usually offer discounts for young’uns, and there are plenty of open-air attractions available for free!
At the low-cost end, if you camp or stay in hostels, cook your own meals, repress the urge to drink beer, tackle attractions independently and travel on a bus pass, you could probably eke out an existence on $75 per day. But if you want to enjoy the occasional restaurant meal and glass of wine, then $90 per day is more realistic. Staying in places for longer periods and/or travelling in a group will lower your costs.
Tipping is completely optional in NZ, and staff do not depend on tips for income – the total at the bottom of a restaurant bill is all you need to pay (note that sometimes there’s an additional service charge). That said, it’s totally acceptable to reward good service and the tip you leave depends entirely on your satisfaction – between 5% and 10% of the bill is the norm.
The NZ dollar has gained considerable ground against other currencies in recent years (particularly against the US dollar), making NZ less of a bargain destination than it once was.
Changing foreign currency or travellers cheques is usually no problem at banks throughout NZ or at licensed moneychangers such as Travelex (formerly Thomas Cook) in the major cities. Moneychangers can be found in all major tourist areas, cities and airports, and conveniently tend to stay open beyond normal business hours during the week (often until 9pm).
Taxes & refunds
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a flat 15% tax on all domestic goods and services. Prices in this book include GST, but look out for any small print announcing that the price is GST-exclusive. There’s no GST refund available when you leave NZ.