Moving to New Zealand with Under $3,000

One of my most popular articles to date was about when I moved to Australia with under $5,000. The post achieved “trending” status on social media and had hundreds of thousands of views! I figured it would be a good idea to share my experience of moving to New Zealand with under $3,000 in the bank! Money seems to be the #1 thing holding people back from travel, so I am hoping this will be an inspiring post to help people overcome their “I don’t have money to travel” excuse. Here my article about Moving to New Zealand with Under $3,000.

Wanaka Stars New Zealand

Let’s start off with a bit of background. I had just graduated from my Korean MBA program in February 2015 and was in a bit of a pickle. I wanted to try and find a marketing job in Korea, which I achieved. Unfortunately, it was only part time and between the marketing position and part time modeling/acting it was pretty hard to make ends meet.

There are a few problems with trying to find non-teaching jobs in Korea. Trust me, the jobs exist…but it’s like finding a unicorn. The majority of foreigners in Korea are either teaching English, military or studying. 99% of American expats are teaching English and therefore most job openings are allotted for teachers. The biggest issue is visas in Korea. For most business jobs you need the correct working visa, but to get this visa you need a job? It is a chicken or egg scenario. I was on a “looking for work” visa, but this actually didn’t allow me to work a full time business job.

After 6+ months of searching, I decided that Korea was not going to work out for the industry I wanted to pursue. It was a hard decision to leave, since I absolutely loved living in Korea for over two years. My mind was made up and I booked a flight to New Zealand.

taupo hiking

Similar to Australia, New Zealand has a working holiday visa that is extremely easy for some countries to obtain. Actually, for Americans it is free to get this visa! After booking my flights I had around $2,700 in my bank account.

Requirements for a New Zealand visa (Americans):

  1. Be under the age of 30
  2. Hold a university degree
  3. Have at least $3,000 USD in your bank account ($4,200 NZD) *I was never asked to prove this, but it is case by case.
  4. More Info on Requirements Here

It was going to be a sink or swim situation since New Zealand is EXPENSIVE! I landed and started looking for work straight away…like it was my job. It was my job to literally find a job. Going in with this attitude was extremely helpful and 6-8 hours per day of job hunting worked out! Luckily, within a week I was able to find an amazing remote marketing position for a start up travel magazine. The job was remote and I would be based in Auckland. If you are looking for a business job, I highly suggest traveling between Auckland and Wellington, overall I preferred Wellington (depending on the weather).

Tips to find a job  in New Zealand ASAP:

  1. Seek.co.nz The best way to find a legitimate job in NZ (Mostly office jobs).
  2. Madison or check out some of the other staffing firms (Quinn, Manpower, Etc)
  3. Talk to people. Networking is a easy way to find out about job openings. There are plenty of Meetup Groups and people in Hostels to help out.
  4. TradeMe.co.nz is a great resource for finding work, apartments and anything else you might need in NZ.
  5. Have your tax and bank account ready ASAP. Setting this up is fairly easy, I recommend ANZ since they are the biggest and have the most ATMs. Also, if you end up moving or visiting Australia at any point then you won’t have to open another account.

So now that you have found a job, it’s time to get settled in. I was extremely happy to get out of the hostel and move into an apartment. Finding apartments in Auckland is a nightmare, but luckily I landed a short-term lease nearby to Queens street. I recommend using Facebook Groups and TradeMe. Once you are all settled it you can finally start a routine and cut down on costs a bit.

Auckland Group crop

Breakdown of Expenses (in NZD)

Monthly Income $4,000 or $25 per hr. (Most backpackers were making a lot less, but it varies on the type of job)

  1. Shared Apartment Rent Auckland ($1000 NZD per month) The Elliott Hotel is where I stayed at. Really great location and rooms are nice. Hostel’s usually offer a discounted monthly & weekly rate, but this varies, significantly per city and hostel. This was more on the high end for apartments and if you live a bit outside of the city you can find a lot cheaper housing. Keep in mind that Auckland is the most expensive city in New Zealand.
  2. Phone Bill ($29 per 1 GB data, per month- Wifi and data is CRAZY expensive in NZ)
  3. Food- it was almost not even worth eating out in Auckland, restaurant prices are very expensive, so cooking is a must on a budget. ($15-20+ for a decent restaurant meal, grocery store food was quite expensive as well, $10 for a block of cheddar cheese, $4
  4. Drinks ($38 for bottle of Jim Bean bourbon, $10-15 for double whiskey/coke at a bar.)
  5. Gym Membership ($30-75 per month)
  6. Transport ($3.50 per one way trip. Auckland transport was pretty bad and taxis are extremely expensive. Luckily I was in walking distance from everything.

After 4 months of working for the travel magazine, they decided the business model was not working and ended up closing down. The timing wasn’t great since it was right before Christmas, but it allowed me to visit the USA for more than two weeks and stop by in FIJI! After my trip back to the USA I headed back to New Zealand and ended up traveling the North Island with Stray. On a pub crawl I won a contest for sticking the most clothe pins on my face in under a minute. The grand prize was a free trip around the North Island.

I spent around 2 weeks traveling on the North Island and a bit over a month hitch hiking the entire South Island (I’ll write a separate post about that soon). Both islands are absolutely worth visiting. If you haven’t yet, check out my “10 photos….article” The country is full of beautiful landscapes around every corner!

Top 5 New Zealand North Island Highlights:

1.) Blue Duck Lodge – This waterfall was just a short hike from our cabin, but we got lost and a 30 minute hike turned into a few hours. No problem though since it was an amazing hike through some luscious landscapes. Blue Duck Lodge Waterfall

2.) Tongario Crossing + Mt. Doom. This was one of the best hikes I have ever been on (weather permitting)! We lucked out and had terrific weather for the entire hike. It takes around 9-13 hours depending on your speed and any side routes you might take. Mt Doom tongariro crossing

3.) Wellington – If you are looking for a city to live in, then you pretty much have to choose between Auckland or Wellington. Both offer a lot of great things and are way different. I really enjoyed Wellington since it was a very walkable city! Mount Victoria Wellington at night

4.) Hobbitton – Any Lord of the Rings fan will appreciate a dream trip to the shire. Hobbiton was extremely well maintained and their attention to detail is extremely impressive! For example, there was a tree that was re-created for the Hobbit (since it needed to look younger) that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and a ton of time to re-create. After all of this it only made it into like 10 seconds of the film. They certainly go to some extreme lengths and that’s what made the movies so fantastic to watch. Hobbiton shire new Zealand

5.) Taupo – this was an unexpected town that I throughly  enjoyed. From climbing to the top of this beautiful peak to taking a dip in a crystal clear lake, there is something special about Taupo and I am really glad I spent more than a few days here. Taupo Mountain

Top 5 New Zealand South Island Highlights:

1.) Wanaka + Roy’s Peak – waking up at 3am to hike in the cold and dark seemed a bit un-neccesary, but man was it worth it! We made it to the peak extremely fast. I think it was because we were hiking in the dark and there was no reason to stop and enjoy the view since it was pitch black. Once we had summited the peak, it was about 1.5 hours to sunrise and it was FREEZING! Luckily, we had hot chocolate to hold us over and enjoy this magical sunrise! Roys Peak Sunrise New Zealand

2.) Queenstown is BUZZing! There are a ton of activities in Queenstown, but be prepared to pay a bit of money to enjoy any of the extreme activities. Don’t worry though if you are on a budget, there is still some great free activities like hiking and frisbee golf! Make sure you pick up furg burger, which lived up to it’s famous reputation as the best burger in New Zealand.  Queenstown View New Zealand

3.) Dunedin – This quaint college town was certainly an unexpected highlight. I think I had a bit TOO much fun in Dunedin, some of my Kiwi friends said I should come down for “O” week, which stands for orientation week  (similar to Syllabus week in the US). My Kiwi friends showed me an amazing time and we were partying for about 5 days straight.

4.) Milford Sound – One of the most famous regions of the south island was  quite stunning, the main attraction is a bus + boat trip which takes you around to some of the highlights in one day.

5.) Mt. Cook – We ran into a bit of bad weather here, but were still fortunate for clear skies in the morning. The hike later on though was full of rain and clouds. The weather rules in NZ and this is always something to be aware of when planning your trip. mt cook view new zealand

Tourism has just surpassed the cattle industry as the New Zealand’s most profitable industry and it is easy to see why. The country is small, actually smaller by population and land mass than Missouri! Size doesn’t matter though. The country is frothing with friendly people, stunning landscapes, and some extreme tourism. (Oh and don’t forget the sheep!)

Travel tips for New Zealand:

  1. Weather Rules (The weather can be really unpredictable in NZ and this is the main cause for accidents and hiking mishaps, always be prepared for the worst weather and dress in layers).
  1. NEW Camping Gear is Expensive, but renting and buying second hand is the way to go.
  1. Eating out is not really worth it. Restaurants are quite expensive and the cuisine is not the reason people travel to NZ. Consider limiting your meals out and get used to cooking most of your meals.
  1. Hitch Hiking is extremely easy. After hitch hiking the entire south island I would highly recommend it. Great way to meet interesting and friendly people.
  1. Rental Car Relocations- If hitch hiking isn’t your thing then check out services like Transfer Car. This service lets borrow a rental car for FREE.
  1. Get Naked! Naked Bus is a great service that offers some HUGE discounts on travel around NZ.  This service is a bit hit or miss, but when you it saved me a lot of $$$ on accommodation. For example, at Base Auckland I received a weekly rate which was about $70 NZD lower than Hostel World or booking directly with Base.
  2. Check out BookMe.co.nz for the lowest prices for activities and tours. You can find some CRAZY deals on here.

Overall, I cherished and loved every moment I spent in New Zealand! I think 6 months was the perfect amount of time (for me). Reminicing about NZ has brought back loads of nostalgia and I hope this advice is helpful for anyone that is considering traveling or moving to New Zealand!

4 comments

  1. Comment by Mike

    Mike Reply November 22, 2016 at 6:55 am

    Dear Sir,
    There is now way that you can move to New Zealand with just that amount in a bank.
    Then there is the issue of a job.
    You will need sponsorship and that will be putting a burden on the New Zealand tax payer.
    I know this for a fact.
    New Zealand comes first and foremost. The employer has to go through a lot of paperwork and so much red tape you could build a house with it.
    I lived there for 5 years. Then you also have pray that they don’t deny your next visa extension, which they can do at any time. You CAN travel there and stay for 3 months. But to work there, a snow ball in Hell stands a better a chance with that. I was there when I was 40 years old and I have a ton of skills and I can run my own home business. I am an IT Tech and Consultant(certified by Microsoft), Computer Graphics(certified by Adobe).
    You won’t get a Work to Residency visa without a written job offer and the company will have to support you and provide you with a place to live.
    The company can terminate your stay with a snap of their fingers and you will be given 30 days to get your affairs in order and leave the country.
    Please don’t misinform people about living in New Zealand.
    You can travel there with nothing in the bank. They don’t care how much you have outside of New Zealand. You will need at minimum $10,000.00 in a bank account to live there and it will have to be in a New Zealand bank. New Zealand Immigration is very strict on their rules and all it would take is you getting a traffic ticket in New Zealand and you could be on the next flight out of the country.
    You haven’t heard about Kim.Com, multi millionaire who got him self into bit shyt and wanted asylum in New Zealand. If it was so easy everyone would be moving to New Zealand please get your facts right.
    Btw…I belong to 2 tribes there and I am still away from home. But not for much longer.
    Have a nice day

  2. Comment by Nz Vacations

    Nz Vacations Reply June 26, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Great story! NZ is the best place to stay. Traveling to NZ should be on your bucket list. If you need help with your travel, visit: New Zealand Vacations

  3. Comment by Thomas

    Thomas Reply July 31, 2017 at 12:28 am

    This is a very thrifty budget. I want to stay in New Zealand too!

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