5 Good Reasons to Visit New Zealand off season

by budgettravelnotes on August 24, 2010

 Although my blog posts of recent places visited is way behind, I’ve just recently landed in New Zealand for up to 12 months.  This is the second time I’ve arrived  here in low season, or just after the peak season has finished.  Obviously the best time to visit is summer, with the peak months being December and January, but that’s also when everyone else is here  The schools and universities are off, the kiwis are travelling and everywhere is busy, so here’s a few reasons why off season is also a good time to visit, and there’s a lot of financial advantages for budget travellers.

1. Campervan Rentals Are CHEAP

Ok so you’ve landed in Auckland and the hostels are empty.  You get a bit down, but then you realise you can hire campervans from $30 a day!  Yes – $30 a day!  If you think that’s good, when you convert it at today’s rate it gets even better – that’s the equivalent of only £21 USD per day, and remember that’s not per person!!  Get yourself down to the tourist information, gather up the numerous leaflets then go calling around, or stroll along Customs Street West, Beach Road and Fort Street where outlets such as Spaceships are located and start to chat to them.  You’ll end up walking away with the keys to a van or converted MPV for less around the same as a bed in a shared dorm.  Note you don’t have to arrive in mid winter to get good deals on campervans – the last time I was here I sold a car and hired a van in the first week of the off season in May and got a superb deal.

2.  Ski and Snowboard Season

NZ may not be the same as the European Alps in size, but the terrain is superb and there’s a very healthy winter scene in the North Island around Mt Ruapehu, and much more so around the winter hubs of Queenstown and Wanaka.  It will be cold around there but there’s plenty sunny days as well. Many of the rental companies may offer 2 for 1 deals as well – Spaceships do 2 for 1 deals on both day pass tickets to some resorts and even offer free stays at a campsite ideally located by the slops on the North Island.  If you took up a lot of these deals, it could mean you’re effectively being paid for taking one of their cars if this is your thing.  You can also get similar deals for other activities like kayaking etc.

3. You Won’t Have to Book The Great Walks in Advance

One thing many people don’t appreciate is how popular some of the great walks in New Zealand such as the Abel Tasman Coast Track or Milford Track are.  To book these in peak season you may need to book many months ahead and you must stick to that date, or have the spare days to hang around waiting for last minute spots.  In winter there’s a good chance that some of these tracks may involve more risk and skill than you desire, such as winter mountaineering on the Tongariro Northern Circuit.  If it’s not mid winter you’ll get the same walk, in cooler conditions, less sandflies nibbling on you, and not have to book months in advance.

4. Ferries are Cheap

If you come to New Zealand and have the time, there’s a good chance you’ll be taking the ferry over from the North to the South Islands.  These can be pretty extortionate in peak season around December and January.

5. Cheaper Hostels

Many travellers arriving from Asia may get a shock at the hostel prices in New Zealand where it can be $20 NZD for a dorm bed, or over $60 NZD for a private room with shared facilities.  Whilst this usually offers good value with decent facilities, it still eats into your budget.

There are ways you can reduce these costs by purchasing a BBH Backpackers Card for hostels in that scheme but that’s an extra $45 so you need to stay around 13 nights to get your cash back (although you do get some phone calls included for that price).  If you travel off season you may get the BBH member prices without having the card, especially if you stay for 5 nights or more.

This is just a sample of some of the reasons you should consider travelling in New Zealand off season.  The weather will be colder and a bit less predictable but at least there won’t be so many people queuing up behind you as you snake up the hills in your heavily discounted campervan!

Have you got any stories about how you saved a lot by travelling off season?  Let us know via the comments below.

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