A Budget Traveler’s Guide to Wellington

Wellington City at Dusk
Wellington City at Dusk | © russellstreet/Wikimedia Commons
Thalita Alves

Wellington has plenty to offer for those trying to keep their travel costs low. The New Zealand capital is a treasure trove of scenic sights and priceless cultural experiences. Here are a few quick pointers that will help all low-budget explorers relish the finest attractions of the land.

On arrival: take the bus to the city

That alone will take some steam off your budget. Even with Uber on the radar, taxis can get expensive – Wellington’s airport buses will be much cheaper by comparison. Fares, timetables and other essential travel information can be found on the Metlink website. If you want to travel more broadly around the Wellington region, this will help you figure out your transport needs too.

Choose a backpackers’ hostel over your standard hotel

Backpackers’ hostels are the safest option for the New Zealand-bound budget traveller. They’re much more reasonably priced than your standard hotel, and definitely less of a mixed bag of rates than a local AirBnB. If you’ve never navigated the backpacking route, don’t be scared: New Zealand is a stickler for tidiness and hospitality, no matter where you end up. Couchsurfing is another option worth considering – but keep in mind that competition for those spots are going to be quite fierce in the high season. To get the right balance for your accommodation, budget between NZD 30-60 per night for a backpackers’ hostel, and double that if you’re really not that keen on foregoing the luxury of a hotel stay.

Courtenay Place, Wellington

The best things in Wellington are free (or very reasonably priced)

Travelling on a budget doesn’t mean missing out on some great local attractions. New Zealand’s capital city is the perfect spot for sightseeing – you just have to bring your curiosity and sense of adventure on board. All the best attractions are well within walking distance, and the ones that aren’t so close can be reliably reached by public transport.

The city to sea walkway

If you are reasonably fit and can tackle a 12km (7.5 mile) hike, then this is the best way to see lots of Wellington in one go. The entire route takes around 6-7 hours to complete, but it can be broken into several stages. You’ll start next to the Parliament building and will end up in Island Bay, passing through all the city’s key sights and attractions.

Sightseeing via cable Car

Not too keen on braving the hilly footpaths? Don’t fret: the iconic Wellington Cable Car will save you. It’s quite popular with locals and visitors alike – not only will you get easy access to some the best scenic places in the city, cable car fares are quite cheap. The circuit stops will take you to places like the Botanic Gardens, or within walking distance to the free shuttle that heads Zealandia wildlife reserve.

Other must-see locations to consider

Make the journey up Mt. Victoria and marvel at the surrounding landscapes, visit Te Papa museum to see their latest exhibitions, or learn a bit of history by partaking in one of the guided Parliament house tours. On a sunny day, make sure to take a stroll by the waterfront and immerse yourself in any of the area’s surrounding beaches and bays.

Wellington Botanic Garden

Wellington foodie experiences on a budget

Wellington takes pride in its coffee, craft beer, and overall foodie culture. No matter where you’re coming from, you’ll want to at least get a taste of the melting pot of flavours – but how can you do so on a tight budget? The best advice for keeping the costs low is to be savvy about your foodie experiences. Pick a couple of cheap eats to get a feel for Welly’s gastronomical vibes, and stick to cooking your own meals after that.

The Wellington Night Market on Cuba Street is a good place to get your foodie feed, without burning a hole in your pockets. Also, make sure to keep an eye on the daily specials from all the main cafés, bars and eateries. Food in New Zealand is generally pricier than most destinations, so budget around NZD 40 for a one-person grocery list and at least NZD 25 for a standard-size main from a mid-range restaurant.


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