If your dream is settling in a developed country, while still being connected to nature, New Zealand is the place to be. The idyllic islands are a real-life oasis for many expats, especially those whose first language is English. Also, one of the biggest luxuries life here brings is the clean air and water.
In terms of personal security, New Zealand is very good to live in. You won’t fear that you’ll get robbed or assaulted, since it’s known as a very safe country. This is an important factor for everyone, but especially expats with kids.
The combination of the intriguing culture and stunning landscapes is what will make you want to visit. But the quality of life and the hospitality will make you want to stay. New Zealand has so many things to offer, an exceptional expat life being just one of them. If you don’t know where to begin, here we have a guide for the cost of living in New Zealand.
The official currency in New Zealand is the New Zealand dollar (NZD for short). You also might recognize it by its symbol ($), sometimes confused with the Australian dollar. From here on, we’ll refer to it as simply NZD.
Thinking and making calculations in New Zealand dollars might be quite a challenge in the beginning. A good way to find out the exact value of your money in NZD is by using a currency converter. Here’s a comparison to a few major currencies at the time of writing: ¹
- 1000 NZD = 653 USD
- 1000 NZD = 488 GBP
- 1000 NZD = 586 EUR
- 1000 NZD = 936 AUD
Besides this, the following chart should give you an idea of the general pricing in New Zealand. It compares basic expenses (in NZD) between the UK, US, EU and Australia. To get a starting idea of the cost of life here, have a look:
|Comparing basic cost of living||1 bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Meal for 2 (mid-range restaurant, three courses)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|Auckland, NZ²||2,026 NZD||120 NZD||215 NZD|
|Wellington, NZ³||2,184 NZD||98 NZD||150 NZD|
|London, UK⁴||3,559 NZD||122 NZD||326 NZD|
|New York City, USA⁵||4,728 NZD||152 NZD||196 NZD|
|Berlin, Germany⁶||1,824 NZD||85 NZD||142 NZD|
|Sydney, Australia⁷||2,802 NZD||107 NZD||232 NZD|
To make sure you always get the best deal, consider using a money-transfer specialist like Wise. Wise applies the real mid-market exchange rate, which helps you avoid all those high fees and currency conversion costs. The Wise multi-currency account lets you hold over 50 currencies and the Wise international debit card can be used in 200 countries.
With a quick service and low fees to transfer your funds, this can be a much better deal than relying on traditional local accounts. Also, automatic conversions at the fairest exchange rate will help you get used to NZD more quickly.
The price of day-to-day living is one of the key factors when choosing a place to settle. The following chart is an overview of the general living expenses, on the average. Some of the costs it covers are transportation, moderate going-out, as well as the cost of groceries in New Zealand:
|Living expenses in Auckland (excluding rent)²||Average cost|
|Single person, per month||1,527 NZD|
|Single person, per year||18,324 NZD|
|4 person family, per month||5,532 NZD|
|4 person family, per year||66,384 NZD|
|Living expenses in Wellington (excluding rent)³||Average cost|
|Single person, per month||1,384 NZD|
|Single person, per year||16,608 NZD|
|4 person family, per month||4,874 NZD|
|4 person family, per year||58,488 NZD|
After coming this far, you might wonder, what’s a liveable salary in New Zealand? That can be tricky to answer, since it can entirely depend on your spending habits and where exactly you live. Like almost anywhere else, living in a smaller place is less expensive, especially in terms of housing.
What might help answer this question are the average salaries for some professions and positions. Here’s the data from the New Zealand Government website:
|Salary averages in New Zealand⁸||Average annual salary|
|Information technology (IT)||105,000 NZD|
|Marketing, media and communications||70,000 NZD|
|Office and administration||50,000 NZD|
|Transport and logistics||50,000 NZD|
In the past year, the prices in New Zealand rose due to inflation, just like in many other countries.⁹ This includes construction and rent prices, so it’s good to have that in mind when looking at places to live.
Rent always takes up a big chunk of your monthly budget. However, prices vary greatly based on the neighbourhood and the type of accommodation you choose. Here’s an overview of rent prices across New Zealand neighbourhoods, along with a variety of common housing types:
|Renting in Auckland (Avondale)¹⁰||Median rent|
|Apartment (2 bedroom)||560 NZD|
|Flat (2 bedroom)||465 NZD|
|House (3 bedroom)||610 NZD|
|Renting in Wellington (Johnsonville)¹¹||Median rent|
|Apartment (2 bedroom)||490 NZD|
|Boarding house (1 bedroom)||200 NZD|
|Flat (2 bedroom)||500 NZD|
|House (3 bedroom)||683 NZD|
|Renting in Christchurch (central) ¹²||Median rent|
|Apartment (2 bedroom)||450 NZD|
|Boarding house (1 bedroom)||195 NZD|
|Flat (2 bedroom)||363 NZD|
|House (3 bedroom)||545 NZD|
All New Zealand permanent residents are covered by the public, tax-funded healthcare system. The services include preventive care, hospital services, physical therapy, dental care for schoolchildren and mental health care. Treatments that are excluded from this are those related to accidents, and they’re covered by a no-fault accident compensation scheme. When it comes to private insurance, around a third of residents pay for that type of coverage.¹³
Dental care is free for all residents under 18 years of age. The free standard services include routine examinations, X-rays, fillings and extractions. Some treatments, such as orthodontics, require paying extra fees.¹⁴
It’s best to check the prices before visiting your doctor, since they can vary greatly. Still, here are some basic healthcare-related prices:
|Healthcare service¹⁵||Average cost|
|Cold medicine for 6 days||13 NZD|
|1 box of antibiotics (12 doses)||7 NZD|
|Short visit to private doctor (15 minutes)||55 NZD|
Many New Zealanders choose driving as their primary form of transportation, since it’s the most convenient. It’s not that expensive to buy yourself a car in New Zealand, so that’s what many locals do. In some rural areas, that’s all they have, but driving is also popular in the urban areas. The public transportation system is good in most bigger cities, but it’s not that developed in the rest of the country. Again, this is where you rely on your car and your driving skills.¹⁶
One of the options when travelling through the country is flying. The national company Air New Zealand is the most popular one, along with the Australian Jetstar. If you know how to search, it’s often possible to find fairly affordable tickets. New Zealand has five international airports (Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown).¹⁷
Students can get a discount on public transportation in some places. Also, electronic travel cards instead of paper ones can save you some money.¹⁷
If you don’t know what to expect price-wise, here’s an overview of transportation-related costs:
|Transportation and vehicle prices in Auckland²||Average cost|
|Gasoline (1 liter)||2,4 NZD|
|Monthly transportation pass||215 NZD|
|One-way ticket (local transport)||4 NZD|
|Taxi start (normal tariff)||3,5 NZD|
|Taxi 1km (normal tariff)||2,6 NZD|
|Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)||37,000 NZD|
|Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or Equivalent New Car||32,498 NZD|
Education from ages 6-16 is compulsory in New Zealand. Those 13 years of schooling are divided into 3 stages - Primary, Intermediate and Secondary. If you’ve moved to New Zealand mid-year, you can still enrol your child into school.¹⁸
When it comes to higher education, you can choose between universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, and private training establishments. The New Zealand universities are highly ranked (in the top 3%) and eight are state-funded. Those are the University of Auckland, University of Otago, University of Canterbury, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Waikato, Massey University, Auckland University of Technology, Lincoln University. The fees depend on the university and the field you’re studying.¹⁹
Here are some average education costs:
|Primary school fees||from 11,000 NZD|
|Secondary school fees||from 14,000 NZD|
|Private primary and secondary schools||from 25,000 NZD|
|Bachelor’s degree||20,000-40,000 NZD|
|Postgraduate degree||20,000-45,000 NZD|
|PhD||6,500-7,500 per year|
Being an international student is a rewarding experience, but it’s definitely pricier than being a local. Besides the costs that everyone has, keep in mind that you also have to pay some medical services that locals don’t. However, it’s possible to save some money here and there and avoid spending a fortune on everyday expenses.
The cost of living for international students depends on various factors. Besides your personal spending habits, the place where you’re studying and living plays an important part. For example, an estimate of the University of Auckland is that you’ll need at least 20,000-25,000 NZD/year for all your expenses. This includes food, accommodation, transport, and some expenses such as internet. This doesn’t include the already mentioned medical expenses, nor the textbooks or clothing.²¹
On the other hand, the University of Otago’s estimate is around 18,000 per year. Since this university is based in Dunedin, a smaller city, you can save up to 9,000 NZD/year on living expenses.²⁰
Your daily and monthly expenses will depend on where you live. If you’re situated in Auckland or Wellington, the rent will be pricier than in some smaller towns. But, since New Zealand doesn’t have huge cities, those differences won’t be that drastic.
Also, ‘living comfortably’ has a different meaning for everyone. Maybe your standards see that as being able to splurge whenever you feel the need to, while others see it as more modest. Having children adds large expenses to your budget, so that makes it even harder to calculate a universal amount. However, New Zealand is cheaper than the UK. So, the safest answer would be - you need less than you would in the UK.
- Wise - currency converter
- Numbeo - cost of living in Auckland
- Numbeo - cost of living in Wellington
- Numbeo - cost of living in London
- Numbeo - cost of living in New York
- Numbeo - cost of living in Berlin
- Numbeo - cost of living in Sydney
- govt.nz - salary guide
- BBC - cost of living: New Zealand inflation
- govt.nz - rent in Auckland (Avondale)
- govt.nz - rent in Wellington (Johnsonville)
- govt.nz - rent in Christchurch (central)
- Commonwealth Fund - healthcare in New Zealand
- Ministry of Health - publicly funded dental care
- Expatistan - cost of living in New Zealand
- govt.nz - New Zealand transport system
- govt.nz - transport options
- govt.nz - New Zealand school system
- govt.nz - understanding the New Zealand education system
- govt.nz - tuition fees and cost of living in New Zealand
- University of Auckland - cost of living
Sources checked on 29-Jan-2022
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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