Auckland on a Budget
I-SITES – The New Zealand Travellers’ Friend
Guide books might well come in handy on much of the world’s backpacker circuit but you can happily ditch them in New Zealand. This country has an incredible countrywide infrastructure of information centres which go by the name of i-SITES. These are veritable goldmines and set the highest standard possible which, in a perfect world, would be the benchmark by which all other global tourist info establishments would judge themselves.
Big cities and far off the beaten track tiny towns alike – these i-SITES are everywhere and Auckland has several. Tourist and traveller heaven is found once you step through these doors where you can work your way through shelves and shelves of goodies which include leaflets, brochures and tourist literature listing accommodation of every description, diverse tour options for every budget range, attractions (including the free ones), sights and activities as well as a booking service. You can also grab yourself any number of maps from basic street plans to tourist trail sightseeing versions.
The true gems for the budget backpacker are such resources as 'What to See and Do for Free in Auckland’ or 'Free events and Concerts'.
Budget Friendly Accommodation
By far the cheapest accommodation options for backpackers are hostels and Auckland has more of these than you can shake a stick at. Funky names abound to purposely appeal to the young party crowd but there are lots of others too which aim to attract a more diverse crowd of all ages.
Most offer either private or dorm choices with the latter being the cheapest option for solo travellers. You may have to do a bit of maths to make sure you are bagging yourself the best deal. At first glance some hostels may appear pricier but a closer investigation may reveal that all kinds of extras are included in the price such as breakfast, tea/coffee, bedding/towels, cut-price tours and so forth.
The costs of eating out in Auckland can add up so make sure to book into a hostel which has kitchen facilities for preparing your own meals. Hostels which have these facilities are far more common than those which don’t.
Another option you might want to look into is Airbnb beds. Some have a super casual set-up which offer a bed or couch in a shared house sometimes for less than the price of a hostel but with better facilities and higher standards.
Cheap Eats in Auckland
As already discussed, many backpackers on a budget choose to prepare their own meals in hostel kitchens but budget-friendly foods are possible to find if you know where to look. Auckland is home to some great food courts serving a wide range of ethnic cuisine where the quality is surprisingly good, the portions hungry backpacker size and the prices as low as it gets.
One of the best is on Albert Street and has selections of Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian and
Vietnamese dishes, to name but a few, all served from separate food booths. Alternatively you can take a wander up Karangahape Road (known in local parlance simply as 'K Road’) where Asian food counters offer a variety of cheap eats for take-away or eat-in.
Transport on the Cheap or for Free
Mega-efficient and highly regular, the Auckland bus network service is a cheap way of getting yourself to every far flung corner of the great Auckland sprawl and an easy means of taking in all the sights.
If you need to travel around the central district of the city there is a totally free hop on/hop off service offered by a stream of bright red buses which run in a constant loop from 8 in the morning until 6 in the afternoon.
Low Cost and Free Things to Do and See
For a fully comprehensive list of what's on offer for the budget conscious in Auckland check out the i-SITEs as previously mentioned. Expect to have plenty of choices where you won't have to reach into your wallet once while in other cases you may have to dish out a few dollars for a bus to get to your destination or pay a little for an admission charge somewhere. So extensive are the free things here that you will run out of time long before you run out of things to do.
Events for Free
Auckland has an extensive events calendar as might be perhaps be expected from the country's largest and most populated city. No matter what the time of year there is almost always something going on which might include music events and festivals, dancing, street festivals and sporting events. Categories of the latter are divided into those where the emphasis is firmly on the fun to those of major national importance such as the Auckland Anniversary Regatta - one of the biggest single day regattas found on the planet.
An ever-popular freebie is the outdoor Silo Cinema in Silo Park where movies are screened Fridays or Saturdays during the summer. There is also a vibrant night market here complete with cheap eats from the food stalls.
Hiking and Self-guided Tours
If you're happy to make some effort with your legs there are a whole bunch of walks, hikes and self-guided tours possible in and around Auckland. These come in a variety of forms such as those with a city sights focus to those designed to lead you out into the bush.
At the risk of sounding like an i-SITE promotion campaign we'd like to direct you once again to their doors. Here you will find all the information you'll need along with relevant maps and in many cases purposely designed leaflets which will lead you along set trails. Some of these are themed such as historical buildings, art and crafts, flora and fauna or Maori culture.
Alternatively you can get yourself along to the Queens Wharf information kiosk before 10.30 in the morning and join one of the free walking tours of the city. These last for around 3 hours and depart daily.
Free Beach Time Fun
You might not typically associate the words 'lovely' and 'city beach' together but then Auckland is not quite like anywhere else in the world. Auckland has a few beaches to choose from and perennially popular is Mission Bay which is located east of the Central Business District. Here you will find a beautiful sandy beach backed by a park and exuding an air of being a million miles from the city despite it being so close. Folk come here to soak up the sun, cool down in the safe swimming waters, picnic or just plonk themselves somewhere with a beach-front view while they enjoy a coffee or an ice-cold beer. If you have some energy to spare you can opt instead for a spot of roller-blading, kayaking, cycling or hike your way out to the bay's western end where you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Hauraki Gulf.
Cheap Party Time
If partying is a priority for your Auckland visit you might want to check out the Thursday night Frenzi Bar Crawl. Typically attracting more than 100 backpackers intent on after-dark fun, things kick off at the Fat Camel Bar in Fort Street. Here, for a small layout of NZ$10, you can have four drinks, stumble around a few of Auckland's best bars and make a total fool of yourself with a range of party games with some fairly great prizes up for grabs.