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The basics
New Zealand: Student Finances - Must read

How much does it cost to study in New Zealand?

One of the most important question for an international student is how much it will cost to live in their chosen destination. We help with our complete guide to costs in New Zealand.

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New Zealand has huge appeal to international students. With its fantastic opportunities and vibrant cities, it’s easy to understand why. But how much does it really cost to live there? It’s important to make sure you’ve researched the financial factors linked to your destination before you make any concrete plans.


In this article, we explore the cost of living in New Zealand, providing you with all the information you’ll need to see what your expenses might look like.


What costs can I expect?


You might be wondering what sort of costs you should budget for during your time in New Zealand. Obviously, some will come down to your lifestyle choices, but there are some fixed expenses you’ll need to think about too, such as:


  • accommodation
  • food and everyday essentials
  • travel and transport
  • entertainment
  • connectivity (internet, mobile phone etc)
  • hidden costs (things that are unique to you, for example, course supplies or visa fees)


Tuition fees


Tuition fees aren’t covered under our ‘cost of living’ expenses, but you’ll definitely need to budget for them. Please read our separate article on tuition fees in New Zealand, but for a general idea, you can expect annual (yearly) fees in the region of:


  • NZD 25,500 to  NZD 45,000 (undergraduate level)
  • NZD 7,500 to NZD 46,500 (postgraduate level)


The difference in cost between regions


No matter which country you live in, there’s always variation in expenses between regions. As with anywhere, in New Zealand, cities are usually more expensive than towns or villages.


Generally speaking, New Zealand’s South Island will offer a cheaper student experience than its bustling North Island. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch all come with the appeal of being vibrant university cities but are also some of the most expensive places to live in the country, while Dunedin in the south offers a cheaper cost of living.


In most university cities, you’ll find student-friendly districts with cheaper rental options, so don’t let location alone be the deciding factor in where to study.




Rent will almost certainly be your biggest expense as a student (excluding tuition fees). Most universities in New Zealand offer plenty of opportunities for students to live on or near to campus in halls of residence owned by the universities themselves.


Other options include privately renting (either alone or sharing with other students) or a homestay (living with a local family). Homestays are a less common choice, but if this appeals to you, you’ll be looking at spending NZD 1,200 to NZD 1,400 a month.


Rent in New Zealand is paid weekly but here we’ve provided you with a monthly figure so you can get an idea of your monthly budget more easily.


University residence


Student halls in New Zealand may be either catered or self-catered. Whilst some halls follow the traditional dormitory-style of accommodation, some are split into shared apartments rather than individual rooms. Your room may be single or shared, and usually, you’ll have a range of communal areas, such as a kitchen and living room, available.


A real benefit of halls of residence in New Zealand is that they often offer shorter leases than the typical 52-week rental – great if you want to return home at the end of the academic year. You’ll have to research what your university offers but 38, 42 and 48-week contracts are all common.


Depending on the city, you’ll be looking at spending between NZD 450 to NZD 2,400 a month if you choose university-owned accommodation, with the more expensive properties being fully catered.


Some universities also offer shared student housing on or near to campus. As these are always self-catered, costs will usually be similar to prices at low to mid-range halls of residence at the same university.


Private rentals


Although usually more expensive, private rentals in New Zealand can be cost-effective too, as long as you budget carefully. A room in a shared property will be much cheaper than renting alone and will allow you the fun of flatmates. Private rentals may come furnished (with furniture) or unfurnished, so be sure to check before you sign a lease.


Depending on the type and location of the property, you’ll probably be looking at spending around:


  • NZD 520 to NZD 1,000 per month if you rent a room in a shared property

  • NZD 1,200 to NZD 1,600 per month if you rent alone


Unlike many student halls, you’ll probably be signing up to a 52-week lease if you rent privately. Most tenants are asked to pay one or two weeks’ rent before they move in, along with a security deposit (equivalent to two to four weeks’ rent). You’ll get your deposit back when you leave as long as you return the property in good condition.


Most private rentals will not include utility bills in the cost of the rent. Depending on your usage, you’ll probably be paying a monthly utilities (electricity, gas and water) bill of around NZD 100 to NZD 240. For people choosing to rent without flatmates, the amount may be higher.




If you’re living in self-catered accommodation, you’ll be learning to cook on a budget. This isn’t as hard as it might sound, so try not to get stressed about it. You’ll quickly get an idea of the best places to shop for good deals. Don’t forget though – a good groceries budget doesn’t just include food, it’ll also allow for everyday items like toiletries (toothpaste, shampoo, etc), and cleaning products.


If you’re not in catered halls, you’ll probably be looking at a groceries budget of around NZD 400 to NZD 600 per month.




Transport needs will vary depending on where you live. For some students living on-campus, their transport costs will be minimal as they can walk or cycle to most places.


When it comes to public transport, the most common and cost-effective way to travel is by bus. Some cities also have commuter train services running.


Bus and train fares will increase in price the further you travel. However, student discounts are available. Depending on the city, you may be able to save more than 20% on your ticket so it’s worth looking into the options in your area.


There are no flat-rate fares in New Zealand. The price for a single bus journey will start at around NZD 1.00 and for a single train journey expect to pay at least NZD 2.50.


Most cities will offer ways to make travel cheaper if you’re taking regular journeys. Some have pay-as-you-go style cards (which deduct credit from the overall balance) like Auckland’s ATHop card, which also provides significant discounts on travel.


Other modes of public transport available in New Zealand include ferries (in some cities) and taxis, although the latter is not a cost-effective way to travel.




Leisure time and socialising are one of the most important parts of the student lifestyle. And although you’ll definitely be able to restrict your expenses in this area, you’ll still want to budget for some fun.


New Zealand is well-known for its natural beauty, so if that’s your idea of fun you can definitely check out beaches or go hiking for free. But it’s also famed for its adventure sports, like bungee jumping and white water rafting. Naturally, these will come with a heavier price tag.


Some average costs for entertainment include:


  • pint of beer: NZD 10.00
  • cinema ticket: NZD 17.00
  • concert ticket: NZD 180
  • restaurant meal for two: NZD 100
  • bungee jumping experience: NZD 150 to NZD 200


Don’t forget – lots of places will offer student discounts, so be sure to look out for these.




A top concern for many international students is being able to stay in contact with family and friends at home. Of course, WiFi and a phone with a good data connection are the easiest way to do this.


The average cost of broadband internet in New Zealand is NZD 90 per month. This amount is per household. So if you are in a house or flat share, you’ll each pay a portion of this amount. Halls of residence usually provide internet connection for free.


New Zealand also offers plenty of SIM-only deals to help you stay connected on your phone. Making sure you have lots of data on your phone plan will mean you can make use of apps to contact home instead of expensive international calls. For a SIM card with plenty of data, you’ll be looking at spending around NZD 20 to  NZD 50 a month.


Miscellaneous and hidden costs


Unexpected expenses have a nasty habit of appearing when you least expect them. It’s always good to have an emergency budget just in case.


It’s also worth thinking about what you’ll need when you arrive – bed linen or household goods might be a necessity depending on what your accommodation provides. And of course, don’t forget to allow for clothes shopping.


Although university libraries should have many of your reading materials for your course, you will need to budget for textbooks, stationery and other equipment for your studies.


If you want to understand what costs you’ll have to pay in advance in order to live in New Zealand as a student, why not check out our article on applying for your student visa?


The most important thing is not to get too stressed about all these costs. Remember to look out for student discounts and, if your visa permits it, you can always get a part-time job to help fund your lifestyle. Once you’ve got your budget organised, everything else will seem easy!


At the time of writing 1 NZD is equal to 0.64 USD


Disclaimer: All figures in this article are indicative only and correct at the time of writing. Since the economy can be subject to rapid, unexpected changes at any time, we always recommend you do your own research before booking any travel.