Guide To Cost Of Living In NZ For International Students

Date Oct 25, 2021
Blog category Power
By Staff Writer

Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity to learn and gain more experience. It's not an entirely stress-free journey, mind you, but it's totally worth it.

If you're thinking of studying in NZ, here's an overview of the cost of living in New Zealand for international students to help you plan better!

Is living in New Zealand expensive?

Based on Mercer's 2021 Cost of Living, Auckland ranked 70th in the world, while Wellington is 94th. The survey is based on the cost of more than 200 items in each city such as housing, transport, food, clothing, entertainment, and more.

The survey shows that NZ's major cities are more affordable, compared to other countries.

Studying in New Zealand

Aside from your tuition fees, you will need at least $20,000 annually for your accommodation, food expenses, transportation costs, and internet and phone bills, etc. Do note that the following amounts are just recommendations and that Immigration New Zealand requires at least $15,000 per year plus return airfare or an additional $2,000.

When you apply for a student visa, you will need to provide proof of funds. This shows that you can cover your living expenses during your stay in New Zealand. If you're on a scholarship, or your study and expenses will be shouldered by your family, you may no longer be required to show proof of funds.

If your stay is longer than 12 months, you'll need to provide proof that you have at least $15,000 to support yourself for the first year. If you're studying for less than 12 months, it's ideal to have at least $1250 for each month of your stay there for your living expenses.

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Average prices of essential needs in NZ

General expenses Cost (in NZ dollars)
Rent (per month) $800–$950
Electricity Auckland: $181/month, Wellington: $185/month, Christchurch: $197/month, Dunedin: $177/month
Groceries (per week) $100–$150
Healthcare costs $80–$120
Bus fares $3.50–$9.00
Entertainment (per week) $50

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You can choose from university accommodation, homestays, or flats. Costs for accommodation may differ, but the national median weekly rent for a 3 to 4-bedroom house last 2020 was around $565.


According to NauMai NZ, you will most likely spend around $100 to $150 per week on groceries. Prices may still vary depending on where you buy your food.


Most cities and towns in New Zealand have buses, and some areas have cheaper bus fares for students. In cities like Auckland and Wellington, they have train services to the outer suburbs.


You have the option to pick a power plan from many of NZ's energy retailers. You may use a comparison tool to help you choose the right plan and find some deals offered based on your location.

Read: Where To See The Best Power And Broadband Bundle Deals In NZ

Phone and internet

You can choose a monthly account or prepaid plan for your mobile phone. A prepaid plan usually starts at $19. You can also save on internet costs by using free Wi-Fi available in major cities like central Auckland and Wellington.

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If you want to know more about New Zealand, you can save by exploring its beaches, lakes, forests, and more, for free! Other cheap options for you are outdoor movies, music festivals, museums, parks, etc., which offer discounts to students.

Miscellaneous cost

If you're enrolled for a course of fewer than 36 months, you will have to incur $12,500 monthly yearly to cover the expenses. You might have to open an FTS account where your living expenses will be transferred to. This might be a requirement to get a final stamp on your student visa.

Other expenses

It's essential to be prepared for additional expenses during your study abroad. This includes medical and dental costs, costs of textbooks and stationery, clothes, and more. This may also vary depending on how you want to spend your study years.

If you're not staying at a University accommodation, you might have extra fees like bond/finder’s fee, utility bills, and more. Choosing not to stay at a University accommodation might also mean you will need to spend money on transportation.

South Island vs North Island

According to New Zealand universities, students enrolling in universities in South Island can expect their cost of living to be around $15,000 to $20,000, while those planning to enrol in universities in North Island can expect their cost of living to be around $18,000 to $25,000.

Sample budget based on universities in New Zealand:

University Recommended budget
University of Auckland $20,000-$25,000
The University of Waikato $15,500-$21,700
Victoria University of Wellington $18,000-$27,000
University of Canterbury $15,500-$18,200
University of Otago $15,000-$17,000
Massey University $15,000-$18,000

Of course, at the end of the day, your living costs will still depend on your lifestyle and the location where you plan to study. Some costs may be more expensive in different cities.

You can offset some of your costs by working, since most student visas allow you to work up to 20 hours per week, or even full-time during the holidays. It's also a great way to gain experience and develop essential skills such as communication, teamwork, timekeeping, and other interpersonal skills.

Know your work rights while studying:

  • If you have a Student Visa, you may be qualified to work up to 20 hours a week during term time and full-time during scheduled holidays.
  • If you're taking your master's degree or doing a PhD, you may work full-time during term time or full-time during the holidays.

Read: Know Your Tenants Rights In New Zealand This 2021

In case of work and money issues...

If you're struggling financially, here are some options to consider:

  • If you lost your job and are having trouble making ends meet, you might be able to ask for help from your education provider or students’ association. They can offer you budgeting or finance services. If you're qualified, you can also get an emergency payment from a hardship fund, or a food parcel.
  • You may contact your home country's embassy in New Zealand for help.
  • For food and other essentials, you may get free food from a food bank or you may call the New Zealand Red Cross.
  • Asian people who are having a hard time paying for essential items and living costs may get financial support from Asian Family Services.
  • You may also ask for help from local groups in your area.
  • You can use the funds you presented during your visa application. If Immigration NZ asks for an updated bank statement later on, make sure to have enough funds to support yourself for the remaining months of your visa period.

Is NZ allowing international students right now?

Right now, Immigration New Zealand is currently not accepting visa applications from students outside of NZ, unless they're currently staying in a country that is in a quarantine-free travel bubble with New Zealand.

If you've already submitted a visa application that hasn't been processed yet, you may withdraw the application by calling Immigration New Zealand.

According to Immigration NZ's latest update, up to 250 PhD and postgraduate students, and up to 1,000 bachelor and postgraduate students may be qualified to be exempted from the border restrictions if they have a visa or have held one to study in New Zealand. The education providers will then work with the NZ Ministry of Education to pick out qualified students and provide them with more information.

Eligible students must prove that they have NZD $15,000 per year for living expenses.

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