Doing the Cook Islands on a shoestring

photo by CC user Robert Engberg on Flickr

Thinking about heading to the Southern Hemisphere’s answer to Hawaii? If you’re worried about the cost of traveling to this Kiwi-administered archipelago, don’t be, as doing the Cook Islands on a shoestring is much easier than it sounds. Here’s how to do it…

Seek out hostels and guesthouses

The bungalow resorts and hotels on the Cook Islands can be on the pricey side for the thrifty backpacker compared to the cheap accommodations that one is used to in places like Southeast Asia.

While the hostels and guesthouses are similarly more expensive, the price for a dorm bed is still a reasonable $20 NZD, and private rooms in some budget places can be had for as little as $30 NZD.

Considering how pricey things can get in Auckland and Sydney, you will find these prices to be an excellent value despite the increased cost compared with the developing world.

Eat the local food

Most restaurants along the main tourist drags are geared toward short-term visitors with lots of money to spend, making them dangerous to the backpacker with a travel bank account to protect.

While many backpacker accommodations are equipped with a kitchen where you can prepare your own food, don’t get stuck in an endless cycle of spaghetti dinners during your time on the Cook Islands.

Despite what some folks might think, the locals don’t dine out at the same places that rich travelers do (at least not on a regular basis).

They frequent smaller hole-in-the-wall type establishments, where the food is home cooked, portions are generous, and prices are completely reasonable.

With lunches available for as cheap as $6 NZD, be sure to fit one in every now and again during your visit here.

Rent a bike instead of hiring a taxi

With many attractions spread out across the islands of Rarotonga and Aitutaki, you’ll need to take advantage of transport options in order to see them.

Unfortunately, buses don’t go everywhere that you’ll want to go, and taxis here can get pricey the farther out you go from town (don’t forget about waiting charges). Opt instead for a bicycle, which can be hired for about $20 NZD a day. You’ll save cash and keep in shape – what a deal!

Go hiking in the mountains, or snorkeling in its reefs

There are a lot of activity options in the Cook Islands, but many of them tend to be way more expensive than what you’d pay for the same programs in a place like Thailand.

Luckily, it doesn’t cost anything to go for a trek in the mountains (other than transport and provisions), and it’s not much to buy or rent a snorkel and mask for the day to go swimming in the abundant reefs offshore as well; these activities and other thrifty options will add life to your days without bleeding you dry in the process.

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