UPDATED: This post was updated October 2019
If you’re the kind of person who loves historical cities, unbelievably EPIC hiking trails and natural scenery, and really cool people who know how to handle their beer… well, you’ll love Newfoundland. I mean, you’re home. Forever. Don’t leave.
But here’s the thing: Newfoundland can be quite an expensive place to travel around — it’s certainly not cheap to live here.
Newfoundland isn’t really built for budget travellers, unfortunately. Most businesses seem to target the retiree traveller, and there’s little development put into making Newfoundland accessible to young folks looking to travel on the cheap – which angers me to no end, believe me. (I once pitched a budget travel group to a local business development organization and they basically laughed in my face.)
BUT with that being said, there ARE ways to do it. There really are.
So here’s a beginner’s Budget Guide to Newfoundland. Let’s talk about everything from getting here, getting around, where to stay, eat, and hang out so you can have an amazing time traveling Newfoundland without going broke.
Flights to Newfoundland
Flying into Newfoundland can be expensive no matter where you are in the world, but really, really excellent sales do pop up every now and then (mostly within Canada). I’ve flown return to Calgary, for example, for about $400CAD. Same for Toronto. Halifax? $150CAD. WestJet and Air Canada tend to have the best seat sales, but at Porter has free dranks.
Unfortunately, there are no longer any direct flights between St. John’s and Dublin, or St. John’s and London (although the latter route should be up and running again soon). If you’re American, you’ll likely be flying through Toronto or Montreal.
If you’re flying from outside of Canada, your best bet is to:
- Piggyback off another trip to Canada, like flying from Halifax or Toronto
- Fly during the off-season or shoulder season
- Book way, way in advance
- Be flexible with your dates
I use Momondo to research my routes first, and then Skyscanner to confirm whether or not it’s the best deal. They rarely steer me wrong.
PRO TIP: When you’re researching flights, DON’T JUST SEARCH FOR FLIGHTS IN AND OUT OF ST. JOHN’S. You might be surprised what routes are available to and from Deer Lake International or Gander International. Last year I met a couple in St. Anthony who saved hundreds of dollars by flying in and out of Deer Lake.
Finally, keep in mind that Newfoundland isn’t quite the hotspot destination that certain other cities are like (like Barcelona, New York…you get the point). You’re unlikely to find surprise pop-up sales. If you see a good price that fits your budget, I’d snatch that baby up.
I also follow YYT Deals for alerts on cheap flights. I mean, technically it’s for getting me off the island, but you never know when you might find a cheap St. John’s flight near you.
Getting Around When You’re Visiting Newfoundland
Unfortunately, it is actually easier for me to get around developing countries in South America than it is for me to get around Newfoundland. It’s a sad reality. Try to think of it as a positive, maybe – you’re pioneering some territory here, folks. Impress your friends.
There is ONE bus that takes you across the province. It’s the DRL, and it is terrible. You pay too much for a slow ride and it doesn’t even go to Gros Morne National Park – you’d have to get dropped off in Deer Lake. The route from St. John’s to Deer Lake, for example, costs $97 and it is a painfully slow ride. Also, they only take cash.
As an alternative, there are several smaller taxi companies operating between communities (with buses) but they’re generally overpriced as well. My friends at the HI Trinity Skerwink Hostel have put together an impressive list of private taxi bus services. While these are helpful when you need them, and more reliable than the public transit, I tend to avoid these, as they’re generally overpriced as well.
The best option, really, is to rent a car, or find other travellers to share a car rental with. THAT way you can get into all the tiny little communities along the way, like Bonavista and Trinity and Twillingate. You’ll travel at your own pace. In the summer months, you’re looking at about $85CAD per day for a teeny tiny rental car.
Tip: Book your car rental as early as you can — like, six months in advance. Those things book up FAST.
You can also hitchhike, which is very much common and safe to do in Newfoundland (although I know it’s not for everyone).
Getting Around Gros Morne on a Budget
Gros Morne National Park itself is a beast. There’s no real public transportation within the park, so getting from one community to another can take an hour or more sometimes. Rental car is the way to go.
In the summer months you can take the boat across Bonne Bay, between Woody Point and Norris Point. The cost is $14 round-trip, or $8 each way. You’ll still have to figure out how to get around once you’re onshore, though.
You can also rent a bike from Cycle Solutions. They have all sorts, from mountain bikes to fat tire bikes, starting from about $35CAD for the whole day. If you’re a customer, you can also take advantage of their shuttle service. For example, they’ll pick you up in Deer Lake for $75CAD each way. (Yeah, not cheap, but still cheaper than a rental.)
The Western Environment Centre also has an electric bikeshare program starting from just $20CAD a day.
Martin’s Transportation in Woody Point runs a daily bus shuttle between Woody Point and Corner Brook, and does shuttle services around the south side of Bonne Bay. People often use these folks to get to the Tablelands if they’re taking the Bonne Bay water taxi. Their number is (709) 453-2207.
FINALLY, Deer Lake Taxi will take you from the airport straight to Gros Morne. You’ll have to ask about their rates by calling (709) 635-2521. Pittman’s Taxi in Norris Point will also run this route. Their number is (709) 458-2486.
Short of that, hitchhiking is very safe in this region. I’d never do it, but plenty of people do.
Getting Around St. John’s on a Budget
Within St. John’s, the public MetroBus has improved in recent years, but most tourist attractions are within walking distance anyway. You’re better off situating yourself downtown for the duration of your stay so you can get everywhere on foot.
St. John’s recently launched a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus service which will take you anywhere you want to go outside the city core, including Cape Spear and Quidi Vidi! It’s a MUCH needed addition and I’m really grateful it exists. Tickets are $34CAD, but check the website for hours — routes are limited in the shoulder season.
Taxis within the city (not including Airport Heights) are reasonable compared to big cities. For example, a taxi from the St. John’s International Airport to downtown St. John’s is about $25.
Uber is not yet available in St. John’s! Don’t worry, we’re just behind Canada by about 10 years.
Where to Stay in Newfoundland on a Budget
Couchsurfing in Newfoundland
The cheapest option, of course, is Couchsurfing.
I love hosting Couchsurfers and I love Couchsurfing. And when you find that right Couchsurfing host, you’ll have the best experience in St. John’s EVER.
It’s a close community, so having that insider perspective is a huge advantage. You may find several opportunities for Couchsurfing in the more touristy areas, like Corner Brook and Gros Morne, but the smaller towns might be more difficult.
Camping in Newfoundland
In THAT case, you can always camp. In the summer, at least. In the winter/early spring, it’ll be COLD — even until June (but it’s not unmanageable).
But there are absolutely tons of camping options if you’re into that, with some very well facilitated sites. Some are right on the highway, like Terra Nova National Park. This park is incredible. Heated bathrooms, well laid-out tent sites and oTENTik “glamping” cabins, plentiful access to water, and MORE.
Look beyond the national parks, too. Smaller provincial campgrounds or local campgrounds also have fantastic park facilities.
Some other places where I’ve camped or visited:
- Pippy Park (smack dab in the middle of St. John’s)
- Butterpot Park (Holyrood)
- Northern Bay Sands
- Bellevue Beach
- Lockston Path Provincial Park (Bonavista Peninsula)
- Dildo Run Provincial Park (Twillingate area)
- Jipujijkuei Kuespem Provincial Park (Conne River – south coast)
- Gros Morne / Norris Point KOA
- Gros Morne Green Point
- Pistolet Bay Provincial Park (Northern Peninsula)
Always check about park fees first, or else you’ll be faced with a fine.
Hostels in Newfoundland
Some communities have hostels. Not all of them are listed on big sites like Hostelworld, so do a quick search first. Imagine that.
Here’s the very not extensive list of hostels:
- HI St. John’s
- HI Trinity Skerwink
- HI Bonavista
- HI Tides Twillingate
- The Pink House (Change Islands)
- Norris Point International Hostel (Gros Morne National Park)
Using Airbnb in Newfoundland
Lately, I rely on Airbnb for longer stays, and you’ll find the prices around Newfoundland extremely fair. If you use my code to book a room, you’ll get a discount.
My general rule of thumb before booking with an Airbnb host is to check their reviews and make sure there are at least five positive reviews (especially from women reviewers).
As for St. John’s, me and my roommate have our own Airbnb listing. You’re welcome to it.
Local B&Bs in Newfoundland
What else? You can find some no-frills bed and breakfasts owned by wonderful locals. One of my favourites is Hillside B&B in Twillingate, and Seven Oakes Island Inn in Change Islands (although the latter definitely has frills, its rooms are still affordable).
Here are some other fantastic budget B&Bs/small accommodations I’ve stayed in over the years:
- Bird Island B&B (Elliston, Bonavista Peninsula)
- Out East B&B (Rocky Harbour, Gros Morne)
- Caplin Cottage (Petty Harbour)
- Entente Cordiale Inn (Portland Creek, Northern Peninsula)
- Bayside B&B (Bareneed)
- Bonne Bay Cottages (Gros Morne National Park)
- Bears Cove Inn (Witless Bay)
- Marblewood Village (Corner Brook)
Keep in mind that a lot of the people who run these bed and breakfasts do not often have their accommodations listed on sites like Booking.com or whatever. Best to search for listings on Google, and then call them.
I realize having to call people is a nuisance, but it’s just how things are done here for now. One of my friends who runs a popular inn told me that people should always call to inquire about prices rather than booking directly through Booking.com — often they’ll cut you a deal, or offer something like free breakfast.
Eating and Drinking in Newfoundland
Eating out in Newfoundland can be EXPENSIVE but honestly it’s one of my favourite things about living here, especially in St. John’s. The food scene is great.
If you’re gonna splurge on one thing, make it the food.
Especially in St. John’s (but I’ve had excellent meals all over the place). Try Adelaide Oyster House for their incredible raw bar, or The Merchant Tavern. If you wanna drop big bucks, make it Raymond’s. It’s continuously voted the best restaurant in Canada. It’s not hard to see why.
Eating affordably? There are many smaller restaurants scattered around St. John’s that do the job. Pubs like The Duke of Duckworth and The Ship offer great lunches, although beer tends to be on the pricier side. If you want fish and chips, definitely go to The Duke.
Java Jack’s Café in Rocky Harbour (Gros Morne National Park) is one of my favourite cafes ever.
Otherwise, do your grocery shopping. I urge you.
Drinking in Newfoundland is INSAAAANELY expensive — especially in St. John’s. There are quite a few Happy Hours floating around though with excellent prices. For more details on this, check out my blog post about cheap places to eat and drink for every night of the week in St. John’s.
Otherwise, keep the drinks with dinner minimal. A pint of mediocre beer will easily cost you $9CAD. A cocktail? $14CAD.
In fact, craft beers are cheaper than domestic beers. Go to Bannerman Brewing for a pint less than $8CAD, paired with the best damned nachos you’ll ever have for $14CAD (share with a friend). Yellowbelly Brewery’s happy hour between 4-6PM has $5 PINTS! YES. (And if you move on to the Underbelly afterwards, the happy hour stays on ‘til 7PM.)
Things to Do in Newfoundland on a Budget
Here’s the best news yet – there’s plenty to do for free! Especially if you’re an outdoorsy nature lover. This helps balance out the dollars you spend on food and drink!
Hiking & Outdoor Activities Around Newfoundland
If you’ve come for icebergs and whales, while I highly recommend a tour (Iceberg Quest is my favourite company), they can be pricey and you can often see both from the coast during peak season. Twillingate especially is an ideal spot. The icebergs here come very close to shore, and you can usually find chunks of bergy bits floating within touching distance.
(Truthfully though, I wouldn’t skimp on the boat tour. A zodiac tour with Iceberg Quest or Trinity Eco-Tours is NEVER disappointing.)
The major sites around St. John’s, like Signal Hill and Cape Spear, do not charge entrance fees unless you wanna access Cabot Tower or the lighthouse.
On the East Coast we have the famous East Coast Trail, with hundreds of kilometres of hiking. Some of it is easily accessible from St. John’s, including the hike to Signal Hill and the Sugar Loaf Trail from Quidi Vidi.
The same goes for elsewhere around the island. The hiking is exceptional, and I mean that. The Northern Rim Hike in Gros Morne is beloved by even Nat Geo. Mountains, coastline, boggy marshlands, you name it. We have it.
Then there’s Quidi Vidi. This tiny fishing village is a quick trot from downtown St. John’s and is like a little taste of rural living in Newfoundland. Every Friday evenings there are traditional music sessions at the Quidi Vidi Brewery, and the price of pints is surprisingly affordable. Things generally are much cheaper the further you move away from St. John’s.
Nightlife & Culture in St. John’s
If you want to experience the famous nightlife in St. John’s without paying huge cover prices, stay off George Street (for the most part – bars like Trinity Pub will often have live music without cover).
Shamrock City has traditional Newfoundland music throughout the week, often without cover (especially if you show up early).
If you’re looking for a pint, there are plenty of pubs poked into alleyways, my favourites being The Duke, The Republic, and The Grapevine. Oh, and The Black Sheep.
If you do explore George Street, I love Christian’s. There’s no cover charge there, and even if you don’t want to participate in a Screech In ($20CAD), watching it is always the most fun you can have on a random night.
Recently I showed up at O’Reilly’s Pub (the most popular bar downtown for live Newfoundland music) on a Sunday night and avoided the $15CAD cover charge — AND I managed to grab a seat for some amazing live music! I often have bizarrely entertaining nights out on Sundays or Mondays. (Ok, not often. I am in my 30s.)
Rocket Bakery also hosts a fantastic Newfoundland traditional music session every Tuesday at noon for free, as does Erin’s Pub on Sunday evenings.
Dance clubs? Screw those. Prices at the bars for a pint of beer average between $7-9. They’re not cheap, which is why most people drink at home before going out, and the nightlife doesn’t really get started until beyond 11 PM.
For culture: the Rooms Art Gallery & Museum is an exceptional spot with free admissions on Wednesday evenings.
Best Times to Visit Newfoundland
If you’re not much interested in seeing whales and icebergs, I recommend coming during the shoulder seasons — especially in September and October. Autumn is one of the absolute loveliest times to be in Newfoundland. The weather is consistently lovely, prices are lower, and the fall colours are dreamy.
Winter? It can be harsh in St. John’s during the winter months. The western end of the island is more suited for outdoor winter adventure, especially in Corner Brook where you can go skiing, snowboarding, dog-sledding, etc. But this is definitely when you’ll find the lowest car rental prices and room rates.
Visiting Newfoundland on a Budget: The Bottom Line
Accommodations and transportation are going to be the biggest bulk of your expenses while travelling around Newfoundland. It’s CRAZY EASY to spend over $100CAD a night on food and drinks alone. Hell, I’ve had casual nights out that have amounted to that much.
If you have any questions about your itinerary, send me a message. I may take awhile to respond, but I will.
And if you’re interested in reading more about travelling around Newfoundland, check out my guides!