How to travel around New Zealand

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How to travel around New Zealand

How to travel around New Zealand

how to get around new zealand

How to travel around New Zealand

You would think it would be obvious to decide but it depends on what you want to see the distances you wish to travel to get there. This is a fantastic country but like most you will wonder how the hell am I going to get around….

As with most countries around the world there is a variety of options and what you choose will depend on several factors:

•How long you have
•How far you want to travel

Further information around the main methods’ of transport is below:

•Drive – link to section
•Bus / coach – link to section
•Train – link to section
•Other considerations to save money and effort


How to travel around New Zealand – Fly!

For the size of the country New Zealand is pretty well set up for flying although if you have time the cheaper option may not be to fly.

If you are pushed for time flying is a great way to cover large distances in a short time.

The main domestic airlines in New Zealand

    •New Zealand airlinesFly new zealand

Competition amongst domestic airlines means that great fares are available. I would check out flight centre as they often have a great deal on domestic airfares.

A number of the major airlines use Loyalty schemes. If you are looking for a domestic flight it could be worth looking at the points you have accrue; some domestic flights can be covered entirely by your loyalty miles and a great option to save money.

Drive new zealand

How to travel around New Zealand – Drive!

While it may be a long old way between destinations driving has to be great option to travel around New Zealand and particularly if you have the time to do it.

There are some truly amazing touring routes all around New Zealand which are supported by a large network of well-maintained roads and give you the opportunity to see New Zealand your way.

Some people will like to hire a car or camper and others may wish to buy and sell on later. There are the obvious things to consider with both options.

If you are to buy a car or camper you will have the initial outlay (a good idea is to depreciate the value over the amount of days you will be using it to work out the daily cost), the fuel and insurance cost and any maintenance or breakdown costs.

If you were to rent the overall all cost may be more but you will have less to worry about compared to the buying option and these points can be considered and negotiated at the time to see which works outs to be more valued to you.

Camper van

Camper Van

A camper van can be a great way to travel around New Zealand as compared to some it is a relatively small country.

You can easily carry luggage, stop for a cuppa and a few pics, grab a bite to eat and ultimately get your head down for a kip, great right?

There is however one very important thing to consider…

Where you are going to park?!?

Roadside parking isn’t always the best option and if you are on a budget is something you may think is a cheap and easy option.

Yes it can an option but more often than not I found myself stressing and spending a lot of time driving about in the dark in a place you still don’t know where you are going to.

Half the time you end up stopping at a camp-site which kinda defeated the point and it costs you a lot more money.

In the end I found a car and Hostel a much better approach, the car was half the price of a camper, fule cost less and you get to meet a lot more travellers in a hostel than travelling along the quiet roads.

Personal experience

I have a great example of a challenge I faced from when I was in Nelson.

Nelson is a biker town and we happened to park outside a biker club on a party night, we were approached and asked to leave which we couldn’t as the wine had been flowing.

Surprisingly we were invited in and started playing pool, all was going well until a young lad we travelled with for a while got a bit gobby with the barman and was asked to leave. We were ok as they invited us back later, we gratefully declined.

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later we discovered that the bikers we met were a notorious Drug and Gun running gang and we realised how lucky we were not to find ourselves in a much more compromising position

(particularly when we were parked outside…)


So if you like the idea of using a camper van, leave plenty of time to arrive at your destination and decide how you want to travel and who you want to meet. The novelty may ware off a little quicker than you think…

If the camper or car isn’t for you, you can always book a tour bus such as Stray or Kiwi Experience.

We have loads of packages, trips and tours available at experience backpacking via our travel shop.

How to buy a car in New Zealand

buy a car new zealand

If you are looking to buy you have the usual options around where you can purchase the car / camper, local listing, garages, car at the side of the road but hostels are also a great way to identify a potential purchase and you may get a bargain if the owner has to leave in the next few days…

Renting a vehicle couldn’t be easier you can find car rental companies at major airports, central city locations, travel agents, on the internet and at holiday resorts.

This all makes it very easy to hire a car, four wheel drive, caravans or motorbike and hit the highway. Some companies even allow you to return the car at your destination saving you to challenge of having to return.

N.b if you are looking to drive you should look into the driving laws etc of the country you are visiting and ensure you are insured, taxed and driving within those laws to avoid unnecessary complications

Bus or Coach

How to travel around New Zealand – try a Bus or Coach

New Zealand travel using the coach and bus services has been a very well set up and a great way to get around and see the sites.

Transport is usually comfortable, easy and economical.

Most of the coaches will have the usual features such as air conditioning, reading lights, adjustable seats and videos.

In the cities and between cities services are frequent, affordable and efficient.

If you want to go for it yourself then you may wish to consider the national bus service provider:

Intercity Buses

Intercity bus new zealand

New Zealand’s largest national coach operator is Intercity, they travel to over 600 destinations and offer passes to fit every budget. Not only do they offer discounts like those listed below:

Children (33%)
Students (20%)
Backpackers (15% e.g YHA member)
Seniors (20%)
(Assuming you hold a valid card as appropriate)

They also offer some of the following saver fares:
• Saver – 25% Discount
• Super Saver – 50% Discount
• Extreme Saver – Extreme Discount such as the $10 fare
• Web Saver – Online Only Discount

Check out the below link to see the great deals they offer for yourself:

New Zealand Bus Pass - Bus Tour

As you can see along with more traditional routes there are various hop-on; hop-off tour companies who offer you a variety of packages which can be convenient way to backpack around, meet new people, to visit the popular sites of the country and have lots of fun.

If you want to take some time out from the tour you could always go off, do your own thing and pick it up later on down the line when the next service is available if you tailor you packages that way…..

These are a couple of examples that you may want to check out:

Bus 2 kiwi
Kiwi Experience
Bus 1 Kiwi

By Rail

How to travel around New Zealand – By Rail

New Zealand Rail

You may wonder by now if there is another way how to travel around New Zealand and maybe not so surprised to find the train is an option although maybe less likely to be used for a backpacker.

Train travel is a convenient, affordable and scenic way to explore New Zealand.

There are Interstate and intra-state rail services which connect the cities and regional centres.

As I am sure you would expect there are a variety train packages available to travellers which can take you to your destination.

Rail New Zealand (link below) offer some of the following great deals:

Rail New Zealand

Scenic Rail Pass

Scenic rail pass – “this allows you unlimited travel on New Zealand’s long distance passenger train network including ferry travel between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island.

You can choose your own route, stop when you like, and travel as many times as you wish within the validity of this flexible pass – hop on and off where and when you wish or choose from a range of suggested rail pass travel itineraries”

Scenic Train/Bus Pass

Scenic Train/Bus Pass, “this allows you to travel on New Zealand’s long distance national passenger rail and bus travel networks at you own pace, at any time in any direction, including ferry travel between the North and South Islands between Wellington in the North Island and Picton in the South Island.

You can travel on modern buses and coaches to other tourist destinations, like Queenstown, Milford Sound, Mt Cook, the beautiful Bay of Islands and the thermal region of Rotorua to name but a few and you can also travel on New Zealand’s long distance passenger train services and selected sightseeing tours.”

These passes are designed for the independent traveller whether its individuals, families or small groups who wants to get the best out of their New Zealand holiday and experience the true beauty and benefits of train and bus travel and provides genuine savings off the standard adult fare – so the more you travel the better the value.

Also available are travel itineraries where you can purchase a 3,4,5,6 or 7 day pass from Auckland to Christchurch or vice Versa

When you arrive in a city it is always worth looking at the rail passes that are available to try and find the best deal, especially if you are going to be travelling about the city and surrounding area quite a bit.


I arrived in New York and bumped into a chap who very kindly told me about the cheap 7 day rail pass which allowed me to hop on and hop off the city rail and subway network.

On top of this he also got me a local network map and highlighted all the best places to see and the nearest station to the attraction, this was truly invaluable information as it was also my first week travelling!!

I will never forget how helpful this complete stranger was with his insider knowledge but I got to see some amazing sites and save a bundle on travel costs…..

Other considerations

This won’t suit everybody but just a couple of points for you to consider.

If you are driving to a destination on your own or with others why not put up a note in the hostel to see if you can fill the spare spaces in your vehicle; this way you have made a friend and saved some money.

On the flip side if you need to get somewhere and need some help check out the notice board you will be surprised by what you can find.

The same thing goes for accommodation.

Comments: 8

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