Buses are a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to get around New Zealand; however, services even between major towns are usually only once per day. Most roads in New Zealand are quite narrow and winding when compared to the highways of the USA, and travelling a long distance in a bus can be a safe and relaxing way to travel. Booking in advance on some lines can get you great bargains.
Atomic Shuttles operate a no-frills shuttle service in parts of the South Island.
Backpacker busesKiwiExperience Backpacker Bus, Stray Travel Bus and MagicBus offer bus trips around New Zealand where you can get on and off as you please.
Flying Kiwi Adventures
New Zealand’s original adventure bus tour company. Trips range from 3-27 days and cover both islands. The tours focus on enjoying the outdoor beauty and excitement of New Zealand with numerous hiking, cycling and activity options. There are also options to take extended breaks in your favourite places. Discounts are available for holders of YHA, VIP, ISIC and NOMADs cards.
New Zealand’s national bus company, with services connecting over 600 destinations nationwide. Operates InterCity, Newmans Coach Lines and also operates a modern fleet of vessels and coaches to operate GreatSights New Zealand, Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands and awesomeNZ.com. Tickets can be purchased from the InterCity ticket counters at bus stations or i-SITE information centres and a discount is given to students or youth-hostel membership card holders eg: BBH, YHA, Nomads, ISIC. Fares start from $1 plus a booking fee on all InterCity’s national services.
Travelpass - A transport pass offered by InterCity. Brings together an extensive range of “hop on and off” fixed itinerary passes, based on the most popular touring routes throughout New Zealand. National passes include the Interislander ferry as well as a scenic boat cruise in Milford Sound. Passes are valid for 12 months.
flexipass - Utilising the combined national networks of InterCity, Newmans and GreatSights, flexipass is sold in blocks of time, just like a prepaid phone card, and enables the holder to travel anywhere on the company’s network. Passes start at 15 hrs, which is enough to travel from Auckland to Wellington in the North Island. flexipass hours can also be used to travel on the Interislander ferry and on Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands dolphin watching cruises and tours to Cape Brett and the famous "Hole in the Rock". Passes can also be on sold and are valid for 12 months.
flexitrips - A simple trips based transport pass offered by InterCity which enables the holder to travel anywhere on the company’s network and includes selected tour options with awesomeNZ.com. Passes start at 5 trips with greater savings the more trips you pre purchase. Like flexi-pass, flexitrips provides options on the Interislander ferry and on Fullers GreatSights Bay of Islands Dolphin Watching cruises and tours to Cape Brett and the famous "Hole in the Rock". Passes can also be sold on and are valid for 12 months.
New Zealand's first hop-on/hop-off bus travel company, Kiwi Experience offers 32 different travel passes across their travel network on both the North and South Islands. Bus passes start from 2 days tours up to 29 days and must be used within a 12 month period. Kiwi Experience also offers 'guaranteed accommodation' for the first night at every destination, as well as a 'best price' guarantee on activities and a range of exclusive discounts.
ManaBus use New Zealand built Volvo coaches with free Wi-Fi and only offer services in the North Island. A modern flushing toilet is fitted on each coach with hand washing facilities. Electric power sockets are provided at every seat. Unlike South Island bus services, drivers are forbidden to pick up or drop off passengers other than at timetabled stops. Their luggage policy is also unusually restrictive in allowing only one piece of luggage weighing up to 15kg and no bigger than a standard sized suitcase to be transported in the luggage compartment free of charge. On their website in November 2014 was written: "Passengers wishing to travel with more luggage than included in their Luggage Allowance may have items refused or off-loaded, depending on the availability of space." ☎ +64 9 367-9140 M-F 07:30–18:30.
With fares starting from $1 plus booking fee and a nationwide NZ network with stops all across the north and south island nakedbus.com can be the cheapest option for travellers who plan ahead. nakedbus.com offers free Wi-Fi on selected services. They have daily bus services with flexible times, making busy travel easy and stress-free. On top of their already cheap prices, nakedbus.com have a price beat guarantee, which means they will beat any competitor on price.
Choosing a pass
If you are travelling all over New Zealand the cheapest way should be buying an InterCity Flexipass and/or a Nakedbus passport. InterCity Flexipass is hours based which saves more for short distance trips; Nakedbus passport is fixed price for the same number of stops which saves more on long diatance trips; the Nakedbus commuter pass which provides 50% off looks good on the first sight, but every time you book there is a $5 booking fee plus $5 per luggage, which makes it not very attractive especially on short distance trips InterCity does not charge luggage fee and you don’t need to pay booking fee each time when using Flexipass. Bear in mind that InterCity has better coverage of destinations than Nakedbus, therefore it is very likely that even you choose a Nakedbus passport it turns out that you will need to ride on InterCity for some trips anyway. If you don’t want to do too many calculations the simplest way is go for the InterCity Flexipass, which will usually be very close to the ideal hybrid using Nakedbus stop based passport for long trips and InterCity Flexipass for short trips.
By Hitch Hiking
Hitch hiking around New Zealand is generally quite easy. However, it is illegal to hitch hike on the few motorways except on the on-ramps and illegal for motorists to stop there to pick you up. Try to get out of the middle of town, especially where public transport operates. Wear your pack and look like you're touring the country rather than just a local looking for a lift.
You have as much chance of being picked up by another tourist as a local, particularly in tourist areas. Alternatives for travellers include organizing shared rides through hostels, or using an on-line ridesharing resource like Jayride (http://www.jayride.co.nz) which aims to make the process safer.
New Zealand is a motorbike rider's dream country! New Zealand Motorcycle rentals of many makes are available throughout New Zealand. The South Island is the main attraction for a motorcyclist and New Zealand motorcycle tours base most of their time here.
South Pacific Motorcycles offer both New Zealand motorbike rental and New Zealand motorbike tours Harley-Davidson, BMW, Honda, Triumph & other late-model motorcyclesas well as self-guided New Zealand motorcycle tours and based in Christchurch "The Garden City" in the South Island of New Zealand, motorcyclists have easy access to some of the best motorcycling in the world.
Just Ride Motorbike Tours & Rentals based out of Auckland, have a range of short duration "mini tours" that can fit in with your other holiday plans, as well as longer guided tours throughout the North and South Island. With a range of Triumph, Aprilia, Motto Guzzi and Ducati motorcycles they focus on the joy of riding the bike as much as the enjoyment of the countryside.
Domestic flights in New Zealand are often cheaper than driving or taking the train, especially if a crossing between the North and South Islands is required.
Airlines operate an electronic ticket system. You can book on-line, by telephone, or through a travel agent. Photo ID will be needed for travel.
Check-in times are usually at least 30 minutes prior to flight departure. Cabin baggage and personal scanning is routinely conducted on services from the major airports that have jet landings. Nelson, the fourth busiest airport in New Zealand with an average of 90 aircraft movements every day a plane takes off or lands every 4.5 minutes during scheduled hours, and other regional airports are still without these security theatricals.
Air New Zealand has the most extensive domestic network, serving most cities over 20,000 people, with jet services between main centres and smaller aircraft elsewhere. Free economy baggage allowance is 7kg carry-on with 1 piece of checked baggage weighing 23kg costing $10 if pre-booked. Flights are reliable except when weather plays a factor.
Virgin Australia flies between Australia and many major cities in New Zealand. They code share with Air New Zealand for the domestic routes.
Jetstar is a budget no-frills carrier, filling most Qantas routes. Delays and cancellations are commonplace. Jetstar offers flights between various major centres in New Zealand
air2there and Sounds Air both offer a range of low-cost flights between the lower North and upper South islands.
Sunair offers flights between various regional North Island centres.Kiwi Regional Airlines offers flights between Hamilton, Dunedin, Nelson and Queenstown.Air Chathams offers flights between the Chatham Islands, Pitt Island and the mainland cities.
Wellington Airport is particularly prone to the effects of high wind. Sometimes flights can be cancelled for several hours and even on calmer days.
Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington airports have timetabled buses to the airport. Regional airports generally have only on-demand shuttle services and taxis.
See also: Train travel in New Zealand
Both Auckland and Wellington have commuter rail services. These services are operated by AT Metro in Auckland and Tranz Metro in Greater Wellington.
Inter-city rail passenger services are operated by KiwiRail Scenic Journeys (http://www.kiwirailscenic...), but have become increasingly limited due to the dysfunctional services, and the focus is now on popular tourist trains. However the remaining train services pass through spectacular scenery and have a running commentary, panoramic windows and an open-air viewing carriage.
The Northern Explorerbetween Auckland and Wellington. This modern train now runs 3 days a week all year, Southbound on Monday, Thursday and Saturday and Northbound on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. One of the world's most scenic rail journeys.
The Capital ConnectionCommuter service leaves from Palmerston North to Wellington in the morning, returning in the evening.
The Coastal Pacificfrom Christchurch to Picton via Kaikoura and return daily. Travels along the rugged north-east coast of the South Island. Meets the Picton-Wellington ferry. October - May only.
The TranzAlpinefrom Christchurch to Greymouth and return daily. Classed as one of the world's great train journeys, this trip crosses the South Island, passing through spectacular mountain scenery, some of which is inaccessible by road, as well as the 12 km Otira tunnel. Many visitors disembark at Arthur's Pass National Park and spend four hours exploring the mountains before catching the return train.
Trains run at low speed, sometimes dropping to 50 km/h in the summer due to the lack of track maintenance following privatisation in the 1990s. Most New Zealanders prefer to drive or fly, as train fares are comparatively expensive. Trains are more suited to tourists as they are more scenic and more comfortable than other forms of travel. Very modern carriages equip all KiwiRail Scenic trains with automated commentary and most other features found on long distance trains.
Book online at (http://www.kiwirailscenic...) Cheapest fares only shown online when using a New Zealand IP address. Wait till you arrive, use a proxy service or book by phone.
To get your car between the North and South Islands you will need to take a ferry across Cook Strait. There are several sailings daily between Wellington and Picton, but be prepared for a delay or a change in sailing times if the weather is stormy. Two companies run ferries here; Bluebridge and the Interislander.
Harbour ferries, for commuters, operate in Auckland and Wellington. A number of communities are served by boat, rather than road, while charter boats are available for expeditions in several places. There are regular sightseeing cruises in several tourist destinations, particularly in the Southern Lakes and Fiordland area.
International Charter Group handles Yacht charter and sailing, from bare boat to crewed in New Zealand.
You can bring your own bike, as well as hire a bike in some of the larger cities.
Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have special facilities for re-assembling bikes that have been crated.
You must wear a helmet while riding, otherwise you will be fined on the spot. When hiring a bike you should be supplied with a helmet. Remember to ride on the left. You cannot ride on motorways in New Zealand, so be aware that the only bridge over the Auckland Harbour is a motorway, so you'll have to take a ferry or cycle around the harbour.
Riding bikes in New Zealand can be fun, but be aware that because of the geography and small number of people cycling between towns there are very few cycle lanes and limited shoulder space on roads.
Most "Kiwis" are good drivers but do not allow sufficient clearance when passing you. Be prepared for the large distances between towns and cities and the generally windy weather. While some areas of New Zealand are flat, most tourists cycling in New Zealand will find that they need to be able to cope with long periods of cycling up hills, especially in the Coromandel. Be prepared for any weather, and to experience four seasons in one day.
Several tour operators incorporate cycling, with tours such as Pedal Tours as well as specialist cycle tour companies like Adventure South and Natural High.
There is now a network of cycleways being built around New Zealand, with some safe and beautiful routes.
Nelson has both the most daily cyclists and some of the best cycle trails such as the Dun Mountain Cycle Trail. Nelson certainly enjoys some of the best weather in New Zealand
See also: Driving in New Zealand
You can reach most of New Zealand's sights in a normal, two-wheel-drive car or camper van. The volume of traffic is normally low and drivers are usually courteous.
Traffic drives on the left in New Zealand.
Outside of cities roads are usually only one lane in each direction and undivided. Typical New Zealand highways are one lane in each direction, so allow time to be caught behind slower moving traffic until it is safe to overtake. Expect drivers behind you to become impatient if you don't keep up with the speed limits, so pull over and let them pass when it's safe to do so.
To legally drive in New Zealand you need to be at least 16 years of age and hold a valid drivers licence from your home country. If you plan on staying and driving for more than a year, you need to get a New Zealand licence.
Rideshare and carpooling is increasing in New Zealand as petrol prices rise and people recognise the social and environmental benefit of sharing vehicles and travelling with others. While some systems are quite informal, others have trust systems which give greater security when choosing a ride.
Lift Surfer is a free ride sharing service dedicated to connecting lift seekers with lift providers. A service aimed primarily at backpackers.
Grabaride helps match up people with empty seats in their cars with people looking for cheap or free transport around New Zealand wide. Check the site out today and Grab a Ride!
Car rental firms range from the familiar multi-national big brands through to small local car rental firms. The advantage of the big name rental firms is they can be found throughout New Zealand and offer the biggest and newest range of rental vehicles. The disadvantage is that generally they are the most expensive. Occasionally rental firms offer free rental in the direction from south to north due to the majority of tourists travelling in the opposite direction, creating a deficit of cars in the north.
At the other end of the scale are the small local operators who typically have older rental cars. Whilst you may not end up driving this year's latest model the advantage is that the smaller car rental firms can be substantially cheaper, so leaving you more money to spend on the many exciting attractions New Zealand offers. Between these extremes you will find a wide range of NZ car rental firms catering to different needs and budgets.
Other things to note are that you drive on the left in New Zealand and that most car hire firms require you to be over 20, hold a full licence and you need an International licence or certified translation if not in English.
Self drive holidays are a great way to travel around New Zealand as they offer independence, flexibility and opportunities to interact with the locals. A number of companies offer inclusive self drive holidays with rental car & accommodation, pre-set itineraries or customised to suit your interests.
If you want to have a extended holiday in New Zealand, and you would prefer to have your own transport it may be cheaper to buy a car or van and resell it just before leaving. If you use this method travel across Cook Strait can be expensive. If purchasing a car for $500 or less it may be cheaper to buy and sell a car in each island separately. In addition to the usual ways to look for a car newspapers, accommodation noticeboards, car markets etc New Zealand's biggest on-line auction website Trademe (http://www.trademe.co.nz/) and biggest free classifieds Trade and Exchange (http://www.te.co.nz/) have many listings. You can also try the backpackers car market (http://www.backpackerscar...) where there are usually people selling their cars off cheaply. Car auctions can also be a suitable option if you are looking to buy a car. Turner's Auctions (http://www.turners.co.nz/) have regular auctions and are in larger cities. Look out for "Repo" auctions, where the cars being sold are as a result of repossession. Should any previous ownership problems have existed, these will have been resolved before auction commences.
The following things need to be checked in order to safely purchase a vehicle in New Zealand:
there is no debt on the vehicle. In NZ, if a loan of money is used to purchase a vehicle, then the debt is associated with that vehicle even if it is sold, in which case the new owner then has the problem of the debt. Selling a vehicle with debt associated with it in NZ is illegal. Checking for debt is an easy process as a central register is kept. Carjam is an inexpensive service (http://www.carjam.co.nz/). PPSR is the official register of security interests in New Zealand (http://www.ppsr.govt.nz/cms)
the vehicle has not been stolen. Contact the police with the registration plate and VIN vehicle identification number.
legally, the vehicle must have a Warrant of Fitness valid for at least 30 days unless advertised "as is, where is". The expiry date will be written on the inside of the car window sticker.
the Registration expiration date is not in the past. This label is usually on the left side of the car windscreen
the vehicle needs a physical check for faults, there are companies in main centres that provide this service.
When you sell a vehicle it is very important to go to a Postshop outlet to record the transfer otherwise any subsequent speeding fines, parking tickets, etc will be recorded in your name.
Car insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand but at least third party insurance is recommended. Diesel vehicles have additional requirements, as diesel is significantly cheaper than petrol but there are additional charges based on distance travelled.