New Zealand is known for a lot of things; Sheep lovin’ (according to Aussies), adrenaline sports, Lord of the Rings, an exciting warrior culture, and its diverse and ravishing natural beauty. But deep down at its heart, New Zealand has become a country made for travelers.
The country boast a wildly transient population, with 25% of the 4 million people in New Zealand being travelers, backpackers, and individuals on working holidays.
And with THAT many travelers in the country, it has evolved itself to cater to this, making it incredibly easy to get around both the North and South Island.
After a year traveling the Land of the Long White Cloud myself, I’ve tried and tested (and failed) at the many ways to get from one amazing destination to the next. So I’ve compiled a somewhat unorthodox list of the easiest ways to get around New Zealand.
Obviously a no-frills way to get around without having to worry about insurance and finding a car to buy (if you trust rental companies).
I had a few friends that went the rental car route, but it seems like it’s only good if you will be needing a car for a couple of weeks to a month. After that, it gets a tad bit pricey.
If you land in Auckland, there are literally 8 rental car companies at the bottom of Queen Street, so make sure to compare prices and quality of the rentals offered.
Prices will range from $400-$1000 for a month.
No no no, this is not a bus filled with nudist touring New Zealand. Nakedbus is to New Zealand as Megabus is to the United States. Offering up mystical fares of $1 (though I’ve never met someone who found it that cheap) it does offer quite inexpensive fares for getting all around both islands.
Just like most charter buses, the accommodation are basic and the stops are few, but you get what you pay for right?
Most legs were around $20-$80 depending on the distance.
Guided Bus Tours
This is probably my favorite way to get around New Zealand, but slightly more expensive. Companies like Stray Bus, Magic Bus, and Kiwi buses have expert drivers who know tons of information about New Zealand and constantly update you on what you are seeing on the road.
They offer travel packages based on legs of a journey, and along the way you make stops often at well-known hotspots, as well as secret places the drivers only know about and stop at.
If you don’t want to worry about driving yourself around, and if you will be doing a lot of activities and would really like the advice of a local, this is the best option. Drivers also have deals with hostels they stop at, as well as deals on excursions and activities.
I used Stray Bus extensively and absolutely loved their services.
Unlike most American horror movies, hitchhiking isn’t that terrifying or dangerous, and is quite common in New Zealand. Many backpackers will scoop up other backpackers looking for a lift to a place along their own route, and sometimes just offering beer or gas money goes a long way.
As always, be smart if you are hitchhiking. If a driver stops and they sketch you out, you have no obligation to get in the car.
Ride Share/Couch Surfing
Another popular way to get around is with other backpackers. Many travelers will join up in a Couchsurfing group and post in a forum that they are looking for, or offering a ride to somewhere in the country.
When I was in Auckland, another backpacker read that I was looking to head North and contacted me offering a ride in exchange for splitting gas money.
Buy a Car
One of the absolute most popular ways to traverse New Zealand is by getting a set of your own wheels and seeing where the road takes you.
In Auckland, you will find huge car auctions going on year round offering decent cars and vans to get your around. Yes, you can find a ride starting at around $500, but think to save up $1500-$2000 to get a road-worthy car that won’t die out on you.
Another option is scouring hostels and message boards for other backpackers selling their own cars. Usually in the winter months you’ll notice tons of backpackers who are headed home listing their cars, and they are willing to take offers.
The awesome thing about having your own ride will be the ability to explore anywhere your lil’ heart desires, and most of these caravans are stocked with mattresses, stoves, camping gear, extra gas tanks, and everything else you may need on a road trip.
Have you been to New Zealand? What was the best way you found to get around?