Best Ways to Travel Around New Zealand

written by local expert Anna Faustino

Anna is a co-founder of Adventure in You and has been traveling the world for the last 9 years. She has spent time living in Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Spain and is our local expert in these areas. Her expertise on travel, gear, and building businesses have been featured on Foundr, Business Insider, Yahoo Travel, and more.

When planning a trip to New Zealand, planning how you travel around is a huge part of your trip. Due to the vast distances and diverse activities that you have to cover, choosing your mode of transportation is a crucial decision. So the question is…what is the best way to travel around New Zealand? Should you take the train? Use their efficient bus systems? Or even better, hire or buy a camper van and go on a road trip! To help you out, we’ve laid them all out so you can decide on which transportation is best for you.

the best way to travel around new zealand

Take the Bus around New Zealand

Getting around the country using buses is one of the fairly reasonable options that is easy on your pocket! You have companies like Intercity or Naked Bus who offer cheap rides all over the country. If you book in advance, you can even score tickets via Naked Bus for as low as $1 NZ (plus booking fee). Otherwise, fares range from $15-20 NZ. If you are planning on taking buses all throughout your trip, consider getting a bus pass which is available from both companies. These include a set number of bus tickets, along with some ferry passes. This will save you some money compared to booking your tickets individually.

What we think…

We think that nothing beats this budget friendly deal, especially if you are availing of the bus passes. Since the buses go nearly everywhere in the country, you can reach different destinations while still giving you the flexibility. Please do note that the distances covered in the bus routes are quite long…but the beauty of the scenery around you makes it worth it! If you’re on a tight budget…busing it around New Zealand might be your best bet!

Read: Bungee Jumping off the Auckland Harbor Bridge

Naked Bus New zealand
Photo Source: Naked Bus

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Rent a Camper Van

For us, hopping on a camper van and heading out to the unknown is THE ultimate way to see New Zealand. We can only imagine the scenery and the small little hidden gems that we can discover along the way. Being that going on a road trip is pretty much a Kiwi right of passage, there is no shortage of campervan rentals in New Zealand. Many travellers opt for this mode of transportation because you can essential go at your own pace, determining where you want to go and what you want to see along the way. While hiring a car would be cheaper, campervan hire would also allow you to save on accommodation costs!

What we think…

If given the opportunity, driving around on a camper van in New Zealand would be our ultimate dream! In fact, we were really looking into doing it last year, which was why we began researching on different options. While we ultimately decided to head to South America instead, we found a gem of a company called Wilderness who specializes in camper van rentals. We spent a good chunk of our time looking/dreaming at the different camper vans which we could rent as well as looking at the costs. What we like about the company is you can rent it in Auckland and return it in Christchurch, which allows you to skip having to backtrack your way. We can already see it. Us in our camper van with a portable hammock which we can hang up every time we stop somewhere for a cheeky surf session. (Note to self: Must start planning a trip to New Zealand soon!!!)

camper van traveling new zealand

Hop on Backpacker Buses

For those that are keen to hop on and off buses while meeting a fun group of people, maybe joining a backpacker bus is for you. Again, this is a very popular way to travel around the country and is frequented by loads of backpackers. Companies like Stray and Kiwi Experience will allow you to book a certain number of trips with them, depending on which pass you choose. Then, as soon as you get on board, you can choose between accommodations, often at discounted rates. They guarantee slots for accommodations and activities even during peak seasons.

What we think…

While a party bus would have been awesome (and it still would be), I’m afraid we might not be able to keep up with all the partying and drinking. The Kiwi Experience has a much younger crowd while Stray often gets diverse travelers. Choose this mode of transportation if it is your first trip abroad as the ease and convenience of having things arranged for you while still having some flexibility to your trip is awesome! traveling new zealand

Travel by Train

While train travel is not very common, as the routes are rather limited, it is still a scenic way to travel. A lot of the smaller, off the beaten path destinations are not accessible by train which is why it isn’t a common choice. However, if you are train fanatics like us, there are some epic rides in New Zealand that you need to do! In fact, the route from Greymouth to Christchurch is ranked as one of the best train journeys to do. Travel through beautiful landscape as you pass the alps. The Tranz Alpine run by Kiwi Rail travels on the South Island’s West Coast, and takes a total of 4 ½ hours. From there, you can either head back or hop on a bus down to the west coast towards Franz Josef Glacier.

What we think…

Again, despite not being as common, we would probably find a way to squeeze in a few train rides as we think train travel is one of the best ways to explore a place. There is just something about being able to mindlessly stare at the beauty of the things around you. We spent a month traveling Europe by train and loved every bit of it!

new zealand train

Lastly, apart from the above mentioned, naturally, you can fly from one major destination to the next, however it is not something we recommend. Flying over New Zealand, unless you’re in a strict time constraint will not only turn out to be expensive but also a waste of scenery! Hitchiking is apparently something that is rather easy to do as well and is fairly common to do while in the country. Apart from the usual safety concerns, hitchhiking would be a fun and cost effective way to see the country. Our obsession with New Zealand started when we began researching on all the adventurous things to do there! I mean really…no other place does adventure better than them! So when the time comes where we get to hop on a plane to travel there, we’ve got our transport plan all mapped out.

Related: Top 7 Adventure Activities in New Zealand

new zealand scenery


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