With incredible nature and scenery, New Zealand is renowned amongst travellers for being one of the most beautiful countries in the world. From the stunning snowy peaks of the Southern Alps to the luscious white sand beaches of Abel Tasman – there’s an abundance of places to discover in this wonderful country. With so much to see and do, it’s hard to figure out the best way to fit everything you want to do into your trip! Having spent the best part of a year living in and travelling around New Zealand, we discovered the best ways to explore everything it has to offer. If you’re planning to travel New Zealand, these are the cheapest and most efficient ways of getting around – including how to rent a car or campervan completely free of charge!
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Hop on Hop off buses
A hugely popular way for travellers to see New Zealand is using hop on hop off buses, such as Kiwi Experience and Stray. These companies offer a variety of passes, allowing you to just visit 2 or 3 places or completely cover the country’s best spots. It’s a great option for solo travellers, as you get plenty of opportunities to integrate with others. You also get discounts on accommodation and a number of activities – from bungee jumps to jet boat rides.
We did spend time travelling with Kiwi Experience, however decided against finishing our trip with them. Travelling during peak season the buses were very busy and at one point, due to a staff mix up, they ended up removing Natalia’s backpack from the coach and leaving it on the side of the road. Fortunately we were reunited with her bag later that day, but due to this and a few other unfortunate incidents we decided to finish our trip another way.
That being said, we do still believe travelling on a hop on hop off bus has its advantages. See below to help decide whether it’s for you!
- If you’re travelling solo, you’ll be travelling alongside a busload of potential new friends!
- Guaranteed accommodation at each stop (although generally only for 1 or 2 nights at each stop – if you want to extend it’s down to you to pre-book this)
- Discounts on accommodation and activities.
- Buses can be busy/overbooked during summer. If you are unable to get a seat on a bus you could be stuck in the same place for days!
- Unnecessary stops – on most journeys you’ll stop somewhere for an hour or two. Some places are beautiful, but some are a waste of time which gets frustrating.
- Waiting for latecomers – a consistent theme is waiting for late people to show up before departure each morning – sometimes for almost an hour. Despite telling people if you’re late they’ll go without you, they don’t stick to this and so everyone who is on time suffers.
If you are considering using Kiwi Experience or Stray, then make sure to keep an eye out as both companies regularly offer sales on their passes. You’ll be able to save a few hundred dollars on some passes if you book at the right time – and passes are valid for a year from first date of travel!
Whether it’s just for one journey, or for your whole trip, standard bus travel in New Zealand is an efficient way to get around. You’ll have the option of either a single fare, or if you intend to travel by bus a lot – the flexipass. A flexipass gives you the option to buy a number of hours of bus travel. For example you could buy 15 hours. If you took a 3-hour journey, you’d then have 12 hours left to use. This system is perfect for travellers, as you aren’t locked in to certain dates, times or locations. Just decide where you want to go and when, then book it!
- Offers travel to over 600 cities – Intercity
- More flexibility and less likely to book up – won’t get stuck in a place for days without a way out
- Good value on flexipass – can go at own pace, you’ll meet other people to travel with along the way!
- Limited to bus schedules
- May miss out nice places on the way.
- Won’t stop for views/pictures.
If you’re on a tight schedule or only want to visit a couple of places – flying is a great option. Cheap fares are available throughout the country, especially through https://grabaseat.co.nz/. You’ll find great value on the site, and if you’re planning to fly internationally afterwards you may well find the best price via here. Even if you’re booking a day or two in advance you can often still find reasonable price flights, with one way fares between Auckland and Queenstown available for around $85 a couple of days in advance. With such cheap fares and a reduction in travel time, this is an efficient way to see New Zealand if you’re pushed for time.
- Fast way to get around!
- Good value – especially when booked in advance.
- Some places can’t be reached this way.
- Will miss out some incredible scenery – you get a much better sense of the country’s real beauty if you opt to drive.
The thing that attracts most people to New Zealand is the incredible scenery, and the best way to experience this is by renting a car or campervan. We did this on a number of occasions, and it gives you more freedom than flying or travelling by bus. With such incredible nature throughout the country, you’ll constantly drive past incredible sights. When you’re at the wheel you can decide to stop and admire the views. You just can’t get the same experience travelling by bus or plane!
- Go at your own pace – if there’s incredible scenery you have time to take it all in!
- No limit on where to go – get as far off the beaten path as you want!
- If you’re looking at driving for a prolonged period it could get expensive, but luckily you can…
Rent a car/campervan for free!
With many companies offering rentals throughout New Zealand, they end up with vehicles throughout the country. This means that if people are travelling one way, a car or campervan will end up the other side of the country to where it started. They then need the car transported back across the country.
In exchange for helping relocate the vehicle, you can get heavily discounted rates on a number of websites. They’ll come with a start and end location, with the maximum number of days you’re allowed to take to travel the distance. While you don’t get the same freedom to take your time as you would renting at full price, you can easily save hundreds of dollars through relocation deals. We paid $1 a day to rent a brand new Mercedez campervan – which meant our accommodation costs were covered too! In some cases, you’ll even be able to rent for free! We thoroughly recommend this method as it’s a great money saver but also a brilliant way to see the country!
To find relocation deals, check out the following sites:
For a more detailed list of sites offering relocation deals, check out http://www.rentalcarrelocation.co.nz/
First Rule of Renting
When renting a vehicle, either for full price or as a relocation deal, the first thing you should do before driving off is check for damage. Some companies will prompt you to do this, but even if they don’t it’s important to be very observant. The best thing you can do is take pictures of all around the vehicle before you drive off, to show the exact state the vehicle was when you picked it up. That way if any damage is noticed when you return the vehicle, you can prove whether it was there before you took it from them. One company did try to charge us $500 for damage we hadn’t done, but fortunately we proved otherwise and didn’t need to pay up. Don’t leave it to chance though, and take comprehensive pictures before setting off – even of the tiniest scratches just to be safe!
Now you know the cheapest ways to travel around New Zealand, find out the spots you simply cannot miss here!