Generic filters
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in excerpt

Plan Your Trip

What’s the Best Way to Travel Around New Zealand?

Public Bus, Guided Tours, Rental Vehicle or Motorhome

What transport to use getting around New Zealand?
Here’s a guide for overseas visitors discussing the pros and cons of transport options from public bus, rental vehicles, guided tours or motorhomes as you ponder how to travel around NZ. Let’s make your holiday stress-free. Australians have a distinct advantage to visitors from Europe (excluding the United Kingdom). Kiwis and our friends across the Tasman Sea (the ditch) both drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Christchurch, Canterbury, South Island, NZ
Christchurch, Canterbury, South Island

New Zealand is…

 

 

  • Sparsely populated (5 million people in a country the size and shape of Japan; 128 million people).
  • Large tracts of farmland, bush and forest, mountains and hills, coming from Europe or Asia the country can appear empty.
  • New Zealanders tend to use their personal vehicle to explore their country.
  • New Zealand has well-maintained major road networks with separate brown tourist signs for itinerary themed trips.

Choosing how to travel around New Zealand is influenced by…

 

 

  • How much time you have for your holiday
  • How comfortable you feel about self-guided travel or driving by yourself
  • Is it important to you your holiday is managed at your pace
Motorhome RV camper van road trip on New Zealand
Motorhome RV Camper Van Road Trip

RENTAL VEHICLES IN NEW ZEALAND PROS & CONS

Renting or hiring a vehicle (car) for your New Zealand holiday is a popular choice for independent travellers of all age groups. A good knowledge of English is necessary.

Caucasian man taking a selfie with smartphone in Split Apple Rock, Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand
Taking a selfie in Split Apple Rock, Abel Tasman National Park

New Zealand holidays – the pros of using a rental vehicle

 

  • Freedom, you control the pace of the journey, one day or several days in one place.
  • You can improvise easily and travel wherever you want.
  • Convenient and relatively seamless, international and domestic New Zealand have major rental vehicle desks and/or shuttles to the rental vehicle yard.
  • It’s not your vehicle, no worries about maintenance and servicing (make sure you carry vehicle insurance in the case of an accident).

 

New Zealand’s major scenic attractions (Fiordland, Lake Tekapo, Abel Tasman National Park, Waitomo Caves, Taupo, Rotorua and Bay of Islans, Waitangi) are not easily accessible by public transport.

New Zealand holidays – the cons of rental vehicles 

 

  • A rental vehicle can be up to 20% of your daily holiday budget. Rental vehicle daily  costs are between NZ$35 – $58. 
  • Need to feel comfortable with driving on the left-hand side of the road. The steering wheel will be on the right hand side of the car, not the left, which you may be used to. Be responsible and think about whether you will be a safe driver.
  • Be a responsible driver and brush up on New Zealand road rules and drive responsibly.
  • Arriving on a long-haul international flight – rest and revive after the excitement of travelling to New Zealand. There’s plenty of Auckland / Christchurch attractions and places to visit while you adjust to a time zone and climate.
The Forgotten World Highway in the town of Whangamomona, New Zealand
The Forgotten World Highway in the town of Whangamomona

Check out Rentacars for an instant up to date comparison for New Zealand rental car costs.

TIP
  • Overseas visitors arriving from a long haul flight into Christchurch rest and revive with a memorable, fun vintage train city tour. It’s fun with 21 stops and all you have to do is relax. The Christchurch vintage tram is a must do activity. The 2.5km route encompasses  city highlights.

 

  • Overseas visitors arriving from a long haul flight into Auckland rest and revive with Auckland Hop on & Hop off bus route. Hop on and hop off at any of the 12 dedicated Auckland Explorer Bus stops along the tour route. Choose from a 24 or 48-hour pass and explore Auckland at your own pace.

 

Check out Ten ways to cope with long distance driving in New Zealand.

And make sure you’ve checked out planning tips for Renting a Car in New Zealand: The Essential Guide.

 

TranzAlpine Train, Arthur's Pass & Castle Hill Day Trip from Christchurch

TRY THIS FOR SIZE – NEW ZEALAND HOLIDAY TRANSPORT TIPS

 

 

A bit of this and a bit of that; day (or several days) guided tour + rental vehicle to a bucket list destination (self-drive) + a memorable train trip + domestic plane flight to minimise travelling time,

MOTORHOMES OR SELF-CONTAINED VANS – NEW ZEALAND HOLIDAY TRANSPORT TIPS

Your holiday home on wheels, the ultimate convenience stop with the toilet and a cuppa onboard. There is lots of choice from luxury with linen updates to budget friendly no frills vans with just enough space for your backpack. From dinky solo friendly vans to motorhomes offering 6-8 beds. Motorhomes (campervans). 

 

 

icon

tip icon

TIP

If you want to camp anywhere there are two major considerations. 

  • Check if the local park allows you to freedom camp in their car park. 
  • You must have a self-contained (toilet onboard) certified vehicle.
Lindis Pass, motorhome, New Zealand
Lindis Pass
Lake Pukaki, motorhome, New Zealand
Lake Pukaki

The Pros of renting a motorhome (campervan) in New Zealand

 

  • Freedom to travel where to want to at your own pace.
  • Convenience, unpack your clothes once. The ultimate one stop convenience eliminating the concern if you’ve left your favourite T-shirt in the last hotel room.
  • Accommodation costs are slashed. Although you have the balance against the more expensive daily cost of a motorhome versus a vehicle.

 

Check out our comparison of the New Zealand holidays average cost of motorhome rental versus cars; average cost of hotel, motel, Airbnb, hostel. The major proviso is the season you are travelling, is it low, shoulder or peak season. Average estimated prices are peak season costs of travelling to New Zealand.

The Cons of renting a motorhome in New Zealand

 

  • Wow, the cost of a motorhome (campervan) is much higher than car vehicle rental.
  • You have to actually work out where you are going to park up for a power boost for the onboard fridge and dump station for the toilet waste. Peak season New Zealand holiday parks you will need to forward book.
  • You need to be familiar with New Zealand road rules and drive responsibly.
  • Driving a large solid motorhome (campervan) needs careful consideration. You could find it tiring manoeuvring a large rectangular vehicle on New Zealand narrow roads.
@Tongariro Holiday Park
@Tongariro Holiday Park

13 ways to cope with long distance driving in New Zealand

Learn More
Motorhome RV camper van road trip on New Zealand

GUIDED BUS TOURS

Want to meet overseas fellow travellers exploring New Zealand? Footloose and fancy free travel with transport around New Zealand sorted. Tour bus tours in New Zealand usually are all inclusive with accommodation, meals (check how many meals are part of the tour package) and tickets to some attractions. Generally there is an expert travel guide accompanying you offering quips, tips and advice about the places visited.

Auckland buses, Auckland, New Zealand @akltransport
Auckland buses, Auckland @akltransport

THE PROS OF JOINING A TOUR BUS TOUR IN NEW ZEALAND

 

  • Stress-free, you relax and let others take care of the details such as where to stay, getting a coffee in the morning to group tour guides can get you to the front of the queue to popular attractions (In New Zealand even popular attractions are not spoilt by enormous hordes of tourists.
  • A guided tour is the ultimate in care. You get looked after and even your luggage might be delivered to your hotel room (depending on the type of tour package purchased).
  • Meet holiday makers intent on enjoying and experiencing New Zealand, companionship is a given.
  • Excellent way for first-time overseas visitors to whisk themselves around New Zealand in a limited time.

Tour packages usually tick off Top New Zealand attractions and Maori cultural activities.

The cons of joining a bus tour packages in New Zealand

 

  • Upfront expense as you are paying for accommodation, tickets, meals before you have even arrived in New Zealand.
  • Bus tour packages are not the cheapest way to visit New Zealand (or elsewhere). 
  • Inflexible time constraints, there is timetable to adhere to and the fellow travellers will not be happy if you are consistently late to board the bus.
@Raro Pub Crawl - Rehab Party Bus
@Raro Pub Crawl - Rehab Party Bus

BUDGET BUS TOURS / HOP-ON, HOP-OFF BUS TOURS IN NEW ZEALAND 

  • Audience is between 20+ to 40 years, largely Australian with a sprinkling of Europeans
  • Fixed tour route
  • KIWI EXPERIENCE GREEN, best known NZ attractions, hop on and hop off, accommodation and meals are not included
  • STRAY – ORANGE, eco-conservation inclusions, accommodation included, some meals, 
  • FLYING KIWI – BLUE, Camping, walks, off the beaten track locations, meals included
The Reefman Tour @Cook Islands Tours
The Reefman Tour @Cook Islands Tours

WHAT ARE THE PROS OF HOP-ON & HOP-OFF BUS TOURS

 

  • Socialising is a given with travellers on the bus intent on having a great holiday. The holiday spirit is actively encouraged by the driver / guide.
  • Holiday transport, the logistics of getting around New Zealand to key tourist destinations is sorted.
  • You get to relax and watch the scenery, enjoy the activities with like-minded people.
  • Your itinerary is organised for you.
  • First-time visitors with a limited budget will have major expenses paid for.

WHAT ARE THE CONS OF HOP-ON & HOP-OFF BUS TOURS IN NEW ZEALAND

 

  • A budget bus tour is more expensive than a national public bus company.
  • Less flexible as you have to stick to an itinerary.
  • Buses can be very full in the summer season with very little flexibility to hop on and hop off at will.
  • Meals and, in some cases, accommodation is not included in the price. You need to take care to compare advertised prices and inclusions. As always, the devil is in the detail.
  • Most adventure activities from bungy jumping to 4WD excursions are not included, check what you have on your bucket list and budget accordingly.
Huka Falls waterfall in Wairakei near Lake Taupo in New Zealand
Huka Falls waterfall in Wairakei near Lake Taupo

IS THERE A NEW ZEALAND PUBLIC BUS (COACH) NETWORK?

New Zealand has a national public bus network, InterCity Coach Buses offers visitors a Travel Pass. The INTERCITY TRAVEL PASS offers visitors a bulk public transport travel deal to most major New Zealand tourist destinations at your own pace. Choose from itineraries that take in the North Island, South Island or the whole of New Zealand. Some passes also include day tours, ferry and train travel.

Little Blue Penguins, Caroline Bay, New Zealand @timarupenguinsredone
Little Blue Penguins, Caroline Bay

THE PROS OF NEW ZEALAND’S NATIONAL BUS (COACH) NETWORK 

 

  • NZ’s national bus (coach) network has a daily service to most towns and cities.
  • Combined with a travel pass (and a lot of planning) you could get to visit off the beaten track destinations such as Raglan (surfing, beaches) or Oamaru (steampunk vibe, blue penguins).
  • Cheapest form of public transport in New Zealand.
  • Check out InterCity travel pass and InterCity bus pass for additional cost savings.

WHAT ARE THE CONS OF A NATIONAL BUS (COACH) IN NEW ZEALAND

 

  • Key attractions such as Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton, AJ Hackett Bungy Jump in Queenstown or Otago Peninsula Albatross Colony are not on any bus route. You will need to join a day tour. 
  • The bus (coach) arrives and departs usually once a day in many towns.
@Hobbitontours
@Hobbitontours

PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN NEW ZEALAND – VISITOR GUIDELINES

Kaikoura, New Zeland
Kaikoura

NEW ZEALAND TRAIN SERVICES – KIWI RAIL

 

New Zealand has three major scenic rail journeys in New Zealand: 

 

 

  • Coastal Pacific route follows the coast from Picton (where the Interislander ferry arrives from Wellington) to Kaikoura (whale watching, dolphins) to Christchurch. The journey is all day 

 

 

There are also city suburban trains within Wellington and Auckland.

TIP

Are you wondering about the public transport network in the town you are planning to visit in New Zealand?

Check out the travel guide for the town (pop the name into the Search Box on the home page) and the travel guide, plus lots of activities described will be displayed.

NEW ZEALAND FERRIES

 

New Zealand is a country of islands. The two major islands are named North Island and South Island. has two competing ferry services. BlueBridge and InterIsland service. Both ferries arrive and depart from Wellington, capital city in the North Island and arrive and depart from Picton, Marlborough in the South Island. Both ferries offer vehicle and passenger services. In the peak summer season the ferry services can be fully booked weeks in advance with travelling locals and Australians. 

In Auckland there are a number of ferry services connecting to the Hauraki Gulf Islands, Kawau Island and Waiheke Island check out the Auckland travel guide for details. Wellington has a harbour ferry service to Somes Island and Eastbourne.

Riverhead Ferry, Auckland, New Zealand @riverheadferry
Riverhead Ferry, Auckland @riverheadferry
Air New Zealand plane landing in Rarotonga, New Zealand
Air New Zealand plane landing in Rarotonga

Travelling by plane in New Zealand

 

  • Convenient in a country of narrow winding roads and a considerable distance between key attractions.
  • Air New Zealand and Jetstar fly to over 23 regional destinations with a number of small regional airlines offering flights to small towns and islands.
  • Flying in New Zealand is not cheap.

TRY THIS FOR SIZE – NEW ZEALAND HOLIDAY TRANSPORT TIPS

A bit of this and a bit of that.

A day (or several days) guided tour + rental vehicle to a bucket list destination (self-drive) + a memorable train trip + domestic plane flight to minimise travelling time.

The destination is part of the holiday, getting there is half of the fun. Getting there on an Australian or New Zealand road trip is its own adventure.

Just to make your holiday easier check out the following guides

For the budget conscious New Zealand visitor here are handy tips to get the most out of holiday to New Zealand

AFFILIATE PARTNER STATEMENT
Our editors independently visit tour operators, purchase tickets, pay for accommodation, and rate products and places. We are not paid to go on a tour or visit a place. We only make money if you decide to purchase a product through our website links. We promise to never accept free products from manufacturers in return for boosting their products. Read more about our affiliate programme in the terms and conditions HERE.

 

BEST BITS TRAVEL GUIDE

Best Bits travel guide is published by nzjane.com. Owned and managed by PacificJane Ltd.

Related Articles

Enquire

If you have a query about content, travel deals or anything else, our team is happy to answer all your questions 🙂



    Your information is secure, no third party involved.
    100% Safe, secure, privacy guaranteed. Privacy Policy.

    Subscribe