Compared with most countries around the world, New Zealand is small, compact and relatively easy to get around. This should come as good news to anyone planning a trip around the Land of the Long White Cloud.
While New Zealand is compact and the distances between towns may seem small, it can often take a surprisingly long time to get from one destination to the next. New Zealand’s roads are almost entirely two laned; don’t expect to get on the motorway in Queenstown and travel to Christchurch on a four-laned highway. The roads in New Zealand are full of twists, turns, mountain passes and most importantly – heaps and heaps of photo opportunities.
When considering your trip here – be it where you want to go or how you want to get around – you should remember that much of the joy of traveling New Zealand is in the journey between one place and the next. You’ll see a incredible variety of landscapes and they will quite literally change before your eyes as you travel around New Zealand.
Here are the most popular ways to get around New Zealand:
Perhaps one of the best ways to get around New Zealand is with a hop-on, hop-off backpacker bus pass. These buses run on set routes to New Zealand’s most epic destinations – ensuring you see the hot spots and out of the way places that New Zealand is best known for.
If you’re travelling in between the North Island and the South Island, you’ll have to get across the Cook Strait. This is no ordinary ferry trip – it’s a stunning journey that sees you cruising through the incredibly scenic Marlborough Sounds and past the beautiful coastline around Wellington. Read more about crossing the Cook Strait with Interislander here.
If you’ll be travelling around NZ for more than three-four weeks, you might consider buying your own ride. This very often works out cheaper than a long-term rental, as you can sell it on when you finish your trip. Follow this link for our guide on buying a car or campervan in New Zealand.
Car or Campervan Rental
One of the most popular ways to get around New Zealand is in a car or campervan. There are dozens of rental companies competing for your business which makes the costs of hiring a car quite reasonable. We can get you the best deals on Car or Campervan Rentals, so contact us with your dates and we’ll organize the car hire for you. With your vehcile, you can create your own itinerary (or follow one of ours) and stop when you want, where you want and get to the out of the way spots might otherwise miss (unless you have a hop-on, hop-off bus pass).
While hiring a campervan will cost you more than a car, you’ll save money on accommodation costs by either staying in campervan parks or freedom camping (where it’s allowed – read our freedom camping tips here). If spending the night in your campervan listening to the sound of the surf sounds appealing, consider exploring New Zealand from behind the wheel of your campervan.
There are a couple bus companies in New Zealand that run budget friendly services around the country. Seeing New Zealand by bus is a budget friendly option, though it doesn’t afford you much flexibility. The obvious downside to traveling via public buses is you’ll not be able to stop for the countless photo opportunities and places to explore during your journey.
Hitchhiking is a realistic, though not convenient way to travel around New Zealand. While New Zealand is generally a safe and welcoming country, common sense should be utilized when hitchhiking. We suggest you travel as a pair (especially women) and during the day.
You’ll have to be flexible and willing to to wait when getting to out of the way places, yet you stand a chance of meeting friendly locals and fellow travelers. Consider these tips when hitchhiking around New Zealand:
Stand on the side of the road with traffic going in the direction you want to go with a sign clearly stating your destination
Position yourself on the outskirts of town so the traffic that passes is definitely going the direction you want to go
Make sure there is room for your potential ride to pull over allowing you to get in safely
New Zealand doesn’t have a rail network that would allow you to travel all of the country by train. There are a couple rail lines, and considering the breathtaking scenery which New Zealand is known for, you can imagine there are a couple epic train journeys you might want to fit into your New Zealand itinerary.
The Tranz Alpine journey takes you from the South Island’s West Coast in Greymouth over the rugged Southern Alps to Christchurch. It’s often ranked as being one of the world’s greatest train journeys. The Tranz Coastal route which heads north along the Pacific Coast from Christchurch to Picton where you can head to the North Island. Once on the North Island, the Trans Scenic route runs directly up the centre of the island all the way to Auckland.
Flights around New Zealand
There are two main airlines offering flights around New Zealand – Air New Zealand and Jetstar. As New Zealand is a small country, even the longest flight from Dunedin to Auckland will only take just under two hours. The towns with the biggest airports and where you can expect to find the cheapest flights are: Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. Many other smaller destinations also have airports, yet these are more expensive to fly to and you’ll inevitably have a layover in one of the bigger airports.