Although traveling New Zealand by car or campervan has some high points, it is not for everyone. If you are looking for a way to avoid driving yourself around the country consider the following transportation options.
Take a Bus
There are more backpacker bus companies competing in New Zealand’s backpacker market than there are teenie bopper girls screaming at the last Hannah Montana concert. Each backpacker bus company offers a different schedule and range of options but the basic premise is the same.
For a fixed sum ($200-$1000) a backpacker purchases a ticket that is good for a set period of time (1 week to 1 year), and the ticket allows the backpacker to use any of the company’s buses to move from one location to another. The cost of a ticket is proportional to the amount of time the ticket is valid and the distance that can be traveled. Thus, the greater the time and distance, the more expensive the ticket.
Travel By Bus: Pros
For backpackers who don’t like driving on the left side of the road and who have difficulty navigating from their home to the grocery store and back, bus travel is a good choice. With a detailed understanding of the bus schedule and a lot of flexibility, most bus companys will take backpackers to the major and minor sites and towns throughout New Zealand. It may take a long time to arrive, but you will avoid the hassle of figuring it out for yourself. If you are traveling alone and looking to make friends, there is nothing like 30 hours on a bus to help you meet people.
Travel By Bus: Cons
Traveling by bus is perhaps the least flexible way to move about New Zealand. Backpackers may be forced to travel to locations they do not find interesting in order to catch a bus to the location they actually want to visit. Many backpackers also report that the bus schedule does not provide enough time in a location. For example, a backpacker may want to spend 4 days in one location but the bus only drives through town once a week. As a result, the backpacker needs to decide between spending 12 hours, and 7 days in a location. 12 hours is not enough time, but 7 days is way too long. (To be fair, this is not so much of a problem in New Zealand as all backpacker buses run at least 4 buses a week and in peak season every day of the week).
If you choose to travel by bus, remember that someone else is call the shots and you are simply along for the ride.
Backpackers who are especially broke or adventurous may consider hitch hiking as their main method of transport. New Zealand is a relatively safe country and, although I am not recommending hitching as a mode of transport, it is possible.
Hitch Hiking Pros:
Some backpackers hitch regularly because it is free. Others are too cheap to pay for transport and still others believe that hitching is a great way to meet people. Whatever the reasons, hitch hiking can be a fun way to skip around the country. For those backpackers with ample time, but limited supplies, hitch hiking can open up a whole world of new possibilities and adventures.
Hitch Hiking: Cons
Although hitching can be thrilling, it is more often tiresome. Hitch hiking is not for backpackers who are offended easily or who are in a hurry to get somewhere. If you are hitch hiking your way around the country, be prepared to spend most of the day standing in the sun (or rain) attempting to get a ride. It is also a good idea if you are prepared to spend more than one day in a place you are attempting to escape.
Be aware that although Kiwis are lovely, friendly people, every country has it’s share of ‘bad’ people. Not everyone who stops to give you a lift is doing it to help you out! Be sensible.
New Zealand offers a wealth of transport opportunities. Although each mode of New Zealand transport has its ups and downs, it is important that you understand what you can tolerate and what you cannot. Try not to pick a transport method based on price alone. How you travel will often determine your level of happiness. The amount of money saved will be meaningless if you do not enjoy your trip. Why not read this for other transport options.