New Zealand Bus tour tips©
New Zealand Bus tour tips

15 New Zealand Bus Tour Tips for First-Timers 🤙


The Golden Rules for Your First-Time Bus Tour of New Zealand!

Never miss a spectacular glacier, an impressive mountain range, the rugged coastline, or fantastical blue waters on a New Zealand bus journey. There are more options for travellers than you could ever dream of to make your way around this beautiful country by bus. New Zealand’s hop-on hop-off bus network is extensive and action-packed, so the bus companies like Kiwi Experience are sure to give you the adventure to remember, while all-inclusive tours like Haka Tours make organising your whole trip a breeze. On the other hand, the coach bus network with InterCity is cheap and extensive, serving over 600 stops all over New Zealand.

To really add the icing on top of the cake, the rest is up to you. Follow our New Zealand bus tour tips to really make the most of your first time experiencing New Zealand by bus.

Before we begin, be sure to bookmark Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide with even more tips.

New Zealand Bus Tour Tips on Video!

Prefer to get your New Zealand bus tour tips on video? Check out our guide to travelling New Zealand by bus from our complete bus travel guide over on YouTube. Don’t forget to subscribe for more New Zealand travel tips!

1. Be Your Friendly Self

Your bus will probably be full of like-minded travellers, most of them travelling alone who can’t wait to make friends. Put on your best smile and dive in. You’ll meet people from all over the world when roaming around the roads of New Zealand! After all, there are heaps of reasons to travel alone, and meeting new people is one of them.

New Zealand Bus tour tips© Pexels

2. Charge All of Your Devices

Bus tours stop at plenty of photo opportunities. Make sure that your camera or phone is fully charged for each day on the tour so you can take your 10 Token Tourist Photos You Have to Take in the North Island and 10 Token Tourist Photos You Have to Take in the South Island. Only some bus tours have power points on the bus to charge devices and they can be pretty slow, so we don’t recommend relying on these too much.

15 Tips to Make the Most of Your Backpacker Bus Trip©

3. Don’t Be the Sick Guy

If you can’t handle long bus rides on narrow windy roads, invest in some travel sickness pills. Also, try to avoid being completely hungover on the bus the next day. It seems obvious, but one spewer can ruin the trip of an entire bus… The smell can haunt someone for a lifetime.

Raphael Kirchner on Wikipedia© Raphael Kirchner on Wikipedia

4. Choose the Best Side of the Bus

New Zealand is a stunning country and you will not want to miss a thing. There is nothing wrong is asking the driver which side has the best view for the day’s journey. After all, they have driven that road a thousand times and they’ll be happy to advise you!

New Zealand Bus tour tips© Wild Kiwi

5. Pack Some Snacks

What is the best way to make friends or break the ice with that cute girl sitting next to you? That’s right, saying: “Do you want some?” while holding a big pack of candy… Who doesn’t like snacks?! Consequently, packing some lunch food will save you money instead of buying it from a pit stop cafe.

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6. Take Off Your Shoes

Long bus trips are physically demanding and often uncomfortable, so take off your shoes for extra comfort. It will allow your feet to breathe and make you feel fresher on arrival. Note: if your feet smell particularly bad, for everybody’s sake, don’t follow that advice and keep on reading…

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7. Be Positive

Travelling is an enriching experience. Once embraced, everybody loves it and is often described as “the best time of my life”. Yet, there is always a small group of people that will work hard on finding something to complain about. Use your sense of humour to make the most of every situation, even if something doesn’t go quite right. Nobody likes a grumpy traveller. Enjoy yourself!

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8. Don’t Sit Near the Toilets

Many coach buses have toilets for your convenience. However, the stink licking your face can be nightmarish on a long journey. Pick a seat away from the toilet to avoid discomfort.

 Alan Turkus on Flickr© Alan Turkus on Flickr

9. Don’t Spend the Whole Trip Looking at Your Phone

Bus tours tend to stop 4-5 times per day to check out the New Zealand awesomeness. However, there are always a few passengers that stay on the bus texting, scrolling through, or trying to connect to the pretty bad internet network. New Zealand is best experienced outdoors and away from technology! We know we are awesome but check out our website at night at your lodge or hostel.

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10. Have an Extra Layer Handy

One second you’re hot; the next you are cold. Have an extra jumper and you’ll be the envy of the bus. Extra tip: If you have the said jumper handy and are not cold, use it as a pillow. For more tips on what to pack, check out New Zealand Packing List: What to Pack for New Zealand.

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11. Hooking Up? Take a Calculated Risk

Ok, travel crushes happen often. Hook-ups happen more often. That’s all part of everyday life, particularly on the hop-on hop-off buses. However, here is our advice: casually ask your potential hook-up when are they are next getting on the bus, as there is nothing worse than awkwardly avoiding that person in the hostel and bus for a week after things don’t quite work out. Of course, this advice only applies to the hop-on hop-off buses, but if you’re stuck on the same 20+-day tour with the same people, maybe wait to make a move toward the end of your trip…

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12. Don’t Miss the Bus!

There is an unspoken rule in the New Zealand bus world: the bus can be late, but you can’t! Buses often leave early morning. If you are not at the right place at the right time, the bus is likely to leave without you and there is nothing you can do about it. However, some bus drivers may consider waiting for you for a few extra minutes. Then, you just have to deal with the pissed-off passengers who had to wait for you…

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13. Keep Yourself Entertained

Sudoku, a book, music, movies… If you are planning to take a long coach bus journey at night, let’s say Wellington back to Auckland, you will need to keep yourself entertained. Luckily for you, if your journey is scheduled on a bright sunny day, the stunning landscape guarantees hours of entertainment.

New Zealand Bus tour tips© THL

14. Be Part of the Group

If people a playing games, singing, switching seats every 10 minutes, or anything else, just join in! It will be fun! There is nothing wrong with stepping out of your comfort zone. In fact, there is no better place to do so than a bus full of travellers that are all doing the same thing.

New Zealand Bus tour tips© THL

15. Be Open-Minded

Travelling on the bus tours of New Zealand is all about meeting people. So what if that guy has weird teeth? So what if that girl has a crazy laugh? Nobody cares, they will be good fun to hang out with and their stories are probably worth listening to. Make friends, be happy and take in every moment!

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More New Zealand Bus Tour Tips

That’s it for our New Zealand bus tour tips to help you have the best time while travelling around New Zealand by bus! For more tips, however, make sure you check out our other guides:

Finally, find more essential travel advice in the 31 Tips for Travelling in New Zealand.


Robin C.

This article was reviewed and published by Robin, the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. He has lived, worked and travelled across 16 different countries before calling New Zealand home. He has now spent over a decade in the New Zealand tourism industry, clocking in more than 600 activities across the country. He is passionate about sharing those experiences and advice on NZ Pocket Guide and its YouTube channel. Robin is also the co-founder of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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