What are the Different Bus Networks (and Bus Companies) in New Zealand?
There is no lack of buses in New Zealand. It is the most used method of public transportation, especially local buses, as they are often the only public transportation! Coaches are also a great way to travel around the country too by being cheaper than other transport options. Plus, the journey is made enjoyable by the sensational scenery you get to pass through.
Whether you want to incorporate bus travel into your holiday or just need a way to commute to work on your working holiday, this guide will give you an outline of what are the bus networks in New Zealand, including coach networks, hop-on hop-off, bus tours and city buses. We also list the New Zealand bus companies for each category.
Video: The Bus Networks in New Zealand Explained!
Prefer to watch a video of the NZ Pocket Guide team explaining the difference between the New Zealand bus networks and how to plan a trip by bus? Check out the following video and subscribe on YouTube for more New Zealand travel tips!
1. The National Coach Network
The towns and cities of New Zealand are connected very well by the national coach network. This is a cost-effective way of getting from one place to another.
Passes are available to cover the whole country, or just pay one-off fares for a single trip. Remember to book in advance for cheaper fares! Check out how the bus passes work in InterCity Bus Passes: Which is the Best Bus Pass for New Zealand?
These New Zealand bus services are pretty easy to use: once you’re booked on the bus, just turn up at the bus stop about 15 minutes before departure. Give the driver your name and get on the bus. On long journeys, there will be 10 to 30 minutes toilet or food breaks. Your driver usually gives some commentary on the locations you are passing through.
New Zealand National Coach Companies
The New Zealand national bus company taking you all over New Zealand is InterCity. To see what to expect from these bus journeys, check out: 10 Reasons to Travel by Bus or Coach in New Zealand.
If taking multiple trips on the coach buses, it’s worth checking out the multi-trip passes available, such as InterCity’s FlexiPass, again, explained in our InterCity Bus Passes Guide. Or, check out our videos explaining how to use the InterCity buses:
2. The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Network
Designed especially for young travellers and backpackers, the hop-on hop-off buses are more than just getting you from A to B. These are a guided bus network taking travellers around New Zealand, while passengers can choose to “hop off” the bus anywhere along the route. Then the passenger can choose one of the next buses to “hop on” to continue their journey.
Each bus has a “driver guide” who will give commentary along the way, make stops in noteworthy places for walks and photos, and organise bookings for activities and hostel accommodation.
The New Zealand Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Companies
The New Zealand hop-on hop-off companies are Kiwi Experience, Stray and Flying Kiwi. Flying Kiwi works slightly differently as they include meals and accommodation, while Kiwi Experience and Stray only offer accommodation and activity books and no meals included.
For more information on how to use these hop-on hop-off buses, check out How Does the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Network in New Zealand Work? Plus, check out our video explanation on how these buses work:
3. Local Bus Networks (City Buses)
Stopping somewhere for an extended break or to work on your working holiday? Need to reach an outer-city suburb?
Most likely, you’ll need to take one of the local buses. There are efficient bus networks within cities and larger towns. Some of these places have travel cards to get discounts on the fares, so grab one of these if you are using the bus a lot, for example, the AT HOP Card in Auckland, the Snapper Card in Wellington, the Metrocard in Christchurch, and the Bee Card in Queenstown. Otherwise, you will need to use cash to pay the fare to the bus driver as you get on the bus (one of the rare times you need cash in New Zealand).
Remember to signal the bus driver, as they do not automatically stop at each bus stop.
City Bus Companies in New Zealand
Some examples of local city bus companies in New Zealand are:
- Auckland – Auckland Transport, Ritchies
- Wellington – Metlink, Mana Coach Services, Newlands Coach Services, Madge/Uzabus and Tranzit
- Christchurch – Metro Christchurch, Ritchies
- Queenstown – Orbus, Ritchies, Transit
- Dunedin – Transit.
Learn more about how to use the city buses in How to Catch a City Bus in New Zealand.
4. Day Trip Bus Tours
For those “harder to reach places” you can take a guided coach tour. Your driver is your tour guide and they will have your itinerary planned for you. Just sit back, relax and just accept what is happening!
The most popular guided coach tours are to Cape Reinga, the very north of the North Island, and Milford Sound, the “8th Wonder of the World” on the South Island. There are also city bus tours in New Zealand’s largest cities.
New Zealand Day Trip Coach Tour Companies
Some popular coach tours include:
- Auckland Explorer Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
- Fuller’s GreatSights Bus Tour to Cape Reinga (more info on Klook and KKday)
- Milford Sound Coach and Cruise with Southern Discoveries (on Viator, Tripadvisor and Klook)
- Farewell Spit Eco Tours in Golden Bay
Check out more bus tour examples in our guide to the Places in New Zealand Only Accessible by Bus and the 10 Best Milford Sound Tours from Queenstown & Te Anau.
5. National Coach Tours
Take multi-day bus tours either within a small area of New Zealand or over the whole of New Zealand! These trips are often all-inclusive with transport, accommodation, meals and even some activities included in the price. What’s included can differ from bus company to bus company, so be sure to compare before you book.
Expect a more structured tour than what you get on the hop-on hop-off buses. Guides will tell you fun facts about each area you drive through on the tour while stopping off for activities along the way. There are extra activities to purchase, which can be booked on the road by your guide.
New Zealand Bus Tour Companies
Examples of bus companies in New Zealand that offer tours are:
- Flying Kiwi
- Haka Tours
- G Adventures
- Kiwi Experience
- Inspiring Journeys
- AAT Kings
- Intrepid Travel
- Travel Marvel
- Luxury Gold and more!
More About the Bus Networks and Companies in New Zealand
Here are a few more links to help you on your way. Aren’t we nice!
- 10 Reasons to Travel by Bus or Coach in New Zealand
- 9 Things to Know About the Sleeper Buses (Overnight Buses) in NZ
- InterCity Coach Buses or Hop-On Hop-Off (Kiwi Experience, Stray, etc.)?
That’s it for this guide to the bus networks in New Zealand. Check out Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide for even more tips.