The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand
The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand

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The Cheapest Transport to Get Around New Zealand

New Zealand is pretty easy to get around despite its challenging terrain of lakes, mountains and rivers. The roads are where it’s at, so find the cheapest ways to travel around New Zealand in this guide.

We compare the estimated prices of getting around New Zealand, as well as share a few tips. You can find more tips, however, in The Travel Guide to New Zealand on a Budget and 31 Tips for Travelling in New Zealand.

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Should You Hitchhike Around New Zealand?

The cheapest way to travel around New Zealand is to hitchhike because it’s free! But should you hitchhike?

Hitchhiking is legal in New Zealand and plenty of people do it. It can be a great way to travel if you’re not on a tight schedule and you’re happy to “go with the flow”. Of course, there’s always an element of risk, so check out our safety tips in our hitchhikers’ guide to New Zealand.

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand© NZPocketGuide.com

National Coaches

By far the cheapest way to travel around New Zealand, the national bus service is run by InterCity. The coach service has the largest number of stops in New Zealand at 600 and is worth considering if you truly want to create a personalised itinerary on the cheap.

There are three main ways to pay for InterCity buses:

One-Way Tickets

You can pay for each individual route on the InterCity bus. Approximate route prices are as follows:

  • Auckland to Wellington – NZ$50 advanced booking, NZ$80 last-minute
  • Auckland to Taupo – NZ$45 advanced, NZ$70 last-minute
  • Auckland to Bay of Islands – NZ$30 advanced, NZ$45 last-minute
  • Picton to Christchurch – NZ$65 advanced, NZ$85 last-minute
  • Christchurch to Queenstown – NZ$60 advanced, NZ$115 last-minute
  • Franz Josef to Wanaka – NZ$35 advanced, NZ$55 last-minute.

FlexiPass

The InterCity FlexiPass is a way to pay for your bus trips in advance. Purchase a number of hours then spend those hours on the bus routes you want. You can always add on hours to your pass later if needed. It’s also worth mentioning that hours can be spent on the ferry between the North Island and South Island and some tours. The approximate prices for hours are as follows:

  • 10 hours – NZ$100
  • 40 hours – NZ$350
  • 80 hours – NZ$560

InterCity has special maps to show how many hours it takes to get between destinations. Note that it might not be the literal hours it takes.

As an example, it takes just under 10 hours to do a Bay of Islands trip from Auckland and back or to travel directly from Auckland to Wellington. On the South Island, it takes approximately 11 hours to travel from Picton to Queenstown directly.

TravelPass

Finally, you can purchase tickets for structured routes around New Zealand. The benefit of these is that there’s less planning involved for the traveller. Plus, many of their routes include tours. The approximate prices for TravelPass’ are:

  • Auckland to Bay of Islands return, inc. cruise – NZ$125
  • Loop of South Island inc. cruise – NZ$550

Learn more about the difference between the InterCity bus passes in our complete guide. Plus, bookmark Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide with even more tips.

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand© THL

Backpacker Bus Tours

Offering more than just a bus service, backpacker bus tours are tours on set routes around New Zealand. You’ll have a bus driver who is also your travel guide, stopping at scenic stops and short walks on your journey. While hop-on-hop-off bus tours have drivers who also act as your travel agent, booking accommodation and activities on your behalf, fully-guided bus tours include all accommodation, some activities and some meals.

The Cost of Backpacker Bus Tours

While bus tour companies have tours that last as little as a weekend, the best deals are the tours that last 10 days or longer. For comparison, here are the approximate prices for 10-day passes on some of New Zealand’s most popular backpacker bus tours:

  • Kiwi Experience – NZ$600
  • Stray – NZ$1,000
  • Backyard Roadies – NZ$2,000 (inc. accommodation, some meals and some activities)
  • Haka Tours – NZ$3,300 (inc. accommodation, some meals and some activities)
  • G Adventures – NZ$4,500 (inc. accommodation, some meals and some activities)

Get a Price per Day of Travel

Another way to compare the price of bus tours is to work out how much the tour costs per day. To do that, find out the “minimum days of travel” of a pass that is stated on the brochure or on the website. Then divide the price of a pass by its minimum day of travel. You will get a price per day of travel.

For that price, remember you may get some of these things included: transportation + many stops along the way + some activities + commentary + some meals + all accommodation.

Remember that the hop-on hop-off buses don’t have all of these inclusions. See How to Budget for a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Trip Around New Zealand for more advice.

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand© JUCY Group

Car Rental

Be completely in control of your own road trip around New Zealand by renting a car. Car rental prices fluctuate even more than bus tour prices, so budgeting for a road trip with a car rental can be a little trickier. Nevertheless, you’ll find some of the cheapest rentals in New Zealand at the following prices:

  • In winter (June to August) – NZ$20/day with included insurance or NZ$45/day with add-on insurance
  • In summer (December to March) – NZ$45/day with included insurance or NZ$70/day with add-on insurance
  • In spring/autumn (April, May, September & October) – NZ$35/day with included insurance or NZ$60/day with add-on insurance

Additional costs, such as fuel and one-way fees may need to be taken into consideration:

  • Fuel (petrol) per litre – NZ$2 (NZ$7.57 per gallon)
  • One-way fees – Up to NZ$250
  • Additional driver – NZ$10

Learn more about budgeting for a road trip using How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in New Zealand?

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand© JUCY Group

Campervan Rental

Finally, campervan rental is something that many travellers consider for travelling around New Zealand. Although it’s not as cheap as the transport methods mentioned above, it can still be one of the cheapest ways to travel around New Zealand if choosing budget campervan rentals. Although a campervan is also your accommodation, you will find that you still need to pay for holiday parks and campsites even if you’re freedom camping a few times. Find out more about the cost of a campervan holiday with accommodation included here.

You’ll find some of the cheapest rentals in New Zealand at the following prices:

  • In summer (December to March) – NZ$200/day with included insurance or NZ$250/day with add-on insurance
  • In spring/autumn (April, May, September & October) – NZ$160/day with included insurance or NZ$195/day with add-on insurance
  • In winter (June to August) –  NZ$100/day with included insurance or NZ$130/day with add-on insurance

Additional costs, such as fuel and one-way fees may need to be taken into consideration:

  • Fuel (petrol) per litre – NZ$2 (NZ$7.57 per gallon)
  • One-way fees – Up to NZ$250
  • Additional driver – NZ$10

For more advice on campervan rental, see The Essential Guide to Renting a Campervan in New Zealand.

Author

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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