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

6 Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand šŸ˜‰ [2023]

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The Cheapest and Most Economical Transport to Travel 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 in The Travel Guide to New Zealand on a Budget and 31 Tips for Travelling in New Zealand.

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

1. National Coaches (InterCity)

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$55-$70 advanced booking, NZ$60-$80 last-minute
  • Auckland to Taupo – NZ$35-$55
  • Auckland to Bay of Islands – NZ$30-$45
  • Picton to Christchurch – NZ$45-$55 advanced, NZ$70-$85 last-minute
  • Christchurch to Queenstown – NZ$50-$60 advanced, NZ$90-$115 last-minute
  • Franz Josef to Wanaka – NZ$55-$65.

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$330
  • 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, called the InterCity TravelPass. 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

More on How InterCity Works

Learn more about the difference between the InterCity bus passes in our complete guide, InterCity Bus Passes: Which is the Best Bus Pass for New Zealand? Plus, bookmark Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide for even more tips.

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand© THL

2. 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:

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 ā€œminimum days of travelā€ 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 (Kiwi Experience & Stray) don’t have all of these inclusions. Check out How to Budget for a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour of New Zealand for more advice on the subject.

More Money Saving Tips for Backpacker Bus Tours

For tips on saving money on any kind of backpacker bus tour, check out the 5 Tips to Save Money on a Bus Tour in New Zealand. And don’t forget to compare all of your backpacker bus tour options with The 10 Best Backpacker Bus Tours in New Zealand.

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand© JUCY Group

3. 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 summer (December to March) – NZ$50/day (NZ$350/week) with included insurance or NZ$70/day (NZ$490/week) with add-on insurance
  • In spring/autumn (April, May, September & October) – NZ$40/day (NZ$280/week) with included insurance or NZ$60/day (NZ$420) with add-on insurance
  • In winter (June to August) – NZ$25/day (NZ$175/week) with included insurance or NZ$45/day (NZ$315/week) with add-on insurance.

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

More on Budgeting for Car Rental in New Zealand

Learn more about budgeting for a road trip using How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car or Campervan in New Zealand? Plus, check out our full guide to Renting a Car in New Zealand: The Essential Guide.

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand© JUCY Group

4. Campervan Rental

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 compared to renting a car in our guide, Campervan Rental Vs. Car Rental + Stay in Hotel, Hostel or Airbnb in New Zealand or watch our video:

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

  • In summer (December to March) – NZ$220/day (NZ$1,540/week) with included insurance or NZ$245/day (NZ$1,715/week) with add-on insurance
  • In spring/autumn (April, May, September & October) – NZ$160/day (NZ$1,120/week) with included insurance or NZ$185/day (NZ$1,295/week) with add-on insurance
  • In winter (June to August) – NZ$80/day (NZ$560/week) with included insurance or NZ$105/day (NZ$735/week) with add-on insurance.

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

More on Budgeting for Campervan Rental in New Zealand

Learn more about budgeting for a road trip using How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car or Campervan in New Zealand? Plus, for more advice on campervan rental, see The Essential Guide to Renting a Campervan in New Zealand.

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

5. Hitchhiking

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 Hitchhiking in New Zealand: FULL Guide. There are also other pros and cons to consider for hitchhiking.

The Pros of Hitchhiking

  • Itā€™s free!
  • Meet some locals and interesting people
  • Itā€™s more eco-friendly as you use less gas than you would in your own vehicle
  • Itā€™s adventurous; who knows whoā€™ll youā€™ll meet and what youā€™ll discover!

The Cons of Hitchhiking

  • It can be time-consuming trying to get a lift
  • You might have to hitch a couple of times to cover long distances
  • There is an element of risk
  • You canā€™t spontaneously stop to take photos.

Again, check out out our Hitchhiking in New Zealand: FULL Guide for a full guide on how to hitchhike.

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand© Unsplash

6. Car Sharing

The final cheapest way to travel around New Zealand is carpooling, also known as car sharing or ride sharing. This is usually a prearranged way for travellers and locals to get together and share the costs of fuel, whether it’s for short commutes to work or for long trips across New Zealand.

The cost of car sharing is usually the cost of fuel for the journey split by how many people are in the vehicle, so it could range from NZ$5 per person for short journeys to NZ$20 per person for a couple of hours’ journey to NZ$50 per person for long missions; just as an example.

While it can be pretty challenging to plan an entire journey around New Zealand using carpooling, you can certainly arrange something for a few portions of your trip, whether you’re a car owner or a passenger.

Get all our advice on how to car share with A Guide to Carpooling, Car Sharing & Ride Sharing in New Zealand.

The Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand© Unsplash

New Zealand Budget Itineraries

Now that you’ve found the cheapest ways to travel around New Zealand, do you need some road trip ideas? Check out the following itineraries for the best road trip routes:

More About the Cheapest Ways to Travel Around New Zealand

That’s it for our guide on the cheapest ways to travel around New Zealand. Save more money with these tips:

Finally, don’t forget to compare the cheapest ways to travel around New Zealand with the 10 Best Ways to Travel Around 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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