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So you’re considering a trip to New Zealand? Why wouldn’t you? It’s a country known for dramatic landscapes, friendly people, succulent lamb, and stunning vistas. There is something here on each island to please the thrill seeking backpacker, the wine sipping connoisseur, or lovers of the outdoors. It’s an excellent place to come to as a backpacker (so long as you’re not on a strict budget). Yet you’re wondering the best way to travel around the country.
Check out the list below for five of the best ways to travel around the land of the long white cloud as a backpacker or budget traveler:
New Zealand is a prime spot for backpackers who want to travel around the country in their own vehicle. It’s easy to rent cars, or as many backpackers do – campervans. There are many joys of traveling in your own campervan. You can determine your own schedule, stop when and where you want, and you’ll inevitably see more of both islands if you have your own transportation. While a van will cost you more than a car, you’ll save money on accommodation costs by either staying in campervan parks or freedom camping where it’s allowed. Does spending the night in your van listening to the sound of the surf sound appealing? If so, consider seeing New Zealand from behind the wheel of your campervan.
If you’ll be here for a month or more, consider buying your own campervan. Assuming your van doesn’t blow up (as mine did) this will potentially be a cheaper option than renting. Whether you rent or buy, beware that gas prices in New Zealand are quite expensive.
2) Bus Passes
There are a number of companies in New Zealand that run terrific, budget friendly services around the country. Seeing New Zealand by bus is a budget friendly option and still affords you plenty of flexibility. Intercity or Naked Bus both run frequent services between most towns and cities in New Zealand. As long as you’re willing to put up with longer bus rides, there aren’t many places that you can’t get to in New Zealand with one of these companies.
If you’re considering this option, don’t book your journeys individually. Instead, consider buying one of the backpacker passes each company sells. These will give you a certain number of journeys around New Zealand and will often include a ferry crossing from the North to South Island.
Hitchhiking is a very realistic way to travel around New Zealand for the dedicated backpacker or budget traveler. I spent three months touring New Zealand in my campervan and saw very few hitchhikers. Not because they’re not here, rather because they get picked up so quickly. Clearly common sense should be utilized when hitchhiking – you’re better off as a pair, and solo travelers (especially women) may want to think twice before considering the option.
If you think it is right for you, it’s a cheap (free) way to get around the country. You’ll have to be flexible and willing to to wait when getting to out of the way places, yet you stand a chance of meeting friendly locals and fellow travelers. Here are some tips for hitchhiking around New Zealand:
- Stand on the side of the road with traffic gong in the direction you want to go
- Position yourself on the outskirts of town so the traffic that passes is definitely going the direction you want to go
- Use more than a thumb – make a sign which says the town you’re hoping to get to
- Make sure there is room for your potential ride to pull over allowing you to get in safely
4) Backpacker Buses
One popular way for backpackers to get across New Zealand is by a backpacker bus. This option allows you to hop on and hop off throughout New Zealand. You’ll be guaranteed flexibility, convenience, and have the added bonus of meeting other travelers. If this is your first major trip abroad, one benefit is your travel activities and accommodation can be booked for you – often with a significant discount. There are two major backpacker bus operators in New Zealand: Kiwi Experience and Stray.
Kiwi Experience has a younger demographic that’s most keen on partying their way around New Zealand; Stray has a much more diverse group of travellers and does a better job getting you, ‘off the beaten track.’
5) Train Travel
Traveling by train isn’t a common way to get around New Zealand. You can’t get to smaller, out of the way destinations. Yet considering the breathtaking scenery which New Zealand is known for, you can imagine there are a couple epic train journeys you might want to fit into your schedule while traveling here.
The Tranz Alpine journey takes you from the West Coast of the South Island in Greymouth to Christchurch over the rugged Southern Alps. It’s ranked as being one of the world’s greatest train journeys and is worth your time. Also, consider leaving Christchurch on the Tranz Coastal route which heads north along the Pacific Coast. You’ll pass beautiful Kaikoura where you can stop to go whale watching. The journey ends in the ferry town of Picton where you can head to the North Island.
New Zealand is a small country by all practical standards and is quite easy to get around. Consider all or some of the above options on your backpacking trip to New Zealand.
Have you been to New Zealand? How did you choose to travel around the country? Leave your comments below.
Found this post useful? Awesome! Don’t leave, check out the posts below:
- 7 Awesome Places in New Zealand You’ve Never Heard of
- Climbing New Zealand’s Iconic Mitre Peak
- 20 of New Zealand’s Best Views
- New Zealand’s Top 5 Backpacking Destinations
- Planit NZ – Your Centralized Resource for Planning Trips to or Within New Zealand