New Zealand- the mythical Land of the Kiwis. Tucked away in the far reaches of the South Pacific, New Zealand is a modern-day Backpacker’s Utopia- a rugged landscape covered by towering mountains, immaculate lakes, pristine beaches, and rolling hills; a destination that offers all of the comforts and convenience of the developed world, yet somehow remains wild, untamed, and untouched. It is an outdoor adventurer’s dream, to say the very least. New Zealand is one of those places that has to be seen to be believed. From the cosmopolitan centers of Auckland and Wellington, to the adrenaline-fueled towns of Taupo and Queenstown, to the rural outposts of Fox Glacier and Hokianga Harbour- New Zealand has something for everyone. To top it off, New Zealand is remarkably backpacker-friendly, the entire country being set-up to cater to the budget traveler. Hop on a bus, hire a camper, buy your own ‘Backpacker’s Bugatti’- it doesn’t matter. In New Zealand, a new adventure, a friendly smile, another rush of adrenaline, and another amazing experience are always just around the corner...
Traveling In New Zealand
Auckland is the main point of entry into New Zealand, though, depending on what country you are coming from, you may be able to get direct flights into Wellington, Christchurch, even Queenstown. Once you have arrived in the country, there are various options for continuing your travels throughout the country.
One of the great aspects of traveling in New Zealand is how small the country is- compared to places like Australia, China, and the US, New Zealand is TINY. Considering that you have every type of landscape you could imagine- rugged mountains, rolling hills, cosmopolitan cities, beautiful beaches, amazing coastlines, country towns- all packed into an area roughly the size of the state of Colorado, you'll quickly realize that New Zealand is a pretty special place.
Because of its size, New Zealand is PERFECT for backpacking- you can literally get around the entire country in a couple of weeks, regardless of how you travel. To cater to this, the tourism industry in New Zealand offers innumerable options for exploring the country- hop-on/hop-off buses tailored for every type of traveler, innumerable campervan and car-rental companies, a great network of domestic flights, and a wide variety of cheap cars for sale in the major cities. Also, there’s always the option of finding a ride-share with a group of like-minded travelers- a great way to save a few bucks and make a few friends in the process.
If you are traveling by yourself or with a small group, and don’t want to deal with the hassle or cost of buying/hiring a car/camper, the hop-on/hop-off bus systems in NZ are THE way to go. They’re not only a GREAT way to meet others and make friends along the way, they also take all the leg-work out of sorting out transportation. Innumerable itineraries are laid out on-line, covering anywhere and everywhere you might want to go. Spend as much or as little time at each stop along the route as you wish- all it takes is a quick call or an email 24-hrs in advance to secure a seat on the next bus through town, and you’re off to the next stop. Too easy!
There are three major hop-on/hop-off bus companies that operate in NZ, each tailored for a different ‘traveler’s mentality’. The KiwiExperience bus is THE Party Bus- well-known for its raucous passengers, wild all-nighters, and lingering smells on the buses themselves; the Stray Bus is geared more towards the independent traveler wanting to get ‘off the beaten track’; and the MagicBus falls somewhere in between- not as crazy as KiwiExperience, but probably a notch or two above ‘Stray’ on the 'social' scale. In reality, they are all very similar in function, and all go almost the exact same places. Pricing generally depends on what all is included in the trip- some of the more expensive trips will have several inclusions, while the cheaper ones will have various optional activities that are paid for on-site. Have a look online, check out the itineraries offered, compare prices with your budget, and get on the bus!
InterCity- NZ’s national bus system- also offers hop-on/hop-off passes, as well as one-way fares between stops along their various routes. It’s worth taking a look at them as well to compare prices and sort out your own personal itinerary.
Honestly, a self-drive tour of New Zealand is the way to go, if your budget can handle it. There are caravan and holiday parks in literally every corner of the country, so if you’re in a campervan, you’ll never be lacking in places to pull in and set up for the night. There are cheap hostels and guesthouses in every town as well, so even if you’re in a car, you’ll always have a place to sleep. If you don’t want to purchase a car, and can’t afford to hire one on your own, check the local hostel message boards for ride-sharing opportunities- there are always other backpackers looking for passengers to help spread the cost of food and fuel for a trip around NZ. Who knows- you might meet some amazing people in the process...
Self-drive allows you to take things at your own pace, decide where you want to go, how long to stay, what activities to take part it, etc. While the hop-on/hop-off buses are great, they offer limited freedom, and run along set routes. If you’re driving yourself, the whole of New Zealand is yours to explore. Pretty awesome...
Air New Zealand and Qantas are the major carriers in New Zealand. Check online for routes, schedules, and pricing.