What is the best way to travel around New Zealand: bus, car or campervan? You’ll find the answer here!

Ever dreamt of unraveling the wonders of New Zealand? Whether you’re cruising in a campervan, zipping around in your own car, hopping on public transport, embarking on a group adventure, or catching the next bus — we’ve dissected each option to help you discover the ultimate travel experience in New Zealand. Dive in and let your journey begin!

So, you want to travel New Zealand? Great start, you’ve made the right choice! The next step is deciding how you’re going to get around. The possibilities are endless: going for a bus pass, buying a car or hiring a campervan.

Which travel option provides the best value for money and will get you to all the amazing places New Zealand has to offer? Sneak preview: they will all get you there, it is just a different way of travelling. Check out our comparison.

Bus pass: fixed tour or hop-on/hop-off

Even if you are not a fan of travelling by bus in your home country, make sure to check out the advantages and disadvantages of travelling by bus in New Zealand that we have compiled. When we say bus, we don’t mean public transport. We mean adventure tour bus travel aka the fun & easy way to see heaps of our amazing country.

Advantages of a bus pass or bus tour

  • Hassle-free: guaranteed accommodation and activities.
  • You don’t have to worry about planning so you can go with the flow.
  • One-time purchase – you’ll know how much it costs and can then budget your trip much easier. And as a bus pass includes transportation, accommodation, some activities and various meals you can check off all these items from your travel budget list.
  • Make friends easily – you’ll meet a great bunch of people to do activities & travel with.
  • Eco-friendly: lower Co2 emissions on a bus tour.
  • Let someone else do the driving: you just have to sit back & relax. You’ll have time to daydream and get lost in thoughts and admire New Zealand.
  • Commentary and tips along the way from our amazing drivers – you’ll get top tips and insider info from the driver/guide, stuff you can’t find in any search engine.
  • Stop at points of interest along the way.

Disadvantages of a bus pass

  • You can’t go wherever you want to have to stick to a route BUT all stops and destinations are definitely off the beaten track.
  • More expensive than taking public transport but these bus pass tours do include more than just transport from A to B.

Renting a campervan in New Zealand

If you don’t like to travel according to a fixed plan or route, hiring a campervan is a great travel option to consider. There are, of course, advantages but also disadvantages to renting a campervan in New Zealand.

Advantages of renting a campervan

  • Freedom: go wherever you want whenever you want.
  • No need to unpack/repack luggage as your camper is not only your transport but also your accommodation (everything you need in one space).
  • Less money spent on accommodation: freedom camping (self-contained) or cheap campsites.
  • Our mates at Spaceships have amazing deals on campervan hire.
Freedom to explore: travel by campervan
Campervans are great to explore New Zealand but you won’t have the social aspect of travelling with a group

Disadvantages of hiring a campervan

  • Do the savings in accommodation make up for how much you spent on renting the campervan? Campervan & car rental prices in New Zealand have increased a lot in the last few years.
  • Holiday parks – commercial full-service campsites – can be really expensive.
  • Freedom camping can be a logistical nightmare: where can you camp for free? Fines for breaking the freedom camping rules have increased. And to be honest, most freedom camping sites are boring parking spaces next to the road or a small muddy field in an area that isn’t even scenic.
  • Big campervans and motorhomes are harder to drive than cars or compact campervans.
  • It can be tiring to drive long trips, especially if you aren’t used to it.
  • Driving on the left-hand side of the road can be hard for some to get used to.
  • It can be hard to live in such a confined space with the same person. Camping is always an interesting test for a relationship or friendship.

Buying a car in New Zealand

Lots of backpackers that plan a trip to New Zealand, immediately want to go for buying their own set of wheels to explore New Zealand. But before you start browsing sites for used cars, check out the advantages and disadvantages below as buying a car in New Zealand can be different than buying a car in your home country.

Advantages of buying a car

  • It’s a one-time purchase so there are no daily fees, except for petrol.
  • Freedom: go wherever you want to go, whenever you want to go.

Disadvantages of buying a car

  • You need to have some mechanical knowledge to make sure you buy a good second-hand car. There are plenty of horror stories of travellers that bought a terrible car or DIY sleeper van: DIY campervan explodes at campsite – And can you trust the backpacker that is trying to sell you his/her car while they are about to leave the country?
  • Driving in New Zealand is different: roads are winding, narrow, and there are lots of gravel or chipsealed roads. Winter conditions can be harsh and throughout the year you can expect to see animals like cows and sheeps on the roads (the less travelled, scenic ones, not the motorway).
  • Break downs: something you will have to take care of. Keep in mind that there are places in New Zealand without any cell phone reception or where the nearest workshop can be 100s of kilometres away.
  • High prices for petrol or diesel in New Zealand. Plus road user charges for diesel vehicles and fees for toll roads for all vehicles.
  • Selling a car at the end can be tough, especially if you are leaving New Zealand in a month with a low number of incoming international travellers aka low demand for used cars or second-hand campervans.
  • Expensive ferry crossing and limited availability. The Cook Strait ferry is cheaper on foot than by car.
  • Car insurance isn’t compulsory in New Zealand, so you better make sure to get it! This means that there are lots of cars & drivers on the road without proper insurance. Even if an accident isn’t your fault you can still be liable for the damage if the costs cannot be recovered from the other party involved. This adds an extra cost to your travel budget.
  • Paid parking in cities or towns around the country can take a bite out of your travel budget.

Catching public transport in New Zealand

Public transport might not be the same as you are used to in your country. Yes, in big cities like Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch there is a dense public transport network, mainly consisting of busses. However, as soon as you leave the city things are quite different. We’ll explain it further in the comparison below.

Advantages of public transport

  • It sure is the cheapest way to travel as it is just transportation from A to B (it’s point to point).
  • You can sit back and let someone else do the driving.
  • You can create your own itinerary. Well, you have to create your own itinerary as these buses just take you from A to B, you’ll have to do the rest.
  • Frequent schedules on popular routes, usually there is at least one bus per day.

Disadvantages of using public transport

  • No commentary so you’ll have no idea where you are and what you’re seeing along the way.
  • Harder to meet people as there isn’t much mingling or social contact on public transport.
  • It takes a long time with several stops – you can’t stop where you want to at points of interest
  • You have to carry your luggage to the bus stop or train station and get your stuff to your next accommodation when the bus arrives, it isn’t door-to-door transport.
  • You have to find accommodation yourself when you arrive in a town.

Now you know the best way to travel around New Zealand

As you can see, each travel option has advantages and disadvantages. Nothing is 100% perfect, but if you select the transport option that fits your travel style and wishlist you can get pretty close to perfection. The team at Stray will make sure that when you travel on one of our bus passes that you will have a great time. It sure is the most relaxed way to see and do more in New Zealand.

And with the recent new tours that have been added, there are now more amazing bus tours to choose from:

  • SELECT TOURS – The perfect tour for travellers that still want to explore New Zealand, but in a more comfortable and relaxed way. This is where comfort meets thrill as amazing activities are included as well.These tours feature 3-4 star twin/double accommodation and a host of must-do activities.
  • ADVENTURE TOURS – These are the famous backpacker tours taken to the next level. We have dialed adrenaline and fun to the max. These tours feature shared dorm-style accommodation and bucket loads of adventure.

Want to know more or have a question? Feel free to post your feedback in the comment section below.

Marty

Marty was Stray's residential digital geek. His favourite areas in New Zealand are the Catlins, Taranaki, East Cape and any place where a craft beer brewery or record store can be found. In Australia, he loves to explore Western Australia or go for a trip in the Cairns or Brisbane area. He will never stop exploring.

Recently we launched heaps new Stray New Zealand Tours. Our new Adventure Tours are the best thing since Hop-On/Hop-Off, we've cranked up the excitement dial to max. And our new Select Tours are perfect for travellers that want to explore without compromising on comfort.

Experience New Zealand's stunning diversity, from white beaches to snowy mountains and lush rainforests, with Stray.

Adventure Tours in New Zealand

Attention, adrenaline junkies and fun-chasers!

Our Adventure Tours are here to supercharge your wanderlust and quench your thirst for the extraordinary. It'll be a journey that's cranked up to eleven - the launchpad for your epic adventure and lifelong friendships.

Select Tours in New Zealand

The road less travelled - without compromising on comfort

Buckle up for our Select Tours, the trip of a lifetime. Picture this: kicking back in 3-4 star twin/double accommodation after a day of unique, must-do activities. This isn't your average tourist experience; it's an amazing experience to the heart and soul of New Zealand.

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