It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Travelling around New Zealand without a car was one of my worries when I was preparing for my travel to New Zealand. For someone who was used to a small country, getting used to New Zealand’s vast landscape took some time.
Travel between cities could take a few hours by bus and some places could even take the whole day to travel across. Having no car to get around then was sometimes disadvantageous while travelling. Nevertheless, that did not mean it was impossible as long as you are open and willing to be creative. 🙂
Here are some of the ways that I managed to get around without a car.
1. Intercity Buses
I travelled between cities mostly by buses. Intercity and Nakedbus were the 2 companies that I usually looked out for. Prices tend to be more affordable and I have seen some really cheap bus tickets going for less than $10 if you book it ahead of time. I would usually go for the cheaper tickets between either one of them.
If their prices are similar, I prefer Nakedbus as the online booking fee is cheaper and they provide charging points on their buses, definitely something appreciated on long bus rides. I would also look out for the drop-off points as I preferred to have one closest to my hostel so that I’m not walking for too long with my heavy bags on me. Tickets tend to be more expensive during holiday periods but there will still be cheap ones if booked early enough.
2. Public Buses
There are usually public buses with the city itself. The bus services and frequency depends on the size of the city though. It’s not unheard of to have buses which comes by every 30mins or every hour. I tend to get impatient with buses like these but there are times when I didn’t want to rent a car just to get around the city so I will still end up waiting for the buses still. Just make sure you have time to wait around for them. 🙂
3. Tour buses
It may cost more than a public buses but there are times when it’s more convenient to book a place on a tour bus to get to a place of attraction. You can either join a tour or book a place on a tour bus to get somewhere to explore. Unfortunately, being on a tour do limit your freedom in exploring the area sometimes or you might end up seeing spending more time on places you are not interested in.
On one of tours I had booked, for example, I was brought to a museum which I was not that interested in but had no choice either as it was part of the tour. Alternatively, I’ve also booked just a place on a tour bus to another town to explore since I had no car to drive there myself. So not only did I spend much more money just for a place in the bus, the downside was that the driver had to wait for me and my friend so we didn’t end up spending as much time as we could have since we didn’t want to make him wait too long. These kind of buses could still be just as costly as renting a car eventually.
I would say that I ended up walking a lot when I was there. Walking 6km or 8km became a norm for me that I would walk everywhere even if it was far as the supermarkets may not always be conveniently located within the city area. They are most of the time but the chain supermarkets can occasionally be a little outside the main city square so walking was something I did all the time anyway. It saved me a lot of money and trouble of figuring out the public transport in each city. Waiting for a bus took so long once that I just walked all the way back to my hostel instead.
5. Friendly people
Some of the ways that I managed was through the friendly people that I met. People that I met at hostels that was travelling alone sometimes offered me a place in their car to share the cost, some of them also brought me to places that they were going to visit anyway so I just had to kept them company as payment. I’ve also sat in cars where friends chose to stop for hitchhikers along the way and one dorm mate even told me that someone saw her walking along the road to a nearby waterfall and stopped to give her a ride even though she wasn’t trying to hitchhike her way there. The people in New Zealand are really friendly people. 🙂
Is having a car necessary then?
If you are on a holiday with a time limit, I would say that driving is still the best option to explore all the places you want. There have been times when I did rent a car for a day and tried to fully maximised it by travelling as far as I could while I still had the car. I didn’t rent one for long periods due to the high cost so just being able to rent it for a day or two was sufficient for me since I was not in any particular rush. It was still useful since I was able to visit a lot more secluded or local places that I would find hard to reach by public transport.
Alternatively, I’ve met travellers who opted for passes to hop-on-hop-off buses. It does tend to be geared a little towards backpackers but I have also met travellers who are just on holiday and travelling around the island with their friends. It was an easier option for them to get around the islands within the limited time frame that they have.
Hope this has reassured you about travelling New Zealand without a car. It may sound hard but not impossible as long as you are open to experiences or willing to compromise on the activities or places you visit.
How about you? Do you think a car is necessary when travelling as well? Do you think one is necessary to explore your country? Please do share! 🙂
6 thoughts on “How I Travelled around New Zealand with No Car”
Just finishing of my tour of New Zealand, spent about three weeks here in total and went over the two main islands.
I can’t drive so did all of my intercity transport by bus (Mostly intercity) and tge occasional ferry. Intra city I mostly walked as busses aren’t that great, if it’s a 30min wait for a 15min bus ride or an hour walk more often than not I’ll do the walk.
It was fun though although at times I left it a bit last minute like when I was stranded in Milfird sound with no Internet or phone signal and no pressure booked bus out.
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Yeah, I totally agree with you about the city buses. I also ended up walking most of the time as it was the most convenient even if it ended up as a really long walk.
Sounds like you’ve had an exciting time in NZ then. Milford Sound isn’t exactly the best place to be stranded in since it’s so isolated. Were you visiting in winter? That would have been quite a stay there then if it was, I would think.
Yeah spent most of August there, literally just flew to Australia yesterday. If your interested it’s all documentated on my blog.
Great tips and alternatives for someone traveling to New Zealand. I think a lot depends on transportation options and in some cases safety. We do a variety and sometimes are on bikes.
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Biking sounds like a great alternative too…I met plenty of travellers who were biking their way across too. I must find some way to really conquer this tragic story of bicycles and me. We are like rivals who never could see eye to eye whenever I give cycling a try. Would you like to be my teacher Sue? 😉
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I’d be happy to give it a try. Xo
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