Getting Around New Zealand
While New Zealand my look like two tiny islands on a world map, it’s a relatively large country with tons of ground to cover. In order to hit all the hot spots in a limited time its important to figure out your transportation options. There are so many ways to traverse the North and South islands, its really up to personality taste and budget; would you prefer to experience the island as a biker, as a passenger on a coach bus or as the driver in your own rental car – there are endless transportation options for getting around New Zealand. To make it even easier, the roads are well marked, Kiwis are super friendly and if you get lost there are tons of other travellers who can help you find your way.
Getting Around New Zealand:
Renting a car is a fantastic idea for those looking for a bit of adventure and don’t want to be hindered by group travel. Generally speaking, most reputable rental companies require the driver to be over the age of 21 with a valid international license. Others companies may only request your home license and there are even some countries that let those 18 and over rent. It is especially easy for those from England and South Africa to drive in New Zealand as all cars drive on the left. However, its pretty easy for those right-handed sided drivers to pick up the lefty expertise as long as they follow the flow of traffic. Car rental costs are relatively inexpensive (I think 5 years ago we paid $40 a day including insurance) however, rates tend to fluctuate with the season. Its always a good idea to top up your car rental with insurance, as accidents can always happen. Cars can easily be obtained in either the Christchurch or Auckland airport as well as in all major cities.
Renting a Camper Van
Campervans come in all shapes and sizes: some are as small as a car while others are fully equipped with a mini kitchen, sleeping area and toilet. Campervans are a great way to self-cater and save on hostel charges; however, keep in mind you will still have to pay for motor ground sites (between $10-18 p/p) to charge up your car and empty your waste. Camper vans can be picked up at either the Christchurch or Auckland airport and one way trips can be organized for an additional fee. Some suppliers are: Apollo Motorhomes (Auckland and Christchurch), Britz (Christchurch airport, Auckland airport, Wellington and Christchurch) Find a Camper and Lucky Rentals.
Buying or Renting a Camper Van
The rule of thumb is, if you plan to be in New Zealand for 8 weeks or more, buy a car. However, keep in mind you will likely need a week on either end for buying, selling and logistics. Car prices tend to drop during the low season (March and April) and go up and become scarcer from October to November. As a buyer, you should always check the legality of the car (or VIR check) and whether it is mechanically in check (pre purchase inspection by a mechanical company). Keep in mind there are some extra expenses associated with the purchase of a vehicle in New Zealand (car transfer [apprx. $10], insurance and registration). To purchase a car in New Zealand, check out hostel boards for listings, visit car markets such as the Backpacker Car Market in Auckland or the Christchurch Car Market and/or utilize online resources such as Buy-Sell-Exchange an online classified paper.
Ride Sharing is the traveler’s version of your everyday carpooling. With the rising price of petrol, travellers are recognizing the environmental and social benefits of sharing vehicles with others. As a result, numerous companies are popping up offering reliable ride share programs. While some are relatively informal other companies offer greater assurances. For instance, Cooreea provides a secured system whereby users must make pre-arranged payments. Payments are then held in escrow until the successful completion of the ride. In addition, travellers can send big ticket items, such as bicycles, when riders have extra space. Other reliable companies are: Jayride (ride sharing and hitch hiking website) and Life Surfer (a free ride sharing program).
If you are are looking for a cost effective alternative to flying and a mindless mode of transport, catch a ride on a luxury coach bus. There are a multitude of coach options; such as a hop-on-hop-off bus which allows travellers unlimited travel within a certain circuit for a specified period of time . The Kiwi Experience or the Magic Bus is fantastic option for young, like-minded backpackers wishing to craft their own itinerary with all with the comforts of a luxury bus. For those looking for the simplicity of a packaged tour there are several companies running scheduled trips around the main tourist attractions; such as Experience New Zealand or Flying Kiwi.
While you need to have a penchant for adventure, due to New Zealand’s windy roads, bike riding through New Zealand’s jaw dropping vistas is a cyclists’ dream. While I chose to rent a car instead of bike, I was amazed at the courageousness of the bikers passing by as there were no bike lanes and Kiwis can be pretty crazy drivers. However, it is the off road adventures that appeal to most biking enthusiasts. If this interests you, keep in mind that practically every little town and city has bike rental options, so don’t feel compelled to bike from city to city. The best time to go biking is from January to March when the weather is warm and rain is minimal.
Hitchhiking around New Zealand is relatively easy; Kiwis are pretty friendly and willing to help out a tourist, but like everywhere else in this world New Zealand is not without crime and you are always putting yourself at risk when you jump into a stranger’s car. Some places in New Zealand are more difficult to hitch in than others; for instance, in Auckland, the main route out of the city is a motorway and it is illegal to walk or stop on the highway. If you decide to hitchhike, keep in mind these helpful tips: wear your backpack to make it look like you are a tourist, look put together so drivers won’t be scared to pick up a mountain boy, check hostel boards for carpool lists and don’t ever get into a car you don’t feel comfortable with.
Getting around New Zealand is astonishingly easy just make sure to plan ahead and have fun!