How to Get Around New Zealand on a Budget

How to Get Around New Zealand on a Budget

New Zealand is a dream destination for travellers because of its awe-inspiring landscapes and endless adventures. Plus, it’s an easy country to navigate. But how does one explore the country on a budget?

How do you get around New Zealand on a budget?

The best way to get around New Zealand on a budget is to either use public transportation or rent a private car when the season is right and fees are favourable. 

You’ll likely prefer public transportation if you’re travelling solo and want to navigate around key points in the area easily. But if you can split the costs between two or more friends (plus the advantage of comfort), car rentals are the way to go.

Since there’s no shortage of transportation options in New Zealand, taking this option ensures you won’t face difficulties getting around. Below, we’ll list our favourite options and some tips for each one.

Take the national bus service

For an economical way to explore New Zealand, hop aboard the national bus service, managed by InterCity. It’s not only the cheapest option but also provides the most extensive route coverage in the country, with a whopping 600 stops! 

If you want to craft a personalised and budget-friendly itinerary, this is the way to go. Plus, there are three easy ways to pay for InterCity buses:

1: One-Way Tickets

Paying for each leg of your journey individually is a straightforward option. Here’s a quick peek at approximate route prices:

  • Auckland to Wellington: NZ$55-$70 (advanced booking) or NZ$60-$80 (last-minute)
  • Auckland to Taupo: NZ$35-$55
  • Auckland to Bay of Islands: NZ$30-$45
  • Picton to Christchurch: NZ$45-$55 (advanced) or NZ$70-$85 (last-minute)
  • Christchurch to Queenstown: NZ$50-$60 (advanced) or NZ$90-$115 (last-minute)
  • Franz Josef to Wanaka: NZ$55-$65.

2: FlexiPass

Consider the InterCity FlexiPass for prepaying your bus trips. You purchase hours and then use them on the routes you desire. Approximate prices for hours are as follows:

  • 10 hours: NZ$100
  • 40 hours: NZ$330
  • 80 hours: NZ$560

3: TravelPass

Opt for the InterCity TravelPass if you prefer structured routes with less planning involved. Some routes even include tours. Prices for TravelPass options are as follows:

  • Auckland to Bay of Islands return, including a cruise: NZ$125
  • Loop of South Island, including a cruise: NZ$550

Explore with backpacker bus tours

Backpacker bus tours present a unique and budget-friendly way to experience New Zealand. 

These tours vary in duration, from weekend getaways to 10-day odysseys. For comparison, let’s focus on the approximate prices for 10-day passes on some of New Zealand’s most popular backpacker bus tours:

It’s worth noting that these prices often include not just transportation but also accommodation, select meals, and even activities. This bundled approach can save you money compared to organising everything separately. 

Hop on a train

While taking the train may not be the absolute cheapest or quickest mode of travel around New Zealand (for instance, the Northern Explorer from Auckland to Wellington takes a leisurely 11 hours!), it’s an option that’s undeniably budget-friendly and well worth considering.

New Zealand boasts three picturesque train lines: the Northern Explorer, Coastal Pacific, and TranzAlpine. These are not your ordinary train rides; they are affordable adventures designed to showcase the natural wonders of New Zealand.

Train Rides Prices

Here are some sample prices for these scenic train rides, though it’s essential to keep in mind that prices may vary by season:

  • Northern Explorer (Auckland to Wellington):

Adult (One-Way): NZ$189

Child (One-Way): NZ$162

  • Coastal Pacific (Christchurch to Picton):

Adult (One-Way): NZ$179

Child (One-Way): NZ$124

  • TranzAlpine (Christchurch to Greymouth):

Adult (One-Way): NZ$189

Child (One-Way): NZ$142

While not the absolute cheapest, these scenic train journeys offer a fantastic way to explore New Zealand’s breathtaking landscapes while staying well within your budget.

Rent a car

While car rental prices may vary, mastering the art of budgeting for your road trip adventure is key. Here’s a breakdown of how you can navigate New Zealand affordably with a rental car:

  • Summer (December to March): During the sunny season, rental prices range from approximately NZ$50 per day (NZ$350 per week) with included insurance to NZ$70 per day (NZ$490 per week) with add-on insurance.
  • Spring/Autumn (April, May, September, and October): In the shoulder seasons, rates start at around NZ$40 per day (NZ$280 per week) with included insurance or NZ$60 per day (NZ$420 per week) with add-on insurance.
  • Winter (June to August): Enjoy the most budget-friendly rates in winter, starting at just NZ$25 per day (NZ$175 per week) with included insurance or NZ$45 per day (NZ$315 per week) with add-on insurance.

Additional Costs to Keep in Mind

While the base rental cost is a significant part of your budget, it’s crucial to factor in these additional expenses:

  • Fuel (petrol): With fuel prices at approximately NZ$2 or more per litre (equivalent to NZ$7.57 or more per gallon), your journey’s length can significantly affect fuel costs.
  • One-way fee: If you plan to drop off your rental car at a different location, keep in mind that a one-way fee of up to NZ$250 might apply.
  • Additional driver: Adding another driver to your rental agreement typically costs NZ$10 per day.
  • Young driver’s fee: For drivers under 25, there may be an additional fee of NZ$10 per day.
  • Baby/child seat: If you’re travelling with youngsters, consider the cost of baby or child seats, ranging from NZ$45 to NZ$50.

Renting a car allows you to explore New Zealand on your terms while staying within your budget. Keep these costs in mind to make the most of your affordable road trip adventure.