Getting Around New Zealand
Those with limited time to explore New Zealand can take advantage of the widespread network of internal flights to travel around more quickly. Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.co.nz) and Jetstar (www.jetstar.com) operate domestic flights between the major airports.
Several smaller airlines, including Air Nelson and Mount Cook Airline, are wholly owned by Air New Zealand and are grouped together as Air New Zealand Link. They serve many of the smaller airports throughout the two islands.
Soundsair (www.soundsair.com) flies between Wellington and Picton daily (journey time - 25 minutes), allowing passengers to hop between the North and South Islands. Stewart Island Flights (www.stewartislandflights.com) operate services between Invercargill and Stewart Island.
Visit Australia and New Zealand Pass (www.oneworld.com)
Air New Zealand Explorer Pass (www.airnewzealand.com)
The best way to explore New Zealand is by road, allowing you flexibility and the ability to travel at your own pace. There are a number of good value car and campervan hire options. Alternatively, for longer stays, consider buying your own vehicle for the duration of your trip.
Side of the roadLeft
Main roads are paved, but some quieter roads are not.
New Zealand has a good, well-signposted road network; there are a number of motorways and main roads connecting major centres, but also a large number of smaller roads and tracks (many unpaved) that provide access to less-visited areas.
Major international and local car hire firms have offices at airports and most major cities and towns. It’s recommended to hire vehicles from members of Rental Vehicle Association New Zealand (www.rentalvehicle.co.nz).
There are metered taxis in urban areas throughout the country.
Plenty of people set out to explore New Zealand by bicycle. The roads are generally good and the weather is pleasant for cycling. Although there are plenty of hills and some strenuous terrain to cross, there are also wide-open plains and easier sections through which to cruise. Popular scenic trails include the Hauraki Rail Trail, Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest and Huka Falls Trails.
Bicycle hire in New Zealand is widely available if you're not bringing your own bike. By law, all cyclists must wear an approved safety helmet.
Bus and coach travel in New Zealand is straightforward and affordable, with services operating throughout the North and South Islands, connecting the main urban centres and popular rural areas. The largest national operator is Intercity (www.intercity.co.nz), which has main offices in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, and can take you just about everywhere. The company also runs a sightseeing arm, Newmans Coach Lines. There are also a number of smaller operators providing services linking destinations around the country.
There are no seat classes to choose from on coaches. Smoking is strictly prohibited on board.
Drive on the left and give way to traffic crossing or appearing from the right. The speed limit is 100kph (62 mph) on the open road and 50kph (31mph) in built-up or urban areas. Signposting follows the standard international symbols and all distances are displayed in kilometres. Drivers and passengers are obliged to wear seatbelts in both the front and back of a car, while children under the age of five must be properly strapped into an approved child seat. Cyclists and motorbike riders must wear helmets when on the road.
AA (tel: 0800 500 222, in New Zealand; www.aa.co.nz) operates emergency breakdown services.
All international driving licences are recognised by New Zealand. If your licence isn't in English, you must bring an accurate translation. Motor insurance is not a legal requirement in New Zealand because New Zealand law has removed the right of accident victims to sue a third party in the event of an accident.
Although hitchhiking isn’t as common as it once was, there are still plenty of people thumbing a lift on the roadside. There are obvious risks involved in travelling this way, but it can be a cheap and effective way of getting around.
There are good local bus services in the main towns and cities, as well as trolleybuses in Wellington and historic trams in Christchurch. Both Auckland and Wellington have zonal fares with pre-purchase tickets and day passes.
For public transport information and advice on journey planning in and around Auckland, contact Auckland Transport (AT) (tel: +64 9 366 6400; at.govt.nz) . Metlink (tel: 0800 801 700, in New Zealand; www.metlink.org.nz) runs buses, trains and ferries in and around Wellington.
New Zealand's passenger train service is limited to commuter trains in Auckland and Wellington and a handful of scenic routes aimed at tourists.
KiwiRail Scenic Journeys (tel: +64 4 495 0775 or 0800 872 467, in New Zealand only; www.kiwirailscenic.co.nz) operates three scenic long-distance routes. The Northern Explorer runs between Auckland and Wellington with good views of forests, gorges and volcanic peaks. The Coastal Pacific runs between Christchurch and Picton (September to May only) along the east coast between the snow-capped Kaikoura Mountains and past the Kaikoura coast, which is famous for whale watching. Due to extensive damage to the track, the Coastal Pacific train has been suspended for the remainder of the 2017 season. The TranzAlpine runs between Christchurch and Greymouth through spectacular landscapes of gorges and river valleys and across the snow-capped Southern Alps. All services are one-class travel only.
The Scenic Rail Pass offers unlimited travel on KiwiRail trains available for seven, 14 or 21 days, and includes a journey on the Interislander ferry. Sale of all rail passes has been temporarily suspended due to recent earthquake damage to the Coastal Pacific network. For more information visit KiWiRail Scenic Journeys (http://www.kiwirailscenic.co.nz).
The North and South Islands are linked by modern ferries operating between Wellington and Picton, carrying passengers and vehicles across the Cook Strait. Interislander (tel: 0800 802 802, in New Zealand; www.interislander.co.nz) (journey time - 3 hours 30 minutes) and Bluebridge (tel: +64 4 471 6188 ; www.bluebridge.co.nz) (journey time - 3 hours 30 minutes) ferries run all year.
Boat services operate between Auckland and the various islands in the Hauraki Gulf. A passenger ferry also sails between Bluff on the South Island and Oban on Stewart Island. Reservations on all ferry services are highly recommended, particularly if you're taking a vehicle.