New Zealand is served by an extensive bus network. The InterCity Group operates the main bus line, InterCity and Newmans.
Some Newmans and InterCity bus routes overlap, but Newmans tends to have fewer stops and sticks to the key tourism routes, for example Christchurch to Queenstown and the West Coast. InterCity buses, on the other hand, cover more remote areas.
There are also many regional bus services. For instance, Bottom Bus, operated by Travel Head First, runs from Dunedin through the Catlins to Southland, Queenstown, and Fiordland; while Atomic Travel covers much of the South Island.
Take a hop-on, hop-off bus if you prefer a more flexible itinerary, typically valid for 12 months. InterCity offers this, along with "backpacker-target" companies like Kiwi Experience and Stray Bus. Some passes cover all of New Zealand, whereas others are limited to specific regions. Most of the backpacker buses have affiliations with accommodation and activities and can offer priority bookings and special deals.
Fares and Passes
Fares vary greatly. A standard full fare between Auckland and Wellington is NZ$95 but can be obtained for as low as NZ$34. A certain number of seats are sold at a discounted rate, so book your tickets as early as possible, especially during the holidays. Individual company’s websites are the best way to find out about special fares.
Look into the various flexible passes that allow coach travel over a set route in a given time frame, usually three or six months. You can travel whenever you like, without paying extra, as long as you stick to the stops covered by your pass. There is also the New Zealand Travelpass, which allows unlimited travel on buses and trains and on the Interislander ferries that link the North and South islands.
Flexipass. The Flexipass is sold in blocks of time during which you're eligible to travel on regular InterCity bus routes. This is such a good deal that locals even use this pass for their daily commute. Typically valid for a year, you can hop on and off, changing your plans without a penalty at least two hours prior to your departure. You must schedule in advance, as independent bus ticketing windows don't track your Flexipass hours. www.intercity.co.nz/bus-pass/flexipass.
Kiwi Experience and Stray Bus also visit some pretty cool destinations with special accommodations not found on the mainstream traveler networks—remote farming settlements, small town pubs, and Māori marae (villages), for example.
Credit cards and traveler's checks are accepted by the major bus companies. Nakedbus, a true budget service, offers a backpacker bus pass where you choose how many trips you'd like to take in increments of five trips, or they offer an unlimited trip pass for just under NZ$600.
Atomic Travel. 03/349–0697; www.atomictravel.co.nz.
Bottom Bus. 03/477–9083; www.travelheadfirst.co.nz.
InterCity. 09/583–5780; www.intercity.co.nz.
Kiwi Experience. 09/336–4286; www.kiwiexperience.com.
nakedbus. 0900–62533; www.nakedbus.com.
Newmans. 09/583–5780; www.intercity.co.nz.
Stray Bus. 09/526--2140; www.straytravel.com.
Stray Travel. 09/526–2140; www.straytravel.co.nz.