New Zealand car hire, accommodation, tours and more


Domestic flights, trains, buses, ferries, road rules.


Domestic flights

If you have to get from A to B quickly, flying might be your best option. The main domestic airlines flying between cities are Air New Zealand and Jetstar New Zealand, with some smaller operators servicing more remote locations. Read more on the key destinations and their airports in New Zealand airports, South and North islands.

Trains

New Zealand's long-distance train network is somewhat limited, but it offers a scenic and relaxing way to get around parts of the North or South islands if you don't want to drive. For more information about the Northern Explorer service on the North Island, the Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine services on the South Island, along with other train journeys and ferry connections between the two islands, see our page on New Zealand train travel.

Buses

Buses and coaches go where New Zealand's limited train network can't, travelling the country's highways, backroads and winding mountain passes to connect most towns, cities and national parks.

The main bus operator in New Zealand is the country-wide service InterCity. It offers standard fares as well as extra services on certain routes such as ‘Gold’ class seating, sleeper bunks for overnight journeys and sightseeing tours with scheduled stops and extra comforts.

Tip: If you're planning on doing a lot of bus travel, consider a TravelPass from InterCity.

Ferries

Other than flying, the only way to travel between the north and south islands is by ferry. Multiple services a day carry passengers and vehicles across the picturesque Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton, with a journey time of about three hours. Interislander and Bluebridge are the two main operators. There's more information about these ferries on our page about train travel.

Getting to Stewart Island

A passenger ferry runs several times a day between Bluff (near Invercargill on the southern tip of the South Island) and Stewart Island, with a journey time of one hour. Car, scooter or bicycle hire is available on the island.

Transport tip: rome2rio.com is a great resource for working out how to get from A to B by any means of transport, anywhere in the world.

Taxis and rideshare

Uber is now widespread in New Zealand, while the local version Zoomy is available in Auckland and Wellington.

If you prefer to travel in taxis, look up the numbers or websites of local services or try the Green Cabs app (an environmentally friendly taxi service in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington and Queenstown) or ihail (a taxi ordering app that’s unfortunately not getting the best reviews).

Public transport

Public transport systems vary from town to town. Auckland and Wellington have suburban train lines, while most other cities rely more on buses.

The Moovit app can be an effective trip planner in most cities worldwide.

Public transport trip-planners by city

Car hire

Hiring your own set of wheels is a great way to see New Zealand on your own schedule, particularly since many of the country's best parts are well off the beaten track and may not be accessible by public transport.

You'll find the usual international car hire companies in New Zealand, including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty, as well as NZ companies such as Jucy, Ezi and GO Rentals.

On Stewart Island and Waiheke Island, local companies are the only option.

Can I take my hire car between the North and South Islands?

If you're planning to travel between the north and south islands, check first with the car hire company. Many don't allow their vehicles to be taken on the inter-island ferry, so you'll need to drop off your car at one port and pick up another car once you've made the crossing.

Most of the major hire companies offer inter-island deals, making the drop-off of one car and the pick-up of another a relatively smooth process.

Going off-road?

Most car hire companies don't allow their vehicles to be taken on unsealed roads, so consider a 4WD rental if you're planning on going off-road.

Under 21?

Most car hire companies won't lease vehicles to drivers aged under 21.

Tip: Most car hire companies don't allow their vehicles to be taken on unsealed roads, so consider a 4WD rental if you're planning on going off-road.

Driving in New Zealand

  • Vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road.
  • There's no need to get an international driving permit, you can drive on your Australian licence or any other licence printed in English.
  • Mobile phones can only be used hands-free.
  • Seat belts must be worn at all times in the front and back seats.
  • Children under seven must be properly restrained in an approved car seat or booster seat suitable for their height and weight.
  • The blood alcohol limit for drivers aged over 20 is .05%. For drivers aged under 20 the limit is zero.
  • The speed limit is 100 km/h on the open road, and 50 km/h in urban areas.
  • It's illegal to overtake if there's a yellow line (rather than white) down the middle of the road.
  • Many roads are narrow, winding or unsealed and can be particularly treacherous in wet or icy weather. Drive carefully, and do your research first on the roads you'll be using. Some (such as the road to Milford Sound) are notoriously hair-raising, so if you aren't a confident driver, consider alternative transport.
  • Driving times may be longer than you expect due to road conditions.

Accommodation

Options in New Zealand vary from five star wilderness lodges to cheap and crowded backpacker hostels. The rates are similar to here in Australia, if not a little cheaper, depending on the location and the exchange rate.

Camping and caravaning

Campers and caravaners can stay at holiday parks with power, water and other facilities, or at the basic Department of Conservation campsites in more than 200 locations around the country. New Zealand is also known for its 'free camping', but it's a misconception that you can legally camp anywhere you like. There are designated free camping spots around the country - check rankers.co.nz for a map, or find out more at camping.org.nz.

Hotels and homestays

Accommodation bookings can be made through the usual third-party sites or through the hotel's own website where you may find a cheaper deal (see our tips on booking accommodation). Check online for customer reviews before you book. If you're looking for a homestay or holiday house rental, airbnb is widely used in New Zealand.

Tours

Tours and self-drive holidays

These can be booked through a travel agent or online. Search for recommended tours on travel sites, and check reviews from other travellers.

For the easiest option of all, particularly for skiing holidays, consider a package deal from a travel agent which includes flights, transport, accommodation and sometimes even meals.

Day trips

Consider waiting until you're in New Zealand to book day trips. If your schedule is flexible, you may want to check the weather forecast a few days in advance before booking outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking or sightseeing flights.

Bus tours can be booked through New Zealand's largest bus company InterCity.

Look for the Qualmark symbol

Look for the Qualmark symbol when booking accommodation or tours. Qualmark is New Zealand tourism's quality assurance organisation. Businesses must meet stringent quality standards and environmental criteria to earn Qualmark certification.


Leave a comment

Display comments