And backpackers learners
Travelling around New Zealand
There are many ways you can travel around New Zealand.
But before I say anything: [DOWNLOAD CAMPERMATE] . It will save your life. All you will need to find is on this app. Campings, things to see, free wifi… It is the most useful app you will have on your phone (it works offline too!). Are you convinced yet? Did you download it? All good! Let’s talk about travelling now.
I guess before coming here I would have booked some hostels for a few nights each in the major cities, and then booked some tours to see the “TO SEE or TO DO” around and then rented a car to go from one hostel to the other.
Though by doing so I would have been missing on the most amazing (and real) New Zealand experience: being a backpacker.
Backpacker? Backpacking? What is it?
[noun] [/ˈbakpakə/] : A person who travels or hikes carrying their belongings in a rucksack
There are two kind of backpackers around New Zealand.
- Those who travel by bus and only sleep in backpacker hostels*. You can also see them hitchhiking when they have to go on some tracks (hikes) or in smaller places.
*A backpacker hostel is more commonly known under youth hostel. It’s a hostel with dormitories, common rooms and they sometimes allow tents if they have a garden or people sleeping in their car on the parking.
- And those who travel by car / camper van* / van / camper. That is, I guess, the most common way of travel around New Zealand.
*A camper van is a ‘family car’ like a break or a Toyota Lucinda (the most common one here) that has been transformed so it can hold a bed inside and a few other commodities like a kitchen or places to put your belongings and your food.
Travelling by bus
When I say travelling by bus, you can think that it would be being a ticket after the other, right?
Well, you can perfectly do that, but you can also by a year round ticket that allows you to take the bus at anytime to anywhere it offers to go. Some compagnies also drop you to a hotel (backpacker or not) for the night(s). Maybe it is not the cheapest but at least you don’t have to worry about that!
The Bus List
I made a list of the buses compagnies I have heard of below. It is a non-exhaustive list.
If you have heard of any other companies, please comment this article and I will add it. Also, if you have travelled like this, I would be keen to hear some feedbacks on the companies. I can even put them in quotes here or link to your blog if you made a post and you want to share your experience!
Single tickets buses (that also do year round tickets)
InterCity — They do passes by the hours spent on the buses. For example 20 hours would be $125. Alexis’s sister used the single passes to travel with them and they are quite nice. The app to buy tickets works well.
NakedBus — They do passes that are called the “naked passport” . They make you pay per trip taken on the bus. For example for 10 trips it is $269 (at the moment) which makes one trip $26.9! They also sell smaller amounts of trips like 3, 5 etc…
ManaBus — They don’t do any passes like the two other ones (yet) but they have very competitive prices (we paid around $30 to go to Auckland) and the buses were great. They also offer overnight buses.
Regional shuttles and buses
Each region has some buses doing connections between the main cities and the interesting activities. Like from Nelson to Abel Tasman or from Queenstown to the Milford Sound…
Backpacker buses / coaches
Those buses are usually offering like a tour (with hostels chosen and an itinerary) but they also can offer to hop on and off where you want, when you want. To hop on and off means that you can get down to any city for as long as you want.
KiwiExperience — This is the one we most often saw on our journey so far. They offer all kind of trips for the amount of time you want (with a minimum of days spent on the trip). Prices goes from $300 (for three days) up to $1500 for at least a month.
HakaTours — We saw that one a looot in Wellington. Not so much around the South Island yet. They also offer different tours. There is one going all around New Zealand for 24 days (I don’t think there is hop on and off though) for $4000. They offer some activities included in the price, the accommodations, breakfast and some other things you can go check on their website.
StrayTravel — We have never seen it yet so far but they also offer trips around New Zealand with hop on and off options. One of their most popular one is the 42 days option that goes anywhere and that is next to $2000.
The Bottom Bus — We have seen it quite a lot around the South of New Zealand (only place they operate). They make you do the tour of the South for about $349 for three days. They offer a few different tours for the South so if you are interested go check out their website!
The Flying Kiwi — They offer a complete tour of New Zealand with activities included in the price (like wine tasting, accommodation, food..). It is a full package. They do it for the whole tour of New Zealand or for smaller tours if you don’t have time. The full package for the whole tour is about $4400.
Prices are accurate as of the 5th of February 2017. They will change at some point I am sure so checkout their website for the current prices!
Travelling by car, camper van, van, camper
Travelling in a camper van is an amazing experience. New Zealand is a great country to try for the first time too. It is a pretty safe country with a lot of facilities, people reaching out if they see you are in trouble…
Being in a camper van or van doesn’t mean you HAVE to sleep all the time in it. You can also take a backpacker hostel or a motel from one time to another. But it means mostly that you are free to go anywhere, whenever you want, stop wherever you like, for as long as you want. It also means that you will meet and be a part of the amazing German and French backpacking community (No I am joking… Or not!) here (because there is a loot of backpackers).
You will share the troubles with your car, the trouble you’ll have lightning up your gas cooker with the wind in Slope Point or even the hell that it is to try to make your bed with thousands of sandflies around. Such a good fun!
If you like wilderness, hikes (even if you have never done one in your life before) and adventure, this is your way to go! It would be way more difficult to do that with a bus ticket (even though they stop you at some interesting spots on the way).
Amongst the car, camper van, van and camper, you can split them in two:
- The Self-Contained
- and the non Self-Contained
Self-Contained, what does it mean?
Self-Contained is an appellation for a certificate you can get for any vehicle. It required that you can live in autonomy for at least three days in a row in the vehicle. The certificate is also taking into account the number of person that will live in the car (if you are three, you will have to pass the three person certificate).
Of course, it has a cost and it depends on the car and the number of people you are asking the certificate for. For two people, we have heard that it was around $200.
Amongst the things asked to have absolutely, there are the chemical toilets, a trash with a lid, a 12 Liter tank of drinkable water per person (4L per day) and a 12 Liter tank for used water.
What are the advantages?
Freedom camping in New Zealand is forbidden. Except in some places and only if you have a Self-Contained vehicle. Each region of New Zealand has different laws about freedom camping and some allow freedom camping for Self-Contained (in the South we have seen a lot of places that allowed it) . You should check the council’s website of the regions if you want to be sure where it is allowed.
One thing to know is that there are some free campground set up all around the country for any one to go (or almost).
Though in the north of the South Island, those free campgrounds are mostly only for Self-Contained because there are usually no toilets or drinkable water around. There are way much more free Self-Contained camps than for non Self-Contained. In the South of the South Island it gets better but still.
The Rentals list
There is another option than rental which is to buy a car for a few months and then sell it after. It is really easy to do so in New Zealand and it can save you some $ from the rental. It requires another article though.
I made a list of the rentals companies we have crossed path with in all the campgrounds we did. Same as for the buses, I would be keen to heard any feedback on your experiences if you did rent one or if I forgot one. I made a little survey here that will take a few minutes to fill (no more than five!). It would be great if you could answer it if you have rented a vehicle in New Zealand! Thanks a lot!
The only one I ever tried was Escape Campervans but it was in the US (absolutely nice van and service from the company). We are going to try the Hippie Campers but in Australia during April (2017), I might update my article then!
The list will be ranked from the most seen one to the least.
Car / Vans / Campervans
Jucy — Incontestably the most present car rental we have seen. You can rent any type of car from them. They are everywhere! They were way less present in the US though but I guess they found their crowd here! For a camper van (like a family car) for 8 days, it would be $172.8 per day (around $2100 for the trip)
Escape Campervans — The only one we tried (in the US)! Really nice designs on the vans we have seen here and very functional. For January and February, for 8 days rental for a van (bigger than the jucy’s one), it is $1,104.00. Read about our trip with them here
Travellers Autobarn — I am not sure if they are part of the Escape Campervans company or the opposite but they offer for rentals the same kind of camper vans as Escape (same design too). I haven’t resolved this mystery yet but for a 10 days trip in April (you can’t make a quote for less than 10 days) it is around $1023 for a camper van.
Spaceships rentals — (Also seen as Dream Sleepers which is a model of their camper vans) We saw plenty of them around too. For 8 days for the same kind of camper van as Jucy (family car) it is $1,112.
Wicked Campers — First thing to know is that the Wicked campers have been banned from some campgrounds because of the tags they have on them. As Escape Camper vans, they decided to put some originality on their vans. Though, most of their campers have sentences that are “offensive” (even if it is made to make you smile) and some campgrounds (you will have to check if there is a lot or not) decided to ban those vans. For the same kind of camper as Jucy and Spaceships for 8 days it would be $708.66. For the same kind as Escape, it would be $944.91.
Hippie Campers — (I wouldn’t recommend them. Check my article here). This one is owned by Apollo Campers which has other brands of campers and RV too. This is their camper van brand. For a 8 days trip it would be around $900 for an Escape / Wicked type of camper van.
Happy Campers — They are more of a camper / RV rental but they also have a smaller type of car that would be more a Wicked / Escape type of car. For a 8 days trip it would be around $640.00
Freedom Campers — They do both camper vans and campers. Their campervan can be either the size of an Escape Campervan or a Spaceships Rocket. For a 8 days trip in April, it would cost around $490 for the Spaceships Rocket type. For a month, it would be $1407
Hugo Campers – We came across a few of those during the trip but not that many. They look very nice and practical though. Apparently they also rent cars if needed. They have a detail chart of the prices on their website because it depends on the period where you want to rent it. If you want to rent it a month in the busy period of January, it will cost around $1700. So for 8 days it would be around $470.
Chili Rentals — They have quite a wide range of campervans you can rent. It goes from the Toyota Lucinda style to the Escape Campervan style. One good thing about this company is that they have a special page on their website where you can buy a camper van from them if you intend on spending more than one or two month in the country. I guess the campers will be quite expensive compared to one on Facebook but you can have reassurance maybe on the quality of the van. For an Escape Campervan style for 8 days it would cost $95 per day = $760 for the trip. For a month it would be around $3000.
Tui Campers — More known for their motor homes / RV / Campers, Tui Campers also offers one kind of camper van that looks like a Spaceships camper van type. For a 8 days rental it would be around $800.
Campers / RVs / Motor Homes
Britz — They rent different size of campers / RV. Their search is quite nice because you can have all the different brands of RV / campers in the search. Those are Britz, Mighty Campers, Maui (the most seen so far).
Ranges of prices for a 8 days trip on a camper with the bed on top it would be:
Maui — Around $3,629 (But bigger than the two others)
Mighty Campers — Around $2,240
Britz —Around $2,501
Jucy — Yes! They do that kind of rental too! For a 8 days trip and the same kind of camper as the others it would be around $1850. or for a bigger motor home / RV it would be around $3,000
KiwiCampers — We also saw tons of them! They have different size too in their campers. The cheapest one for 8 days would be around $1192.00
Apollo Campers — They also own Hippie Campers (that are more campervans than campers). For a 8 days trip in an Apollo camper with a bed on top it would be around $3,400.00. Though the prices change a lot according to the dates.
Tui Campers — We also so quite a few of them and they also do a camper van type of car. For 8 days it would be around $1300
Happy Campers — Same as the previous! We saw a lot of them. They also rent some smaller campers though that look more like a big family car. The cheapest camper (not family car type) for 8 days would be $1272.00
Travellers Autobarn — It seems that they also do the same camper vans as Escape Campervans (maybe they have some kind of partnership?) but they are mostly seen in their Campers / Motor Homes. Online you can only make a quote for a 10 days trip at least otherwise you have to send them an email. Though for a camper they indicate that the prices go from $55 per day. So for an 8 days trip it would be $440. Seems a bit cheap to me. So I did another quote sometimes in April for 10 days and it says a total of $914 for the rental.
Freedom Campers — They do both campervans and campers. They also have different size of campers. For a ‘regular’ camper rented for 8 days in April, it would cost $1072. And for a month in April, it would cost around $3215.
Road Runner Rentals — We have seen this one only a few times around the country. They have different size of campers. It seems they have kind of a campervan but it looks bigger than the other campervans. For a month rental it goes between $2000 and $5000. For 8 days rental it would be between $500 and $1700.
Spaceships rentals have made a webpage for you to search what would be the lowest rates at what time for renting a car/van. You can check it out here
Prices are accurate as of the 5th of February 2017 and were looked for the months of February to April. They will change at some point I am sure so checkout their website for the current prices! More over the prices are very different according to the dates. They are just here as an indication.
I hope I didn’t forget any important information about the Backpacking experience in New Zealand. If you feel I did, please leave it in the comments! This article is not stone and I can add anything 🙂
Anyhow, Backpacking in New Zealand is really a true life changing experience. You will never travel the same after that!
How was your experience??