Domestic flights in New Zealand are often cheaper than driving or taking the train, especially if crossing between the North and South Islands is required.
Airlines operate an electronic ticket system. You can book on-line, by telephone, or through a travel agent. Photo ID will be needed for travel.
Check-in times are usually at least 30 minutes prior to flight departure. Cabin baggage and personal scanning are routinely conducted for services from the major airports that have jet landings.
Auckland, Christchurch, Queenstown (New Zealand) and Wellington airports have timetabled buses to the airport. Regional airports generally have only on-demand shuttle services and taxis.
You can bring your own bike, as well as hire a bike in some of the larger cities. You must wear a helmet while riding, otherwise you may be fined. When hiring a bike you should be supplied with a helmet. Also remember to ride on the left.
Riding bikes in New Zealand can be fun, but be aware that because of the geography and small number of people cycling between towns there are very few cycle lanes and limited shoulder space on roads. Beware of buses and trucks on main highways as overtaking distances can be slim. You should also be prepared for the large distances between towns and cities and the generally windy weather.
While some areas of New Zealand are flat, most tourists cycling in New Zealand will find that they need to be able to cope with long periods of cycling up hills, especially in the Coromandel. Be prepared for any weather, and for the weather to change within a day.
You can choose to get a bike on arrival in New Zealand, or to use a self guided or guided cycle tour operator. Christchurch has the largest number of guided and self-guided tour operators and there are a number of bike rental companies based there also. There are also several tour operators who incorporate cycling with tours such as Active New Zealand and Pedal Tours as well as specialist cycle tour companies like Adventure South
Buses are a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly way to get around New Zealand. Most roads in New Zealand are quite narrow and winding, and travelling a long distance in a bus can be a safe and relaxing way to travel. Booking in advance on some lines can get you great bargains.
Driving around both the main islands by car is generally not a problem. You can reach almost anywhere you might need to in a two-wheel-drive car or even a small camper van. The volume of traffic is normally low and drivers are usually courteous. Within cities, traffic density is higher and some confusion may set in, given that many drivers are used to the open roads. Traffic drives on the left in New Zealand. Outside of cities roads are usually only one lane in each direction. Allow time, if caught behind slower moving traffic, until it is safe to overtake.
To legally drive in New Zealand then you need to be at least 15 years of age and hold a valid drivers licence from your home country. If you plan on staying and driving in country for over a year then you need to get a New Zealand driver's licence.
Rideshare and carpooling is increasing in New Zealand as petrol prices rise and people recognise the social and environmental benefit of sharing vehicles and travelling with others. While some systems are quite informal, others have trust systems which give greater security when choosing a ride.
Car rental firms range from the familiar multi-national big brands through to small local car rental firms. The advantage of the big name rental firms is they can be found throughout New Zealand and offer the biggest and newest range of rental vehicles. The disadvantage is that generally they are the most expensive. Occasionally rental firms offer free rental in the direction from south to north due to the majority of tourists travelling in the opposite direction, creating a deficit of cars in the north.
At the other end of the scale are the small local operators who typically have older rental cars. Whilst you may not end up driving this year's latest model the advantage is that the smaller car rental firms can be substantially cheaper, so leaving you more money to spend on the many exciting attractions New Zealand offers. Between these extremes you will find a wide range of NZ car rental firms catering to different needs and budgets.
Self drive holidays are a great way to travel around New Zealand as they offer independence, flexibility and opportunities to interact with the locals. A number of companies offer inclusive self drive holidays with rental car & accommodation, pre-set itineraries or customised to suit your interests.
Purchase and sale
If you want to have a extended holiday in New Zealand, and you would prefer to have your own transport it may be cheaper to buy a car or van and resell it just before leaving. If you use this method travel across Cook Strait can be expensive. If purchasing a car for NZ$500 or less it may be cheaper to buy and sell a car in each island separately. In addition to the usual ways to look for a car (newspapers, accommodation noticeboards, car markets etc) New Zealand's biggest online auction website Trademe and biggest free classifieds Trade and Exchange have many listings.
You can also try the backpackers car market where there are usually people selling their cars off cheaply. Car auctions can also be a suitable option if you are looking to buy a car. Turner's Auctions have regular auctions and are based in many cities. Look out for "Repo" auctions, where the cars being sold are as a result of reposession. Should any previous ownership problems have existed, these will have been resolved before auction commences.
The following things need to be checked in order to safely purchase a vehicle in New Zealand:
- There is no debt on the vehicle. In NZ, if a loan of money is used to purchase a vehicle, then the debt is associated with that vehicle even if it is sold, in which case the new owner then has the problem of the debt. Selling a vehicle with debt associated with it in NZ is illegal. Checking for debt is an easy process as a central register is kept.
- The vehicle has not been stolen. Contact the police with the registration plate and VIN (vehicle identification number).
- Legally, the vehicle must have a Warrant of Fitness valid for at least 30 days (unless advertised "as is, where is"). The expiry date will be written on the inside of the car window sticker.
- The Registration expiration date is not in the past. This label is usually on the left side of the car window.
- The vehicle needs a physical check for faults, there are companies in main centres that provide this service.
When you sell a vehicle it is very important to go to a Postshop outlet to record the transfer otherwise any subsequent speeding fines, parking tickets etc will be recorded in your name.
Car insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand but at least third party insurance is recommended. Diesel vehicles have additional requirements, as diesel is significantly cheaper than petrol but there are additional charges based on distance traveled.
New Zealand is a motorbike rider's dream country! New Zealand Motorcycle rentals of many makes are available throughout New Zealand. The South Island is the main attraction for an motorcyclist and New Zealand motorcycle tours base most of their time here.
South Pacific Motorcycles offer both New Zealand motorbike rental and New Zealand motorbike tours (Harley-Davidson, BMW, Honda, Triumph & other late-model motorcycles)as well as self-guided New Zealand motorcycle tours and based in Christchurch "The Garden City" in the South Island of New Zealand, motorcyclists have easy access to some of the best motorcycling in the world.
Hitchhiking around New Zealand is generally possible on most inter-city and major rural roads. However, it is illegal to hitchhike on motorways and illegal for motorists to stop there to pick you up. Try to get out of the middle of town, especially where public transport operates. Wear your pack and look like you're touring the country rather than just being a local looking for a lift. You have as much chance of being picked up by another tourist as a local, particularly in tourist areas. Alternatives for travellers include organizing shared rides through hostels, or using an online ridesharing resource like Jayride or Cooreea which aims to make the process safer.
Both Auckland and Wellington have commuter rail services. These services are operated by Veolia in Auckland and Tranz Metro in Greater Wellington.
Inter-city rail passenger services are operated by Tranz Scenic but have become increasingly limited due to the dysfunctional services, and the focus is now on popular tourist trains. However the remaining train services pass through spectacular scenery and have a running commentary, panoramic windows and an open-air viewing carrige.
Trains run at low speed, sometimes dropping to 50 km/h in the summer due to the lack of track maintenance following privatisation in the 1990s. Most New Zealanders prefer to drive or fly, as train fares are comparatively expensive. Trains are more suited to tourists as they are more scenic and more comfortable than other forms of travel.
To get your car between the North and South Islands you will need to take a ferry across Cook Strait. There are several sailings daily between Wellington and Picton. But be prepared for a delay or a change in sailings if the weather is stormy.
Harbour ferries, for commuters, operate in Auckland and Wellington. A number of communities are served by boat, rather than road, while charter boats are available for expeditions in several places. There are regular sightseeing cruises in several tourist destinations, particularly in the Southern Lakes and Fiordland area.