Here’s a few tips for the bush-walker friends who wish to explore New-Zealand in a unique way, or a least away from marked trails.
This is thus NOT a touristic guide and the information you will find here is very broad. This article is for smart travelers and the goal is simply to help you get ready, that’s it. Once you are in the country, you’re an adventurer: figure it out yourself!
New Zealand for adventurers in 6 key points (Plus 2 bonus points)
– Hitchhiking: (5 / 5) – Super easy
– General transportation: (4 / 5) – Almost all places get served
– Camping: (1.5 / 5) – Wild Camping is extremely regulated
– General cost: (2 / 5) – Expensive country
1. Transportation in New Zealand
No surprises here, New Zealand’s public transportation is very well developed and the roads are well maintained. You will have no issues reaching your destination wherever it might be, unless earthquakes decide otherwise (like it was in 2011 and mostly 2016 when the road between Picton and Christchurch got closed for about 1 year).
Some remote places on the South Island might only be accessible through gravel roads.
Note that the country being separated in 2 islands make the trip quite pricey. If you wish to link Wellington with Picton, there’s only 2 ferry companies for only 4 trips per day. If you have a vehicle, you should book well in advance to avoid bad surprises.
- Hitchhiking in New Zealand
This is probably one of the easiest places where you can hitchhike. Locals and working-visa-holidayers (young foreigners between 20 and 30 in the country for 1 year) will pick you up almost instantly (almost).
ARTICLE: How to succeed at Hitchhiking.
- Traveling by train in New Zealand
There are some train tracks in New-Zealand, but the day and hours of operations are limited. The recent hearthquakes have had the coastal line on the south island closed.
There is a line cutting the south island on the East-West axis, from Christchurch to Arthur’s Pass and then Greymouth that runs every day of the year.
- Traveling by bus in New Zealand
One of the best solution. There is multiple bus companies covering all or specific parts of the country. The timetables are wide and most towns are on their radar.
A useful link is shared at the end of this article to help you visualize a map and the destinations of New-Zealand’s buses
- Traveling by car in New Zealand
As said above, roads are very well maintained. Do note that distances are usually longer than anticipated on the South island, as roads are filled with curbs and hills.
- Traveling by bicycle in New Zealand
Doable, but be warned that there is a lot of wind and a lot of hills to climb. Most roads are clean and without much traffic. There’s also quite a few cycling roads all along the country.
Some part of the North island can be dangerous due to traffic and the narrow size of the roads.
- Traveling by plane in New Zealand
National flights are frequent but not necessarily less expensive than buses, unless maybe for very long distances.
2. Food in New Zealand
You’re in a modern developed country: you’ll find everything and anything. A few exceptions aside, each town as it’s own little supermarket.
Once you’re in New Zealand, make sure to try at least once the national desert: the Pavlova (leading to great passionate debates between the Kiwis and the Aussies)
3. Water in New Zealand
Tap water is drinkable in New Zealand.
There’s also water fountains in almost every town.
4. Sleeping / Camping in New Zealand
Since 2011 camping is under heavy regulation. You will keep hearing about the “Freedom Camping Act”. Please note that this law is only applicable to motorized vehicles. It forbids them to park anywhere at night.
If your car contains toilets, you’ll be able to stay in designated areas for free. Otherwise your choices are very limited. Do follow the rules unless you want to get fined $200 (they will find you, and when do, they’ll fine you).
If you’re traveling on foot or by bike, note that any tent set more than 200m from a major road and from a water flow is allowed. As a general rule, you’ll have less issues since fines are to be placed on windshield and be linked to a specific license plate.
There’s also a lot of public and private camps at very attractive prices.
Useful links will be shared at the end of the article to help you with camping in New-Zealand
Hotels and even hostels are extremely expensive. Without a tent or a vehicle, New Zealand will quickly become overpriced.
5. Locals / Communication in New Zealand
No surprises, the main language is the English. The local accent is extremely strong and make the understanding of sentences quite complicated. Be read.
Some locals also speak Maori.
Cultural clash: It’s actually quite hard to meet locals due to the heavy presence of French and German spending a year abroad.
6. Places to see in New Zealand.
Don’t forget about the Northern island, it’s full of beautiful treasures worth it as much as the Southern Island.
But if you’re after fjords and mountains, the South island is of course the place to go.
Anyhow, figure it out yourself!
7. Useful links for New Zealand
- Public Transportation in New-Zealand:
- 2 apps for to know where you can camp in New-Zealand:
8. The author’s review of New Zealand
A beautiful country that can quickly become overprice if you stay in hostels or hotels.
Unfortunately the 2011 law makes camping quite stressful to the point of getting annoying.
When you travel, you are an ambassador to your country. So for all your fellow citizens, be nice: don’t behave like an asshole.
Don’t get mad, don’t complain of cultural difference, don’t complain at all, and don’t mock locals. Are you a traveler? An adventurer? Then adapt!