When I first arrived in New Zealand, I had no real plans as far as transportation goes. I kind of figured it would work its way out and I would discover what I liked and what I didn’t. My plan was to travel by one of the many bus companies (mainly NakedBus and InterCity) and see how it went from there. Turns out, it really wasn’t all that bad! It was nice to store my pack underneath the bus and enjoy the ride to whatever town I was headed to, without worrying about the different driving rules and getting lost on the windy roads. The price of the tickets can add up, though, so just be aware of that.
I also had my hand in hitch hiking a few times, which isn’t my preferred way of getting around, but it definitely works in a country like New Zealand as long as you’re a bit cautious and use your common sense. Another awesome way to travel is to simply meet people! In hostels, at a cafe, online (through backpacker sites or surprisingly enough, Tinder has proven a great way to make friends because so many travelers are on it just trying meet other travelers). I had multiple rides with friends that I’d met that had cars, and we all just split the petrol costs and some laughs.
However, as great as all of those options are for traveling, I still think the best way to really see the country and have the flexibility you want is to buy a car. The process isn’t as bad or stressful as you may think; it’s surprisingly easy! Sites such as http://Www.touch.trademe.co.nz or http://backpackerboard.co.nz have tons of listings for cars from other backpackers, and you generally can find one for a good price depending on the season. I also found grocery stores to be very useful because people can leave notices up looking to buy or sell random items, and also Facebook pages directly related to backpackers are a good tool.
I test drove many, many cars before deciding which one I wanted to purchase. It’s important to do a bit of homework so you know what you’re getting yourself into and have questions ready to ask the seller (wof/rego expirations, how many km’s, etc). I found that most backpackers were very straightforward and honest with me about what the car ran like, but I might have just gotten lucky! Don’t be afraid to negotiate either, most of the time people selling the cars are trying to leave the country and just want to get some sort of money back, so if necessary, knock the price down a bit and get yourself a better deal!
After much debate, I decided to buy one of the first cars I’d looked at: a 2000 Subaru Legacy
I actually feel a bit spoiled in it, as the car’s in great shape and has all of the luxuries (read: AUX cord….huge plus for roadtrips.. along with central locking, air conditioning, and automatic windows). This style of car is perfect for single travelers or even two smaller people, as the seats fold down and you can fit a mattress in the back. I’m hoping to test out how comfy sleeping in it next week sometime!
Happy car hunting!