How I Planned a Two Week Coach Tour of New Zealand
I’m about to spend two weeks in New Zealand and chose to plan and book everything myself instead of going on package tours. Planning a trip can be so complicated, especially when you want to be in control of your itinerary, so I’ve written a quick summary of what you need to plan, and how I went about it when I planned my trip.
First things first, pick your dates and transport to New Zealand. I chose July as it is my summer break from university, even though the weather in New Zealand is supposed to be a little chilly! I also booked flights into Auckland but leaving Christchurch, so I didn’t have to circle back to Auckland at the expense of time in other amazing locations.
The second step is picking your mode of transport. Your options are internal flights, car rental, camper-van rental, trains, and coaches. I’ll go through the pros and cons of each option, but at the end of the day it depends on what you are comfortable with!
Internal flights are a fast way to get between the cities, compared to all the other options. However, they can be quite expensive, and not flexible; they can only get you to the main cities in New Zealand, so you will need another transport option to get off the beaten path.
Car rental is great as it means you can have your own itinerary, and it is 100% flexible! You can also split the costs and driving time with other people. On the other hand, if you are going solo, it might be a little lonely, as well as being a tad stressful driving on unfamiliar roads. Renting a car and paying for gas isn’t cheap either, and renting a car means you have to book accommodation as well.
Renting a camper-van is a great alternative to the car, as it has all the upsides, with the addition of saving you costs on accommodation, as you can sleep in it! A New Zealand tour with friends would be best in a camper-van, in my opinion, although you might want your own space after a week!
Trains are more flexible than internal flights, and possibly more comfortable than the coach, as well as meaning you don’t have to drive. However, unlike home (UK), the trains in New Zealand do not cover the length and breadth of the country, meaning you would still have to travel on the bus for some of the journey if you wanted to see a good chunk of both islands.
The coach is the best option for those travelling solo; you can meet new people, and you don’t have to drive so you can sleep on the coach! It is also very flexible, as you can make your own itineraries, and the coaches cover almost all of the tourist hot-spots. The coach also has overnight options in some parts of the country, so you don’t even need to pay for accommodation those nights! I also chose this option because I don’t currently have a driving license, and I wouldn’t fancy driving for two weeks on my own!
I chose to use InterCity coach company as they seem to be the most popular coach company in New Zealand, especially with backpackers and tourists. This is mostly because there are limited options in New Zealand to travel by coach, unless you want to charter a bus or go with a tour. I chose InterCity FlexiPass because they let you pay for the coach in hours you will be on them. You have the option of booking whichever buses you want, and they take hours out of your pass as you book them, with no extra costs involved. You can also top up your hours anytime, and sell your spare hours. The best thing about the pass is that if you decide on something else, they are fully refundable until your first coach trip, and you can cancel and book whatever coaches and routes you like with no costs! This also means that if you like a location a lot, you can delay your departure!
I chose not to do a tour as they are quite expensive, and on a student budget, it’s cheaper to do all the planning! Plus, I like to have full control of what I’m going to see and when. I also only have 2 weeks to see everything, and most tours are longer, or don’t cover as much as I will with my own itinerary.
On the other hand, if you are not a fan of planning, or you hate the idea of being fully responsible for getting to coach stops on time, I do recommend a tour. Not only do they take the stress out of everything, they are a great way to meet and really connect with new friends!I chose my itinerary based on wanting to see as much of NZ as I can in very little time. This is why I’m only spending a day or two in every location. I don’t know the next time I’ll be this side of the planet, so I don’t want to miss anything! Click To Tweet
I chose my itinerary based on wanting to see as much of NZ as I can in very little time. This is why I’m only spending a day or two in every location. I don’t know the next time I’ll be this side of the planet, so I don’t want to feel like I’ve missed anything! I chose these locations based on the attractions of each one.
Auckland, one of the main cities, has a lot of attractions, most notably the black sand beaches, and the amazing central architecture, which includes the tallest building in the southern hemisphere; the aptly named Sky Tower.
The Coromandel Peninsula is next on my itinerary, mostly due to its natural beauty, and the incredible natural phenomenon that is the hot water beach. I then plan on heading to Tauranga, to see Mount Maunganui, explore Moturiki Island, and have fun at the Waimarino adventure water park.
Then I want to spend a couple of days in Rotorua, maybe I will treat myself to skydiving on what will be my 20th birthday! Rotorua also is home to the Pohutu Geyser, various spas, and Hobbiton, which I will definitely explore, as I am a huge Lord of The Rings nerd.
Taupo is a town similar to Rotorua, as it also has hot springs, as well as some beautiful waterfalls and Lake Taupo, which is home to all sorts of water-based activities.
Wellington, the country’s capital city, is a must see as it houses New Zealand’s national museum, along with stunning views from Mount Victoria. It has a beautiful beach waterfront, as well as the iconic Wellington cable car.
My next stop, after a long but scenic coach ride will be Christchurch, but I won’t have much time to explore it unfortunately. I’m hoping I’ll have time to see the gorgeous botanic gardens and the vibrant bar scene.
I almost took Mt. Cook off my itinerary, but one look at the Google images for it stopped me in my tracks! The views are absolutely stunning, and there are plenty of hiking trails for people like me who want to enjoy the beauty. Mt. Cook is the highest mountain in NZ, and also houses a glacier!
Lastly, in Queenstown there is plenty to do and see. This includes thrill-seeking activities like the ones in Rotorua, or hiking Ben Lomond, the mountain overlooking Queenstown. I’ll be taking a boat tour from Queenstown to the breath-taking Milford Sound, once named ‘eighth wonder of the world’ and with good reason; the waterfalls, rivers and sharply rising mountains make for spectacular scenery that I cannot miss out on!
I chose accommodation for each night on Booking.com, which I recommend just because they have so much choice. I then looked for cheapest hostels, due to my tiny budget, and then filtered by hostel location and social scene, going for a hostel with a bar or communal area over ones without, in order to give myself the best chance of meeting some friends. I even scored and booked a hostel with a climbing wall!
Now the fun bit- the costs! The InterCity bus pass with 55 hours on it cost $425 (NZ). There are other options for those who want to get more or less hours, for me 55 hours was perfect for my itinerary, and I recommend working out how many hours roughly you’ll need before buying your pass.
The hostels cost an average of $22 (NZ) per night- a total of $306 for the 14 nights. Other costs to consider are food, souvenirs, and activities. Food should be around $10-20 a day if I go to supermarkets and substantially more if I decide to eat out every day! My self-imposed souvenir budget is around $50, as I usually go overboard and buy anything I think my family might like, and use all the space in my suitcase!
Activities vary greatly on what you want to do in New Zealand. Rotorua is a hotspot for various adrenaline-seeking activities like skydiving and bungee jumping, as well as having various spa locations, so costs for activities will depend on what you plan to do. If you just want to sightsee, a tour or two might be worth it instead!
That about sums up the preparations I did for my tour of New Zealand. The hard part is over now, so you can relax and enjoy your trip!