Your guide to hop-on hop-off buses in New Zealand

Choosing the best hop-on-hop-off bus pass isn't always easy. Here are the basics of each New Zealand company to help you make your choice!

Hop-on hop-off buses are a popular choice in New Zealand. They’re an easy, often cheap way to see the country and you have freedom to choose when and where you want to stop. Not to mention they’re great fun! Their flexibility is also a massive drawcard, as they give you the ability to tailor your New Zealand experience to you. If you fall in love with Rotorua or need another day to do a Queenstown bungy, you’re able to stay an extra night, just like that!

But with so many different companies around, how do you choose which to travel with? Here’s a guide to the different operators and the highlights of each!

1. Kiwi Experience

Some of Kiwi Experiences passes have an awesome ‘unlimited travel’ feature, which gives you the chance to re-travel your route! Once you’ve completed your trip in full, you can travel the full route again as many times as you like for a year!

Accommodation: accommodation isn’t included in the cost of your bus trip, but you do get guaranteed accommodation for the first night’s stay in each new location along your bus pass itinerary.

Activities: you can pay as you go for activities on Kiwi Experience, so you’ll have total flexibility to decide what you want to do and when. There’s also a great ‘Best Price Guarantee’ on-board, so if you see any of the suggested activities advertised cheaper elsewhere you can show your guide and have the price matched.
There are also tons of free activities on offer if you want to save. Walks, swimming and exploring the cities and towns is fun and costs nothing!

Meals: food isn’t included but most of the places you’ll stay have kitchens where you can cook for yourself.

2. Stray

Stray have ‘freestyle passes’ that are valid for 12 months from the start date of your travel. That means there’s the possibility of travelling for a whole year after you start your trip! This gives you the freedom to hop off and visit friends or even work for a period.

Accommodation: like Kiwi Experience, accommodation is not included in the cost of your Stray tour. At every overnight stop, you'll have a bed reserved however, that’s guaranteed.

Activities: the odd activity is included in your trip, but for most, you’ll have to book as you go. This means total flexibility to decide when and what you want to do. Your guide will always be on hand to help you book and give you recommendations.

Meals: some Stray bus passes have a few meals included, but most of the time you’ll need to buy or cook your own food.

3. Flying Kiwi

These guys offer the only all-inclusive bus tour in New Zealand, so if you’re after food, accommodation and travel all rolled into one they’re a great option.

Accommodation: camping accommodation is included. Sleeping arrangements are a shared tent with another passenger. If you want your own space you can upgrade to a private tent or cabin in most locations.

Meals: you’ll get three meals a day most of the time. On the rare occasion, a meal isn’t included you’ll have access to a great range of restaurants.

Activities: some activities are included with your bus pass and there’ll also be other activities to enjoy at an extra cost at each stop. There’s always free options to enjoy too, like hikes, museums and swimming.

4. Intercity Bus

This one’s a little bit different. Instead of having a set route with specific stops along the way, your pass is decided by the amount of hours you’ll be travelling for. You can have a look at their sample routes and map to work out how long you’ll need. It’s a good idea for travellers just spending a few days in one area.

There’s also the Flexi Pass option, which lets you manage your pass online. You can add hours as you go in needed. Fexi Passes are valid for 12 months and if you have any hours left at the end, you’re ble to sell them to other travellers!

Accommodation: your accommodation isn’t included in your pass. You’ll need to book as you go. There’s no accommodation guarantee like with Stray and Kiwi Experience so make sure you book ahead in busy periods.

Meals: meals aren’t included but there’ll be the chance to stop at supermarkets or restaurants as you go.

Activities: you’ll need to book as you go for the majority of activities. You need to do this online through the Intercity site. Your pass covers the travel there, and you’ll have the option to add extras at a cost, like a cruise or entry fee at each stop.
On a Flexi Pass, the Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise and Cape Reinga/Ninety Mile Beach tours are included. You’ll just need to deduct the hours from your travel time.