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This is an eternal question often asked by numerous backpackers and well documented in countless travel forums.
The first key point is that there is something for everyone! One person’s nirvana may be another’s nightmare so make sure you research carefully to ensure you know what to expect. There are three main styles of trip:
1.) Adventure tour with extended break options. This style of travel enables you to combine the convenience of a tour with the flexibility to hop off at any point. This unique option allows you to create your own trip but also benefit from the convenience of having most meals and accommodation included.
Whilst many travellers decide to stay on the bus it provides the option to take longer breaks and explore areas for a good amount of time.
Operators include: Flying Kiwi Adventure Tours
2.) Hop on, hop off buses. These bus networks offer the flexibility to jump off and spend time in allocated stops around the country. Routes vary between operators, so take time to research the stops covered and check the frequency of departures.
As with all attractions in NZ, always use Qualmark certified options where possible. You will meet a variety of other travellers and groups may change on different legs of your trip. Many companies also offer accommodation and/or activity discounts to their passengers.
When working out budgets remember to factor in food, accommodation and ferry crossings if travelling between islands.
Operators include: variety of options (visit newzealand.com for operator listings)
3.) Adventure tour. Tours offer a range of fixed date trips with the convenience that your food and accommodation is provided (this does vary between operators though, so check trip itineraries carefully).
You will travel with the same group and a guide will usually help arrange any activities during your trip. This is a popular option for those with fixed travel dates who dont want to spend time arranging other elements such as accommodation and meals.
Operators include: variety of options (visit this newzealand.com for operator listings)