Bus Travel

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Bus Travel

New Zealand is served by an extensive bus network. InterCity and Newmans are the main bus lines. They operate under a collective marketing umbrella and are part of a larger shareholder group. Newmans differentiates itself by having newer spiffier vehicles, which conform to a strict criteria based upon vehicle age and amenities.

Some Newmans and InterCity bus routes overlap, but Newmans tends to have fewer stops and sticks to the key corridors, making travel times shorter. InterCity buses, on the other hand, cover more remote areas. Nevertheless, both services stop at small towns along the way.

Although Newmans and InterCity are the top national carriers, there are also many regional bus services. For instance, Bottom Bus runs around the Catlins and Southland; Atomic Travel also covers the majority of the South Island.

Take a hop-on, hop-off bus if you prefer a more flexible itinerary. Although the buses run by companies like Kiwi Experience and Magic Travellers Network may not be as comfortable as Newmans and InterCity, they provide flexible coach passes, typically valid for 12 months. Some passes cover all of New Zealand, whereas others are limited to specific regions. Most of these backpacker buses have affiliations with hostels and hotels, and various combination packages are available. Stray Travel, operated by the people who founded Kiwi Experience, gives you the option of using the service as a tour or having unlimited stopovers for the duration of your chosen pass.

Fares and Passes

Fares vary greatly. A standard full fare between Auckland and Wellington is NZ$100 but can be obtained for as low as NZ$48. A certain number of seats are sold at a discounted rate, so book your tickets as early as possible, especially during the holidays. Individual company's Web sites are the best way to find out about special fares; both Newmans and InterCity have online reservation systems.

Look into the various flexible passes that allow coach travel over a set route in a given time frame, usually three or six months. You can travel whenever you like, without paying extra, as long as you stick to the stops covered by your pass. There is also the New Zealand Travelpass, which allows unlimited travel on buses and trains and on the Interislander ferries that link the North and South islands.

Flexipass. The Flexipass is sold in blocks of time during which you're eligible to travel on regular InterCity bus routes. This is such a good deal that locals even use this pass for their daily commute. Typically valid for a year, you can hop on and off, changing your plans without a penalty at least two hours prior to your departure. You must schedule in advance, as independent bus ticketing windows don't track your Flexipass hours. www.flexipass.intercity.co.nz.

Kiwi Experience and Magic Travellers Network provide packages that combine one-way domestic flights with bus passes to help you cover a little more ground for a little less money.

Credit cards and traveler's checks are accepted by the major bus companies. Naked Bus offers a backpacker bus pass where you choose how many trips you'd like to take in increments of five trips, or they offer an unlimited trip pass for about NZ$600.

Bus Information

Atomic Travel (03/349–0697 in N.Z. www.atomictravel.co.nz.)

Bottom Bus (03/477–9083. www.travelheadfirst.co.nz.)

InterCity (09/583–5780. www.intercity.co.nz.)

Kiwi Experience (09/336–4286. www.kiwiexperience.com.)

nakedbus (0900–62533 $1.99 per-minute cost per call. www.nakedbus.com.)

Newmans (09/583–5780. www.intercity.co.nz.)

Stray Travel (09/526–2140. www.straytravel.co.nz.)

Stray Bus (09/526-2140. www.straytravel.com.)

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