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The Best National Bus Tours in New Zealand

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Comparison of the National New Zealand bus tours.

New Zealand is a land of so many breathtaking and diverse landscapes. With roads being the main way to get around, one of the best ways to see as much as the country as possible is by taking one of the unforgettable bus tours in New Zealand. Whatever your age, style of travel or budget, there’s a bus tour in New Zealand to suit and we’ve compared some of the best bus tours below!

In the New Zealand bus tour comparison below, we’ve compared each bus company’s longest national bus tour to give you an idea of where the bus tour visits and how much it will cost. However, some companies offer shorter national tours or even tours just visiting the North Island or South Island. For more information on the type of bus trips available in New Zealand, take a look at the Bus Networks in New Zealand.

What to look at when comparing New Zealand bus tours.

We believe that their is no “best” bus company, as we are all looking for different travel experiences. However, it’s almost impossible to not have a blast on every single one of these bus tours. But to help you make the best decision for yourself, here are a few tips!

  • Compare the type of tour. Are you a fully independent traveller that wants a cheap way to travel? Choose a coach network. Do you want some flexibility to leave the tour to make the most of an extended trip in New Zealand or working holiday? Choose a hop-on hop-off bus. Or do you want an experience with the least organising to do as possible and just want to make the most of your limited time in New Zealand? Choose an all-inclusive bus tour!
  • Compare the activities and accommodation. You’ll get the best value for money if the tour includes activities that you want to do or at least gives you the option to. If accommodation is important to you, then compare accommodation, as some will be in tents, hostels, 3 star hotels, 4 star hotels, cabins and more. Is there chance to upgrade to a private room if you want to and at what cost?
  • Compare what the passengers are like. Taking a New Zealand bus tour is a social experience and you’re bound to meet some amazing people! People often make (or break) the experience. Some bus tours are catered to 18-30 year olds, while others are more suitable for the 50+, others cater to families and mature couples… Take a look at the comparison below where we compare bus passengers as much as possible.
  • Compare the destinations they visit. Does the bus company visit the New Zealand locations on your bucket list? Remember, even if they don’t stay the night in every destination around New Zealand, it’s likely that they will pass through giving you enough time to at least quickly visit the place. All the destinations in the comparison below are where the buses stay at overnight.
  • Compare prices. Budgeting is an important part of the holiday process! With all the inclusions taken into consideration, is the price worth it? A trick we like to do is to divide the price by the number of minimum travel days on a bus pass – the result will give you a better idea of how much you are paying for the bus pass and its inclusions per day.
XE - Money Transfer

Exodus Travel

Exodus Travels

Exodus Travels in an all-inclusive adventure holiday, travelling New Zealand by mini-bus on a set route around the country. The main focus of this national bus tour are the hiking trails meaning that much of the accommodation and experiences are in the outdoors through mountain huts and cabins. The tours are only available during the summer season.

Inclusions

In this all-inclusive bus tour, accommodation is provided in the form of hotels, lodges, cabins, mountain huts and camping accommodation. 16 breakfasts, 17 lunches, and 7 dinners are included in the 20-day national tour. Some paid activities are included, such as heli-hiking, but the main focus of the Exodus Travels New Zealand tours are hiking trails (which are free to walk). There are options to add activities to your itinerary at added cost. Other transport included is the flight from Wellington to Nelson (North Island to South Island).

Typical Passengers

Exodus Travels’ attracts a wide range of passengers in terms of age, usually averaging around the late-20s, early-30s, travelling either solo, as couples or a couple of friends. Group sizes tend to be 5-12 passengers per bus.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Exodus Travel’s full national bus tour has a travel time of 20 days taking you to the following locations:

  • Auckland
  • Rotorua
  • Taupo
  • Tongariro National Park
  • Wellington
  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • Murchison
  • Paparoa National Park
  • Fox Glacier
  • Makarora
  • Mt Aspiring National Park
  • Queenstown
  • Fiordland National Park
  • Te Anau
  • Mt Cook
  • Christchurch
Typical Prices

A full national tour with Exodus Travels is around NZ$9,800 in the peak season staying in shared accommodation (it’s a $2,300 supplement if wanting to stay in private accommodation).

Kirra Tours

Kirra Tours

This all-inclusive coach tour does all the planning and activity choices for you so you can relax and enjoy the holiday. Kirra Tours takes passengers to the main highlights of New Zealand with a jam-packed itinerary and high-quality meals and accommodation. This is a real “treat yourself” tour.

Inclusions

In this all-inclusive bus tour, accommodation is provided in the form of 3.5-4-star hotel accommodation. 17 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 14 dinners are included in the 18-day national tour. Airport transfers are available at the beginning and end of the tour. Paid activities are included, including (but not limited to) the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Hole in the Rock cruise, Sky Tower, Agrodome farm show, Agrodome farm show, Rainbow Springs nature park, Skyline Gondola and Luge, Art Deco guided tour, Hanmer Springs Hot Pools, Antarctic Centre, Edmund Hillary Centre, Queenstown cruise and short walks to free attractions. There are options to add activities to your itinerary at added cost. Other transport options included are the North Island-South Island ferry.

Typical Passengers

Kirra Tours passengers are typically 50+ years old, travelling either solo, as couples or a couple of friends. Group sizes tend to be 20-48 passengers per bus.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Kirra Tours’ full national bus tour has a travel time of 18 days taking you to the following locations:

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Islands
  • Rotorua
  • Napier
  • Wellington
  • Hanmer Springs
  • Christchurch
  • Omarama
  • Dunedin
  • Te Anau
  • Milford Sound
  • Te Anau
  • Queenstown
  • Franz Josef
Typical Prices

A full national tour with Kirra Tours is around NZ$7,600 in the peak season and $6,900 in the low season if staying in a twin/double room. Note that staying in a private single room adds around NZ$2500 to the prices stated.

Flying Kiwi

Flying Kiwi

Flying Kiwi is an all-inclusive hop-on hop-off bus tour, mainly travelled as a set bus tour taking one set route around the country. Food (mainly breakfast and dinner) is included as well as camping accommodation. However, there is the option to “hop-off” the bus anywhere along the route and then “hop on” another bus at an arranged time and date. For more information on how Flying Kiwi works, see this guide to Flying Kiwi.

Inclusions

Paid activities are on an optional pay-as-you-go scheme where the bus driver will book activities and transport you to those activities as book. There are a few paid activities included in the tour, such as Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park, Queenstown Gondola and Marlborough wine tasting. There are always free options such as hikes and stopping at free attractions along the way. Hiring a bike is a popular option with Flying Kiwi, where the team will have your hired bike on board and stop at plenty of bike trails along the way. Accommodation and food is already arranged, with accommodation being in two-man tents, with upgrades available in some campsites.

Typical Passengers

Although Flying Kiwi claims to have passengers of 16-60 years old, they mostly have passengers aged between 20 years old to 40 years old with an average being the mid-20s. The trips are popular with UK and European travellers, however, you will still find the odd mix of travellers from the Americas. Group sizes are around 10-20 people per bus.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Flying Kiwi’s full national bus pass has a minimum travel time of 27-28 days hitting the following locations:

  • Auckland
  • Coromandel
  • Rotorua
  • Taupo
  • Kapiti Coast
  • Picton
  • Kaikoura
  • Peel Forest
  • Lake Pukaki
  • Moeraki
  • Dunedin
  • Milford Sound
  • Te Anau
  • Queenstown
  • Boundary Creek
  • Fox Glacier
  • Okarito
  • Punakaiki
  • Marahau
  • Wellington
  • New Plymouth
  • Bay of Islands
  • Orewa
Typical Prices

The full price for a national pass with Flying Kiwi is around NZ$4500.

Grand Pacific Tours

Grand Pacific Tours

With an impressive amount of activity inclusions, 4-star accommodation and amount of included meals, Grand Pacific Tours provides a great value-for-money national bus tour for couples or groups of friends. Everything is organised for you in this all-inclusive coach tour, so just enjoy!

Inclusions

In this all-inclusive bus tour, accommodation is provided in the form of 4-star hotel accommodation. 18 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 16 dinners are included in the 19-day national tour. Airport transfers are available at the beginning and end of the tour. Paid activities are included, including (but not limited to) the Kauri Museum, Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Hole in the Rock cruise, Hobbiton, Skyline Rotorua & Luge, Agrodome, Te Puia geothermal park & Maori experience, cruise in Queenstown, Milford Sound cruise and short walks to free attractions. There are options to add activities to your itinerary at added cost. Other transport options included are the North Island-South Island ferry and the TranzAlpine railway journey. If travelling from Australia, there is also the option for Grand Pacific Tours to organise your flight and add it to your tour price.

Typical Passengers

Grand Pacific Tours passengers are typically 50+ years old, travelling either solo, as couples or a couple of friends. Group sizes tend to be 10-48 passengers per bus. Nationalities range from British, European, North American and Australian.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Grand Pacific Tours’ full national bus tour has a travel time of 19 days taking you to the following locations:

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Islands
  • Rotorua
  • Masterton
  • Wellington
  • Blenheim
  • Christchurch
  • Franz Josef
  • Queenstown
  • Te Anau
  • Dunedin
  • Twizel
  • Christchurch
Typical Prices

A full national tour with Grand Pacific Tours is around NZ$6,000 in the peak season and $5,700 in the low season if staying in a twin/double room. Note that staying in a private single room adds around NZ$2,000 to the prices stated.

InterCity

Intercity

Intercity is a coach network used by locals and travellers alike in New Zealand, mostly for an affordable way to get between towns and cities across the country. InterCity offers a couple of different bus passes to travellers: the FlexiPass and the TravelPass. FlexiPass gives travellers a set amount of “hours” to travel anywhere in the country, while the TravelPass is a set route around the country typical of other backpacker bus tours in New Zealand. Find out more about how they work in What’s the Difference Between InterCity Backpacker Bus Passes?

Inclusions

Travelling with InterCity is a much more independent travel option in comparison to other bus tours, so accommodation and activities are not typically included in your bus ticket. However, some TravelPass bus passes have activities included, such as a Milford Sound day trip and cruise, Hobbiton Movie Set and a Bay of Islands dolphin cruise. The ferry between the North Island and the South Island, as well as the TranzAlpine train journey is also included in the national TravelPass. You will need to book other activities, accommodation and buy food independently.

Typical Passengers

InterCity has the broadest range of passengers out of all the backpacker bus tours on this list, due to the fact that it is the largest (and only) national coach network in New Zealand. There will be a mix of travellers from all over the world and New Zealanders.

Destinations Visited

With InterCity, you can travel to almost anywhere in New Zealand with more than 140 daily departures. With the FlexiPass, you decide the destinations. With the TravelPass, you choose one of the set routes on offer. Head to the InterCity TravelPass page for more information.

Typical Prices

A full national TravelPass with activities included is NZ$1045, while a 60-hour FlexiPass costs around NZ$460 (which will get you to around 13 destinations from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and back again).

Contiki

Contiki

Contiki is an all-inclusive bus tour for travellers aged 18-35 following a set route around the country. At least two meals a day are included, as well as accommodation with some activities. For more information on how Contiki works, see Contiki Vs. G Adventures: Comparison for New Zealand.

Inclusions

Accommodation is included in Contiki bus tours in the form of hotels and lodges. You may share a room with 1-4 other passengers or upgrade to get a private room. Some activities are included in your bus pass, such as a Hobbiton Movie Set Tour, Maori Hangi meal and more. For other paid activities you can either add them onto your tour when booking your pass or book with the driver as you travel. Food is also included in Contiki tours, usually breakfast and dinner and sometimes lunch.

Typical Passengers

Contiki tours are aimed at 18-35 year olds with the majority of passengers are usually 18-25 years old. There is usually a ration of more females to males. There can be a mix of nationalities, however, most passengers are from the Americas and Australia. Group sizes are usually a full large coach in the peak season and about half a large coach in the shoulder seasons.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Contiki’s full national bus pass has a minimum travel time of 19 days hitting the following locations:

  • Paihia
  • Auckland
  • Rotorua
  • Taupo
  • Mt Ruapehu
  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Lake Ohau
  • Franz Josef
  • Queenstown
  • Te Anau
Typical Prices

A full national pass with Contiki is around NZ$3820, but the pass is very often on sale. You can usually pick up a national pass for around NZ$3400.

AAT Kings

AAT Kings

This all-inclusive coach tour caters to a wide range of travellers, from family holidaymakers to retired couples from all over the world. There’s a good mix of activities included in AAT Kings national New Zealand bus tour, as well as giving passengers the opportunity to enjoy some free time along the set national route.

Inclusions

In this all-inclusive bus tour, accommodation is provided in a wide range of hotel brands, such as ibis and Copthorne. 20 breakfasts and 13 dinners are included in the 21-day national tour. Airport transfers are available. Selected paid activities are included such as an overnight Milford Sound cruise, the geothermal park of Te Puia, wine tasting, the Te Anau glow worm tour, the Skyline Gondola in Queenstown and short walks to free attractions. There are options to add activities to your itinerary at added cost. The North Island-South Island ferry is also included.

Typical Passengers

AAT Kings has a diverse range of passengers from North America, UK, Europe and Asia. You’ll find a mix of families with young children (minimum 5 years old), as well as older couples and solo travellers typically around the 40-60 age range. Group sizes tend to be 20-50 passengers per bus.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. AAT Kings’ full national bus tour has a travel time of 21 days taking you to the following locations:

  • Christchurch
  • Omarama
  • Dunedin
  • Milford Sound
  • Queenstown
  • Franz Josef
  • Punakaiki
  • Nelson
  • Wellington
  • Napier
  • Rotorua
  • Auckland
  • Bay of Islands
Typical Prices

A full national tour with AAT Kings is around NZ$7,600 in the peak season and $7,200 in the low season if staying in a twin/double room, but the pass is very often on sale. Note that staying in a private single room adds around NZ$3000 to the prices stated. Child prices are also available, usually around $1000 cheaper than the adult price.

Stray

Stray

Stray is a hop-on hop-off bus tour following a set route in one direction around New Zealand. Passengers have the opportunity to “hop off” the bus almost anywhere along the route then “hop-on” another bus at an arranged time and date, no matter if it’s the next available bus or in three months time. Certain passes allow “unlimited travel” meaning you can do the route multiple times while your pass is valid (usually 12 months from your start date) as long as you travel in order and when there is availability.

Inclusions

Paid activities are on an optional pay-as-you-go scheme where the bus driver will book activities and accommodation (mainly hostels) for you as you travel. However, you can choose to arrange your own activities and accommodation as you wish. There are opportunities to do free activities as you go, as your driver will stop at free walks and attractions along the route.

Typical Passengers

Stray boasts tours for 20-something year old backpackers wanting to get more “off the beaten track”. While you will find a diverse range of ages and nationalities, Stray passengers are more likely to be anywhere between 18-30 years old. There is usually a ratio of more females to males, mainly coming from the UK, Europe and the US. Expect group sizes to fill a large coach bus in the peak season and smaller groups to fill mini buses in the low season.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Stray’s full national bus pass has a minimum travel time of 31-35 days hitting the following locations:

  • Bay of Islands
  • Auckland
  • Coromandel
  • Tauranga/Mt Maunganui
  • Raglan
  • Rotorua
  • Lake Aniwhenua
  • Whakahoro
  • Raetihi
  • Wellington
  • Marahau
  • Franz Josef
  • Wanaka
  • Queenstown
  • Invercargill
  • Milford Sound
  • Stewart Island
  • Mt Cook
  • Peel Forest
  • Christchurch
  • Kaikoura
Typical Prices

The full price for a national pass is around NZ$1735, but you will never pay the full retail price for a Stray bus pass. Sales on bus passes happen year-round, usually bringing you around NZ$1200 for a full national bus pass.

TravelMarvel

TravelMarvel

Travelmarvel’s national tour packs plenty of fun yet easy-going activities in their 15-day national tour, perfect for those aged 50+ years old. Passengers get to enjoy all the major highlights that most travellers have on their New Zealand bucket list. Plus, the price is not too hard on the wallet.

Inclusions

In this all-inclusive bus tour, accommodation is provided in the form of hotels with brands such as Rhydges and Copthorne. 14 breakfasts and 8 dinners are included in the 15-day national tour. Airport transfers are available on your first and last day of the tour, as is the North Island-South Island ferry. There are a great deal of paid activities included in the price of the tour, such as the Agrodome farm show, Milford Sound cruise, a visit to the geothermal park of Te Puia, a dolphin-watching cruise and a few short walks to free attractions. There are options to add activities to your itinerary at added cost.

Typical Passengers

Travelmarvel passengers are typically 55+ years old, travelling either solo, as couples or a couple of friends. Group sizes tend to be 20-48 passengers per bus.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Travelmarvel’s full national bus tour has a travel time of 15 days taking you to the following locations:

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Islands
  • Rotorua
  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Fox Glacier
  • Queenstown
  • Te Anau
  • Dunedin
  • Lake Tekapo
Typical Prices

A full national tour with Travelmarvel is around NZ$6,000 in the peak season and $5,400 in the low season if staying in a twin/double room, but the pass is very often on sale. You can usually pick up a national pass for around NZ$5,700 in the peak season and NZ$5,100 in the low season. Note that staying in a private single room adds around NZ$2000 to the prices stated.

Wild Kiwi

Wild Kiwi

Wild Kiwi runs bus tours following a set routes around the country. Accommodation and some meals are included (mostly breakfast). Some activities are included in the pass with options to add-on paid activities. Flights between islands on the national pass are also included. For more information, see our guide to Wild Kiwi here.

Inclusions

Paid activities are on an optional pay-as-you-go scheme which you book with your driver. There are some paid activities included in the pass, such as surf lessons and the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Park. There’s also the opportunity to do free activities like hikes and stop by free attractions along the way. Accommodation is also included in the form of hostel and cabin accommodation where you will share a room with fellow passengers.

Typical Passengers

Wild Kiwi passengers are 18-35 year olds with an even mix of males and females. There are a range of nationalities, usually Europe and the Americas. Group sizes are kept small with up to 18 passengers.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Wild Kiwi’s full national bus pass has a minimum travel time of 21 days hitting the following locations:

  • Auckland
  • Coromandel
  • Rotorua
  • Napier
  • Taupo
  • Raglan
  • Christchurch
  • Kaikoura
  • Picton
  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • Punakaiki
  • Hokitika
  • Franz Josef
  • Mt Cook
  • Milford Sound
  • Queenstown
Typical Prices

The full price for a national pass with Wild Kiwi is around NZ$3900.

Kiwi Experience

Kiwi Experience

The hop-on hop-off bus company, Kiwi Experience, follows a set route following one direction around the country. Passengers have the opportunity to “hop off” the bus anywhere along the route and “hop-on” another bus at a prearranged time and date, no matter if it’s the next available bus or in three months time. Certain passes allow “unlimited travel” meaning you can do the route multiple times while your pass is valid (usually 12 months from your start date) as long as you travel in order and when there is availability.

Inclusions

Paid activities are on an optional pay-as-you-go scheme where the bus driver will book activities and accommodation (mainly hostels) for you as you travel. However, you can choose to arrange your own activities and accommodation as you wish. There are opportunities to do free activities as you go, as your driver will stop at free walks and attractions along the route.

Typical Passengers

Kiwi Experience boasts a bus tour experience for 20-something adventurous backpackers. 18-25-year-old passengers from the UK and Europe are often the majority with a larger ratio of females to males. Nevertheless, you will still find a diverse range of people outside of the “typical” age range and nationality. Expect group sizes to fill two large coach buses in the peak season and almost fill one large coach bus in the low season.

Destinations Visited

There are multiple passes to suit travellers’ different travel times. Kiwi Experience’s full national bus pass has a minimum travel time of 30 days hitting the following locations:

  • Bay of Islands
  • Auckland
  • Coromandel
  • Rotorua
  • Waitomo
  • Taupo
  • Ruahine Ranges (River Valley)
  • Wellington
  • Kaiteriteri
  • Lake Mahinapua
  • Franz Josef
  • Wanaka
  • Queenstown
  • Invercargill
  • Dunedin
  • Lake Tekapo
  • Christchurch
  • Kaikoura
Typical Prices

The full price for a national pass is around NZ$1650, but you will never pay the full retail price for a Kiwi Experience bus pass. Sales on bus passes happen year-round, usually bringing you around NZ$1000 for a full national bus pass.

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