New Zealand has been on top of my travel bucket list for many years, and it has been a dream come true after my biggest travel stint for almost 10 months, in this nature paradise far South in the Oceania.
It’s an amazing country that had left many travelers speechless with the sight of the stunning blue lakes, soaring mountains, and the mighty fjords in the South Island. It entails a nature wonder that lures many travelers to experience the Mother Nature’s beauty.
It can be really anticipating and exciting, but sometimes overwhelming and anxious for some – planning for the next big vacation or backpacking in unknown country – I’m a sort of a traveler that goes on my own term, planning everything myself, rather than letting a tour agent planning every single thing from the first take-off to departure back home, at the very last day of my travel.
Only those who travels on their own terms knew the gratification being an independent traveler, it’s nothing like a structured travel tour in a group, which most of the time can be frustratingly boring and lack the freedom to enjoy a sight on my own.
Plan Before You Go – Use Latest Travel Resources
Planning the travel route and itinerary on my own has always been my cup of cake. It has more freedom to myself to choose what I wanted to do and plan according to my own budget.
Before I travel to New Zealand, I did the usual homework – without depending much on travel guide book, I researched a lot about the place over and over, read other people’s review, travel experience, and digest as much as information possible and doubts I have before leaving.
Everything I did back home has eventually helped my travel easier and enjoyable and spending within my travel budget – I found places that are less traveled, away from tourist spot – something that I adore most while traveling to a new place.
If you have a similar plan of traveling to New Zealand on your own – backpacking all over New Zealand or even doing a road trip, do your research well – trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Top Travel Resources App & Sites for Travel in New Zealand
One of the first things I did before leaving to New Zealand is finding best resources to assist my travel in New Zealand. I do a quick study about the places I wanted to visit and the rest should come in handy.
Knowing a great location-specific travel resource that comes in handy can enhance your travel experience without wasting the time asking around and looking for every bit of information in a particular place – all this need to be at your fingertips before you arrive in New Zealand.
The idea of walking around with thick travel guide book and having to flip through pages can be a hassle. With the advent of technologies, we now have mobile apps specific to travel guide that can significantly help our travel planning.
I found that not every app or sites are the best guides for my travel in New Zealand. There are tons of apps that are less updated, clunky user interface and comes with annoying ads.
So here’s my list of the best travel app and sites that I have used during my travels in New Zealand. I would say that they are best app and sites that are available today to help your travels in New Zealand.
Best Telco Service For Travel in New Zealand
Generally, there are 4 major telcos in New Zealand (Skinny, 2 Degrees, Spark & Vodafone). I use data lot more than making calls or sending text messages. Unlike most other countries, buying an internet data is ridiculously expensive anywhere in New Zealand.
After comparing all the plans, Spark has the best answer for me as backpacker. They came out with something that is good to resist, the unlimited free 1GB wifi every day. While rest of the telcos don’t offer this yet, it’s the first thing that caught my attention and decided to pick their prepaid plan.
If you decide to pick the Spark Mobile Plan, ensure you have this app on your phone;
♦ Spark Wifi (Hotspot Tracker – more than 1000 hotspots all over New Zealand)
With the free 1GB WiFi, I use this app to easily locate the hotspot available in main cities and small towns all over the New Zealand. It has a hotspot locator map which is very useful when you travel to another city or town, then when you need to find one, this app comes in handy. Use it to locate Spark WiFi hotspot and get connected instantly. Save on your mobile data.
Download the app here
♦ Spark Mobile (Track your usage, balance, and top-up online)
Download Spark Mobile App
Transport in New Zealand – Best Resources, Apps & Sites
The best way to experience the whole country is by doing a road trip and camping along the way – some of the most beautiful places in New Zealand is far from cities and town that you need to drive to get there. Some places are not on the common tourist path.
No matter how you want to travel in New Zealand, I have compiled some important apps and sites that can suit your travel preferences. Plan even before traveling to New Zealand.
What is the best way to travel in New Zealand?
This is a very general question, it depends on individuals budget, flexibility and travel time. But to give you an idea here’s a simple guide;
Long-term Travel (months) – Buy a car/campervan (will cost you around $2000 – 7000), save petrol by sharing with other backpackers/travel-mate OR hitchhike occasionally and use coach to travel between cities/towns
Short-term Travel (weeks) – rent a car (share petrol with friends) or if you like to backpack on your own, just buy a bus/coach travel pass.
Hitchhiking. The cheapest way to travel, but not everyone does this. Definitely not the best way to travel. However you can do this if you end up with no other option to stretch your dollars and keep you on the road.
So there you go, you have the option on whatever budget you have. Travel by bus, rent-a-car, hitchhike or buy car/camper-van or share ride with your travel mates.
Traveling with New Zealand Coach Service
While you can book tickets from I-Sites (information center) all over New Zealand, you can even plan earlier and buy them online, for long distance bus/train journey. So knowing this sites can help plan your journey in New Zealand without having to consult at I-Site.
These are well-known Coach service in New Zealand:
- Mana Bus
- KiwiExperience (Backpackers Hop-On/Hop-Off)
- Stray (Backpackers Hop-On/Hop-Off)
Each bus service has their advantage in terms of price, frequency of travel, and the number routes. NakedBus and Manabus can be cheaper than Intercity but in particular, Intercity has more expanded route, and has more stops in smaller town. You can compare each bus service based on your intended travel route and pick the one based on your travel budget.
Traveling by bus can be even cheaper than driving in New Zealand, the petrol are costly compared to other nation in the world. For Intercity, rather than purchasing ticket every time you travel to the next city/town, you can buy the FlexiPass online.
I bought the FlexiPass for my travel in the North Island, beat the long queue, saved the time and the hassle without the need to book at I-Site, everything can be done online, check remaining travel hours, book or even cancel your trip without having to call them. This pass works based on traveling time between cities/towns.
KiwiExperience and Stray have brought an interesting way to travel New Zealand by bus with bit more adventure in it. You can buy their Travel Pass, with an option to choose different travel route around New Zealand. Makes your travel itinerary planning easier with the flexible option that can be altered at any time.
What’s unique about their bus service is that they will stop at attractions that are beyond the common tourist area, situated along the scenic travel path. You can also hop-on and hop-off at any stops (city or town) with their travel passes. Stop at a city/town for few days and hop-on the next bus on the schedule. You can simply contact/inform them through your online account when you are about to leave the place.
If you are backpackers staying in a hostel, they can also drop you at the hostel’s entrance which you can choose to book together with your passes online.
- For Intercity, the bus tickets that you purchase online by yourself need not to be printed in paper and shown while boarding. You can save a digital copy of the bus pass on your phone as a reference. When you board the bus, the bus captain will only ask your name and your destination. They usually holds a PDA with detailed lists of all the boarding passengers for specific travel route.
- Most of the coach bus departs from the i-Site and some from the a specific hostels. Be sure to get earlier so you don’t miss the bus. Buses usually departs on-time.
Traveling on City Bus Network (Auckland, Wellington & Christchurch
In major cities/towns, there is public bus network that connects urban and sub-urban area. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch has well connected bus network and it’s rather an inexpensive mode of transport to travel within the city.
Few attractions are out of the city, it can be really a long walk. With this bus network, you can reach those places and save your time. For example, when I was in Wellington, I took Line 2 bus service from Willis Street (Willbank Court), got-off at Darlington Road, and a short walk to 21-32 Camperdown Road brought me to the WETA Cave. It only cost me NZ$4 for return.
If you are using the cab, you shall expect to pay around NZ$30. It is almost impossible to walk as it is way too far from the city and probably not worth the time.
If you are in Auckland and some part in Wellington, you can easily navigate and explore the city just by walking around. But in Christchurch, it is totally opposite. Without transport, it’s hard the explore the city.
You could only find upscale shopping mall and cafes’ in the city center, which is not a pocket-friendly for a budget traveler. All other major hypermarkets, budget accommodations, and cheap take-away are scattered bit far away from the city center. Using the bus is the best option for those without a car.
Get these bus travel info app on your mobile devices for all the major cities (Auckland/Wellington/Christchurch). They are very useful to check the schedule, finding the right bus route and the estimated time of bus arriving at your stop. All at your finger tips.
AT Mobile (This is an app to use with Auckland Public Transport Bus/Train Pass), a well-designed app to track your card balance and watch real-time bus/train schedule, plan/find your travel route. There is two version, one is AT Metro and AT Mobile. Download the AT Mobile. They have better user interface and navigation.
MetLink Commuter (This app is specific for Wellington Bus/Train Transportation). Metlink Commuter shows all public transport information in Wellington. Use it to plan your journey while exploring the Greater Wellington.
If you are planning to stay a bit longer in Wellington, it’s worth getting the Snapper card. Go cashless payment on both bus and train network in Wellington and save on the base fare. You can even use this card for purchase at coffee shops, for taxis, and some grocery marts.
Find where to buy the card and retailers accepting Snapper here
Download Snapper App and track usage info, balance or reload online.
CHCH Metro (This is Christchurch Metro Bus App – useful if you plan to travel by bus in Christchurch, includes travel route map and real-time info on bus arrival at your bus stop location.
Going to be in Christchurch for some time? Get their Metro Card and save money on base the fare. It’s cheaper than paying cash for all your bus trip.
Tips: At Christchurch Bus Interchange, look for a locker facilities opposite Platform A to keep your bag. You will need a $2 coin to access any of the lockers and you use it for 24 hours. There is key with numbered tag to your locker.
Traveling By Train In New Zealand
Train travel in New Zealand is popular with the Scenic Rail in New Zealand – Northern Explorer (Auckland-Wellington), Coastal Pacific(Christchurch-Picton) and TranzAlpine (Christchurch-Greymouth). The best experience for the scenic route is the TranzAlpine in the South Island.
The price can quite exorbitant especially nearing summer and if you are fan of a train travel it is definitely worth a shot. They are known to be the most beautiful train journey in the world.
Regional Commuter Train in Lower North Island
Capital Connections is a regional passenger train service that connects Palmerston North and Wellington. You can use this commuter service traveling to smaller town; Shannon, Otaki, Levin, Waikanae and all the way to Wellington down south.
Check more information here
Check your Travel Option With Rome2Rio
Rome2Rio is a unique and well-designed travel planning site that helps you decide all the travel mode options (air,land,sea) anywhere on the globe. It is very user intuitive with navigational map that provides you different option for a specific travel route. You can type in any town, landmark or street name and find the best way to get there from your location – anywhere in the world.
Best Travel Accommodation App and Sites – New Zealand
With so many travel search engine or apps available out there to use, we are often flattered by the appearance or great function that they provide in the search site or the app. We expect a great result through the search engine.
But does it worth all the extras? Do you ever think that you found the best deal yet?
There are a way too many search engine or app that lacks proper navigation, clunky user interface and yet don’t bring the result that you need. When it comes to search engine, I always notice for the best user interface and how well they are structured for the search result, and most importantly the age of the search engine. Older search engine can lists more trusted listings and often can
Why? Because a good search engine doesn’t always have the best appearance. A good search engine means fast and user friendly interface, and always gives an optimum search result based on user queries.
There are few travel search engine or app that you can use to find best deal for your stay in New Zealand. Just don’t be surprised, because in New Zealand, motels, private lodge and hostels are more prevalent and than the hotels.
I seldom use hotel for my travels, highly depends on the location. But whenever I feel the need for comfort of a hotel, there are 2 Top Meta Search Engine that I use. What makes them astounding is their broad search result with huge number of listing for specific location in any country.
Best Hotel Search Engine
Agoda has been in the travel search industry for a long time and that means they have trusted listing with many accommodation around the world. You can use Agoda to search hotel, homestay, hostels or even book flights. But personally, I think they are the best search for hotels around the world. When I am not in budget mode, I use Agoda for the hotel search.
Booking.com is another massive hotel booking metasearch engine. They have been around since 1996 and millions of hotel search can be made from their search engine. Besides Agoda, this is a another good search engine to find hotels specifically.
Best Travel Trip Review Site
Tripadvisor is well-known travel planning site that you can always turn in to read millions of trip review from other travelers. You can also participate in the forum and discuss travel trip around the world with other like-minded traveler.
Best Budget Accommodation Site & Apps for Travel in New Zealand
If you are really a budget concise traveler, you can find many hostels all around New Zealand. When I say hostels – you might thought of a dirty party hostel that can ruin your peace of mind – well, know that not all hostels are bad, I have stayed many hostels and some are the best you will experience for the price you pay compared to those motels or expensive hotel.
Read also: How To Stay For Free While Traveling
Best Sites/App to Find Budget Accommodation in New Zealand
HostelWorld is a great search platform for budget backpackers to find hostels all around the world. The have many hostels listing with reviews from many backpackers. You can use this platform to find budget accommodation in New Zealand.
Like HostelWorld, this another search platform that I use to look for budget accommodation before I travel. Plenty of option to filter your search and find hostels in a specific place.
AirBNB is an alternative budget stay – a vacation rental home which is now gaining popular, even better than booking an expensive hotel room where you could rent the whole house for few nights. If you are new to AirBNB, get my free $24 credit here.
Nest Finder is a great app to find BBH and YHA Hostels in New Zealand, DOC Camp Sites, and I-Sites locations. My top recommendation to have this app if you plan to do budget travel in New Zealand.
This app is for BBH hostel for backpackers. BBH Hostels is where I spent most my stay while traveling in New Zealand. There plenty of them throughout the country. Even more hostels than YHA hostels. They benefit the long term backpackers in New Zealand with their member card. The reason why I used them for a special discount for every night I book with any BBH hostels.
If you are doing a long travel or on a working holiday in New Zealand, you can save a lot while staying in budget accommodation. BBH hostels save you on your long term stay in hostels all over New Zealand, one of the cheapest and best hostels you could find.
Best Road Trip/Camping Guide Resources in New Zealand
Doing a road trip in New Zealand is the best way travel to travel further to some of the remote places all over New Zealand.
But as a first-time traveler in New Zealand, you may have much concern about places to park your camper van, finding a legal campsite, petrol kiosk, and toilet facilities along the way.
With mobile apps with maps and all the landmarks with facilities all over New Zealand, it can help your travel stress-free. There are plenty of apps specific to New Zealand campers, but I found two that is best to use.
Travel smart and be sure to load this awesome app that can make your road trip a breeze.
Apps – Best Mobile Resources
CamperMate is must have app when you travel in New Zealand. Can be used while in New Zealand or Australia. It’s free and loads with a map that marks all facilities, landmarks, places to see, public toilets, camp grounds, shopping mart, petrol kiosk and everything else that a traveler need when they travel New Zealand.
Using your phone GPS, it will display your geo-location on the map, you can navigate to find your way to all this facilities without getting lost. If you find some interesting place that is not marked on the map, you can help other travelers by marking them and putting up some info.
To save your internet data and be able to use the map offline while in remote places, you can download their free offline map.
Rankers Camping NZ should be on your top app list if you decide to travel and stay in your campervan/RV at holiday parks or public camp site. You could easily get fined in New Zealand if you park or camp at an unauthorized camping ground, or use camp ground designated for certain vehicles only.
This app is the only camping database that is approved by New Zealand council that marks all legal camping location all over New Zealand
You can find free camping site or paid premium sites that include full facilities. Check in for details on rules for overnights stay set by the official law.
Download the free off-line map using WiFi and save your internet data.
Sites – Top Resources
DOC Campervan Campsite Pass – You can buy DOC Campsite Pass to use their campground for over night stay with your camper van.
Freedom Camping in New Zealand – Read in detail about laws on freedom camping in New Zealand. Avoid getting fined for illegal camping. Know what is allowed and what is not.
New Zealand Outdoor Activities/Attractions Planning & Deals Booking Sites
Essential NZ Travel – This is another great app for travelers in New Zealand. Well-designed interactive map with the point of interest and activities suggestion in many cities and regions all over New Zealand.
Bookme.co.nz – I use this site to grab exclusive deals and price slash on adrenaline activities and tours in New Zealand. Rather than walking in to tour booking office or calling an agent, you can plan your activities even before going to New Zealand. You can find the best-discounted deal for any activities like sky diving, bungy jumping, Milford Cruise, Rafting, Caving – just any fun outdoor activities in New Zealand.
There is also booking site for Australia – Bookme.com.au
Groupon NZ – This is famous in some country, it’s an online discount voucher to buy electronics, gardening product, health products, and other goods. As a traveler, you can use this to grab discounted deal at cafe, restaurants or things to do in major cities in New Zealand.
One Day Deals NZ – Is another site that you can find discounted deal by cities in New Zealand. Find discount voucher for restaurants, cafes’, apparels vouchers and other deals around the region.
Best New Zealand Hiking & Great Walks Planning Guide
NZ Great Walk – This app available for both iOS and Android device. There a total of 9 great walks in New Zealand. Great Walks in New Zealand is exceptionally beautiful and one of the greatest outdoor trekking with top facilities and standards in the world. The app serves as a guide to all the 9 Great Walks in New Zealand in detailed explanation. It includes the track duration, tips before planning the walks and information on the campsite or the lodge.
DOC Camp Booking – This is an online booking site for Department of Conservation New Zealand, you can plan and book all the Great Walks Huts and other camp sites here.
Mountain Forecast – This site is absolutely worth dime for serious hiking enthusiast and solo adventurer. It has very detailed mountain forecast all over world, and the data is very precise. The weather in New Zealand can be really unpredictable, and hiking at certain time of year can be really dangerous if you plan to do by yourself. With this mountain forecast you can confidently plan your hiking in New Zealand. The benefit of mountain forecast is you could foresee the best time and the day to hike, thus you can avoid days with bad weather or save the day for clear sight and enjoy your hiking.
Other similar forecasts
NZ Topo Maps (Free Maps) – I have been using few NZ TOPO map for outdoor activities on mobile devices, but this app from ATLOGIS Geoinformatics GmbH & Co. KG . is the best and easy to use to navigate through the New Zealand beautiful nature. There is two version of it. A paid version and the free version. The difference is paid version has offline map and more tracking option while the free version need to be connected to the internet in order to load the map. But the free version is already good enough to provide accurate tracking on a preloaded TOPO map using your devices in-built GPS. You can also track your way-point and record it (use it for hiking, biking, camping, climbing, riding, skiing, canoeing or offroad 4WD tours.)