You have seen all the places we have visited, we’ve told you all about our working experience during our Working Holiday, but we haven’t shared yet how we travelled around New Zealand! There are multiple different ways you can travel around this gorgeous country: buy or rent a car or a campervan, (hitch)hike, … or by bus! At first we were skeptical about travelling around on a bus for a few months but we absolutely loved this and would recommend it to everyone! We travelled with Stray, which was a perfect fit for us and perhaps for you as well!
PS: this is NOT a sponsored post, we are just happy customers! 😉
What is Stray?
Stray is a hop-on/hop-off tour bus company specifically focused on backpackers that come to explore the country. Instead of a regular bus taking you from town to town, Stray will bring you from highlight to highlight! Stray offers a lot of freedom to do whatever you want. Want to hop-off at a certain highlight? Sure! You can just book a seat on one of the following Stray buses in one of the upcoming days, weeks or months. You can sign up for any of the activities they offer such as a bungyjump, skydive or a day of kayaking but you don’t have to whatsoever! All up to you. Want to book your own accommodation instead of the one Stray offers? Sure! You can basically decide if you want to use your Straypass just as a means of transport or as a way of travel.
What made us decide to travel with Stray?
When we came to New Zealand, we actually had our mind set on travelling by car ourselves. Then we discovered Stray and well, the advantages just massively outweighed the disadvantages!
The first thing which immediately caught our attention was of course the immense price difference. Being in New Zealand for a few months, we booked the Stray Everywhere Pass which lasts twelve months, gets you all the Straystops and normally costs 1735 NZD (about €1024). This might seem like a high price, but you can often find very good discounts, we even managed to find almost a 50% discount for our pass! There is even one going on right now until the 8th of February which saves you about 500 NZD! When you compare a price like that to buying or renting a car plus the fuel you will have to pay… It’s just so incredibly much cheaper when you are travelling around for a longer time. Not only that, but you also usually get a discount on the activities you do via Stray and they offer A LOT of activities! Everyday a clipboard passes through the bus with the activities of the day and you simply write your name down if you want to do it.
One of the things Stray offers that really made us consider travelling with them was the guaranteed accommodation. Stray will always guarantee you at least one night of accommodation at any of their stops. So if you never hop-off anywhere and just keep on following the Stray bus, you will never have to book accommodation beforehand. If you do decide to stay a bit longer somewhere, they will still guarantee you that one night, but afterwards you will have to look for your own accommodation of course. This guaranteed accommodation is especially useful during high season when a lot of the hostels/hotels/campings/… are fully booked.
Your bus drivers do more than simply drive a bus, they are actually very well informed guides as well. So even while driving they will come up with all kinds of interesting stories or legends. They bring you around to all the great highlights of New Zealand. and some of them are actually very well hidden away. You will come across things you would not have seen any other way. For example in the North Island near Lake Aniwhenua, we pulled over on the side of the road and walked into the woods with a Maori guide. She showed us a rock carving of some of the earliest Maori people that arrived in New Zealand. This rock carving is protected and you would never find out about this by yourself, but because Stray has a strong connection with the local community, we were allowed to see this magnificent piece of history.
In the end, what might be one of the best advantages, is that you get to meet so many interesting people. Other travelers with such different backgrounds on a similar journey as you. You get to exchange experiences, give each other tips on what to see or do or just have a nice conversation over dinner. We have had so many memorable meetings and are definitely hoping to see some of the people we met along the way again.
The driver seat
Of course we didn’t only meet other travellers, but also a lot of bus drivers with curious nicknames. We usually travelled a few days in a row on the Stray bus, which means you really get to know your driver. They were all very sociable, funny and kind-hearted people who are genuinely interested in your story and to give you the best travel experience. We would like to thank them all personally here for giving us a great trip!
Muesli: a.k.a. the King of the North! Our very first Stray bus driver and we immediately got a good feeling about travelling with Stray. He brought us from Auckland to Paihia and back and really gave us our first proper introduction to New Zealand. Thank you Muesli!
Lantern: Our second driver and perhaps our favorite out of all of our drivers! We drove with him from Auckland to Rotorua and later on in our trip from Queenstown to Christchurch. With great humor and great music he made every trip enjoyable, even when the bus broke down one day! He made sure we all had a great time, fixed up the bus as good as he could and got us to our destination (where we got a different bus of course). We had some great conversations and especially some great laughs. Thank you Lantern!
Shortie: We met Shortie during her training trip with Lantern from Auckland to Rotorua. It was her first genuine Straytrip as a driver/guide and she really did a good job! She had a loving character and a lot of perseverance! We heard afterwards from other Straytravelers that she is now a full-on Stray driver and we are certain she is doing a great job! Thank you Shortie!
Bobby: Bobby drove us around the East Cape of New Zealand, a trip that started in Rotorua and ended there a few days later as well. We will never forget how he took the time to talk to us and comfort us after we had gotten some bad personal news from home. He shared his time and wine, he listened and he talked and he helped us as much as he could. Thank you Bobby!
Dub Dub: Dub Dub was on her very first Straytrip without another, more experienced driver alongside her and she did a great job! If she wouldn’t have told us this was her first solotrip, we would have thought she had been doing this for years. We drove with her from Rotorua all the way down to Wellington. We will always remember the cozy, group dinner she hosted in Blue Duck Station. Thank you Dub Dub!
Nat: Nat is one of the most experienced Straydrivers out there, driving the bus for about ten years now! With such a reputation we obviously felt like we were in very safe hands during our trip from Picton to Queenstown. One of our most memorable days where we flew a plane AND did a bungyjump was on her bus and although there were many people on her bus, she always took her time for each and everyone of us. Thank you Nat!
Motors: Motors took us from Queenstown through the Deep South with highlights such as Milford Sound and Stewart Island and then all the way back to Queenstown. It was a gorgeous route, but also with some rough terrain however Motors skillfully drove us through it and we had an absolute blast! Thank you Motors!
Moose: We drove a very long and tiresome road with Moose, all the way from Christchurch to Picton in one day. This was before the Kaikoura road opened up again after it was destroyed by a recent earthquake, so we had to take the ‘scenic route’, which took us about nine hours. Moose did a great job however! It’s a shame we only met him for one day because he seemed like a lot of fun. Thank you Moose!
Mozzie: Mozzie brought us from Wellington back up north to Tongariro National Park. Mozzie is one of the three drivers we only met for one day, but he was great as well. He had some excellent playlists which did really fit the vibe of the moment. It was a very early start that day and he put on some mellow music to let us sleep through the long busride. Thank you Mozzie!
Skippy: And last but not least, Skippy! Our last one-day-driver and also our last driver in general! He brought us from Tongariro National Park all the way back to Auckland and therefore completing our trip. Because of the lack of time we didn’t get to know him as much as we would have liked, but even so he did take the time to talk to us personally when we hopped-on and later on hopped-off the bus. Thank you Skippy!
As you can see, we had a wonderful time and would recommend a bus travelling adventure to each and everyone of you! 🙂