If there’s one thing I’ve learnt while travelling around New Zealand solo is that it is a country which never stops surprising you. It’s no secret that New Zealand is home to some of the most stunning natural sights in the world, and the hosts are super friendly too, but when you actually experience it for yourself it never fails to blow you away. Travelling solo around New Zealand has been a dream and I have never felt unsafe or vulnerable once. I can say without a doubt that New Zealand is the perfect country for anyone considering travelling by themselves for the first time.
However, just like any country, learning some key tricks of the trade can be invaluable to get the most out of your experience on the road. So without further ado, here are my top tips for travelling solo around New Zealand:
I recommend staying in hostels when you’re in New Zealand. It’s an age old piece of advice for solo travellers and can apply to anywhere you go. But for good reason as hostels are the perfect hubs for solo travellers to connect. You’re immediately surrounded by like-minded people so any moments of loneliness (which will happen) can be overturned by chatting to your roomies or hanging out in the communal area. New Zealand in particular is no stranger to accommodating the backpacker community and you can easily find a reasonably priced hostel wherever you go. One thing to note, however, is that the cheapest isn’t always the most cheerful…
If you plan to cover a lot of New Zealand ground and you don’t fancy hiring a campervan then your best bet is to take the bus as it’s the cheapest and most efficient way to travel here. As I’ve already mentioned, the Kiwi Experience and Stray are decent bus choices for solo travellers as they’re pretty hassle free when it comes to planning your itinerary, activities and accommodation. But if you prefer to be a bit more DIY then the Intercity bus is a great alternative. The one thing to remember is that if you’re aiming to go cheap then buying your passes in advance is key which means you may lose a little of your flexibility.
It’s no secret that New Zealand is an expensive country to travel to and it doesn’t help that it has a wealth of exciting and adventurous activities to choose from. So if you’re a solo traveller on a bit of a budget it’s a good idea to plan your activities before you head off to save yourself from disappointment if you run out of money later on. The last situation you want to be in is choosing between an activity you have always wanted to do and dinner for the rest of your trip, especially if you haven’t got someone to share the costs with…So set aside money for any big spenders like heli hikes, skydives and bungy jumps and work out your budget from there.
Another thing to be aware of is that New Zealand is considering bringing in a tourist tax in late 2019. Visitors will pay an additional £18 for their flights and the money will be used to fund infrastructure and conservation projects. Luckily it’s not too costly but still something to consider when organising your budget!
Whatever your plans are for New Zealand, make sure you visit the Tamaki Maori Village near Rotorua on the North Island. Not only is it a wonderful evening out for everybody but it is an important opportunity to learn about Maori culture and history first-hand. The hosts never fail to give you a warm welcome into the village with cultural performances and stories. You’re invited to take part in their games and then a sit down dinner consisting of a traditional ‘hangi’.
You can’t leave New Zealand without trying a ‘hangi!’ It’s essentially meat and vegetables cooked on hot rocks in a pit in the ground. It’s delicious. And if you’re a vegan or vegetarian then don’t worry they cater for you too! I honestly can’t recommend the Tamaki Maori Village enough. It isn’t the most awarded cultural attraction in New Zealand for nothing!
Although it has got better, WiFi is still a bit hit and miss in some areas of New Zealand, and that includes hostels. Most hostels do have WiFi but if you want the luxury of accessing it in your room then you will need to pay for it. Whatever your style, staying connected is a very useful asset for solo travelling and it can get you out of all sorts of situations. That’s why I recommend buying a travel SIM card because then you’re in control.
It’s worth noting, however, that in some remote areas not even the SIM card can save you if mobile reception doesn’t reach. It’s places like these that give you the refreshing opportunity to connect with the world around you (…and come to terms with your very real social media addiction…). Travel SIM cards with a range of plans can be picked up anywhere from airports, supermarkets, hostels and mobile network companies like Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees. All you need is an unlocked phone.
A bit of an obvious one, but plan your trip around what you love best. This is mainly because New Zealand, as the home of outdoor activities, rely heavily on the weather to run. If you’re a snow sports lover then you want to head to the mountains in the winter months from May through to September to hit the slopes. But if you’re more of a hiker (and there are so many trails to choose from here so you’re guaranteed to love hiking by the end) then winter is not the ideal choice of season to visit.
Many of the popular trails up Ben Lomond, Roy’s Peak and the Tongariro Crossing are still open but the unpredictable weather and frequent snowfalls make them more treacherous for inexperienced climbers. However, whatever season you choose you’re guaranteed to have a good time as there’s always something to do.
if you’re unsure about how to delegate your time in New Zealand then make Queenstown a prime destination to stay a few extra days in. Being an adventure hub, it does have a reputation for draining your bank account, but there is something for everyone, even the most budget of backpackers.
Queenstown is a perfect destination for solo travellers because there is plenty to be getting involved with. If you’re a daredevil there’s a whole multitude of bungy jumps and skydives to try out. But if you prefer life on the ground there’s plenty of low-key activities and walks with stunning views which you don’t want to miss. I stayed in Queenstown for a week and everyday I would walk the same route only to be blown away by the view everytime. Honestly, it never got dull to look at.
A highlight of the New Zealand’s South Island is Milford Sound. If you’re travelling solo then a booking with a bus tour is a whole lot easier than attempting to drive there yourself because the road can be a little bit temperamental at times. It rains over two hundred days of the year and during the winter months road closures are frequent due to avalanches and heavy snowfall. But don’t let that put you off because once you get through to the other side it’s worth it for the spectacular view that greets you. I just couldn’t stop taking pictures!
On your way, make sure you keep an eye out for the world’s only alpine parrot, the kea, a cheeky character which has grown fond of chewing off the soft rubber on car frames. It’s a funny little bird but it definitely gives you another reason to get the bus!
Take as many pictures as possible and make it your aim to be in half of them. New Zealand has breathtakingly beautiful scenery around every corner and it never gets dull. A good camera is definitely a travel essential for this destination, and most smartphones are well equipped to handle this. Naturally the hardest part of photography when you’re a solo traveller is managing to include yourself in the photos.
If you’re constantly the one behind the lens then your photos will look good but they will lack the personal touch. It could be anyone’s holiday! Get yourself a selfie stick, a tripod or even do it the old-school way and ask someone to do the honours and hope they don’t do a runner with your phone or camera!
Thanks for reading,