New Zealand is exceptionally easy for backpacking around. New Zealand is quite possibly one of the easiest countries for backpacking and one of the best set up for it. So much so that often the hostels in New Zealand are just called the "backpackers", there is backpacking accommodation everywhere in New Zealand.

New Zealand is a truly stunning land and New Zealanders are very friendly and welcoming and easygoing. That being said when it comes to violating road rules, littering, not declaring at customs, and such, New Zealanders are not easygoing.


Getting Around

When backpacking around New Zealand, there are the main ways a backpacker on a budget can get around are - by hiring a car, by bus, by a campervan (the term "RV" is not used in New Zealand), and by hitchhiking. Hitchhiking is easy in New Zealand and it is very common to see backpackers hitching their way across the country. This mode of travel is not for everyone, but it is an option for those who would like to.

  • Note: Like Other Western Countries, Don't Hitchhike On The Motorways (There Aren't Many Of Them Anyway)


There are bus companies connecting all the main centers and tourist destinations all around the country. Getting to one's hostel will not be difficult by bus - although it often takes a longer period of time. There are all modern buses and everything is highly developed. Some of the main bus companies are:

  • ManaBus.Com
  • Intercity
  • Ritches
  • Real Journeys (For Tours In The Lower South Island Around The Lakes And Fiords)

Related: New Zealand Holiday Guide, The North Island: How To Plan The Perfect Vacation

Hiring A Car

The most popular way to get around New Zealand is by car (after America, New Zealand has one of the most cars per capita in the world). There are many car hire options all around the country.

  • Tip: To Share The Cost Of Hiring A Car, It Is Common For Backpackers In New Zealand To Carpool Via Facebook Groups And Couchsurfing
  • Tip: It Is Normally Cheaper To Hire A Car In The South Island And Drive It North. Many People Hire The Cars In Auckland And Drop Them Off In Queenstown In The South. One Can Often Get Hire Cars For Free If One Is Driving Them Back Up North

What To Pack

Basically, don't worry about this. It is best to take less - with travel and backpacking, it is almost always better to take less. New Zealand is a fully developed Western country with a fully developed love of camping and backpacking. One can easily buy everything here. New Zealand's dedicated and upmarket camping brands (with hiking, and outdoor clothing) are:

  • Macpac
  • Kathmandu

One thing to keep in mind, New Zealand is all about the grand outdoors. If one is traveling to Europe, for example, it may not matter if one packs more as most of the time people are just checking into the hostel in the old city center and staying there. So they don't need to carry their luggage around much. In New Zealand, it's a bit different. Most people going to New Zealand, are going for the outdoors and hiking. If this is the focus, it is very important not to carry too much weight and everything should be kept to a minimum.

Camping In New Zealand

New Zealand strives to keep its lands pure and clean. New Zealand has had a lot of problems with backpackers camping in the beautiful spots and leaving trash and toilet paper in their wake. In response, New Zealand is now strictly enforcing where people can camp - only at designed campgrounds, etc. This is very much enforced and fines are routinely handed out (they are also hefty fines meant to hurt and dissuade).

  • Camping: New Zealand Is Jam Packed Full Of Campsites, But "Freedom" Camping Is Generally Not Allowed

Related: New Zealand Holiday Guide, The South Island: How To Plan The Perfect Vacation

Customs In New Zealand

Forget immigration (if the traveler is from Europe or America, immigration is very easy). Its customs everyone visiting New Zealand needs to worry about. New Zealand is an island nation and its native species are unique and every vulnerable to invasive species. Consequently, as part of New Zealand's strict conservation policies, customs is VERY strict. The card one is handed on the plane should be very carefully read and truthfully filled out. Mistakes are fined without remorse. Everyone must declare if they have any foodstuffs, camping gear, have recently been on a farm, or even have dirty boots.

  • Fun Fact: If New Arrivals Have Dirty Boots, New Zealand Customs Will Wash Them

New Zealand is one of the most idyllic countries in the world for backpacking and one of the easiest. But as always there are things to keep in mind. New Zealanders may be easygoing but not with customs, "freedom" camping, littering, and violating the road rules.

Next: 10 of the Most Beautiful Spots in New Zealand