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new zealand aotearoa mtb

New Zealand is a big, generally sparsely populated country. There are more sheep than people, so whilst it may seem a good idea to catch a ride with a sheep truck,it may stink a bit.

Better options include: car, bus, train, plane, or, of course, bike! If you're travelling with your bike, or there's a few of you it's probably best to go by car - you can rent or buy. If you plan to rent a bike in major towns, or only plan to visit a few places and don't want to drive yourself - go by coach, but beware of the limitations this can inflict on you! If you just want to ride from major cities, you may want to consider flying.

// Car

Two options here. Rent or buy. Renting is fairly cheap, and buying is not as stupid as it sounds. in fact, if you're in the country for over a month, it can be very economical. Fuel is cheap in New Zealand (one of the cheapest in the world) - it's about a third of the UK cost, making it a very cheap way to get around. Car use is also joint highest in the world - any surprise??!!

Renting a car starts from just over NZ$20 a day, though for short-term rentals can be NZ$45+ per day. Obviously the more of you there is, the less it will cost per person. Renting is an easy way to get a car - you're covered for breakdown, and are insured by the rental company. For long term, or if there's just one of you, it can be more expensive than buying. At busier seasons, make sure you pre book a month or two in advance. Generally, you can't take a car between islands - you drop off and pick up at the ports. Major rental companies will sort this out for you.

Some rental companies:


Buy a car, pay for petrol in it, sell it for what you paid for it. Sounds attractive huh? Well, before you get too excited don't forget insurance (OK, it's cheap - from about $NZ300 for a year), and you'll probably not get what you paid for it. You can get a cheap car for $500, it may last, it may not. It's a gamble. If you go for a cheap car, be prepared for the fact something will need fixing, or you may loose all the purchase price.

But in NZ, there's a fantastic market, in the summer at least - backpackers. They go to NZ in their droves, and trade cheap cars. There's car markets set up for them! Pay about or just over a grand, and you'll probably get a car to last a few months, and be able to sell it on! Also keep in mind that parts and labour (especiallY) are cheap in NZ, and there are reliable japanese motors everywhere. Maintain the car whilst you have it, so that it can continue in the backpacker chain.

The car I bought needed work doing on it (about $600 all in), and I lost about $500 at sale. That's a cost of about $1100... which at $25 a day for car rental, works out at 44 days rental. I had the car for nearly 11 months! Good places to buy from are the car fairs and backpacker car markets in Auckland (Sat and Sun), and similar ones in Wellington and Christchurch.

If you're confident, go to auctions. Check Turners Auctions for more advice.

Some dealers offer a buy-back scheme, where they will guarantee to buy back the car at the end of your trip. Their buy back price should be agreed before hand, and put in writing. Be careful, and look out for dodgy dealers - you may not be able to find them when it comes to hand-back time. Good infomration at:

// Bus

A good way to get around without the hassle and worry of a car, but with limitations on destinations, and a timetable that must be stuck to. New Zealand has a main national operator - the InterCity bus network, run in conjunction with some local operators. There are many local operators, plus tour buses that will get you round, in various levels of youthful exuberance! If you buy in advance, some bus passes can work out about the same as petrol would cost - for one person. Be careful, as you often get charged extra for a bike. Check out some of these:

// Train

New Zealand has very little in the way of rail network. You can get from Auckland to Wellington on the North Island, or from Greymouth to Christchurch on the south. And that's pretty much it. The trip from Christchurch to Greymouth or vice-versa over Arthurs pass is worthwile though! Stunning scenery.

// Plane

Most cities have an airport, usually with at least once daily, probably several daily flights to other NZ cities. Hopping from the north island to the south island, they can work out good value - for one person without a car. If you don't have a car or are renting one, you can fly from Wellington to Picton (South Island ferry gateway) for about $NZ75 including bike.

Be careful on internal flights though - there is usually a 20kg baggage limit. However, if you fly to New Zealand on Air NZ or on one of their alliance partners, and fly internally on Air NZ you should be able to take your baggage allowance from your flight to NZ. Check the getting there page for more info on this. Look at these sites for more information on internal flights:

// Bike

The ultimate! You need a fair amount of time to do both islands, but even in a couple of weeks, you can see a lot of variety in New Zealand. Off the beaten track, roads are quiet, people are even friendlier, and there are plenty of options for camping or even hostels specifically for cyclists! Cycling round lets you really absorb the environment through which you're passing - sort of like you get when biking off road, but this is travelling around under your own steam!

Once you are in New Zealand, superb books are available describing cycle touring and routes. Possibly the best known and most used is the Peddlers' Paradise duo - North and South Island guides. These describe quiet touring routes - though there are many more books describing alternative routes. The best thing is to pop into a book shop in your entry city. Lonely Planet also publish "Cycling New Zealand", available from Amazon, or any good local bookshop.

You do need to be careful on NZ roads though - some (OK quiet a few) drivers are lunatics! You also get the odd one (just like in the UK), who will try to throw stuff at you / take the piss as they motor by. Ignore it, and stay happy!

More information on cycle touring from the Pedallers Paradise web pages

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