Getting Around New Zealand

New Zealand is about two thirds the physical size as Japan—and like that other mountainous island nation, it can be slower to travel around than you might expect. And with a population of less than five million (vs Japan's 126 million for some perspective), the open spaces in New Zealand are vast, with towns few and far between.

Most international travelers arrive in either Auckland (toward the top of the North Island) or Christchurch (one of the biggest cities on the South Island). Domestic flights can be taken to every large and medium-sized city in the country. 

Driving is a convenient way of getting around New Zealand, either in a car or a self-contained recreational vehicle. Self-driving allows access to some more remote areas such as national parks, coastline, and mountain areas, which are difficult to access any other way. New Zealanders drive on the left side of the road, and while most routes are well maintained, there are some challenging mountain roads on both islands.

New Zealand’s public transit network is not extensive, but a few scenic, long-distance rail routes cover main points of interest on both islands, such as the Tongariro National Park, Kaikoura, and the West Coast. Long-distance buses are slower than self-driving, but it’s possible to get to many large towns and popular destinations this way, and it saves the challenge of driving on unfamiliar roads. 

Travelers must either fly between the islands or take the ferry between Wellington and Picton, at the top of the South Island. Ferries also run to some other off-shore islands, such as Waiheke, Great Barrier, and Stewart Islands, but not all of these are vehicle ferries.
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