Let’s be honest: everyone has been a little more interested in New Zealand after watching Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. If you’re interested in coming here on a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa, or just passing through, I highly recommend purchasing a Stray bus pass in New Zealand. I recently explored the pristine South Island for a little over three weeks with Stray and had the time of my life!
First of all, let’s get started. What is Stray?
Stray is a hop-on, hop off bus network which operates throughout both the North and South Islands of New Zealand. While there are similar companies in the country who also offer similar packages, the areas and excursions offered on the Stray routes are a bit off-the-beaten path in comparison. Those interested in purchasing a pass can book a trip throughout the entirety of New Zealand; you can also choose to travel the islands separately. One of the coolest bits of the package is that your ticket will be valid for up to 12 months. Yep, that’s right: you can spread out your trip should you choose. Pretty cool, huh?
Why did I choose Stray?
James and I both knew upon moving here that we’d both want to end our New Zealand working holiday visa with a road trip. However, my American license expired during my visa and I was unable to obtain a new one as I don’t live in the country anymore. Since it wouldn’t be fair for one of us to do all the driving, we compromised and researched. We considered carpooling with other travelers or hitchhiking, but that wasn’t ideal for our time frame. We heard about Stray through a friend, and we were sold!
For me, a major selling point is the fact that Stray practices responsible travel and ensures travelers are leaving a positive impact on local communities. Some fun facts and eco-friendly efforts Stray is involved with:
- Stray has been responsible for planting more than 45,000 native trees since 2004
- Stray was one of the first commercial operators to run a bus on cooking oil
- Stray drivers encourage passengers to clean up the areas in which they’re staying
- The company tracks its annual carbon emissions; it is currently equivalent to that produced by 440 dairy cows
What are the route options with Stray?
There are a number of options for a Stray bus pass in New Zealand available on the Stray website. We chose the Willy Pass + Burt Pass package combination, which covered most of New Zealand’s South Island. We started and ended in Christchurch, making a complete anti-clockwise loop.
The company also offers deals to those who want to extend their travels up to New Zealand’s North Island, or vice versa. Should you fall in love with a place and choose to stay an extra few days (or months!) you will be able to – just make sure you book the bus seats in advance to secure a spot.
What did I love about Stray?
Nearly all of the holiday parks and hostels throughout New Zealand come equipped with kitchens, so it was really thoughtful of Stray to ensure we stopped at grocery stores nearly every day. This made it easier to stay within budget, as some of the excursions are quite expensive.
I loved the freedom of the experience; booking with Stray is not group tour-style travel. Once we got to a destination, we had the choice to stay as many nights as possible. For example, as soon as we arrived in Wanaka, James and I knew we wanted to stay for a few more days. It is unfortunate to have to say goodbye to the friends you meet, though.
A major personal perk is that unlike the Kiwi Experience, Stray isn’t a party bus catering to 18-year-old backpackers. That’s not to say we didn’t have a good time, though!
Our drivers were knowledgeable about the landscape and detailed a bit of New Zealand history and culturally relevant facts, which was pretty interesting. One driver even hosted a pub quiz-style challenge, and the winners won a free bar crawl in Queenstown. Pretty neat!
What could have been better?
In my opinion, there should be some sort of system in place to ensure couples or small groups will travel on the same bus. James and I changed our route around quite a few times, and there were a few days he was listed as “standby,” whereas I was fully booked. Should we had to separate, that would have been really frustrating!
Should you book with Stray?
Absolutely! This is an amazing way to get around the country stress-free while meeting great people along the way. I’ll be raving about this trip for years to come!
Disclaimer: James and I were guests of Stray during this incredible South Island adventure. Regardless, opinions expressed in this post are solely my own.