Using My Stray Bus Pass in New Zealand

Using My Stray Bus Pass in New Zealand

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

stray bus pass in new zealand


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!

stray bus pass in new zealand


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!


I recently traveled on a Stray bus pass in New Zealand's South Island and had the time of my life. Click here to read more about my experience!


Disclaimer: James and I were guests of Stray during this incredible South Island adventure. Regardless, opinions expressed in this post are solely my own. 



  1. Suze
    May 9, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this system before but it sounds brilliant, so flexible! I like the fact that they’re so involved in protecting the environment too. Definitely sounds like a great way to get around New Zealand

    • May 9, 2017 / 8:09 pm

      Super flexible and lots of fun =) I was a bit hesitant as I was afraid it would be shuttling us around group-travel style, but that wasn’t the case at all. Loved it!

  2. May 10, 2017 / 4:03 am

    The stray bus sounds like a great option for visitors to New Zealand. I love companies that are mindful of the environment and I love that they stopped at a grocery store daily. That is super convenient and very thoughtful 🙂

    • May 11, 2017 / 1:11 am

      Definitely! It made staying within budget for food super easy, which we needed as we’re moving to Vietnam in a few months with a mini Europe trip on the way.

  3. May 10, 2017 / 6:06 am

    This is interesting. Thumbs up to anything that is environment friendly. Love this idea and it is definitely a good option for visitors to New Zealand being stress free and meeting people.

    • May 11, 2017 / 1:10 am

      Totally! I can’t recommend this company enough 🙂

  4. Wow, I didn’t know that New Zealand has this kind of Bus system. I wish that we have it here as well in the Philippines. Anyway, stray Bus is truly awesome. I like how they bring their passengers to the off the beaten path which is sound really a great adventure. Thank you so much for letting us experience Stray Bus by just reading your blog post. The scenery from the North to South is really beautiful.

    • May 11, 2017 / 1:10 am

      I didn’t know either! I’m so glad one of my friends told me about it. I had such a great time – and you’re right: the scenery here is absolutely incredible!

  5. May 10, 2017 / 10:56 am

    Stray certainly seems helpful and it looks like a really great resource. I LOVE that it doesn’t have that 18 year old party vibe — that’s for sure a plus in my book. I need to get my butt back to Queenstown. I miss the amazing views! 🙂

    • May 11, 2017 / 1:09 am

      No 18-year-old backpackers ruining the trip was certainly a plus! When you do get back to Queenstown, make sure to drive to Wanaka as well. It’s just an hour’s drive and MUCH less touristy and built up compared to Queenstown, making it a bit more magical.

  6. May 10, 2017 / 4:27 pm

    I don’t know about Stray, but sounds like a great way to get around if you don’t want to drive. We did the whole campervan thing on our trip to NZ and it was a blast, but it was very tiring to drive every day. I like the fact that you can change your itinerary as you go along.

    • May 11, 2017 / 1:08 am

      I am unable to renew my USA driver’s license as I haven’t lived there in 3.5 years, which was the main reason we started looking for alternative options. It was awesome as we got to relax and enjoy the views – even sleep sometimes 🙂 It was super easy to change things around and accommodate what we wanted to do.

  7. May 10, 2017 / 6:15 pm

    This is so cool! I loved having a rail pass in Europe and I loved the Green Tortoise bus trips in the US. This sounds like the perfect mix of the two. I hate renting cars and dealing with driving, I’d much rather take public transit when it’s a realistic option. I’m going to have to remember this for when I make it to NZ finally!

    • May 11, 2017 / 1:07 am

      I really recommend it as the train and public transportation systems here are a bit lacking at the moment. You’re so right – it was nice to just relax and not deal with the driving and such. I loved it! Let me know if you have any questions in the future!

  8. May 10, 2017 / 10:30 pm

    That sounds fantastic! I’m actually going to New Zealand for the first time in December and I’m looking for affordable ways to get around. I travel alone, so Stray seems right up my alley. Thanks for the tip!

    • May 11, 2017 / 1:06 am

      Oh excellent!! There were quite a few solo travelers on our buses so I would agree that Stray is a great choice. Let me know if you have any other questions, either in the comments or drop me an email. I’d be happy to help!

  9. May 10, 2017 / 11:55 pm

    New Zealand is seriously drool worthy. OMG when I first read you went on a stray bus I thought you meant you found some feral bus on the loose in NZ! hahaha I have always wanted to try a hop on hop off bus through various destinations and it looks like Stray heads to some of the most beautiful places in the country! Seriously such an economical and efficient way to travel! We will totally do this when we go.

    • May 11, 2017 / 1:05 am

      Totally!! You have to come to New Zealand – the nature is unlike anywhere else on our planet. I know the campervan way is the dream, but this was seriously an awesome option because it allowed us to enjoy the views and learn about the landscape, history and culture in the process. You can get off when you choose and rent a car if you’d like, or even hitchhike to the next town over if you don’t want to ride the bus for a bit! I couldn’t recommend it enough!!

  10. May 11, 2017 / 12:45 am

    This sounds like a great option. Like the commenter above, I though stray bus meant you found a random, “stray” bus to tour around on. I’m sure it was a lot easier to see the sites and relax knowing that you didn’t have to drive. Do they have predetermined stops, or can you decide where you want to go?

    • May 11, 2017 / 1:02 am

      There are pre-determined stops, but they are all places you’d most likely want to go anyway. You have the option to get off at any of the stops you choose, and can stay off the bus as long as you want. For instance, if you want to get off at Queenstown, rent a car and drive down to Dunedin for a few weeks, head back up to Queenstown and hop on the bus again, you can totally do that. The bus also goes a few places that people may not normally go to, which I thought was pretty cool. Let me know if you have any questions!

  11. May 11, 2017 / 1:16 am

    I just heard about Stray for the first time on a podcast, but in reference to travels in Asia! I’m glad to hear that it’s worth it! It’s also so awesome that it’s available in NZ as well! I have got to get there – I only see the most amazing photos from New Zealand.

  12. May 11, 2017 / 6:10 am

    Great review, looks like a great way to get around if you don’t want to drive for whatever reason. Refreshing to see the negatives listed too, to give a balanced and accurate image of the service.

  13. May 11, 2017 / 7:04 am

    You nailed it with the first sentence : We are all a little bit more interested in NZ after watching the movies LOTR and Hobbit! Many people can relate with this including myself! The Stray bus sounds to be a nice option to travel with when in NZ. It is so convenient that the bus also stops at grocery stores!

  14. May 11, 2017 / 8:23 am

    ‘Stray’ seems super cool – especially the off-beat and one-year validity part. You certainly had a great time and I am absolutely convinced to try them out on my trip to NZ too! Thanks a ton for the post 🙂

  15. May 11, 2017 / 6:12 pm

    Stray bus pass is such a good idea for travelling. I would definitely do this if I travel to New Zealand as I don’t have a drivers licence. I used to study in Australia but never made it to New Zealand because of the budget. But with this transportation, I would probably be able to afford it. 🙂 Thank you for letting me know about this 🙂

  16. May 12, 2017 / 8:29 am

    I guess this is a great way to travel. We have driven in New Zealand and it is actually a pleasure to drive among the greenery , however it does get tiring at times and I wished some one would just teleport me to where I wanted to go.

  17. Sally
    May 12, 2017 / 9:26 pm

    I haven’t been to NZ yet but it is super high on my list! I had never heard of this company before but it sounds amazing! I love how they’re so flexible and that they work hard to protect NZ. I’ll be sure to check it out when I go!

  18. May 14, 2017 / 11:05 am

    Stray looks like a perfect way to explore the parts of New Zealand. I usually rely on buses or any other public transport during my travels and this looks the best. I would love to try Stray.

  19. Sam
    May 15, 2017 / 2:02 am

    Oh I love this! I was planning on road tripping through New Zealand, but I’m always more open to options where I don’t have to drive (both because it’s more environmentally friendly not to drive and because I just really hate it). Your photos are gorgeous, and I love that Stray stops at grocery stores!

  20. May 15, 2017 / 5:17 pm

    I love that Stray is so eco-friendly- it’s amazing when you can find travel companies like that! New Zealand looks gorgeous but sometimes you just can’t do all that driving. I’m so glad that you and James got to end your year out there touring the country. It looks gorgeous. I’ll definitely look into this if I’m ever in NZ! 🙂

  21. May 30, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    I am currently in New Zealand and I am glad I stumbled upon your post! Great to know about Stray Bus pass, Laura!

    • May 30, 2017 / 3:36 pm

      I’m so glad you found this page! If you have any questions feel free to email me 🙂

  22. June 19, 2017 / 5:30 am

    I used Stray 7 years ago when I was backpacking through New Zealand. It was a great way to see a lot, and I made some friends I still keep in touch with!

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