The cheapest way to travel around New Zealand is by bus and with Air New Zealand charging $375 for a flight from Wellington to Gisborne on Boxing Day, I opted to take an InterCity bus instead. This meant 9.5 hours of bus travel through parts of New Zealand I frequent little.
My InterCity bus trip
Upon arriving at Wellington Station shortly after 7am an Intercity Driver informed us that two buses were heading to the East Coast. His one, leaving on time, would take those going only as far as Palmerston North or Hastings. A second bus running about 15 minuted late would bypass Palmerston North and take the rest of us to Napier, Wairoa and Gisborne.
It took much longer than 15 minutes to arrive and in the end we departed 40 minutes late, pausing at Johnsonville and Porirua before we were on our way.
It turned out the driver wasn’t lying when he said we’d make up time – we came across the first bus when we stopped for 30 minutes at Matamau nearly three hours in. Judging by the queue in the cafe they hadn’t been there long.
Long queues for food and bathrooms grew quickly. Some of us towards the back were sent around to use a bathroom in a motel unit at the back of the building which felt a bit odd but was appreciated. I sat on the lawn and ate my packed snacks (thanks mum!).
We changed buses at Napier and then had our second meal break at the Waikare Hotel in Putorino. There weren’t nearly enough bathrooms for 2 buses of people with one out of order and the food and drinks were very expensive.
The bus was basically full most of the journey and while those sitting next to me were mostly considerate that may not always be the case.
We finally arrived in Gisborne 5 minutes ahead of schedule at 5pm. The first bus appearing a few minutes later as it had been the whole journey.
My InterCity bus trip was over.
I did opt to fly back to Wellington.
Getting around New Zealand without a car
Over the past five years years Air New Zealand has made cuts to the regional network making getting around New Zealand by air harder. Routes such as Gisborne to Wellington which were using the 19-seat Beech 1900D aircrafts were previously losing over $1M per month so it came to either upgrading to a 50-seat plane or cut it.
Up until early 2016, all New Zealand towns with a population greater than 20,000 had an air service. Westport, Whakatane and Kaitaia are now without leaving it to bus companies like InterCity to access smaller New Zealand towns.
Have you ever taken the bus before?