If you’re thinking of traveling around New Zealand by bus then there’s three main companies to choose from including Naked Bus, Intercity and Mana Bus. Truth be told it’s actually two companies as Mana Bus recently bought Naked Bus but they operate as separate entities.
The most common route is Auckland to Wellington and definitely the most congested in New Zealand. It’s not uncommon to find $1 fares if you book 3 months in advance, although take note if you book as a group only one person get’s the discounted fare.
The distances around New Zealand are rather large and many travelers underestimate how long a journey from Auckland to Invercargill could take on a bus. If you’re only here for 2 weeks you should focus your travels on one of our two islands.
Auckland to Wellington by bus takes around 11 hours including stops. If weather conditions are bad or accidents close State Highway 1 your trip could take up to 16 hours. In our review today we’re going to be focusing on this journey, all services offer a discount for frequent travelers but various pricing means it’s difficult to report on.
Naked offers some of the best fares if you purchase many months in advance such as their infamous $1 fare plus $1 booking fee. They have both modern and older buses so when booking make sure you check which bus you’re actually booking on.
Most of their buses offer standard seats however they’ve now launched a sleeper service (standard price is $49.99 from Auckland to Wellington) which includes a bed with phone charger. It’s important to note that the beds are pretty close together and you and your neighbor will be nearly touching each other!
If the sleeper service is putting you off then a standard seat on the same route will cost you $24.99. Once the bus starts to fill up the price increases by $5 or $10 at a time, it’s not uncommon during peak times to pay more for the bus than a flight would actually cost! So do take note and compare NZ flights using Skyscanner.
In general Naked Bus offers good services with regular breaks on buses that aren’t equipped with sleeper facilities allowing you to get off and have a break. On a recent trip from Auckland to Wellington these stops were Hamilton and Taihape.
There’s various reviews online of Naked Bus taking off early so make sure you’re at the bus stop 15 minutes prior, there’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a hip town with no other form of transport for the next 12 hours.
Naked Bus offers 2 x 23kg baggage in your fare, additional luggage can be added, check website for accurate pricing.
Intercity is definitely the choice of first class travelers and those without a budget. Having said that if you book far enough in advance you’ll find Intercity is actually more affordable than Naked Bus.
Intercity have a much newer fleet of buses than Naked and also offer standard seats and sleepers so take note when booking what you’re actually getting. A standard seat costs $26 but it’s important to point out this includes the booking fare so it’s actually the same price as Naked.
If you’re unsure of your travel plans you can buy a flexi fare for $75 which allows you to change your date and time of travel subject to availability. As the bus starts to fill up the price increases by random amounts so your $26 fare might be $30, $36 or higher.
If you’d like a touch of class then upgrading to gold seating is a wise idea for the best seats and comfort. This is located on the lower level of select double decker buses so you’ll not find the bus on all routes everyday. Prices start at around $46.
Intercity doesn’t have many bad reviews online, they have been in the game the longest and have the biggest fleet of buses. If you’re looking for hassle free bus travel with 2 x 20kg bags then Intercity is a good option, refer to website for accurate pricing.
Out of the three they are the newest company to launch in the market and were keen to quickly buy out Naked Bus, if you ask me it was a plan from day one to try and edge Intercity out of the market. Whether they succeeded I’m not sure?
There’s not a lot to mention about Mana Bus in terms of pricing as they have an integration with Naked Bus ensuring their prices are the same on both websites.
If you end up booking on Naked Bus you’ll probably end up on a Mana Bus as they have a far newer fleet of luxury buses including sleeper buses.
If you’re looking for cheap fares then checkout Naked or Mana, if you’re looking for luxury, on time services with the largest coverage nationwide then Intercity is the way to go and you can upgrade to their gold section or lie flat sleeper service. Wirh both offer sleeper services, Naked Bus/Mana Bus beds are far too close to others, so you better travel with a companion or get cosy next to your new neighbor.
Do you have suggestions for other travelers? Leave a comment below.
I’m an adventurer, traveller and thrill seeker who loves to explore the beautiful country of New Zealand. When I’m not writing articles for Ki-Wi you’ll find me driving jet boats, hiking and riding my motorcycle. New Zealand is an amazing country to live, work, travel and explore.