Stray bus south island


Check out our most frequently asked questions to learn more about us and how Stray works.

1. About Stray

Who travels with Stray?

Stray attracts adventurous travellers from all corners of the globe. When we say “adventurous”, we don’t mean we expect you to do a bungy jump or even a 10 mile hike… but an open mind and a thirst for exploration is important!

It may sound like a cliché, but we are more about attitude than age. Anyone from 18-70 is welcome – with the majority of our passengers between 21 and 35.

Totally! A lot of our travellers arrive alone, others are with friends or partners. It doesn’t matter because by the end of day 1 you have already made a great group of friends on the bus! (“Meeting liked-minded travellers” frequently is rated in the top 5 reasons to travel with us.)

In winter our average group size is 20, in summer 35. Our buses range from 14 to 45 seaters. We try to use the appropriate bus for the group size, keeping it as small and nifty as possible! This means you can do and see more in a day and it's better for the environment too. 


Summer (September - April; GMT+13)
Monday - Friday: 7am - 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am - 5pm 

Winter (May - August; GMT +12)
Monday - Friday: 7am - 5pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8am - 4pm

On New Zealand Public Holidays, we are here 8am - 5pm. 

You can contact us via phone, Skype or email. Please note these times are in New Zealand time!

You don’t have to be an athlete to travel with us – all walks and activities are optional and there is something for everyone.

No we don’t have WIFI on our buses. We trialled it but found that using Prepaid SimCards with data plans provided faster and better coverage across New Zealand than we could provide on the bus. Free SimCards are available at the Auckland International Airport when you arrive, from the Stray Travel Shop (Auckland City) and some Driver Guides also carry these. The data packages are flexible and affordable.  

When you're on the bus, share stories and make friends!  It makes the experience even more memorable. 

Stray includes free days (non-travel days) in our itinerary, e.g. Abel Tasman National Park, Franz Josef and Queenstown, so even if you’re completing your Stray trip in the “minimum days” required you’ll still have time to do activities and explore each of these areas. We also include free mornings or afternoons in most places for you to do local activities, just relax or even do some necessary laundry!

Ultimately, Stray’s main priority is getting you out to see the real New Zealand, and we have some early starts so that we can fit as much adventure in as possible. What you do in your evenings is your own choice... However, of course we are a sociable bunch and we do enjoy a cold beer or two! Because many of our overnight stops are so "off the beaten track", you will find many of these fine beverages are shared around a campfire rather than in a bar, but we do have a couple of optional big nights out on the circuit, including Queenstown.

2. Preparing For Your Trip to NZ

No matter what time of year it is you will need comfortable walking shoes, sunblock, bug repellent, swimwear and a towel. 

We ask that you bring only one reasonably-sized backpack/suitcase (15kg) and a day pack. If you are going to be travelling with a lot more than 15kg, then please let us know.

In winter we also suggest packing a warm hat, rain jacket and light thermals, particularly for the South Island where it gets colder.

In summer remember your flip-flips/sandals/jandals/thongs (pick one according to where you are from!) and a sun hat.

Oh, and some clothes would be good too.

Either is fine in New Zealand, it’s up to you! We ask that you bring only one large backpack/suitcase (15kg) and a day pack. If you are going to be travelling with a lot more than 15kg, then please let us know.

There is no travel insurance cover included with a Stray travel pass. We strongly recommend that you take insurance to cover you for cancellation, medical expenses, personal accident, personal baggage, money and public liability. We do not take responsibility for any personal possessions under any circumstances.

World Nomads travel insurance is the perfect companion to keep you travelling safely while on a bus in New Zealand or around the world. They cover a range of adventure activities such as skiing, white water rafting and scuba diving. World Nomads also provides members with a free travel journal and SMS security alerts to make sure you well informed on the road and kept safe while travelling. They are Lonely Planet's trusted provider.

If you have a Hop-On Hop-Off Pass:

Accommodation: a dorm bed is roughly $28-36 per night - including central city hostels, bush-clad surf lodges, high country sheep stations and 1930’s huts in Fiordland National Park. The exception is the Lake Aniwhenua cultural and community experience which is $89 and includes food, accommodation and activities.

Food: this comes down to you, so anywhere between $10 and 100 per day! We stop at supermarkets but there’s (almost) always an option to visit a restaurant or local café. If you’re lucky our drivers have even been known to cook a very impressive BBQ/spaghetti bolognaise/roast/chocolate cake.

Ferry: $50-$65 per person one way. Between North and South there’s the Cook Straight and to cross this we must travel by the Bluebridge Ferry. The driver books this for you, otherwise it’s really simple to do online or at a hostel in Wellington/Picton.

Activities: these vary wildly, from $25 to visit a museum to $399 to jump out of a plane!

If you have booked a Stray Journeys Tour:

Accommodation, some meals and the ferry are all included so you just need to worry about your additional activities and other meals (see the above points about food and activities).

You will find that New Zealanders barely ever carry cash, as 99% of shops, restaurants and even taxis will accept debit cards. However they won't always accept credit cards and it’s handy to always carry $20-50 to cover you for circumstances like needing a key deposit for your hostel room.

Check out our Visitor Arrival Page for this information.

3. Managing Your Hop-on Hop-off Pass

Yay you booked!

  1. Within 24 hours after booking, you will be emailed a confirmation and information about how to login and manage your travel plans online. If you do not receive your login link, please email us at [email protected]
  2. When you are ready, you can book each leg of your pass so that we know when you want to hop on and off (you are able to change this as you go).

Each departure date is subject to availability. If you are short on time we recommend you book all your travel in advance to avoid disappointment.

This means you have not yet confirmed where and when you wish to be picked up. You need to confirm this by 5pm the day before you travel – but we recommend allowing 48 hours if possible, to guarantee your seat.

You can book online in Stray Mate right up until when bus leaves (provided there is availability). However in the peak season (December - March) we recommend booking 5 days in advance to ensure you can travel on your preferred travel date as the buses get very busy at this time of year.

If you book after 4pm, the day before travel you will need to go to the main designated departure point as listed on this 'Pick-Up List' (none of the alternative pick-ups are available for bookings made after 4pm). 

*Cape Reinga Day Trip:  The Cape Reinga day trip (operated by Fullers GreatSights) can be booked online up until 11am the day prior to travel. After this time if you wish to change your date or cancel you will need to do so directly at the Fullers Great Sights office located at  The Maritime Building, Paihia Waterfront.

Each pass page has a timetable tab which shows departure days and times for the current season. You can also find departures by logging into Stray Mate.

You can book your travel with Stray Mate, the online booking system. You will be sent a login within 24 hours of booking your pass. 

No. Your driver has quite a lot to do so we do not allow them to book passengers' travel. You should do this online or by calling the reservations team.

Yes – as long as it’s along your pass route then you are welcome to hop off at any point. You can do this spontaneously, but you will then need to re-book your next leg of travel with us in order to hop back on.

If you don’t want to complete the whole itinerary of your pass, that’s fine with us. Just use the route as a guide and complete the part you want to. For example, if your pass departs from Auckland but you are already in Raglan, then start from there!

Hop-on, hop-off passes are valid for up to 12 months. After you have completed your pass for the first time, you can travel the same route again on a space available (i.e. standby) basis. The only parts of the route that cannot be re-travelled are the travel days north of Auckland (Auckland - Paihia - Cape Reinga) and the Christchurch - Greymouth sector (Q and Short Q passes). All re-travel sectors must be booked through the Reservations team on [email protected] or by calling +64 (0)9 526 2140.

Over the peak summer season (December - March) we can get quite busy so we recommend you book your seat 5 days in advance (or at least 48 hours!) to ensure you can travel on your preferred travel dates.

However if you find that the bus is already full on the day you wish to travel, please call the Reservations team and we will put you on 'Standby' (a waiting list). Nine times out of ten you will still be able to get on the bus you want as other people change their hop-on, hop-off plans. Otherwise we will work with you to get you on the next available departure.

No, there is no limit. You can hop off at every stop if you want to. 

4. Accommodation

You can find out all of this and more on our Accommodation page.

All dorm share accommodation can be booked through your Stray driver. We guarantee we will find you a bed for the first night when you travel on the bus, which is really helpful for during peak season.

Twins and double rooms are available at every stop, some with ensuite. Stray can only guarantee dorm beds for the first night's accommodation promise, but drivers will try to honour all requests for private rooms based on availability. In busy periods we strongly recommend anyone who wants a private room to book in advance (see the Accommodation page for a list of where Stray stays).

No. Most hostels will not allow them in order to reduce the risk of spreading bed bugs! Therefore all bedding is provided.

Yes, and nearly all accommodation places also have a communal lounge area(s), TV/DVDs, computers, information desk and laundry.

Yes, most places offer wifi. Some places offer it for free, others charge a small fee. 

Hop-On Hop-Off Passes: No, accommodation is not included in the pass price. This can be easily booked through your driver on a pay-as-you-go basis and we guarantee your first night's stay at every location as we pre-book beds for you.

Stray Journeys Tours: Yes, quad-share accommodation is included in your tour, with private room upgrades available. See each tour page for more details and upgrade price.

Stray stays at a combination of remote lodges, upmarket backpacker hostels, a unique marae stay and small motels. You can read more on our Accommodation page.

5. Activities

You book and pay for any activities as you go, through your Stray driver. Feel free to ask him/her for recommendations!

The Cape Reinga Day Trip  is included with selected Stray Passes including the Maximus, Everywhere,  Short Maximus and Patch. This adventurous day trip is operated by Fullers Great Sights.

  • If the Cape Reinga Day trip is included in your Pass you can book your preferred travel date online in Stray Mate up until 11am the day prior to travel. After this time if you wish to book or amend your travel date you will need to visit the Fullers office located at the Maritime Building, Marsden Road, Paihia Waterfront
    Please note, any changes made in Stray Mate after 11am (the day prior to travel) will not be recorded and you will need to visit Fullers in person to make changes. 

  • If the Cape Reinga Day Trip is not included in your pass you can still book this with your Stray Driver who will ensure you get a great Stray rate! 


6. Ferry Services

The cost of the ferry ticket between the North and South Islands is not included. We use the Bluebridge Ferry - you can book your crossing with your driver, who will help secure you the best deal. The price of being a ferry passenger varies between $50-65 per person depending on the time of year.

If you are spending longer in Wellington/Picton without your driver, then you can book through their website (, or by calling Bluebridge directly on 0800 844 844 or email [email protected] Mention you are a Stray traveller and which direction you wish to travel, i.e. Wellington - Picton (8am sailing) or Picton - Wellington (2pm sailing). Don’t forget to check in 1 hour before the sailing.

If you need directions to the ferry terminal, just ask your accommodation.

NB. The ferry goes every day. However, if you wish to meet the Stray bus on the ferry, remember to check which days we travel on your pass timetable – it’s not every day.

Stray drivers can only book you on the Bluebridge Ferry service. If you choose to use the Interislander Ferry, make sure you advise Reservations in advance (either the day before or the morning you are sailing) so we can tell the driver. (Please keep in mind that the sailing times for the two companies are different.)