When traveling through a new country, one of the most important questions is: How will I get around? Especially when traveling solo, this question becomes particularly difficult. Should you sacrifice your freedom and book an organized group trip? Should you rent a car with the risk that you might not be able to enjoy the journey as much? Should you travel by public transport and possibly waste lots of precious time? New Zealand has found the perfect answer to all of these questions and it’s called Stray Travel!
Stray is a hop-on-hop-off bus service that offers you all the perks of traveling in a group without taking away any of your freedom. It provides safety for solo travelers, freedom for independent travelers and organisation for the, well, unorganised among us. But how does it work exactly and what makes it so awesome?
1. Stray has an offer for every budget, every schedule and every bucket list
Stray offers more than 20 different bus passes ranging from short weekend trips to full-on six weeks discovery tours. Whether you just want to see the stunning New Zealand alps on the South Island, satisfy your inner LOTR geek by hiking up Mt Doom on the north island or whether you want to see every corner of this stunning country, there’s a suitable pass for you.
Prices range from $105 NZD to $1,995 NZD but you should always look out for special offers. They always offer deals that let you safe up to 30% on specific passes!
2. All Stray passes are valid for 12 months!
When traveling with other travel organisations (for example, Interrail or Eurorail in Europe), there are usually rather inflexible time restriction. You can only travel so many days within a certain time frame, you have an exact start and end date or might only be allowed to travel the same route once.
Stray passes are incredibly flexible! From the day you book your pass, you have 12 months to actually start traveling and you decide on a whim when that is. Could be in 5 months or tomorrow. And as soon as you’ve set your first foot on a bus, the countdown resets to another 12 months! Why not travel the north island first, work at a farm or hostel for a while and continue your travels 6 months later? Absolutely no problem with Stray! You can even leave the country and come back later. Your pass is still valid!
There’s also no limit on how often you use your pass. Most routes are set up as a loop. If you think you haven’t seen everything yet or you really loved a specific place simply stay on the bus and go on another loop. And another… and another…
3. You can choose the degree of freedom that’s right for you
Some travelers love the spontaneity and absolute freedom while others need more planning and organisation in order to feel relaxed and safe. Stray lets you decide what you want.
If you don’t want to lift a finger because it’s your long-awaited vacation, they’ll organise all your accommodations. If you prefer to choose your own hostels, they will try to support you as much as possible and drop you off and pick you up either at the hostel itself or at a place that’s convenient for you.
Everyday, you’ll be offered a variety of activities to choose from. None of them are compulsory, of course, but if you do decide to raft down the highest commercially rafted waterfall, they will take you there and get everything set up.
4. You’ll meet incredible people from all over the world
The people I met on the Stray buses couldn’t be more diverse. I met people from the US, from the Netherlands and from Israel to name but a few. There were solo travelers, couples, and friends. The youngest was around 18 and the oldest more than 60 years old. But no matter how different we were, we still had one thing in common, we were there to have the best time of our lives!
Some of the people I met on the bus, I’m still in contact with today and they even came to visit me in Switzerland. The incredibly adventures you’ll experience together will create a unique bond that will last a lifetime.
5. Change and reschedule your trip as often as you like at (mostly) no extra cost
Traveling is not just about seeing breath-taking places, it’s also about the people you share all those experiences with. It’s such a shame when you have to leave some amazing people behind just because you’ve already booked the next stage of your trip.
Or maybe you fell in love with a place and you realize that two days simply isn’t enough to see and do everything that place has to offer?
With Stray you can adapt and reschedule your trip in a heartbeat. Just call them on their hotline (even if it’s just 24 h before you were supposed to board your next bus!) and they will do their best to rearrange all your stops, so you won’t end up stranded somewhere.
You can also add loops to your trip if you haven’t booked the Everywhere Pass. My pass didn’t include the east coast of New Zealand. When I met a group of people who were all leaving to the east coast the following day, I gave Stray a call. Within minutes, I had payed for the additional loop, my place on the bus was secured and all my subsequent stops were postponed. Couldn’t be easier!
6. You can safe lots of money
As a Stray traveler, you’ll get a special discount for almost everything. Whether it’s for accommodation, sky diving or swimming with dolphins, you’ll usually receive a special discount.
The Stray drivers also make sure you don’t waste all your money on food. Almost every day, they’ll stop at a cheap grocery store, so you can restock your supplies. Usually, they also offer a group meal where everyone cooks together. It’s fun, delicious and safes you lots of work and money!
7. You get to experience the true New Zealand and see places no one else gets to see
Stray takes their slogan “Stray off the beaten path” seriously. Of course, they will take you to all the must-see places in New Zealand but what truly sets them apart are their unique Stray stops. These are places you won’t get to see any other way.
You’ll stay with different Maori communities where you learn more about their traditions, culture and food (a Hangi dinner is basically the most delicious thing you’ll ever eat!). And who could say no to staying at a ranch that dedicates its time to saving the Blue Duck and go horse trekking in the middle of nowhere?
Your drivers also know where you can find the biggest carrot statue in the world or where the best gumboot throwing lanes are. And you wouldn’t want to miss out on some good old gumboot throwing!
8. They have WiFi on every bus now
This might not seem like such a huge selling point, but trust me… WiFi (especially decent WiFi) in New Zealand is about as rare as snow in the Sahara.
I still had to pay for crappy internet at every single hostel, so I was ecstatic (and a little jealous) when I heard that they finally offer it on their buses.
I never knew how much internet I was actually using to share all my gorgeous pictures on Social Media and skype with friends and family back home until I had to pay for every bite of data…
9. You’ll have the time of your life!
Since I came back from my New Zealand trip in December 2015, I can’t wait to go back. I had an absolute blast and not a day goes by without me reminiscing about all the adventures I got to experience and all the places I got to see.
Bonus reason: The drivers!
I was told by readers that I missed the most important reason of all and they were right!
The Stray drivers are the soul of every bus. They are your entertainment, your guides and your family. You’ll eat with them, sing with them and party through the night with them.
Whether you get to travel with Muesli, Skins, Kookie, Lantern or one of the other awesome drivers, they’ll make damn sure you enjoy every second of your trip!
So, what are you waiting for?
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