New Zealand Self Drive Tour


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Hello, My wife and I are thining about taking a tour of the South Island this January ( 10 days). We would like to hear your comments regarding tours that feature a combination of an auto rental and hotel package versus booking an auto seperately and choosing our own hotels. We noticed that one of the tour agencies required a $1600 security deposit on the auto, even though it is insured. Also, any suggestions regarding sight seeing stops would be appreciated. Thanks for your help Charles

You might want to contact Karolyn Wrightson of Essential Down Under. 877-977-4505 or She specializes in travel to Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific and advertises in ITN. We ultimately gave up flexibility of independent travel for a package tour to lower our costs. However, had we opted to travel independently, we would have worked with Karolyn since her candor, knowledge, and detail were impressive.

A number of years ago, Air New Zealand offered packages including flights, auto rentals and lodging. We used this and found it very workable. See if they still offer these packages.

My wife and I have visited NZ 3 times and loved it. Once we borrowed a car from a relative on the North Island and took it over to the south island. We ended up driving almost 5000 KMS. Covered the island from Picton, Christ Church, Dunedin, Invercargil, Stewart Island (flew over for a night) Te Ano, Milford Sound, Queenstown, Wanaka, Franz Joseph Glacier, Hokitika, and Nelson before ferrying back to the north island. The tourist agency can give you great info about small motels that basically have a small kitchen so you can save money on food.
Go for it.

I have used this company six times. They are excellent. If you do some advance planning you can easily go independent. It gives you more flexibility too. Since there is no language barrier I see no reason at all to use a tour company, just get Lonely Planet and have fun.

We've been to New Zealand 11 times now over 20+ years.......always with rental car and on our own. No problem, it is easy. Our favorite rental company is Apex, very dependable. Used them again last time out and they provided free ferry across from North to South Island for the car. If you are only visiting South Island, which we've sometimes done, we have used Pegassus, near the airport, very dependable. In any case there was only the usual charges for rental and insurance that NZ requires......maybe with a $1500 deductible.
Cannot recommend any specific motel/hotel accommodation.....but if you're interested in a 2 bedroom cottage rental in Christchurch.....
it's a really nice place with a yard and non busy street....and very pleasant owners.

Sadly, Christchurch is no longer the lovely old city with all the earthquake damage.....but the rest of the island is untouched.......enjoy.

We also used Apex Rentals and were quite happy with our Subaru wagon. Do not bother with their offer of a phone rental, however, as we discovered the coverage was not very good and the two times we really needed it we could get no signal. We rented from the downtown Christchurch office as we had flown into town a few days earlier and stayed there before venturing on the road. We did our own hotel booking using information found online. It's best to book ahead in some of the more popular areas especially since you will be there in the summer season. We also found a used camping goods store nearby where we bought a chilly bin (ice chest to us) so we could transport cold drinks and food along the way. Many of the motel rooms we rented had kitchenettes.