Last month, we partnered with the Stray backpack New Zealand company who gave us great deals on travel on the South Island in exchange for blogging about them. After spending several days with the Stray company, we also decided to post a review of their services.
New Zealand, simply put, is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. And it is the South Island which really steals the show in New Zealand. Wild spaces, tall mountains, crisp lakes, and a distinct lack of people – these are the things which make New Zealand stand out. But that can be a double edged sword. A lack of people, also means a lack of cheap and frequently available public transportation.
If you’re like most people, and can drive, then this isn’t really a big issue – you can always rent a car or a popular backpacker van and explore the country at your own pace. But if you are like James and I, who awkwardly do not have drivers licences, or if you are someone who does not want the hassle and responsibility of renting a car – then bus tour companies like Stray might just be the answer.
Enjoy the views and let someone else do the driving
Doing a bus tour is quite a different style of travel than what James and I usually do. We usually hitchhike around, or take public transport on our own schedule. However a lack of public transport options on the South Island made Stray extremely useful to us. One benefit of using the Stray company was that we got to see way more than if we had taken a regular bus.
When we first started looking at Stray’s timetables we wondered why they took so long to get from point A to point B. Are the drivers really slow? Are the busses not able to reach normal speeds? Neither of these are the case. The drivers actually stop at as many points of interest as possible. At times we were so overwhelmed with photo stops that James and I took turns getting off the bus to take the required snaps. We really appreciated these opportunities to better discover the country side – opportunities that we would not have had with public transport.
Make sure you get the most out of your trip
The other great thing about Stray is that the schedule (to an extent) is flexible. The drivers responsibility it to get you from point A to point B sometime during that day – but they are not constrained to on the minute guidelines. So in our case, if bad weather means your glacier tour is delayed, the bus driver can accommodate by leaving later in the day.
And of course, everyone loves to save some money right? Some of us have thicker wallets than others, but I think everyone enjoys a good bargain. Stray, due to the size of the bookings they make, are able to offer some really great deals on activities for it’s passengers. This is especially true for Queenstown activities.
Savings, savings, savings
Now I love a good deal. When I was a kid I even had a coupon collection. (I was a weird kid) I collected all the coupons I could find from the newspapers and from shopping aisles until I had a huge plastic bag. When my mom recycled it I was upset for days. So you can understand how exciting these discounts were for me! I even felt compelled to try bungee jumping (or more appropriately, force James to try it), but for once, James was the voice of reason here. We did however, book our Milford cruise and our ferry journey to Stewart Island and saved gobs.
Not only did we save some money on activity bookings, but Stray helped take away a lot of the stress that also accompanies travel. Our driver booked our accommodation (although you always had the option to stay elsewhere, as James and I did when we decided to go to Fox glacier instead of Franz Joseph), booked our activities for us, and even made pit stops at grocery stores to make sure we were all stocked up. All we had to do was worry about who got the window seat. (Which was usually always James, cause I need more leg room!)
All reviews have to mention a shortcoming, but this shortcoming is an understandable one
The only complaint we had with Stray was the rigidity of the timetable. Now, on the day level they were quite flexible, but that is where it ends. The drivers have very specific routes, and specific places where they stop. If you want to spend an extra day or two in a place, then you might end up having to wait at least three until the next bus passes through. Of course, it is understandable why the timetable is set up in this way – it just would not be economically viable for them to run busses every day!
Another thing which can cause some tears, is that the busses often book up quickly – so don’t leave booking your spot on the bus until the last minute or you might be out of luck until the next bus comes through. Both of these things though, can easily be eradicated by a little pre planning. Once you sort out where you want to go, and for how long, you can book your travel sectors and then all you have to worry about is showing up and enjoying yourself.
Thanks for reading this post! Now here is a coupon for you!
So if you don’t want to undertake the responsibility of driving yourself around New Zealand, and want to meet a bunch of other young adventurous travellers then do consider the Stray bus.