How To Hitchhike in New Zealand

If you want to try your hand at hitch hiking, than New Zealand is the best place to do it. Despite one or two cases making it into the news, New Zealand is still one of the safest and most beautiful places in the world to hitch hike. Of course, hitch hiking always carries with it some risks, but then so does every other activity in this world. So if you are keen to hitch around New Zealand, then this guide will give you the basics.

Why hitchhike in New Zealand?

New Zealand was the first, and only, place I have hitch hiked in. Originally I started hitch hiking because there were no public transport options to where I wanted to get to. It was my only option. Even where there are public transport options, they are often infrequent and rather costly, so hitchhiking is a great way to save money when traveling on a budget.

hitchhiking to nelson
Hitchhiking to Nelson

As I became more seasoned and comfortable with hitchhiking, my reasons for doing it became less about saving money and more about the interesting encounters I had with people along the road. The Maori mother and her children, the forest scientist, the accounts manager for the Hobbit film – I wouldn’t have met any of these people unless I was hitch hiking.

hitchhiking to wellington
Hitchhiking to Wellington

Hitchhiking is common in New Zealand.

You need to understand that hitchhiking has been an accepted part of travel in New Zealand for a long time. Many people hitch hike or have hitch hiked, whether they be foreigners or locals. Most drivers are fairly open to picking up hitch hikers, and in busy areas you will have a fair amount of competition when it comes to catching a ride.

kaikoura sunset
Kaikoura sunset

Hitchhiking is easy, even in isolated areas.

I never had too much trouble catching a ride – even in some of the most isolated areas of New Zealand. I even hitchhiked to and from trail heads in National Parks. I hitchhiked roads that are barely roads. I found that most locals are more likely to pick you up from remote locations because they know better than anyone that is not much traffic in these regions. In fact, it was around the larger towns and cities that I would have the most trouble catching a ride. For example, I was once trying to catch a ride out of a town called Raitehi. It’s basically a nothing town in the middle of a nothing highway that goes through the middle of nowhere. I went out to the one road in town (which was also the highway) and settled in for a long wait. I didn’t know how long I would have to wait for just another car to pass, let alone for someone to stop. I prepared myself to grow old and die by the side of that highway. Five minutes later a truck stopped for me and took me all the way to Rotorua – a major town several hours down the road and back to the middle of somewhere.

kepler sunrise
Kepler sunrise

Tips for getting a ride in New Zealand:

  • Stand in an area where it is easy for cars to slow down and pull over for you. If they can’t safely stop for you, they won’t.
  • Make a sign with your destination on it. Although most drivers probably won’t have time to read what you have written, I was told on several occasions that having a sign shows that you are going somewhere with purpose and not just some drifter on the road.
  • Look presentable and clean. No one wants to pick up a smelly person.
  • If you have been waiting a while for a ride, here is a sure fire way to get a car to stop – start doing something awkward. No matter how long we had been waiting, a car would stop 100% of the time if my partner went out to the bushes to pee. Or start making a sandwich, get some peanut butter on your face – a car will always stop when you are at your most ridiculous.

Don’t try hitchhiking if:

Don’t try hitch hiking if you have to get somewhere for a certain time or event. Sometimes you will be able to cover huge distances in a day; like from Auckland to Wellington, while other times you will wait ages just to get to the next town. If you have to be somewhere for a certain time, just shell out and get the bus.

Don’t try hitch hiking if for any reason you don’t feel comfortable with the situation or the person who has stopped for you. Remember that although most people in this world mean you no harm at all, there are a few bad people out there. If you gut is sending you warning signals, pay attention to it.

south island mountains
South Island Mountains

Hitchhiking in New Zealand: it’s worth a try!

Some of my best experiences and memories were made while hitchhiking in New Zealand. At first the whole thing felt really awkward to me, but after a few rides I got over it. Each person I met was totally different, each ride an adventure. Hitch hiking is definitely a part of the New Zealand experience, and something each traveler should at least consider.

About the Author

hitchhiking to nelson

Jade Johnston blogs about all things travel at She likes to write helpful guides for the places she visits to help others realize their travel dreams – on a budget. All this while navigating international travel with a baby. You can also connect with her on social media. Take your pick of Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.