|Subject: Re: New Zealand -- tour or indie?|
New Zealand is wonderful! I have only been once - for 2 weeks in October 2000 and that was just doing the bottom half of the South Island - but I remember it like it was yesterday!
My trip was actually a combination or tour and indie. I searched through lots of tour brochures and web sites and planned my ideal trip. When no one tour seemed to offer what I wanted, I contacted Thrifty Tours http://www.thriftytours.co.nz with my itinerary as they did have one tour that was very close. What they did was book all my train trips, my transfers, my accommodation, and my pre-planned extras like cruises, and then once I got from A to B I was on my own with maximum flexibility to do what I wanted, when I wanted.
(Some comments on that trip are in an earlier Travelzine post http://ttz.thetravelzine.com/TTarchive/035368.html )
I've mostly travelled independently too, but this time I doubt I saved any money like I would usually do when travelling solo. However, the trip was made very spontaneously (frequent flyer points expiring, annual leave approval) so I had to pull it together literally in just days so having someone help was crucial.
I can highly recommend http://www.fiordlandtravel.co.nz/ it was great for finding out options and dates and prices for various activities, and the staff were very helpful when I emailed the contact list with questions. (It is specifically for Fjordland though and doesn't cover the east coast of the South Island.)
So coach and trains on the South Island are a breeze. Their bus services are phenomenal - it's not "just" public transport - they make little scenic stops along the way and you get a commentary (block your ears when they start talking about possums). Except for Mt Cook. I *really* wanted to go - but somehow just couldn't make it happen - I think because I was advised to take the train from Dunedin back to Christchurch, and would have had to instead take a bus via Mt Cook. Anyway, I am sure that in 5 years there have been many changes so your trip will easily be possible. :) Megan Brisbane, Australia