Auckland, New Zealand, is an easy city to get around. An isthmus lined with waterfront biking and walking trails, it offers endless views. Located on New Zealand’s North Island, Auckland is home to nearly one-third of the country’s population. It’s the financial and transportation hub for the country, as well as being the starting point for most New Zealand adventures.
How To Get To And From The Airport
Most overseas visitors to New Zealand enter the country at the Auckland Airport. After clearing immigration and customs, visitors can be greeted by friends, family, or a hired driver, or opt to leave the airport using one of the many transportation options available.
The drive from the airport to downtown Auckland takes about 35 minutes. If you arrive unsure of what transportation option is best for you, stop at the i-SITE Visitor Information Booth inside the international terminal.
While there are many shuttle services in Auckland, Super Shuttle is the only one currently licensed to pick passengers up from the designated stands at the airport. Similarly, only licensed taxis can pick up from the airport. This system is in place to ensure high-quality service to visitors.
Super Shuttle can be booked in advance or at the airport. It is generally a shared ride, although advanced booking offers the opportunity to reserve a private ride for an additional fee. The advantages of the shuttle service are that it can be booked ahead of time, it’s a fixed fare, and it drops you off at your hotel or private residence. The disadvantage is the additional time it takes to drop off other passengers should your destination be toward the end of the shuttle’s route.
By Taxi, Uber, Ola, Or Zoomy
While any taxi can bring you to the Auckland airport, only licenced taxis can pick passengers up from the taxi ranks located outside of the international and domestic terminals. Charges from the airport can be metered or you can pay a flat fare to the central business district (CBD). Either way, prices vary by company.
One of the easiest, most convenient, and least expensive ways to get to the CBD from Auckland Airport is via Skybus. The bus takes about 45 minutes. It picks up at both the domestic and international terminals.
Skybus runs 24/7 and has two routes (Dominion Road and Mt Eden Road). Advantages of taking Skybus include its low cost, frequent runs, free onboard Wi-Fi, and comfortable, modern feel. You can save even more if you get your tickets online.
The disadvantage of SkyBus is the inconvenience of being dropped off at a central location rather than directly at your hotel. This is a bigger problem for visitors who tend to overpack, or for those who have mobility impairments or are traveling with small children.
There is currently no train or light rail going to the Auckland airport. This is a contentious political issue frequently debated by the government.
Currently, passengers can hop on a 380 airporter bus to the Papatoetoe train station. From there, board the train to Britomart, the city’s main transportation hub. This process will take about an hour. While this is the least expensive way to get anywhere from the airport, it is not as convenient as taking a single SkyBus.
Construction plans will upgrade the Puhinui railway station by 2021. Once this is completed, the journey will be easier and take a bit less time, but will still require both rail and bus stints.
Should You Rent A Car In Auckland?
In New Zealand, we drive on the left and our steering wheels are on the right. Traffic in Auckland is heavy and there are not enough parking spots and lots. There is almost no free car parking in the city, and even the cheap meters cost at least a couple of dollars an hour. Parking in a lot, while secure, is shockingly expensive, even by world standards. The majority of weekday parking is reserved for daily commuters who get massive discounts by purchasing monthly passes.
On top of that, gas prices are about double those in the United States, making driving in Auckland rather off-putting to visitors.
If you are planning an extended road trip on the North Island, renting a car as you leave Auckland could be useful; otherwise, walk, take public transit, or use a taxi when in the city.
If you are going to drive in New Zealand, check out these tips for visitors from Drive Safe NZ.
How Walkable Is Auckland?
Auckland is an extremely walkable city, featuring hundreds of walking tracks ranging from city trails, waterfront exploration, and rainforest hikes out to the west. From Britomart, one can walk to the vast majority of Auckland’s key sites.
Bicycle riding is also a common way to get around, with several flat and easy bicycle paths connecting different areas of the city.
What To Know About Auckland’s Public Transportation
If you’re staying downtown, which you most likely are if you are a visitor, you will find public transportation in Auckland easy to use. Britomart is home to the start and end of Auckland’s train lines and busses. Plus, there is a taxi stand here and it is about a block away from the ferry terminal.
The easiest way to know your route is to start with Auckland Transport’s AT Journey Planner. Simply enter your starting and ending destinations, and it will show you your best route. The tool even includes an estimate of the amount of time you will need for walking on either end of your trip.
This simple app can be used for planning from home or on the spot. It’s especially useful with the current construction at Britomart and other key areas of downtown, which has resulted in the relocation of many bus stops. Journey Planner will help you to know exactly where to wait for your bus.
Paying For Your Transportation: AT HOP Card
If you are in Auckland for more than a few days, purchasing an AT HOP card will benefit you. Think of it as a transportation smartcard that is preloaded and can be used to board buses, trains, and commuter ferries. The card will cost you $10 but will save you about 20 percent on most fares. Note that some of the ferry services do not offer AT HOP discounts.
Without a HOP card, you can pay with cash when you board a bus and some ferries. You will need to buy a ticket for the train and can buy a ticket for all ferries. Easy-to-operate train ticket machines are maintained in all the stations, while ferry tickets must be purchased from the ferry terminal or the small Fullers360 ticket office just to the east of the ferry building along the waterfront.
Link buses are red (CityLink), green (InnerLink), and amber (OuterLink). Each follows a different loop through the city. These buses run frequently, are extremely affordable, and are generally a much easier option than trying to drive yourself.
Other buses to the suburbs leave the city on regular intervals but do not run overnight. If you are staying outside of the downtown area and using public transportation, be sure to check the time of the last bus to ensure you can get back to your accommodation.
Important tip: Passengers at bus stops need to signal the driver (by raising an arm) if they want the bus to stop.
Ferries are my favorite way to travel around Auckland. They convert travel time into an adventure. Fresh sea air, stunning views, and occasional dolphin spotting are all part of the fun. However, the biggest advantages of the ferries are their reliability (they run on time and are not dependant on traffic) and the fact that they get us out to islands we might otherwise not be able to visit. The disadvantage is the ferries’ weather dependence and cost. Ferries are some of the more expensive modes of transportation in Auckland.
Electric trains run from Britomart out to 41 stations. The four Auckland train lines are the Southern out to Pukekohe, Eastern out to Manukau, Western out to Swanson, and Onehunga to Onehunga. They are used mostly by commuters. When these trains are your best option for reaching a destination, they will appear on Journey Planner.
Both the Eastern and Southern lines stop at Papatoetoe, the stop you will need to transfer to the airport if this is the way you choose to get there.
Auckland is a naturally easy city to get around. The public transportation in the central city is outstanding and user-friendly. Discounts are available to anyone with a HOP card. It’s a great city to explore and there are plenty of free things to do, but don’t forget to hop on a ferry at least once and get out to one of Auckland’s many islands.