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The Ferry Building and Terminal in Auckland
The Ferry Building and Terminal in Auckland | © Bernard Spragg. NZ / Flickr
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How To Navigate Transport in Auckland, New Zealand

Picture of Thalita Alves
Updated: 9 April 2018
Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city and the main arrival point for many international visitors. Thanks to its vast network of buses, trains, taxis, motorways, walkways and cycle ways, it’s actually not that difficult to get around. This guide will help you make sense of all options, no matter where you’re heading.

Buses and trains

Auckland has buses and trains running throughout the region. Timetables vary according to which route you take, but you can generally expect these to be operating from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m. on a daily basis. On Friday and Saturday nights there are special buses departing from the city to various suburbs from midnight onward. Day time buses and trains tend to run less frequently on weekends and public holidays, and some areas might not be serviced by certain transport options – for instance, there is currently no railway system for Auckland’s North Shore. Here, you’ll be looking primarily at buses in this case, though there are ferry services for selected suburbs like Northcote, Devonport, Hobsonville and Beach Haven.

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Late night trip on an Auckland bus going from Mt Albert to the Central Business District | © wonderferret / Flickr

Britomart is the central city train station. It’s where most, if not all, train journeys start and finish, and the key place to buy rail tickets and public transport passes. Fares for buses and trains are calculated according to different travel zones – basically the further from your main departure point you go, the more you will pay. All buses accept cash payments upon boarding, but trains operate on a pre-pay system: you need to purchase your ticket in advance from a customer service desk at the train station or from a ticket top-up machine. The AT Metro website will be the best resource for finding out which options are available for the areas you’re exploring and how much they will cost you.

Local tip: Buy an AT Hop Card to get discounted travel fares, as cash payments are slightly more expensive. These can be used on all Auckland buses and trains as well as in most ferry services.

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Britomart Transport Centre, Auckland, New Zealand | © Francisco Anzola / Flickr

The City Link network

This is one of the best transport options for those opting to stay within city boundaries. There are three types of bus on this network: the red CityLink is a cheap alternative (NZ$1 adult cash fare) for those travelling between Wynyard Quarter, K-Rd and Queen Street; the green InnerLink bus will take you to trendy inner-city suburbs like Ponsonby, Newmarket and Parnell; and the yellow OuterLink bus will stretch beyond that into places like MOTAT and Mt Eden.

Local tip: These buses operate in both directions (clockwise and anti-clockwise), so make sure to check which side offers the most direct (and therefore cheapest) route for where you’re heading.

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An InnerLink bus in Auckland, New Zealand | © Simon_sees / Flickr

Ferries

Ferries are the go-to for those wanting to explore the Hauraki Gulf and its scenic islands. With the exception of some smaller ferry services, like the one going into Rakino, you can either buy tickets from the Downtown Ferry Terminal or use your AT Hop card to tag on and off your chosen vessel. These services are primarily operated by Fullers Ferries – the company is also in charge of the 360 Discovery Cruises going into Rangitoto Island and even as far as the Coromandel. If you’re heading on a day trip to Waiheke or Great Barrier Islands and want to take a car, the Sealink Ferry is going to be the best option.

Local tip: If you’re wanting to tour Waiheke Island, you can get a combo ticket from Fullers Ferry that allows you to hop on and off the main tour bus that does a loop around the area.

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A ferry headed towards Auckland’s Downtown Ferry Terminal | © Bernard Spragg. NZ / Flickr

Airport transfers

Skybus is the bus operator that will take you from Auckland city to the airport and vice-versa. These buses operate 24/7 and usually come around every 10 minutes. Fares are NZ$18 each way, you can either top up your AT Hop card with the required amount or buy a ticket directly from Skybus itself.

Local tip: If you’re going straight out of Auckland to somewhere else, Intercity offers complimentary airport transfers with their tickets. You just need to catch one of the orange buses that go to the Westfied Manukau shopping centre and then you will transfer to your Intercity coach.

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Waiting for the airport bus | © chrisjtse / Flickr

Taxis

Taxis in Auckland can be quite expensive. To give you an idea, a ride from the airport into the city centre could easily set you back around NZ$75. Prices are calculated on a distance basis and often range between NZ$2.15-NZ$2.75 per kilometre travelled. If you do need to travel by cab, there are various taxi stands around the city where you can simply hop into a car and tell the driver where to take you; alternatively, you can call a taxi company and give them your bearings.

Local tip: Uber is a good option to save money on taxi trips, as is the local ride-sharing app Zoomy. The latter is only available in Auckland and Wellington.

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A taxi outside Skycity Auckland | © russellstreet / Flickr

Driving

As with all the best metropolitan areas, Auckland is prone to bouts of traffic congestion. Unless you want to explore harder-to-reach spots like Matakana or Piha, it’s best to leave driving as a last resort and favour the local public transport system.

Local tip: The New Zealand Transport Agency website offers live traffic updates for many parts of the country, including Auckland. Keep an eye on this page in case there are any delays or accidents you need to know about.

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Auckland at night | © Louis Tan / Flickr

Walking and cycling

Central Auckland is hilly in some areas (it is built around 48 dormant volcanoes, after all) but for the most part, the city is quite walk-able. The cycling network is always improving and there are plenty of urban routes and trails to ride around. If you’re exploring the city by bike remember to keep left, follow all the rules and safety procedures (wearing a helmet is mandatory) and remember that riding on footpaths is illegal.

Local tip: If you want to view quite a few of Auckland’s attractions in a single day, try doing the 16-kilometre (9.9-mile) Coast to Coast walk. It will take you from the city centre to the other side of the isthmus.

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Auckland Lightpath, one of the city’s newest shared walking and cycling routes | © Schwede66 / Wikimedia Commons

Useful apps

The AT Metro App will help you find the right bus/train/ferry to catch, as well as telling you the fare prices, departure/arrival times and mapping out the entire route for you. The RideMate app, developed by the NZTA and Auckland Transport offers a full run-through of all the transport options available in Auckland and offers real-time updates on your chosen route.

Local tip: Google Maps will actually tell you which buses are timetabled to arrive at different stops. It can also be a good resource for finding the quickest walking and driving routes to take around the city.