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One way Tongariro Crossing shuttle v's return shuttle

Callum Harland
11 February 2022 1:05:40 PM

You're planning to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. You're looking forward to a break away.

But first you'll need to sort out some logistics. How best to get to and from the hike?

You'll need to take a shuttle. But which type of shuttle?

A one way shuttle, or a return shuttle?

In this article you'll learn the difference between a one way shuttle and a return shuttle. 

After reading this article it'll be easier for you to decide which type of shuttle is best for you.

Why even need a shuttle for the Tongariro Crossing?

Why even need a shuttle for the Tongariro Crossing? Here's why: the track is point to point. It starts on the western side of Tongariro and finishes on the Northern flanks. 

So unless you have a personal chauffeur, or you plan to walk 20 km back to the start you need a shuttle.

Another reason you need a shuttle is there's a 4 hour limit at the car parks at both ends. To finish the Crossing in under 4 hours you'd need to run. 

One way Tongariro Crossing Shuttles

There're many companies operating shuttles to and from the Crossing. Some of these companies offer one way shuttles. The way this works is you drive to Ketetahi in the morning and park your car there for the day. A shuttle will take you to the start, and you'll walk back to your car.

There're pros and cons to everything in life. One way shuttles are no different.

Pros of taking a one way Tongariro Crossing shuttle:

  • No need to follow a schedule for a pick up after you've finished the Crossing. You can finish at any time.

  • You can do the hike as fast, or as slow as you like.

  • No waiting hours for a shuttle at the finish if you're fast. No running for your shuttle if you're slow.

Cons of taking a one way Tongariro Crossing shuttle:

  • You use your own vehicle to travel to Ketetahi in the morning

  • Travel time before you start hiking can be greater depending on where you travel from.

  • If you stay in National Park, Whakapapa, Owhango or Ohakune travel time in the morning is greater. It can take an extra 30 minutes or more to get to the start of the Crossing. The reason for this is you'll drive to Ketetahi, find a park, find your shuttle and travel back to the start in the shuttle.

  • This option can be more expensive when you consider the cost of running your own vehicle. This applies if you're staying before and after the hike in National Park, Whakapapa, Owhango or Ohakune. See the costing tables at the bottom of this article.

  • Some companies have no parking at Ketetahi. This means the only place you can park is on the side of the State Highway. This can be dangerous on busy days.

  • Driving, parking and finding the right bus at Ketetahi, and being on time can add stress to your morning.

  • If the weather turns bad having your car at the finish could make you feel the need to keep going. Which might not be the best or safest decision.

  • If the weather does turn bad while hiking, and you do turn around it can be a long wait for a shuttle to pick you up. There are instances where hikers have had to wait hours in wet cold conditions. Best to check the shuttle company's turn-around policy before you book.

  • One way shuttle companies don't account for you finishing the track in the afternoon. In contrast this happens with all return shuttle companies. This could be an issue for international travellers. Or for anyone who doesn't have someone to share their intentions with. 

The one way Tongariro Crossing shuttle is a good fit for you if:

- you're extra fast or extra slow. This option will give you flexibility at the finish.

- you stay in National Park, Whakapapa, Owhango or Ohakune the night before, and are leaving the area after the hike. You might save time if you are travelling south towards Wellington, or north toward Taupo. That's if you take State Highway 1 in either direction.

- you're doing a day trip from Turangi or Taupo this could be a good option for you.

If a one way shuttle is best for you, here's a couple of pro tips:

  1. PRO TIP: Choose one of the shuttle companies who have private car parking at Ketetahi. Our best picks are National Park Shuttles and Backyard Tours. These two companies are excellent operators. 

  2. PRO TIP: Make sure you know how to get to Ketetahi in the morning. Also be clear about where to park and which shuttle bus company you've booked.

Return Tongariro Crossing Shuttles

Another option is to take a return shuttle. In the morning a shuttle will pick you up from your accommodation. It will take you to the Mangatepopo start of the Crossing. In the afternoon the shuttle will pick you up from the finish at Ketetahi. It will take you back to your accommodation, or the National Park car park.

Pros of taking a return Tongariro Crossing shuttle:

  • Hassle free and stress free in the morning. You take a shuttle direct to the start from your accommodation.

  • Save travel time in the morning. If you stay in National Park, Whakapapa, or Ohakune you'll save travel time. You'll save 30 minutes or more by going direct to the start.

  • You can start hiking earlier. You have the option to take an early shuttle from National Park, Whakapapa or Discovery. This way you can avoid the crowds.

  • You'll save money. That's if you start from National Park, Whakapapa or Ohakune. And are staying after the hike. See costing tables at the bottom of this article.

  • There's no need to drive your own car anywhere in the morning. That's if you stay at accommodation with a shuttle pick up.

  • Safe and secure parking at your accommodation.

Cons of taking a return Tongariro Crossing shuttle:

  • You'll have to hike to the shuttle company's afternoon pick up schedule. Depending on which company you choose this could be restrictive.

  • You must to be at Ketetahi by specified times so you don't miss your bus.

  • If you're a fast walker or running the Crossing you could be waiting a long time for your shuttle

  • If you're slow you could miss your bus. Although most shuttle companies won't leave you behind.

  • Some bus companies don't have set departure times from Ketetahi. This means they'll wait until there's enough people before they head away. Which means more waiting. Check before you book.

  • Some shuttle companies don't drive directly to the start, or back from the finish. They'll pick up and drop off at various locations on the way there and back. This can be time consuming. 

The return Tongariro Crossing shuttle is a good fit for you if:

- you're wanting a stress free morning where you roll out of bed and onto the shuttle.

- you're looking for convenience in the afternoon. Where you get picked up from Ketetahi and taken back to your accommodation.

- you're wanting the least amount of travel time to the start. Depending on where you stay and which company you choose.

- you're wanting to start as early as possible

- you're an average hiker. As long as the shuttle company has a good range of afternoon pick up times

- you're staying in National Park, Whakapapa, Ohakune after the hike. You'll save time to the start, and dollars.

- you're more comfortable about leaving your car parked at your accommodation. 

- you're not staying after the hike. And are travelling south towards Wanganui, or north toward Taumarunui.

Here's a couple of pro tips if a return shuttle is best for you:

  1. PRO TIP: Choose a shuttle company with multiple published pick up times in the afternoon. This will minimise waiting for your shuttle, or having to run to catch it. Check before you book.

  2. PRO TIP: Start early to avoid the crowds.

A Tongariro Crossing shuttle for you

Now you know the difference between a one way shuttle and a two way shuttle. 

To finish up here're some factors to consider when choosing which type of shuttle is best for you:

  • how fast, or slow you think the Crossing will take you. 
  • where you stay the night before
  • where you stay after your hike
  • your budget
  • where you feel most comfortable to leave your car while hiking
  • if you're not staying after the hike, which direction you travel onto

It should now be easier for you to decide which type of shuttle service is best for you. If not, contact us. We're always very happy to help.

 

Tables below

Notes:
  1. tables best viewed in landscape on a mobile device
  2. rates & costs updated on the 11 February 2022

Distances from towns, and costs of driving your own vehicle to Ketetahi

Return trip from Distance Fuel cost Total cost
National Park 66 km $15.18 $52.14
Whakapapa 60 km $13.80 $47.40
Ohakune 134 km $30.82 $105.86
Owhango 107 km $24.61 $84.53
Taupo 146 km $33.58 $115.34
Turangi 47 km $10.81 $37.13

 

Notes for the above table:

1. The distance travelled is to Ketetahi from the listed town, and return to the same town.

2. Fuel costs are calculated at $2.80 per litre for 95 octane petrol at an average fuel consumption of 8l/100 kilometres.

3. Total costs are calculated using 79 cents per kilometre which is the official IRD rate. Actual costs of owning and operating a car are generally higher than this rate.  


Total cost of taking a one way Tongariro Crossing Shuttle, including shuttle fare and total cost of driving your own vehicle 

Return trip from Total cost Cost/person
National Park $125.82 $63
Whakapapa $121.08 $61
Ohakune $179.54 $90
Owhango $158.21 $79
Taupo $189.02 $95
Turangi $110.81 $55

 

Notes for the above table:

1. Total Cost includes cost of driving your own vehicle and the shuttle fare for two people.

2. Cost/person is calculated for two people.

3. One way shuttle fare for two people is calculated using $73.68 for two people. This includes booking fees.

 

Cost of taking a one way Tongariro Crossing Shuttle, including shuttle fare and fuel cost only of driving your own vehicle

Return trip from Cost Cost/person
National Park $88.89 $44
Whakapapa $87.48 $44
Ohakune $104.50 $52
Owhango $98.29 $49
Taupo $107.26 $54
Turangi $85.49 $42

 

Notes for the above table:

1. Cost includes fuel cost of driving your own vehicle and the shuttle fare for two people.

2. Cost/person is calculated for two people.

3. The one way shuttle fare for two people is calculated using $73.68 for two people. This includes booking fees.

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