Frequently Asked Questions

Updated February 2021


Masks coverings are required under all alert levels since 17 February 2021. Please read here for who is exempt from wearing one. 

Under Alert Level 1, distancing is no longer required.

In Alert Levels 2, avoid sitting next to anyone unless you're travelling with them. If you're travelling alone sit in a window seat. 

You should try to keep a 2m distance from one another at bus stops. 

Entry is still at the front door. 

For Level 3, physical distancing increases to 2 metres on buses, so please leave a row and aisle free between other passengers. 

This will reduce capacity even further so please only catch the bus if it’s that’s the only way you can get around.

Please be considerate and kind to fellow passengers as we all adjust to these developments.  

Face coverings are mandatory across all COVID Alert Levels. 

Who does not need to wear a face covering

Face coverings do not need to be worn: 

  • by children under 12
  • by students on school buses
  • by passengers in taxis or ride-share services, but drivers are required to
  • on ferry services carrying passengers between the North and South islands
  • on pre-booked public transport services — bus or train services that collect your contact details before they depart, and allocate you a seat
  • on jet boat tours
  • on charter or group tours
  • on private flights
  • by drivers, pilots, staff or crew of the service if they are in a space completely separated from passengers, for example pilots in a cockpit or train drivers in a train cab.

You also do not need to wear face coverings if:

  • it is unsafe, for example if wearing one means a driver cannot safely operate the vehicle
  • there is an emergency
  • you have a physical or mental health illness or condition or disability that makes wearing a face covering unsuitable
  • you need to prove your identity
  • you need to communicate with someone who is Deaf or hard of hearing
  • you need to take medicine
  • you need to eat or drink, if eating or drinking is usually allowed
  • it is not required by law. 

Can I wear a buff or scarf?

Please refer to the official COVID page to see what face coverings are acceptable, but it does say you can use another kind of covering, like a bandana, scarf or t-shirt. 


- persons under the age of 12, and

- persons who have a medical condition or disability that make it unsuitable to wear a face covering (please note it might not always be clear why someone may need to be exempt from wearing a face covering); and
- drivers or staff, if:
 they are in a space separated from passengers (e.g. pilots in a cockpit, or train drivers in a train cab), or
 wearing a face covering could make it unsafe to operate the vehicle (e.g. wearing a face covering means drivers or staff are unable to properly communicate, or causes the eyeglasses of the driver to fog).

29. In addition, transport operators should note that the use of face coverings is not required in the following situations:
- if it is unsafe to wear a face covering (e.g. if the person’s only face covering is wet, or wearing a face covering means a driver cannot safely operate the vehicle),

Drivers, staff, and passengers on public transport services are required to wear face coverings, however there are some exemptions, for example for medical reasons or if it is unsafe, for example if wearing one means a driver cannot safely operate the vehicle. 

Here is a link to exemptions. 

Drivers and transport operators will not stop people without face coverings from boarding public transport. This is because some people will have legitimate reasons for not wearing a face covering.  

However, where possible, drivers will be encouraging passengers to wear a face covering.

According to government guidelines:

Transport operators are not expected, or required, to enforce passenger compliance with the Order or Ministry of Health guidelines; but may provide advice to passengers for travelling safely for example by displaying public information posters.

Passengers and staff should not be encouraged to call Police if someone is not complying with the requirements. As per normal procedures, if the situation is dangerous or a passenger is displaying threatening behaviour, for example, Police should be called.

Yes please. 

Each bus has a unique QR code using the official government COVID app. 

you’re unable to scan the codes:

🐝 Open the app and enter a manual entry that will be saved to your travel diary.

🐝 Turn on bluetooth tracing.

🐝 You can also keep your own diary, for example by taking a photo of the bus as it arrives.

🐝 Registered Bee Card holders can also find travel data via their transaction history (go to manage card), though in an emergency the COVID app data is better for quicker tracing.

If you don't get a chance, you can also use our tracking form here

The tag on tag off bus card enables passengers to move swiftly on to the bus, tagging on the reader and reducing interactions with drivers and other passengers. 

If you register your card you can also top up online, again reducing interactions with drivers or customer services representatives at your usual top up location.  

You will also be able to see your travel.

For all Otago Bee Card questions, click here to access the FAQs. 

Under Alert Levels 1 and 2: there is no change to frequency of services. 

Under Alert Level 3: In 2020, we moved to a reduced Saturday frequency for all routes Mon-Sat, with Sunday remaining as is. Palmerston services won't change. Physical distancing will be 2 metres apart so this will reduce capacity even more. 

Generally, in alert levels 2 and above where possible, please travel off-peak. This will help spread capacity and the ability to get people moving around when they need while still keeping up safe distancing measures in buses. Our peak times are around 7:30 and 3pm.

There is no change to school buses under Alert Level 2.
Under Alert Level 3 the level of service will change due to physical distancing. There may be a need to put duplicate buses on busy runs for school students.

When Otago is under COVID-19 Alert Level 2, the government requirements change. If you use Total Mobility, we ask that you please take note of the following:

  • Wear a mask if you can, but note below it is not mandatory for passengers.
  • Scan the QR Code in your taxi using your COVID app on your phone. If you don’t have this, write down your travel in a book, noting the time, destination and company you travelled with.
  • Practice good hygiene. 
  • Stay home if you’re unwell.

Find out more about Total Mobility here.

Face coverings do not need to be worn:  

  • by passengers of small passenger vehicles, such as taxis and Uber. Drivers will be required to wear face coverings  
  • by people with a disability or physical or mental health condition which makes it difficult to wear a face covering  
  • if it’s not safe, for example by pilots if it affects their vision.  

The 0800 ORBUS phone numbers will continue to operate as normal (24/7) in any level.

In Dunedin call 0800 ORBUSDN (0800 672 8736)

In Queenstown call 0800 ORBUSQT (0800 672 8778)

Keep up to date with information on our Facebook pages, OrbusQT and OrbusDN. 

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