The Kiwi Experience is a hop on, hop off bus tour that takes you along the most popular spots around New Zealand's North and South Islands.
In this article you'll find the pros and cons of traveling New Zealand on the "Kiwi bus", which will help you prepare to make the most of your Kiwi Experience trip if you do decide to hop on.
Meet loads of people
While it isn't usually hard to meet new people while traveling, the Kiwi Experience bus makes socializing even easier by putting you on a bus with about 40 other excited travelers. The tour is especially a good choice if you travel by yourself and are eager to make friends.
You will meet loads of new people around the ages of 18 to 30 from all over the world to do fun stuff with, because the Kiwi Experience also provides a ton of activities. Which brings me to my next point..
Opportunity to do activities
When you get on your first Kiwi bus you will probably feel a bit overwhelmed by all the options of activities offered, but as the trip goes on you will get used to their way of booking activities.
The bus driver basically hands a clipboard around the bus showing certain activities that you will be able to participate in over the next few days. It shows the exact price and when you can do what. If you decide to participate, you write your name down and everything is sorted. You will do activities you may not have come across if you weren't confronted with them like this, such as rafting, caving, and swimming with dolphins.
Ease of booking accommodation
When you arrive at a new destination, Kiwi Experience always guarantees you one night (sometimes two) at the hostel they've picked. This is great because you don't have to stress about your accommodation.
However, if you want to stay a few nights longer you do have to talk to the hostel staff about this yourself and the hostel might be full for the next couple days. Always remember to ring the Kiwi Experience office if you don't hop back on the bus to your next destination with the bus you arrived on, because this means you will need to be booked onto the bus that shows up on the day you decide to leave.
Travel for a year
When you buy a Kiwi bus pass you don't have to worry about your transportation for a whole year! The passes are usually on sale before summer kicks off, so if you buy your pass before December you might get yourself a good deal.
Great driver-guides add to your trip
You'll be surprised to see that the bus driver plays a big role during the tour. The bus driver is basically also your tour guide and provides you with loads of information about the places you go and things you see. The minimum amount of time people can spend on the Kiwi bus is around 30 days, and these 30 days they usually spend with the same driver. So if you decide to stay somewhere longer than the advertised minimum amount of time, you will lose your driver and get on a different bus with a new driver and a new group of people.
Most of the bus drivers you'll meet are great people with a passion for New Zealand and will make sure to make your trip memorable. Some of them will even come out partying with you.
Even if you spend longer than the approximate 30 day minimum travel period, it can still feel rushed. You know you will lose the group of people you are with if you decide to spend longer in some places, but traveling New Zealand in 30 days is just not really doable. You'd spend almost every day on a bus while cramming all the activities in the days you have, it's just tiring as hell. Taking about 7 weeks to complete the Kiwi Experience is recommended. Sometimes you just need an extra day off to do nothing and recharge.
Let's just say the deals they give you on the Kiwi Experience bus aren't always great deals. You can find loads of better deals booking here on Planit NZ, and even the hostels they pick for you are pricier than most hostels on Hostelworld.
But just because the tour offers you certain deals doesn't mean you have to blindly take them! Make sure you check out the places you go to online to see if there are cheaper activity or accommodation deals than the Kiwi Experience offers you.
During the summer season the Kiwi busses get very busy, and you might not be able to get on a bus whenever you want to. You are automatically booked onto the bus that takes you around New Zealand in 30 days, but if you want to stay somewhere longer and get on a different bus, you need to sort this out with the office. When you call the office to book your bus, you could get put on "stand by" which means you'll only get on the bus if someone else cancels. This can get very stressful if you are travelling with limited time. You have to make sure you book the bus a few days ahead to avoid being on standby.
You can't skip spots
You can hop off and on whenever you want to, but you have to spend the night at every place the bus stops. You can't just go straight from Wellington to Auckland for example, you'd need to take a few days to get there. If you want a bus pass that takes you straight from point A to B, you should look into Intercity bus passes. These busses are purely for transportation and take you straight to your destination.
Sometimes you get up really early to get on the bus and visit an amazing national park or a waterfall on your way to your next overnight stop. Unfortunately there will be times where you will only get 45 minutes or less to walk around. This is what can cause the rushed feeling. You can't really walk around longer because yes, the bus will leave without you (or at least they say so)!
Even though Kiwi Experience takes you along amazing spots, you have to be okay with the fact that some of the planning of your trip will be out of your control. Like every way of traveling there are positive and negative sides to this bus tour and we are happy to help you decide whether or not the Kiwi Experience is something you'd enjoy.
The other hop on, hop off bus tour company in New Zealand is Stray New Zealand. Check out this article to learn more about the differences between Stray New Zealand and Kiwi Experience.
If you decide Kiwi Experience is the best option for you, we can get you the best deal on your pass so contact us and let us know what you'd like to book and we'll sort out a discount.
Questions about planning your trip? Check out our FREE Trip Planning Service here and get personalized advice for planning your New Zealand adventure.