As you may have gathered by now we travelled the whole of New Zealand with Kiwi Experience.
Kiwi Experience provides flexible guided travel throughout New Zealand together with guaranteed overnight accommodation in each overnight stop, discounted activities as well as free guided activities between each stop.
We purchased the Whole Kit and Caboodle pass through our local STA office thanks to the power of email whilst we were travelling across America. This pass includes all their other passes and covers travel across both the North and South Islands, throughout the Deep South and Milford Sound as well as the winterless northern area of the Bay of Islands.
If you can remember all the way back to our Big Trip Planning posts we had initially wanted to hire an RV as it would have given us both our accommodation and our transport in one nice neat parcel. Unfortunately this wasn’t the most cost effective option for us and is the main reason we opted for the Kiwi Ex pass. We also liked the idea of being able to hop on and hop off the bus and stay for longer where we wanted.
We travelled from January through to March which meant we were travelling during the peak season. This meant that we had to pre-book not only all of our buses but also all of our accommodation ahead of travel to ensure we weren’t left behind. Basically the buses can only carry a certain number of people; each bus being filled on a first come first served basis. If you do not make the list you’re put on the waitlist and left hoping and praying that there is a no show so you can get a seat. We had been wait listed for one bus which we booked a week ahead of the departure date and we didn’t want to have the stress of not getting on any buses after that, hence why we pre-booked so far in advance. We also pre-booked our accommodation as the guaranteed accommodation is only a single bed in a dorm room rather than a nice double like we’d gotten used to in America.
We really enjoyed our time with Kiwi Experience. We did all the free activities we could and tried to join in as much as possible. Suffice to say the drivers and your fellow travellers really do have a big influence over your overall experience. If your driver is a bit of a wet drip and doesn’t give you any information about the local area or even refuses to play music whilst you’re driving, it’s going to be a lot worse than having a driver that’s up for a laugh and happy to take the mickey out of themselves and the other passengers. If you get a party crowd on your bus we can pretty much guarantee they’ll be asleep during the drive and not great company. Don’t get us wrong, we love to have fun as much as the next person but being the annoying hungover person on the bus isn’t great. We were fortunate enough to meet some of the best people while we were travelling and we hope to have found new lifelong friends. The only other thing that we were a little disappointed by is the route for the North Island. The route is focused mainly within the centre of the island so you don’t get to see the east or west coasts and when travelling back to Auckland after visiting the South Island we revisited a number of towns and stops we’d stopped at on the way south. It would have been nice to change it up a little bit. It’s also worth bearing in mind if you aren’t interested in partying you will have to when you visit River Valley and Lake Mahinapua unless you arrange your own transportation to avoid the stops altogether.
It is also worthwhile pointing out that despite only being in our early thirties, we were the oldest on the bus on most occasions.
The alternative to the Kiwi Ex pass is a Naked Bus pass. Naked Bus works in the same way as National Express or Greyhound where you pre-book a pass or route and then have to get your bus at whatever scheduled time. The downside to doing this when compared to Kiwi Experience is you usually have a bit of a walk to the bus stop, rather than being picked up outside your hostel, and the pick ups can be any time of day, rather than in the morning with a drop off at the perfect time to check it at your accommodation. In addition to this the transportation literally takes you from A to B so you miss out on more scenic routes, hiking stops and supermarket breaks.
All in all our experience of Kiwi Ex is a positive one and we’d recommend it if you’re looking for an easy way to see New Zealand.