New Zealand has always been the number one country to visit on my bucket list since I was in my teens I have always been intrigued by the outdoor adventures and the sparse population. How can a country with such little amount of people and so far away from where I grew up interest me so much?
After spending 5 weeks exploring New Zealand it is a place that I will remember forever. The unspoiled scenery from lakes to mountains to glaciers to beaches are simply picture perfect whether you’re in the north or south islands it’s just beautiful. This explains why they have such an outdoors lifestyle, who would want to stay inside when you have such picturesque views outside.
The population of New Zealand is only 4.5 million that is half the population of London, with most of the population living in the 3 main city’s Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch it leaves so much open space for backpackers to explore without overcrowded location’s.
What is the Kiwi Experience?
The kiwi experience is a hop on hop off style bus aimed towards backpackers that have been running for over 30 years. This bus is a means of transport that will get you around New Zealand safely, however its not just simply transport it’s a place where you will make forever friends and experience a trip your never forget. With buses running every day you are able to see New Zealand at your own pace or in a short amount of time. The passes you buy is just for the transport however when booking through the kiwi experience you get amazing deals on accommodation and discount on activity’s.
How does the Kiwi Experience work?
Planning a trip is always daunting with so much information to take in and so many things to book, the kiwi experience makes this easy and stress free. Firstly, you choose your pass, there is a useful guide on their website to help you chose the perfect pass for you, weather this is based on how long you want to travel for or what sites you want to tick off your bucket list.
Once you’ve brought the pass, start planning your trip decide what activity’s you want to do wear this will help you budget for your trip, the customer service team will answer any questions you have and help you plan an itinerary to match your needs, don’t panic if your unorganised like myself and didn’t plan anything, the bus drivers will be happy to help and recommend activities and places to spend longer then you can sort you itinerary over the phone as you go.
Once you’ve booked your flight or know when you want to start your pass be sure to confirm this date with the reservations team. If your traveling in peak season between December and march confirm at least 2-3 weeks prior this will guarantee you a seat on the buses.
Now you’re ready to start your journey, hop on the bus at your agreed pick up point (this is all in the itinerary you will receive via email). Once you’re on the bus you will meet your driver who will then explain what’s going to happen over the next few days, will hand around sheets to sign up for accommodation and activity’s. Each time you get on the bus this will happen for the following location’s. Once your settled in your seat on that first bus ride it’s time to make friends and prepare yourself for memory’s that will last forever.
The Pass I Choose and Why
The pass I choose was the Zephyr pass, I chose this due to it starting in Auckland and finishing in Christchurch as I was only limited to 5 weeks I didn’t feel the need to travel back up the country, however if you have longer it’s worth it as you see a few extra locations. The main location I missed out on was Kaikoura where you can go whale watching so if you have time its defo worth heading back up to wellington or the whole way back to Auckland.
The Zephyr pass combines the sheepdog and the bay of islands passes, this pass allows you to explore the north and South Island while experiencing all of New Zealand’s Iconic Spots and activity’s. This pass cost me $1189 NZD equivalent to £614 and was so worth it.
Why I chose the Kiwi Experience
I had heard nothing but good things about the Kiwi Experience, I read blog after blog when planning my round, the world trip and the bus just stood out to, it seemed like the best and most convenient way to travel around New Zealand without a camper van. My first idea was to travel in a camper van but as a solo traveller I felt this might be quite lonely so after more research I came across the Kiwi Experience, Contiki and Stray but I felt the Kiwi Experience suited me more and what I wanted out of my trip.
Why I think every solo backpacker should should chose the Kiwi Experience
There are many reasons why this hop on hop off bus is suited for solo travellers but the main reason I feel solo travellers should chose this option is due the number of lifelong friends you will make in such a short amount of time, you will never feel lonely and honestly will just simply have the best few weeks with a diverse group of people. On my bus we had people as young as 18 to people as old as 27 but there was never an age divide everyone just had the mutual love for traveling.
There are many more advantages to the Kiwi Experience such as getting, discount on activities due to being in a group which you wouldn’t get if you were alone, having an organised itinerary means you won’t miss any key locations but also hidden locations or activities such as River Valley and the Maori Village overnight stay which is unique to the Kiwi Experience. You also don’t have to drive meaning you can drink and have fun without being tired and having to drive to your next location’s the drivers will just get you to your next destination.
The drivers are another key aspect that makes the Kiwi Experience so unique, every driver is passionate about their job and New Zealand, there always there to help make your experience the best it can be. During my time on the bus I had 6 drivers and Rob, Cowboy and Billy made it all the more fun.
Honestly, I think the bus is a great way opportunity for solo first-time travellers to meet people and have all the difficult work of finding hostels and deciding what activities you want to do all done for you through the help of the drivers.
The Only Disadvantages to the Kiwi Experience
There’s only one disadvantage to the Kiwi Experience, but I feel all the advantages outweigh this. There is little freedom to roam if your sticking to set itinerary. For example, when I booked my pass it was a 23 minimum day pass and I assumed this meant it would be enough time to see everything, however, once I was on the bus it became clear from talking to the drivers the minimum time isn’t recommended and you should give yourself at least a week to play with. Once I realised I was rushing my time in New Zealand and was going to miss out of activities I wanted to do I decided to change my flight, this allowed me and extra 10 days so if I liked a place I could spend more time there. So just have this in mind when booking a pass give yourself at least 2 weeks extra from the minimum time of travel on your pass.
Favourite Places on My Itinerary
Favourite activities on My Itinerary
• Tamaki Maori village overnight stay
• Queenstown Bungee Jump
• Queenstown Nevis Swing
My Top Tips for the Kiwi Experience
• Give yourselves more than the minimum time on the pass, honestly you don’t want to feel rushed or have to move on faster than the friends you have made.
• Don’t spend much longer in Auckland before your bus starts, so I flew to Auckland and spent 3 nights there before my bus begun however I felt this was way too long you could spend them days in a better location down the country.
• Get a pass that goes to Kaikoura, I feel I really missed out on the whale watching and dolphin tour but flying out of Christchurch and missing this stop.
• Add the Milford explorer on when booking, I didn’t have a pass that had this booked on but when I heard more about it I was keen to add on, it cost more to add on while you’re on the bus so you’re better off getting it when you buy your pass.
• Take comfy hiking trainers or boots, I sadly lost mine in Cambodia so only had vans for the amount of walking you do there not the best and I had to buy a new pair out there as I wanted to do many of the free walks and hikes.
• Take a jacket for the evening, I went in the height of summer, so I wasn’t expecting to be cold but as soon as the sun went down a hoody was needed or a jacket for Queenstown is a necessity.
• If you make friends staying longer in a place and you want to join them, ring up as soon as you make that decision! During peak summer the buses got full and you would to make sure you’re not on waiting lists further down your trip. The kiwi team did put on another bus if there were enough people to fill it so if you don’t get a seat it’s not the end of the world.
• Bring lunch boxes with you! You always make lunch for the bus or for the hikes and having a Tupperware box was the handiest thing ever, could also be used to store leftovers from dinner.
• Buy alcohol in the supermarkets, it’s cheaper to drink in the hostel than the bars.
If you want to read more about my time in New Zealand take a read of my New Zealand Itinerary blog that will be up shortly, this will give you an insight in all the locations I stopped at, the hostels we stayed in and w review of the best activities I done.