Known for being the ‘party bus’ of New Zealand, the Kiwi Experience is a hop on, hop off bus created to get backpackers from A to B.
Having used the Greyhound bus to get around Australia, I was envisioning the Kiwi Experience to be similar however, I can now confirm that they are completely different.
Therefore, if you’re thinking of buying a Kiwi Experience bus pass or, are about to start your trip and have a few questions about how it all works, here’s a list of everything you need to know about the most well-known bus tour in New Zealand.
Which bus pass?
Depending on how long you have in New Zealand and whether you want to travel around the North and/or South Island, Kiwi Experience offer an abundance of different passes to choose from – each with a minimum amount of days needed to complete them.
Check out their website to have a browse of the different passes available… (I went for the Whole Kit and Caboodle, which I bought on offer for around £420).
You can’t skip any stops
As you can see in this map, each dot signifies somewhere the bus stops. The white dots are overnight stays (one night unless it says otherwise) whilst the black dots are optional hop off spots.
You can’t skip any of the overnight stops however, excursions such as, Hobbiton and Milford Sounds are optional.
You must book your buses in advance
As you’ll be able to see from the different bus pass options, each pass has a minimum number of days to complete each route. If you do your trip in the minimum number of days, you will have one night in each stop minus a few exceptions such as, Taupo, Franz Josef (both two nights) and Queenstown (four nights).
Although this means you’ll be on the bus most days (which I wouldn’t recommend if it can be helped), it does mean that as soon as you’ve confirmed your first day of travel all your buses will be booked for you.
However, If you want to spend longer at certain stops and are travelling in peak season (approx November – April), it is very important that you book your buses in advance to avoid not being stranded for days/weeks somewhere.
I booked my buses in stages around a week or two before I intended to get on the buses and this was enough notice to ensure I had a confirmed seat.
Note: to book your buses you must call the Kiwi Experience office.
Accommodation is guaranteed for at least one night
Kiwi Experience guarantee you accommodation for the same number of nights recommended as ‘minimum’ at each stop e.g. one night in Hot Water Beach but two in Taupo.
Similarly to the buses, it is recommended that you book any extra nights not guaranteed by Kiwi prior to your arrival (there were a few close calls where I thought I was going to have to sleep under the stars because I hadn’t booked my extra nights ahead).
All buses are during the day
Unlike the Greyhound where most buses run overnight, all of the Kiwi Experience buses are during the day. Although this may seem like a day wasted, it means you get to admire all of the outstanding scenery as you pass by.
The bus drivers are very knowledgable
Every bus driver you have (or, if you’re doing your trip on minimum time you may even have the same bus driver the whole way round), are locals, which means they are very knowledgeable about each place you visit. They will point out landmarks you pass as well as, feed you important, odd and weird and wonderful facts/stories about everywhere you drive.
It is very organised
Some may say it’s too organised… nevertheless, that is entirely down to what kind of traveller you are.
If you like to travel spontaneously and not know where you’re going next, then the Kiwi Experience may not be for you. However, if New Zealand is going to be your first big trip away or, you’re travelling on your own and would like to guarantee meeting other travellers, it is perfect.
The drivers will even book activities for you on the bus, drop you off outside your accommodation, tell you where to be and when for your ongoing bus and drop you off at places of interest along the way.
People of all ages travel with Kiwi
Due to the Kiwi Experience’s reputation for being the ‘party bus’ of New Zealand it is easy to assume that everyone travelling on the bus will be between the ages of approx 18 and 25. However, during my 6 weeks gallivanting around the country I met people on the bus from the age of 18 all the way up to 88… never think you’re too old for the Kiwi bus!!