Since we’ve come back from our backpacking trip in New Zealand one of the things I have been asked most frequently is how we travelled around. The simple answer is by bus; more specifically the Kiwi Experience bus which we discovered in the STA travel brochure. Initially we liked the idea of travelling in a camper van but a bit of research suggested it was going to be much more expensive for just two of us and whilst in some ways we would have more flexibility, in other ways we would have less. Kiwi Experience is very much what you make of it and I feel like we learned more about it on the trip than we had done in advance.
The main benefit of travelling with Kiwi Experience is the flexibility. Whilst there is a set route that the bus takes (which varies depending on which pass you buy), you can hop on and hop off as you please. You could sit on the bus and do the whole tour in a few weeks if you are limited on time, or you could do what we did and forever change bus so that we could spend longer in each place. It’s great if you know the amount of time you are going to spend in each place is likely to vary. You can also request to be dropped off at locations on the route that the bus doesn’t actually stop at for the night.
You get one night’s accommodation guaranteed (but not paid for) in each place you stop on the main route and longer in some key locations. If you are travelling in peak season this is perfect as it means you don’t have to worry about accommodation at all, or if you change your plans you know you have a bed waiting for you in the next place. If you do want to stay for longer then it is advisable to book ahead.
One of the benefits of travelling on the bus (and staying in hostels) that we wouldn’t have had if we’d been travelling by camper van was that it is much easier to meet people. You are on a bus with these people for several hours a day and are likely to be staying in the same place as them or doing the same activities. If you’re worried about travelling alone then you’ll soon meet people on the bus.
As Kiwi Experience work in partnership with lots of different activity providers, you can often get a discount or special deal by booking through them whilst you are on the bus. For example, when we went Black Water Rafting we not only got a discount, but we also got a free t-shirt! However, as always it is worth doing your research to make sure you are getting the best deal.
Whilst there are many things that could be improved about the Kiwi Experience app, it is a useful planning tool. You can check out your itinerary for each day, the activities in the different locations and the accommodation you’ll be staying in. We used it to help us decide how long we were likely to spend in each place before we left the UK.
The drivers are there for more than just getting you from A to B. They are there to show you the country, teach you about the different areas and make sure you’re getting the most out of your trip. If you’re looking for insider knowledge on what to do, see and where to eat then the drivers are the ones who’ll know. You’ll have a much more interesting trip if you spend time chatting to them and asking questions, rather than spending the entire journey with your headphones in.
My Top Tips for travelling with Kiwi Experience:
- Book your buses in advance and if you need to change them try and sort this out as far in advance as possible
- Look up the accommodation in advance and decide if you actually want to stay there. In a few places we booked somewhere different and had a much quieter and more pleasant stay than other people suggested.
- Sit with different people. Even if you are travelling with someone, try and make an effort to sit with different people so that you meet more people.
- Some of the journeys are long so make sure you’ve got a good book to read or podcasts downloaded to listen to.
- Look after your ticket at all times.
- Pack your day bag based on the weather, planned activities and what the weather might do. So many people got caught out by not having their waterproofs with them or by wearing flip-flops for the bus journey.