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What is it Really Like to Travel with Kiwi Experience?


the no-BS Kiwi Experience Review

It’s like a bus tour that’s not a bus tour… What?! Yep, some of the Kiwi Experience reviews can be pretty confusing. That’s why we’re giving it a go ourselves to finally answer the question: what is it really like to travel on the Kiwi Experience bus? We’ll go through the experience of booking your Kiwi Experience bus pass, what a typical day is like on the bus, about hopping on and off the bus, what the vibe is like, and most importantly, is a Kiwi Experience bus pass really worth it?

While you’re here, don’t forget to take a look at What is the Difference Between the Buses in New Zealand?, as well as What is a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus?

Where to Book a Kiwi Experience Bus pass

The first thing to note about Kiwi Experience is how easy it is to book your bus pass with them. You don’t need to decide on a travel date right here, right now. Your bus pass is valid to activate for up to 12 months after purchase. Only once activated (i.e. you book your first day travelling on the bus) does your 12 months of unlimited travel with Kiwi Experience start!

There are three easy ways to book your bus pass that we recommend:

  • On the Kiwi Experience website – perfect for those who love to have travel plans sorted early!
  • Travel agents in New Zealand – we always find it cheaper to book with travel agents in New Zealand than with agents overseas. It’s likely that the first hostel you stay at will be able to book a Kiwi Experience bus pass for you.
  • The Kiwi Experience shop in Auckland – go straight to the source at Kiwi’s Experience’s HQ on Beach Road, Auckland.
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A Typical day with Kiwi Experience

One of the things that other Kiwi Experience reviews tend to be unclear about it what is it actually like to spend a typical day with them. Every day is an adventure, but there tends to be a similar process each day, which is as follows:

Morning on the Kiwi Experience Bus

You’ll catch the bus at a prearranged time and place, usually between 7am to 10am outside of the accommodation that the bus passengers stayed the previous night. Your driver guide will tick you off the list, put your luggage on-board, and on you go! Before setting off, your driver guide will tell everyone the plan for the day then you’ll hit the road!

Part-way through the morning journey, you’ll stop for refreshments and a toilet break. By this time, you’ll already have met some new mates on the bus or reminisced on the antics from the day before.

Afternoon on the Kiwi Experience Bus

Clipboards will start making their way around the bus with some simple forms to fill out to let the driver know which accommodation you are staying at, what type of room, how many nights, and what activities you want to be booked for you at today’s end destination. You have the flexibility to either choose the hostel or lodge recommended by Kiwi Experience (which is where most passengers choose to stay) or let the driver know if you have other arrangements. As for activities, your driver guide, who has tried them all countless times, let’s you know what each experience like so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Now all you have to do it sit back and mingle with your fellow travellers while you driver sorts out all the nitty gritty stuff.

Throughout the afternoon, you’ll stop for lunch, at a supermarket, as well as at a few free attractions along the way. Majestic waterfalls is a popular one! Or scenic coastal walks to seal colonies! Not to mention all the photo stops! It’s the sort of experience you would never get on a standard bus trip around New Zealand, that’s for sure.

Late Afternoon on the Kiwi Experience Bus

You’ll arrive at today’s final destination right outside of your accommodation. You have ample time to check-in, check out the hostel you are staying in (some have stunning riverside and lakeside locations), then start one of the paid activities that your driver booked for you: white water rafting, bungy jumping, zorbing, horse trekking, sailing… All paid activities are optional. Your driver takes out the hassle of getting to your activity by either driving you straight there (and picking you up later) or recommending activities within walking distance of your accommodation.

Evenings with Kiwi Experience

By the end of the day, your driver will let everyone know what time the bus departs tomorrow for those who choose to continue on the road. Then you’re free to relax or party with your new travel mates (and sometimes your driver too depending on how legendary he/she is)! The hostels and lodges have cooking facilities to make your own meals, while there’s usually always the option to eat out too. Most Kiwi Ex passengers share dorm rooms together, but there are private rooms available too.

For more information, check out A Day in the Life of a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Passenger.


Booking the next trip

Following on from our typical Kiwi Experience day, the next day you can experience another day on the bus adventuring and heading toward the next destination on the route. Alternatively, you can choose to stay off the bus and “hop on” at a late date. Here’s what it’s like to book back onto the next bus:

How to Hop back on the Bus

As soon as you know what date you want to get the next bus and continue on the route, you need to let Kiwi Experience team know! You can only get back on the bus if there is a seat available for you, which can be a bit of a mission in the busy summer months. The best way to book your place on the bus is to give Kiwi Experience a call (+64 9 336 4286). They will tell you the next available dates to get back on the bus from your location. The booking process over the phone is super quick and simply – just make sure you have your passenger number handy!

How Often Do the Kiwi Experience Buses Run?

In the summer months, December-February, there’s a Kiwi Experience bus departing from each location they visit every day. There are departures around five times per week during March, October and November. In winter, the low season, buses depart once every two days.

Departure times and pick-up points are super easy to look-up on the Kiwi Experience website, with all their latest timetables posted! Check out the Kiwi Experience timetables here.


Some exceptions

Some days on the Kiwi Experience bus are a little different, so we thought we’d let you know some exceptions (or more like exceptional days)!

Trip to Milford Sound

It’s on everyone’s bucket list: the towering majestic mountains and glimmering waters of the breathtaking Milford Sound! When you arrive in Queenstown with Kiwi Experience, you have the option to take a day trip to Milford Sound on the Kiwi Experience bus the next day. The day trip starts and ends in Queenstown, taking you to Milford Sound for a stunning cruise. The day still includes refreshment stops, but you’ll be on the bus a little longer than usual.

North Island-South Island Ferry Crossing

To get between the North Island and the South Island, you’ll need to take the ferry. Kiwi Experience will book your ferry crossing, as if it were any other activity, for you. After your driver drops you off at the ferry terminal, you’ll enjoy a scenic cruise through the Wellington Harbour and Marlborough Sounds before getting into a different Kiwi Experience waiting for your group at the other end. The day will continue like any normal day on the bus.


The General vibe on the bus

Most of us don’t necessarily want to develop memories in a bus, but Kiwi Ex makes it feel like a totally different experience to just commuting. The social vibe in the bus, as you travel with like-minded travellers, gives the bus a real “vacation” vibe as everyone is here to have fun! There are travellers from all over the world, some couples, some small groups of friends, and many travelling solo.

Kiwi Experience gets a reputation for being a “party bus”, but that really depends on the crowd, as well as what you want to make of your experience. You can choose to join the party crowd if you want to get stuck in, otherwise, there’s usually a few people that prefer to relax or go for evening strolls along the beach. Kiwi Ex throws one party on the route at Lake Mahinapua.

The final thing to note about the Kiwi Experience buses is that the vibe usually depends on the people and your driver. We have only had positive experiences, as well as only hearing positive experiences, but the beauty of a hop-on hop-off bus is that you can always hop-off the bus if you don’t like the crowd and get on the next bus.


Is it good value for money?

Most importantly, is Kiwi Experience worth it?

The best way to work that out is to work out how much your pass is worth per day. Simply divide the price of your chosen bus pass by the number on minimum travel days the bus pass allows. A good deal is when your bus pass works out to be around NZ$35 per day! This is especially considering that a normal coach trip in New Zealand, with none of the services that Kiwi Experience provides, usually costs NZ$20-$40 per day.

Learn more about getting a good deal with our 5 Tips to Get a Better Deal on a Backpacker Bus Pass in New Zealand. Plus, check out how to keep the costs to a minimum on the Kiwi Experience bus by following our advice in How to Budget for a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Trip Around New Zealand.

Kiwi Experience often has some great deals on their bus passes, so keep an eye out on the Kiwi Experience website and let the adventure begin!

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