A 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?
Note that this is a review of Kiwi Experience’s hop-on hop-off bus tours; not their small-group tours. What’s the difference? Take a look at What is the Difference Between the Buses in New Zealand? and 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 hop-on hop-off 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 four easy ways to book your bus pass that we recommend:
- Kiwi Experience website – Perfect for those who love to have travel plans sorted early! Be sure to keep an eye out for seasonal deals.
- The Kiwi Experience shop in Auckland – Go straight to the source at Kiwi’s Experience’s HQ on Beach Road, Auckland
- TourRadar – They have regular sales and the tour website is a good place to compare routes, prices and reviews with other New Zealand bus tour companies
- 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.
A Typical Day With Kiwi Experience
One of the things that other Kiwi Experience reviews tend to be unclear about is what is it actually like to spend a typical day with them. One thing is for sure: every day is an adventure! There is, of course, some method to it all and you can expect the following:
Morning on the Kiwi Experience Bus
You’ll catch the bus at a prearranged time and place, usually between 7 am to 10 am 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, lets you know what each experience is like so you know what you’re getting yourself into. But just remember, the Driver Guide is on commission to sell as many tours as possible. With that in mind, some guides can be a little pushy, saying that every skydive the bus tours come across are “the best in New Zealand”. For activities that can be done in multiple locations, like skydiving, we definitely recommend doing some prior research on NZ Pocket Guide *cheeky wink*.
Once you have chosen your accommodation and activities, all you have to do is sit back and mingle with your fellow travellers while your driver sorts out all the nitty-gritty stuff.
Throughout the afternoon, you’ll stop for lunch, be given the opportunity to stock up on supplies at a supermarket and stop at a few free attractions along the way. Mind-blowing hikes to majestic waterfalls are a regular occurrence! Or scenic coastal walks to seal colonies! Not to mention all the photo stops along the way! It’s the sort of experience you would never get if you were, for example, taking the InterCity bus.
Early Afternoon on the Kiwi Experience Bus
You’ll arrive at today’s final destination right outside of your accommodation. You will have ample time to check in, check out the hostel you are staying in (some have stunning riverside and lakeside locations), and then start one of the paid activities that your driver booked for you: white water rafting, bungy jumping, zorbing, horse trekking, sailing… New Zealand is your playground. 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 when you’re done) or recommending more free activities within walking distance of your accommodation.
Need more clarification on what it’s like to travel on a hop-on hop-off bus like Kiwi Experience, 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 the 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 simple – 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.
For advice on when to visit New Zealand, check out When is the Best Time to Visit New Zealand?
Departure times and pick-up points are super easy to look up on the Kiwi Experience website, with all their latest timetables posted!
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. A must-do!
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.
For more details about the ferry, check out The Ferry Between the North Island and South Island: Full Guide.
The General Vibe on the Bus
Most of us don’t necessarily want to develop memories on a bus, but Kiwi Experience makes it feel like a totally different experience than just commuting. The social vibe on the bus, as you travel with like-minded travellers, gives the bus a real “vacation” vibe as everyone is here to have fun and experience New Zealand! There are travellers from all over the world, some couples, some small groups of friends, and many travelling solo.
Is Kiwi Experience a Party Bus?
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 there is one and 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 Experience 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 of 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$30-$45 per day.
If you are on a shorter time, you should also check out the Kiwi Experience Small Group Tours with travel, accommodation and activities included whilst travelling with a small group. We detail their Small Group Tours more in The 10 Best Backpacker Bus Tours in New Zealand.
Kiwi Experience often has some great deals on their bus passes, so keep an eye out on TourRadar and let the adventure begin!
How Much Does Kiwi Experience Cost?
The full price for a national hop-on hop-off pass is around NZ$1,600 but you will never pay the full retail price for a Kiwi Experience bus pass. Sales on bus passes happen year-round, usually bringing you around NZ$1,000 for a full national bus pass. Their Small Group Tours cost approximately NZ$3,600 for their most complete tour.
How to Budget for a Kiwi Experience Tour
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.
More Kiwi Experience Reviews
That’s it for our complete review of what it is like to travel with Kiwi Experience. For more Kiwi Experience reviews, check out the following bus guides:
- What is the Difference Between Stray and Kiwi Experience?
- 10 Things We Like About the Hop-on Hop-off Buses
- How Does the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Network in New Zealand Work?
Finally, plan all things “bus” in New Zealand using our Travel by Bus in New Zealand: The Ultimate Guide and get more budget travel tips from The Travel Guide to New Zealand on a Budget.