I purchased a kiwi experience pass for a 3.5 week trip around New Zealand as part of a 5.5 month travel trip. Although I did enjoy my time on kiwi experience, I do feel I was misled as to what the trip would entail. Firstly, this is advertised as a hop on hop off bus. This is most certainly NOT the case. When we were sold the trip, it was on the basis that there would be three buses per week. However, when we started our trip we found out that there was only two per week, one on Monday and one on Friday! To be able to get off the bus we would have had to have spent a minimum of 5 nights in a place, really not what we wanted when we only had just under a month for the whole country. However, the problem also arises that by only being able to do the minimum time due to the lack of buses, you end up having loads of time to kill at the end of the trip.
Secondly, the bus stops in places where you have no choice but to stay in the expensive accommodation they choose, in a location that you generally wouldn’t choose to visit (e.g Westport, Lake Mahinapua, River Valley). Other places such as Wellington, the bus stopped there for literally 14 hours. Dropped you off at 6pm and leaves at 7am the next day, you can’t see anything in that time! We actually had to use the intercity bus and meet back up with the kiwi bus in order to be able to actually see wellington. In all fairness though kiwi did pay for 50% of our extra bus.
As a backpacker the price of the accommodation was often quite hefty, but there would often be no other alternative cheaper option, so you’re forced to spend money on the Kiwi Accommodation. These places also have no WiFi or if they do have it you have to pay, not ideal if you don’t have a NZ sim. You can’t even look up any alternative accommodation to try and save some money. There is also no WiFi on the bus as is advertised.
Some of the hostels that you are put in are also sometimes terrible. Kiwi have a partnership with Base Hostels but 99% of them are terrible and more expensive! Pre book somewhere else in advance, you will not regret it!
The majority of the people on the bus are between 18-20 and mainly want to spend the time drinking, so if you aren’t a big drinker or are 22+ this may not be the bus for you.
The activities on offer are good, but also VERY expensive. Kiwi do offer some good deals and discounts but the majority of activities are expensive, and there’s generally very little in the way of free options other than the guided walks which in all fairness were very pleasant.
We made some great friends on the bus who definitely made the trip worthwhile, I’m not sure we would have gotten through it without them!
Our bus driver for the North Island - Jacob (ducky) was absolutely fantastic and I cannot fault him at all. A really genuinely lovely guy who couldn’t do enough to help us! He made the trip as good as it could be and he was great to be around.
Our driver on the South Island was friendly, but not as organised as Ducky.
Overall I wouldn’t personally do this bus tour again, however if you are 18 and want to travel around New Zealand quickly with a lot of cash, then go for it!