The Kiwi Experience
Two years ago I went travelling for three months (by far the longest I've done so) with that journey starting in New Zealand. After a lot of research, we decided to use the Kiwi Experience to navigate our way around. Having been told that the transport links weren't great and we didn't want to hire a camper van, we felt this was the best bet. However, after 28 days of travelling both the North and South island on a bus with other people, for £350, was it worth it?
I will say this: I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
First and foremost, it's all in the people you meet. We may have just been lucky, but the people we met on that bus were some of the most hilarious and kindest people I've met. Weirdly enough, whilst a good 70% of the bus was from the UK, the main group of us all seemed to live within an hour of each other and based in Oxfordshire. I even had a mutual work friend through one of them. And along the way, meeting hilarious Canadians, Scottish and Germans, you end up taking the mickey out of each other, getting drunk together and screaming encouragement as you throw yourself off a ledge to bungee jump. Whilst some buses you jump on and off a lot, we all decided that we would stick the majority of the journey together, ending in some pretty great friendships by the end.
A close second is the opportunities it gives you. We wanted to try and fit in as many things as possible, so bought the biggest package when it was half price which came to around £350 and included a round trip of both islands. This pays for your transport around the islands and discounts on activities, but it mainly brings you all together as the group and gives you loads of offers and things to do. This meant I ended up doing one of the highest bungee jumps there are, black water rafting, sand-boarding down massive dunes, experiencing natural hot pools and exploring the historical nature and Maori culture. Of the three months I was away, the things I was brave enough to try are some of the things I'm most proud of.
The flexibility of it, whilst we stuck to our plan is a plus point: you can jump on and off as much as you want and is included in your pass, so that if you feel like you want to spend longer in a certain place, you can. Many did this in Queenstown, and it stops your journey feeling like a coach trip and more freely available, especially if you feel you haven't explored a place enough.
Even the bus drivers make the whole journey worth it. We were lucky enough to have Dylan: slightly racist, bad dad jokes and just the most ridiculous, funny and bad-shit crazy driver we had. Without him, we wouldn't have had nearly as many hysterical anecdotes for the journey.
However, there are a few things that maybe weren't so great. New Zealand is expensive, we know that: yet some of the activities really weren't worth the money. We did a boat trip that came to £4o where you could go through an amazing hole in a rock and maybe see or even swim with dolphins. We couldn't do either of those, which felt like a wasted day. And then, one of the most expensive things was a helicopter ride and glacier climb; luckily we skipped this but the few that didn't felt conned out of time and £200 when the ride was super short and what may have been better when the glaciers were better formed, but instead was more of an ice standing on a mountain, not trekking.
Some activities we weren't told about which we assumed was because they didn't have a sponsorship deal but was still a shame when we saw some of the experiences cheaper online with different companies, or not even told about some things such as luging in Queenstown (think Mario Kart overlooking a city). The main downer was the hostels: they use a lot of chains such as Base and Nomads, and at £15 a night, they aren't cheap. So when you get a cramped, sometimes dirty room with no plug sockets and broken lifts, it makes you wonder whether they should always use them. You don't have to stay in them but when the rest of the bus is, you don't want to be in a completely different area with no atmosphere. And when we did use independent hostels, such as a Bazils Surf School, it just shows how amazing it can be for half the price with a homey atmosphere and hilarious owners.
However even saying those negative things, and spending just over £1000 for the month (something we budgeted, despite me paying for camera repairs) I cannot recommend it enough. Meet amazing people, do all the activities you can and just bathe in the beauty and serenity that is New Zealand. With a few heart-pumping jumps of course.