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KIWI EXPERIENCE - Is it really party, party, PARTY!?!

Travel Forums Australia / New Zealand & The Pacific KIWI EXPERIENCE - Is it really party, party, PARTY!?!

1. Posted by jax_07 (Full Member 76 posts) 10y

Hey Everyone

My friend and I are going to NZ for four weeks in February 2006 and we can't decide whether to go on the Kiwi Experience!!!

It appears lots of people have the same dilema. We love the idea of a lively atmosphere but are not sure about the reports of it being a "drunken bus". Don't get me wrong, we like to party with the best of them but the idea of travelling around one of the most beautiful countries in the world in a drunken haze doesn't appeal. I've been to lots of forums and read lots of opinions and I still haven't been able to decide. Something that would really help if you lovely people could do you best to answer some burning questions for me:

1. Is there pressure to take part in activities?
2. Is there pressure to stay at specific accommodation?
3. Is it literally party time the whole time?
4. Is the focus on experiencing the country or different types of alcohol?
5. Do the drivers really sometimes forget people?
6. Are there lots of shannanigans?
7. Is it literally that you jump on the bus, show your ticket and go, get off at whichever point you wish, stay for as long as you want (I realise these passes are only valid for 12 months) then catch a bus to the next point as and when you please?
8. Is there any way to get it cheaper?
9. Are there toilets on the bus?

These might sound like silly questions but we just want to be sure.

Thanks guys - really appreciate it!

Take care

Jax

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4809 posts) 10y

Based on travelling for three days with them (did a short trip to try them out, so how bad they really were)

Quoting jax_07

1. Is there pressure to take part in activities?

Yes. Where "pressure" is defined as: they present the activities as the only things to do at the destinations, and have the attitude of assuming that of course everyone will partake, plus play promotional videos all the time. They won't argue with you if you strongly say you're not going to do activities, though.

2. Is there pressure to stay at specific accommodation?

Yes. They hand out signup lists for "all" hostels at a location, but only talk about the first choice. Plus there's peer pressure here. I was the only one in the bus who didn't stay at the chosen accomodation.

3. Is it literally party time the whole time?

Not if you don't stay with the group.

4. Is the focus on experiencing the country or different types of alcohol?

Both.

5. Do the drivers really sometimes forget people?

Not that I've seen; the organization is pretty good. However, if you're not at the designated pickup point on time, they will leave you behind.

6. Are there lots of shannanigans?

If you mean that like "pranks" - I didn't travel with them long enough to tell, but from tales I've heard, I'd say: "some".

7. Is it literally that you jump on the bus, show your ticket and go, get off at whichever point you wish, stay for as long as you want (I realise these passes are only valid for 12 months) then catch a bus to the next point as and when you please?

Yes and no. You have to reserve your bus x hours in advance (48?) by calling them, so there's quite a lot of planning on your end if you don't just go with the daily flow. "Whatever point you wish" is also not as easy as it sounds - the busses drive pretty well-defined routes, and although you can hop off at some destinations in between overnight points, there's potentially quite long walks to your lodging involved.
The bus itself is very much a tourbus, not just transport.

8. Is there any way to get it cheaper?

Most definitely. Get a TravelPass (for a few long distance trips) or a FlexiPass (for many short distance trips) and travel by Intercity or Newmans Coach. You'll have a mix of about 50% travellers / 50% locals on these busses, and about half the time the bus driver provides commentary on the places you drive through. I think it works out about 20%-30% cheaper than going with the Kiwi Experience, depending on your route. You only have to reserve these busses 24 hours in advance, and I found the service at the travelpass callcenter to be quite excellent. (The flexipass callcenter is the same as just regular intercity, so has 5-10 minute waits at times, but is still good. Both are freecall numbers, btw.)
The routes of these busses also take you to more destinations than the Kiwi Experience (if perhaps not all that many which you'd really like to stay at - Matamata (for Hobbiton) is about the only one I can think of offhand), and on a few busy routes travel two or three times a day. (And once a day everywhere else, same as with Kiwi Experience.)
After renting a car yourself, I think travelling on these bus passes is the best way to get around the country.

9. Are there toilets on the bus?

Yes, but the use of them is not recommended. Luckily there are frequent rest stops.

3. Posted by majito (Respected Member 442 posts) 10y

You'll always find a place to party in NZ. And personally I'd prefer my travelling days to be quiet and in the company of strangers and not be forced to do anything. But Kiwi Ex is great and offers a lot that other bus companies don't. If your choice comes down to parties and meeting people then you won't have any problems no matter how you go. Kiwi Ex is a bit like a tour bus disguised as an independent travellers bus.

4. Posted by sleepy_NZ (Budding Member 4 posts) 10y

[I;ve take the bait - I promise this is the last time I'll mention Stray Travel!!]

I'm currently travelling with stray... and absolutely love it. I understand your dilema - as choosing a bus company was hard (and lots of conflicting opinions). The only other one I did was Magic (which was okay - though nothing compared with stray) - so I cant comment on Kiwi... however:

For Stray:
1. Is there pressure to take part in activities?
Not at all - there is always a free activity to do whenever paid ones are happening (and also all other times as well)

2. Is there pressure to stay at specific accommodation?
No - though most of the bus will stay at one hostel - though its entirely up to you (btw - we almost always did stay with the bus crowd - must say something about them!)

3. Is it literally party time the whole time?
In the big cities (Auck, ChCh, Queenstown etc..) you can definately party if you want - however most of the time its very relaxed

4. Is the focus on experiencing the country or different types of alcohol?
The country

5. Do the drivers really sometimes forget people?
I havent experienced or personally heard of this - though I would assume that this happens with all bus / travel companies some time or another

6. Are there lots of shannanigans?
The odd few - all in good fun :)

7. Is it literally that you jump on the bus, show your ticket and go, get off at whichever point you wish, stay for as long as you want (I realise these passes are only valid for 12 months) then catch a bus to the next point as and when you please?
Yep - and depending on how long you have - you'll definately find some places that you will want to stay at for a while (perhaps even spend the rest of your like - ahhh wouldnt that be nice!)

Post 5 was removed by a moderator
6. Posted by majito (Respected Member 442 posts) 10y

Regarding the Kiwi Experience versus Stray Travel dilemma: The guy that founded Kiwi Experience way back in 1988 is the same guy who founded Stray Travel a couple of years or so after selling Kiwi. Stray is a new and improved version of Kiwi Experience. Travelling by bus in NZ is good no matter how you go: short journeys, lots of stops, and plenty to do and see. You'll have a good time no matter what.

Post 7 was removed by a moderator
8. Posted by Clarabell (Travel Guru 1696 posts) 10y

At first i was against the idea, as i've always done everything quite independently. But when i first got to NZ I found it a bit hard to meet people other than grannies on the normal buses (Intercity/newmans) and everyone in all the hostels was on kiwi/stray/magic buses. And as it wasn't busy, hostel staff thought they were doing me a favour by putting me in dorms by myself until i specifically requested otherwise.

So I did the Kiwi Experience for the south island. I honestly had a great time. The people I met weren't ignorant yobs and were intersted in the country etc. Maybe i was lucky.

The best thing about the buses is they are great if you don't have much time. I can spend ages trying to decide where to go next. Your route is all sorted. It took you to some places you would have found it hard to get to on the intercity buses.

There wasn't drinking and partying every night, yes there was quite a bit but people didn't have to join in....But then, I am a lager lout....

On the downside. You don't actually meet anyone from New Zealand. You do end up staying where they choose (not always best value) just cos its where your friends are, but if that means you're having fun I spose its a fair deal.

But if you are happy just hanging around with your friend and don't really want to mix with others you'd best avoid the buses, cos thats not what they're for really.