Just read another thread which discussed quite a few negative tendancies towards Kiwi Espress, and as I've already gone out and bough my trusty KE ticket, I was wondering if anyone could enlighten me on all the good points I'm going to look forward too!?
Also, is it better to go with the accomodation they suggest along the way, or is it cheaper to go out and find your own room in each town?
I'm a big fan of the Kiwi Experience, they should pay me commission - hehe!
I travelled the North Island with them for a few weeks in August and had the best time of my travels so far! We had a full coach and I was a little nervous travelling on my own - but straight away I made some great friends... some of the best actually. We had an absolute ball doing the activities and travelling around with each other. Kiwi Experience make it soooo easy. Each morning you get on the bus the clipboard gets sent round, 1 with a choice of hostels and 1 with a choice of activities - I found there was no sales pushing involved - the driver just gave you any info of anything you wanted and then you just tick your choices and the driver books you in! They drop you off at your hostel and for MOST activities they take you along or make sure there is transport sorted for you. Even if you don't stay at any of their recommended hostels i think sometimes they will make every effort to drop you off. But every hostel i stayed at through their recommendations was great...especially there is a cute little family run hostel in River Valley where you can go White Water Rafting or Horse Riding, when we arrived there they had a yummy sunday roast cooking and we all had dinner around the fireplace! Their hostel rooms just have one huge bunk bed and you just grab a mattress and chuck it on - hehe - its great fun!
Anyway if you want anymore info of NZ or the KE let us know. Make sure you do the SkyDive in Taupo it was amazing!
p.s. I didnt find it much more expensive going with their accomodation recommendations - most places were around $20-$22 a night. Id recommend you invest in a VIP Backpackers card as you get $1-$2 discount in most hostels and other discounts - works out pretty good if you use it alot.
Hey, thanks for that!
Sounds like you had a blast travelling around with KE, and it all seems hassle-less. The info on accomodation is much appreciated too
In response to your query as to whether it’s a good idea to stay at the hostels which Kiwi recommend:
Firstly, remember that Kiwi get commission from the hostels they use, so if a driver gives a hostel a glowing recommendation without giving any specifics, then take what he says with a pinch of salt. That’s not to say that Kiwi don't use some very nice hostels. Merely that the drivers will generally tell you that all of the hostels they use are brilliant, whether they are or not.
Secondly, I would say that it's definitely a good idea to stick with their recommendations for the first few days, as you meet far more people in hostels than you do on a bus. Once you’ve got to know people though just stay wherever you want. Generally a hostel is just somewhere to sleep so for most places I would just stop where they tell you. The few exceptions to this are:
Queenstown – definitely book your hostel yourself a few days in advance if you can, as when I was there Kiwi ended up having to stick the other bus in a hostel a few kms out of town, as everywhere central was fully-booked.
Wanaka – Definitely stay at the Purple Cow. They have a barbecue area at the front of the hostel which overlooks the lake and mountains and IMO is the most picturesque view in all of NZ. Generally I’m not really into views, but even I was impressed by this.
Whitianga – if you’re into sea-kayaking or surfing/body-boarding, then definitely stay at the YHA as they have free sea-kayaks and surfboards/body-boards available. If sea-kayaking and surfing aren’t your cup of tea then just go with the Kiwi option.
Wellington – The Kiwi option (Base Backpackers) is a good hostel, but not quite as excellent as World Wide Backpackers where they have free breakfast, free evening wine, free tea and coffee, free internet and free sweets.
Taupo – Kiwi use two hostels (Go Global for $20 and Burke’s Lodge costing $24) and the $24 option is a bit further out from the town centre, so try to avoid staying there if possible (unless you fancy a few quiet days, in which case it’s ideal).
Also, Kiwi generally don’t use hostels that have swimming pools (as these are usually too popular to fit a bus-full of people in) so if you’re a big fan of pools then you’ll have to book up yourself. The one exception to this is in Rotorua where Kiwi use Hot Rock which has a pool and IMO was an excellent hostel.