I wanted to get some people's opinions on the bus passes that one can get in New Zealand. It seems that Kiwi Experience, Magic, Stray and Flexi-Pass are the main ones that I can find. Has anyone used any of these and if so, how did you like them??? I really like the Flexi-Pass one because I like the idea of adding hours and it seems more affordable for me. Any advice would be great!!!
My boyfriend and I did the Stray bus tour in November covering the North and South Island and had the time of our lives. It was really nice to have some of the hassle of travelling taken away, all we had to do was decide what activites we wanted to do!
The bus drivers were brilliant, the places they stay are a bit more off the beaten track than other bus companies and we met some amazing people.
I would recommend it to everyone
Kiwi Experience, Magic and Stray are all tour buses. You pay a premium for travelling with them, and they spend quite a bit of effort on trying to get you to stay with the group, in the same hostel as everyone else (which they get a commission for), doing the same expensive activities in each destination (which they get a commission for).
The flexipass (and the travelpass, which works per day rather than per hour, and so works out better for fewer longer distances) on the other hand uses the regular "public transport" network of Intercity and Newmans buses. There'll be many locals on these buses as well (depending on the route, that could be up to 50% of the people), and you can backtrack or do really weird routes with them, and if you happen to come across a supersaver fare for your next destination which would be cheaper than using your hours, you can just do that and use those hours at some later point. Since they're not tour buses, they don't stop at as many roadside attractions - but on the other hand, they do stop at the very best roadside attractions (I've seen them do this at the punakaiki blowholes, lake tekapo church, and they have a really loong lunch stop at mt cook. village, etc), and depending on route (and driver; and this is mostly on the Newmans buses, though not exclusively), the driver is even likely to narrate your trip with information about the countryside, same as on a tourbus.
I travelled the very shortest route possible with the kiwi experience to see what they offered - and quickly decided that they didn't add anything worthwhile I couldn't get by reading my lonely planet; certainly nothing that was worth the 30% premium in cost. I also did insane amounts of backtracking over the course of a year, so my travelpass and flexipass (I got one of each since I'd be staying for so long, and would have both short and long journeys) proved to be the right choice by a rather large margin.
I used both stray and magic in NZ and thought they were both really good. i'm not a party person and i though they had the balance about right - it was social without being too full on and there was never any pressure to go out with the group at nights, and i met loads of people. beware if you travel in the winter as the buses don't run every day so you will have to plan your itinerary pretty carefully if you are on a tight time frame.
you also get picked up and dropped off at your hostel which you obviously wouldn't get using a regular intercity bus, and there are also regular stops for photos and walks.
stray tend to get off the beaten track a little more than magic but other than that I thought they were pretty similar.
I used the flexi pass while I was in New Zealand. I really liked this because it is just public transport and not a tour. I met a few people who had got passes for Magic bus but hadn't used them fully as it wasn't as independent as they had thought. Although the Intercity buses that I used were just public transport and also used by the locals, I did find that the driver's would sometimes point out places of interest on the way past. The pass was really easy to use, when you want to move on you just call a free phone number, give them your pass number and book onto the bus you want. The drivers were friendly and the buses were reliable. If you want complete independence, I would say that the flexi pass is better than the others. Hope this helps.