Alright here is the deal. I'm going to be in New Zealand for a good 2 months (may till july) and am looking for some good advice (bad advice is not necessary, that is what my friends and conscious are for). What is the best what to travel around NZ? I've read about this "Stray" company which seems to be a decent way to travel around, but have also heard good things about this so called Kiwi Experience. Renting a car is kind of out of the question, and I'm not quite up to hitch'in it around the country yet. Or would you reccomend shutting up and just "going with it" (I really hope you don't reccomend that). Anyway, any thoughts or opinions you guys (or girls) have on the matter would be dy-no-mite. i aim on getting a fair amount of surfing in if that effects your opinion at all (as you know, we canadians are notorious surfers....)
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Both Stray and Kiwi Experience are tour companies. This means two things. 1) They make a lot of their money by getting busloads of people to do "activities", for which they then get some kickback. Prepare to be assaulted by an endless deluge of videos and promotional talks on "...and here you can go jade carving/bungee jumping/skydiving/..." and 2) The people traveling with them are generally (there are of course always exceptions) the kind of "tourists" who'd travel with such companies. (Wait, is that circular?) Kiwi Experience in particular has the reputation of being the "party bus", but I've heard from people traveling with Stray and Magic (the other alternative) that it's just as bad there. Busloads of teenagers with very little interest in the places they've paid to see, and much more in getting drunk and/or laid each evening.
Of course, other people describe these tours as absolutely fantastic, a great social experience and absolutely perfect for making friends on.
The truth probably depends on your own attitude.
I personally travelled with the Kiwi Experience for a very short distance (Auckland to Cape Reinga and back), to try them out. And although I didn't mind the partying atmosphere that much (I just stayed in different hostels than the group, and did my own thing), I also didn't think they offered anything worth the price. All the inside information they gave can be found in your Lonely Planet as well. So if you read that, and then travel around by just regular public transport in the form of Intercity/Newmans coaches (get a flexipass or travelpass), you're much better off.
At least, that's what I thought, and did, and it worked perfectly for me. YMMV.
The public buses are good in New Zealand, though what the prices will be like now, I'm not sure.
Hitching would certainly be the cheapest way, and people tend to be friendly out there. Although, if you're carrying a surfboard, maybe that will put people off picking you up!
I'm not a surfer, but i wasn't aware of great surfing potential in NZ. It's not as big a thing as in Australia by any means. And be aware that you are going to be there in the depths of winter. And NZ does have a winter - and Alpine winter in the south. Though being Canadian, you may be a hardy soul and used to ice and snow.
The Bay of Islands in the north is beautiful and warmer, but there's no surf to speak of.
You will obviously be looking to try the Pacific east coast of the islands.
im travelling with stray and they are fine.it really does depend on what you are looking for and if you are confident in travelling on your own.
i personally chose stray because i was travelling on my own and i wanted to go with a tour company for just the south island because i knew that by the time i was finished with them i would have the confidence and have met enough people to travel around the north island by myself.i also dident want the big party bus atmosphere that kiwi has the reputation for.but it really depends on the group of people you get on your bus, some groups ive travelled with have been big into pissups more than seeing the country while others have been more about hiking etc.
there is also the magic bus.
you dont neccesaraly have to hitch either. im in an internet cafe in queenstown right now and the notice board has a few posts by people looking for someone to share the expenses of a drive to a particular destination.