My husband and I just completed 5 weeks of touring New Zealand with the Kiwi Experience and I wanted to share our experience with other travelers.
I think the Kiwi Experience gets a little bit of a bad rap. I am not going to lie, we were a little hesitant about booking with them because we had heard the stories about it being a party bus and that really wasn't our scene. However, we took a leap of faith and ended up having the TIME OF OUR LIVES.
It is not just a transportation company, they do their best to get you right into the real New Zealand. Each travel day is full of stops and walks, we didn't miss anything with them. They were flexible in the hop off hop on system, so we were able to plan out our own stuff and stay longer in each destination. This was really nice for us because it allowed us to dig a little deeper in some areas and discover more of the country.
As far as the drinking scene, well, we didn't have any problems or unpleasant experience like most would imagine. We only went out three times in our 5 weeks with the Kiwi bus and we never felt any pressure from other bus riders or the drivers to do more than that. If we showed up at the bars, great, if not, no big deal. Did we have a lot of the 18-25 crowd on the bus, yes we did, but everyone was very civil. If you wanted to go out in the towns and have a good time you would find them there, but if you wanted to do your own thing and then go to bed early, that was easy to do as well. We made some really great friends with other travelers and drivers alike, so the social scene is great whether you party or not.
Departure times each day were reasonable and most days we rolled in at the hostels by early afternoon. One thing we really enjoyed was all the stops they did between destinations. There were many times we were glad we didn't do the campervan (our original plan) because we knew we would have missed some of the fantastic walks we did during the day.
They do a nice job of making sure you know about all the activities in each town and each day they pass around sign up sheets and then take care of all the bookings for you. They do get you some discounts on activities and accommodation. They are small discounts, but better than nothing.
I seriously wouldn't hesitate to book with them again, and even though we are a little older and married, we weren't the oldest people we met on the bus! So others are definitely catching on to the bus that isn't just for the kids! Plus they seem to be running some pretty sweet deals these days and you really can't go wrong with some of the prices that get you all around both the North and South Island. We visited both the North and South Island on their Chilly Bin pass that included the Deep South to Dunedin, the Caitlins and Milford Sound. Only place we missed was the Bay of Islands so I'm happy to answer any questions you have about traveling through NZ or traveling with Kiwi Experience.
I hope that those of you that are unsure on whether the Kiwi Bus is right for you will find this helpful.