Adventure Travel Bus Passes

Kiwi Experience, Stray Travel & Magic Bus all offer 12 month long, hop on, hop off, bus passes around New Zealand. You may have heard of these already, it is hard to do any research about backpacking in New Zealand without coming across an advert from Kiwi Experience or Stray Travel (note Magic Bus was purchased by Kiwi Experience in 2013 and no longer operates).

These two companies all offer similar things. They offer variety of bus passes that will take you to small parts or pretty much the whole of New Zealand. By the whole of New Zealand, we mean a large chunk of the best bits. The passes that you buy are valid for 12 months and you can jump on and off the bus wherever you like.

The main appeal to many travellers is that you are putting yourself in a social environment where you will be meeting lots of other travellers from all over the world. The bus driver is a New Zealand ‘expert’ and will be your guide to what you are seeing, and pulling the bus over along the way to enjoy some highlights of the region (like a walk to a waterfall, mud pools or beaches).

Keep in mind that the buses have set overnight stops, so if there is a job starting in the South Island in three days and you have only just left Auckland, then you will find it takes up to a week to get to the South Island. This is where Intercity, Naked Bus and even catching a flight come in handy.

 What to consider

  • If you are not too sure if you will enjoy it, start off with one of the small passes, such as a trip up to the Bay of Islands.
  • Many travellers on the buses will not be on a working holiday, rather just having a holiday around New Zealand. You might find yourself having a great time with the people on the bus and rather than getting off to go fruit picking in Marlborough as you had planned, you might instead continue travelling with your new friends. This is where Naked Bus or Intercity might come in handy to get you back to Marlborough when you are ready to get off the Adventure Bus.
  • Winter is a quiet time of year and you will find the buses are at times half full to almost empty, as opposed to summer where there may not be an empty seat on the bus.
  • Some of the overnight stops will be in remote places with no internet access or shops; other times you will be staying in the middle of cities. Try to keep an open mind to it all. Not every place will suit everyone, but it is all about attitude and making the most of every situation.
  • You might have read or heard people refer to some of these buses as ‘party buses’. It is true that sometimes you will be travelling with people whose hangovers mean they are sleeping their way through the day to enjoy the night life. If you are not enjoying the crowd you can always jump off the bus and wait for the next one to come along and try the next crowd. However it is more than likely on every bus you can find at least a couple of people who would rather explore the town you are staying in, over heading straight for the local pub. Be proactive in seeking them out.
  • Kiwi Experience and Stray Travel almost always have significant discounts on their passes. Think carefully before buying your pass before you leave for New Zealand. What if you land here and on your first day meet some great travellers who offer you a lift as they drive around the North Island. It could be worth waiting until you get here to figure it out.

How do you choose which company to travel with? Pick up the brochures or research the websites. Listen to your gut instinct; if you go to online forums, chances are you will get VERY confused and read many negative stories about all companies. Once you get here, chat to other backpackers, chances are they have just stepped off one of these buses and can give you advice from the horse’s mouth.

The companies do incorporate activities stops along the way, sometimes free, though often you will pay for them (like a skydive or glacier hike).

In Summary:

Do your research , do not obsess over choosing ‘the right bus company’. Have a good read about the overnight stops each operator makes, listen to your gut instinct, not what every one else is doing.