Solo travel is a one of a kind experience. It’s both exciting and scary at the same time, especially if you’ve never done it before. While traveling solo in New Zealand is for the most part safe and easy to do, there are many options that stand before you. Do you go the campervan route and put together your own itinerary? Or do you play it safe and choose a tour company to orchestrate your time in New Zealand?
Those were the questions I asked myself when I was looking into how I should spend my time traveling through the country. After assessing many factors, I ended up choosing to travel on a hop on hop off bus (Kiwi Experience) and here's why...
Why I chose Kiwi Experience as a Solo Traveller
1. Backpacker Budget
For those who haven’t heard of Kiwi Experience, it’s a hop on, hop off bus that allows you to choose different routes around the North Island, the South Island or both. Most bus passes allows you to travel that route an unlimited number of times within a 12 month period and vary from 6-30 days if you travel on their minimum time. This means you’d be following the route of the bus without stopping to get off for extra time at certain locations. Because Kiwi Experience offers various bus passes, there’s always something that will work for a backpacker budget!
They continually have sales going on for different passes so if you miss out on a special, don’t worry because another one is sure to come up soon enough.
As previously mentioned, with each pass you have the option to stay longer at a destination if you so choose. This is great because if you meet people along the way, it’s very easy to change your plans and explore a new part of the country for a few extra days!
I changed my itinerary many times throughout the 4 weeks I spent with Kiwi Experience and it always went seamlessly. Do keep in mind that during peak seasons you may need to give more notice about changing your itinerary because the buses fill up. With that being said, I traveled with from mid December to mid January which is the beginning of their summer and had no issues.
One of the most time consuming activities while traveling or planning a trip can be organising the accommodation.
One of the biggest perks about traveling with Kiwi Experience in New Zealand was the fact that you are guaranteed a bed in the hostel they’ve secured for the minimum nights of stay at each location. If you decide to change your plans and stay somewhere for longer, it’s usually not too difficult to add on additional days. The only time this can get a bit tricky is in popular cities like Queenstown in peak season but if you contact the hostel as soon as you make changes, it’s likely that you won’t have any problems.
4. Hassle free
If you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, a hop on hop off bus is without a doubt the best option for solo travel in New Zealand.
You don’t need to spend a single minute planning your trip because when you choose a particular bus pass, you’re selecting the top destinations you already know you’d like to visit. Everything else is set in place for you. All you need to be aware of is the bus departure times! Once you set out an itinerary for yourself you’re sent the bus schedule, but if you make changes it’s very easy to find the information on their website.
If you’re wondering what there is to do at each stop along the way, there are many optional activities listed on their website or on the app as well. You can choose to sign up for activities a day or two prior to getting to the next destination when you’re on the bus. Just make sure to enquire about skydiving ahead of time if it’s something you’re interested in, as spots can fill up quite quickly!
Kiwi Experience is usually able to access special deals that non Kiwi Experience travelers won’t be able to access. This is just another perk of riding along with the bus!
5. Opportunities to meet other travelers
One of the biggest fears concerning solo travel is not making friends along the way. Sure, you’re bound to meet other travelers no matter what but it’s much more difficult to meet people if you hire a campervan or car by yourself.
That’s the main reason I decided to choose Kiwi Experience to see New Zealand! I wanted to make sure I’d have people to share my awesome experiences and explore the country with. Because many people choose different bus passes and have different itineraries planned, I was originally a bit worried about only being with the same people for a day or so and then having to meet a whole new group of people continuously. While this may happen sometimes, it seems as if many people end up taking similar routes or you’ll run into them again later on in your trip.
Luckily, I was pretty flexible with my dates and when I made friends from the bus, I was able to change my itinerary a little and stay with them for Christmas and New Years. If I could recommend one thing to those considering traveling around New Zealand with Kiwi Experience, it would be to keep your itinerary as flexible and open as possible because you never know who you’re going to meet along the way!
Would I travel with Kiwi Experience again?
In short, no. Now that I’ve seen New Zealand, I would definitely do things differently if I went back again. If you have a group of mates to travel with, I think hiring a campervan is probably the best option because you can travel around the country on your own terms.
With that being said, I still believe that it was the best option for solo travel in New Zealand as it hit all the main spots you’d want to visit for a short trip, such as the infamous Milford Sound and it isn’t as restricting as a typical tour usually is.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to book your trip to New Zealand because if you don’t do it now, you never will!
Author: Amy Rae is a Canadian traveler who recently lived in Australia and has since explored New Zealand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. You can follow more of her adventures here:
All images provided by author unless otherwise stated.