So, I had the idea to go travelling around New Zealand, but the next big question was how on earth do I begin to turn it into a reality? As someone who has never really travelled alone before, the idea of booking a plane ticket and just seeing what happens was more than a little terrifying. Also, the chances of getting lost somewhere would increase somewhat alarmingly.
Not quite ready to tackle the world completely on my tod, I decided that I needed some kind of scheme to act as a safety net until I found my feet. Luckily there are such schemes in place to help those with this exact problem. I discovered STA Travel, a company which offers to help you with your travelling needs from booking flights to visa applications.
In addition to their general travel guidance, they offered BUNAC, a programme which helps you find work in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. For a fee, they offer to help with your CV and interview preparation for work experience, TEFL, volunteering and even internships. BUNAC is perfect for those who want to work and play abroad, but knowing that I would spend a lifetime working, I wanted to spend this time enjoying the experience of travelling. I wanted to be greedy and take in as much of New Zealand as possible.
Seeing my preference for a more nomadic travelling style, STA Travel introduced me to the New Zealand backpacker bus. These buses offer flexible hop on/hop off tours of the country with activities along the way. The two companies they suggested were The Kiwi Experience and Stray.
The Kiwi Experience
Nicknamed ‘The Party Bus’, The Kiwi Experience is the most popular backpacker bus. It has a range of tours covering both islands and they vary from a couple of days to a month to complete. Each tour takes you to visit the highlights of what New Zealand has to offer. In addition, The Kiwi Experience has a discount on hostels you stop at and offers a range of activities for the adrenaline junkies to the curious explorers. The main demographic is young gap year travellers aged between about 18 and 27, and I’ve heard it has quite the drinking culture!
Stray is similar to The Kiwi Experience with its various range of tours and activities but instead of just focusing on New Zealand’s main tourist attractions, it prides itself on taking you to little known hidden gems. The Stray buses are smaller than The Kiwi Experience ones, and the demographic tends to be a little older and little less keen to party till dawn every night.
The backpacker tour bus seems like a great way to meet like-minded people, particularly if you’re a solo traveller. Plus, you don’t need to worry about transport at least for a month! In addition, for those who are not too confident to wing it on their own, like me, it is a great way to see the country with the security of a safety net. And depending on what tour you choose, it gives you hostels around most of the country to return to if you do decide to chuck that safety net and go solo.
Having a programme like a backpacker bus tour is definitely a good way to turn that travelling idea into a reality, particularly for a first-time solo female traveller. Not only does it provide you with the confidence to make those travelling plans happen, but it also gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded people on the road.