Stray Bus New Zealand Review 138


I came across a number of Stray Bus New Zealand reviews, so I thought I’d offer my perspective to those thinking of doing the same thing. Sharing is caring, especially when it comes to a big purchase like this

If you do end up booking a pass it’d be appreciated if you could book through my links, as I’ll get a little kick back for the sale, so I can go on my next awesome adventure!

So What is the Stray New Zealand Bus?

For those not familiar with Stray NZ, it’s a hop on/hop off bus service that gives you some flexibility with how you get around New Zealand. While traveling on a Stray bus you’re guaranteed accommodation for that night at a reasonable rate of usually $28 NZD a night. There are also a couple of activities that are discounted at each of the stops (Usually ~10-15% off retail prices). Each trip has a minimum amount of days that you’re supposed to complete the trip in, but you have up to a year to use the pass. Booking a spot on the bus is relatively simple, but can only be done once you’ve purchased a ticket. It can get complicated at times, especially during peak season, so if you have any questions you can email or call the Stray team to help you out after you’ve purchased the ticket.

If you really like a stop and have time, just let the driver know you’re going to be hopping off the bus. You’ll then have to figure out whether there is room on the next bus coming through town, which is at least 1-3 days during peak season. If there isn’t room you’ll be waitlisted and may have to wait for yet another bus to come through town. So just make sure you’re okay with staying in that town/city, or look into finding your own transportation to the next stop. If you don’t like the people who are on your bus, or if you don’t like the driver you can just roll the dice on the next bus that comes through town as well.

Luckily for me I really enjoyed the people on our bus from day 1, as well as our driver, Postie. Although he had his interesting driving quirks, like drifting into oncoming traffic every time he searched for new songs on his ipod, or going up on two wheels on to the median of a bridge overlooking a reservoir trying to make a hair-pin turn on our way back from Blue Duck Station. For the most part, our core group stuck together for the 2 weeks from our start in Auckland, all the way down to Queenstown. So even if there’s a stop you really aren’t into, the people you’re with help to bring up the energy.

Stray NZ? Kiwi Experience? Contiki? Intercity?

Other hop-on/hop-off bus options include Kiwi Experience, Contiki, and Intercity. While doing research it was basically between Kiwi Experience and Stray for me. From what I saw on my trip, the average age of Kiwi Experience is probably around 20, while Stray tends to skew a bit older, with a greater emphasis on culture and experience. Don’t get me wrong, we still went out and partied pretty hard, but that wasn’t the sole purpose of the trip. I’d say the average age of our Stray bus was closer to 24/25, I myself being 29 at the time of the trip. There were a few parent/child groups on the trip as well, helping to bring up the average age. There were also a fair share of people on the bus that were 18-21 years old, so it really is a good mix, with roughly 40 or so people on the bus during peak summer season.

Before booking my ‘Max Pass’ I tried to find as much information as I could on pricing, and tried finding the absolute best deal possible. I also read it would be cheaper in NZ, but I didn’t want to take that big of a chance. The price ended up being the same once I got to Auckland, so it’s definitely worth some piece of mind to show up with a pass in-hand, especially during the summer peak season so you can secure your spot on a bus well ahead of time. Buying a pass does not guarantee you’ll get on the bus, you still have to reserve your spots on the bus. I ended up buying a pass a ~3 weeks ahead of my arrival to NZ and found out I got one of the last available seats for the pass I purchased and the dates I was looking to travel. Granted I could’ve traveled on stand-by if one of the stops was full, but if you’re constrained by flights it could be very stressful. The moral of the story? Buy your pass early, and lock your seats in for your trip as soon as you can. This is especially true for the peak season of December – February/March. Based on what I’ve seen over the past year, passes typically go on sale during different times of year and I happened to come across a pretty good sale of $930 AUS (At the time ~$811 USD) for the Max Pass, while the retail price of the pass is ~$1450 AUS (At the time ~$1265 USD). The Max Pass minimum amount of travel is 23 days, and takes you through most of the North Island and all of the South Island.

Stray New Zealand Deal Update (10/17/17):

There are 4 solid promos up until Oct 31, 2017 leading into summer in the southern hemisphere.

Stray New Zealand Backpacker Bus

The Stray Everywhere Pass is going for $1299 NZD ($930 USD). Which also comes with a Free Cathedral Cove Kayak Tour. Leave no stone unturned. Go ‘everywhere’ including a 3 day adventure around the remote East Cape of New Zealand. Stray recommends 4-5 weeks, but this will enable you to see every inch of the island. A must for anyone that has a bunch of time.

Note: The East Cape section of this pass is summer only. Your pass is valid for 12 months from day 1, but you do need to complete the East Cape loop between 4th October and 29th April (Rotorua – Te Kaha – Tatapouri – Rotorua). 

The Moe Pass is going for $799 NZD ($572 USD) Discover the real New Zealand and get off the beaten track in both the North and South Island, travelling from Auckland to Christchurch, without having to make the loop, so make sure you plan your transportation in and out of the country accordingly.

Stray recommends at least 4 weeks to get the most out of your trip and to allow some time to hop-off and explore your favorite destinations for longer.

The Max Pass is going for $899 NZD ($643 USD) It also comes with a free Jack Pass ($105 NZD). Which essentially makes this the Maximus Pass!  Maximize your time in New Zealand – includes the North and South Island highlights that I mention in this post + a free trip to the Bay of Islands!

The Willy Pass is going for $659 NZD ($471 USD). This also comes with a free burt pass ($295 NZD) which covers the far south.  The Willy in combination with the Burt pass includes Stray’s entire South Island travel network.

If you do end up booking a pass online please use my links to help support me, since I get a small kick back.

Stray also put together their 2018 travel guide which is worth checking out, while you plan out your trip!

 

Stray New Zealand Maps

Stray New Zealand Journeys

For those that are looking for a fixed itinerary/fixed price deal, and don’t want to hop-on-hop-off there is Stray Journeys. Prices range from $4400 NZD to $1300 NZD.

During Winter Stray Journeys are operated on the hop-on hop-off bus network. This means some passengers on your trip who are travelling on flexible passes will be hopping on and off the bus. Stray Journeys passengers will follow a fixed itinerary with specified inclusions. You can expect to travel on a modern comfortable bus (mid-coach) and to be led by a knowledgeable Driver Guide.

So, what’s included?

  • All transport – including inter-island transport between North and South Island (for National Tours). This would be another $45 USD each way on the hop-on-hop-off bus.
  • Local Guide – expect entertaining commentary, insight into local secrets and extra support from your tour guide
  • All accommodation – quad-share (upgrades available)
  • Activities – selected top-rated activities and special deals on optional activities
  • Some meals (as indicated on each tour’s itinerary)

Overall, the pricing isn’t too far off from what I spent for lodging, food, and activities (see below).

 

 

Stray New Zealand Planning:

What I suggest is that you do some thorough research of the areas surrounding the stops on the bus and find a pass that suits you best, in case you want to stop and explore. The way I took the trip, completing the trip in the minimum amount of time suggested, doesn’t allow you to really do some of the things you’d like to do in New Zealand. It’s ultimately a top level overview of the county, with 1-2 days spent in each destination. Most places you’ll have half a day to try and get an activity done, before you’re shuffled back on the bus. A lot of the activities are not divulged until the day of, while you’re on the bus going to the destination. Therefore rushing you into making a decision because the driver needs to call in numbers to secure spots and prices.

Additionally, some of the activities that were offered required you to get off the bus because the bus needed to leave before the activity finished, which I think is pretty ridiculous. Hobbiton being one of the more popular non-Stray activities amongst people on the bus, although after speaking with some who have made bookings recently, Hobbiton is possible without hopping off the bus. A little bit of work goes a long way, and it would’ve been nice for Stray to provide a “one sheet” of each of the activities and the costs associated with the activity at each of the stops. That way people can budget accordingly, and you don’t have to feel rushed into doing something, when it might be offered elsewhere. Overall this was my biggest gripe with Stray NZ, and I’d love to hear from people who have taken the trip in the past year where this has changed.

Stray New Zealand Costs and Budgeting:

This will vary greatly, but this can give you an idea of what I paid on a daily basis over the span of 24 days. The cost can vary wildly, and it can add up quickly if you’re an adrenaline seeker, as those activities seemed to be ~ $100-200 each. Costs are in USD for my 2014 trip (At the time of my trip the exchange rate was 1 USD to 1.21 NZD, as of July 7, 2017 it is 1 USD to 1.37 NZD, so you’re getting 10% more purchasing power, not nearly as good as it was in late 2015, but still a good exchange rate).

Max Pass – $800

Hostels – $20/$25 a night (24 nights)

Food/Booze (A combination of grocery shopping/cooking and eating out and a few nights out at the bar in the bigger cities like Queenstown and Wellington) – $40/$50 a day? You could cook every night and save a few bucks, but you’ll definitely want to throw back a few meat pies, and a Fergburger.

Tongariro Crossing – $30

Helicopter to Franz Josef Glacier + Hiking – $250

Ferry from North Island to South Island – $45 (Each Way)

Skeet Shooting @ Blue Duck – $30

Maori Home Stay + Dinner – $70

Kohutapu Lodge + Dinner – $65

RT Flight from Australia – $575

Milford Sound Cruise – $55

Ballpark Grand Total for 24 days? $3600 USD. This was easily the most expensive leg of my RTW trip coming in ~$150 a day. However 1/4 of the cost was the max pass, so if you can get it on sale, that’s where you’ll save a good chunk of change.

For those that are from the USA like myself, now is a great time to visit because of the strength of the dollar. When i visited in Feb/Mar 2014 1USD was worth ~$1.20 NZD, now 1 USD is worth $1.39 NZD, 20% more purchasing power! My trip would’ve cost me ~$2900 instead of $3600 USD.

 

Off the Beaten Track

Stray’s motto is “Off the Beaten Track”, which is how it differentiates itself from the other bus companies. They pride themselves on unique experiences, and unique lodging along the way. Some of the unique lodging experiences are quite nice, others are pretty shitty and in the middle of nowhere. I guess that comes with the territory, and then some of the hostels you share with Kiwi Experience. Take this trip with an open mind, and know you’ll be staying in some low-rung mass accommodations like BASE or Nomads, in combination with some of the more unique lodging options afforded to you over the length of your trip.

Top Stray New Zealand lodges on the Max Pass

(Note that these are subject to change on your trip) 
YHA Rainforest Punakaiki – Each group has a unique lodge, situated in the middle of a rainforest, a short walk to the beach. The bed situation was interesting, but not awful, at least in our lodge, and the kitchen was decent. They like to have a competition to see which house can create the cheapest meal, as well as the most expensive meal. Ours ended up being one of the most expensive, but provided us with leftovers for the next day.
• Raglan – We stayed at the Karioi Lodge. There is a beautiful view of the ocean and the mountains. At night you can see the glow worms along the driveway. So save your money on the glow-worm rafting tour! They also operate a surf school, so for those that wanna extend your stay and surf a little bit more, this is the place to be.
• “The Barn” in Abel Tasman National Park – Newly renovated rooms, each person get’s their own comfortable single bed, and not a rickety bunk bed. Two kitchens that are well stocked with utensils, and very close to the entrance of Abel Tasman National Park. It’s also a short walk to Fat Tui burger for a solid meal around $15NZD, with some great burger options.

Blue Duck Station – This was definitely an ‘off the beaten track’ stop. I ended up skeet shooting for ~$30 w/ a Stray discount. A free option that a lot of people liked was a 90 min hike to a waterfall. If you’re someone that has wanted to go hunting, this is the only option on the trip to go on a hunting trip, albeit kind of expensive on a backpacker budget. Also, I’m not sure I’m up for hunting. Once the sun went down we all had a few drinks around the fire and a bunch of us had an axe throwing competition.

 

Bottom Stray New Zealand lodges on the Max Pass

• Hahei – Minimal accommodations, poor way to start the trip off. It felt like a trailer park, but we did have a nice group dinner where everyone got to know one another.

•Maori Home Stay in Mourea (30-40 people crammed into one room with beds on the floor, we also had to pay ~$70 NZD for accommodation and dinner). The experience with the Maori people was great, and the people who lived there were amazing. However, myself and a number of other people I was traveling with couldn’t help but feel as though we were getting hosed, in a pre-packaged way. Especially since everyone is basically FORCED to do this. Alternative accommodation doesn’t exist nearby, and you’d have to find your own transportation to that accommodation if you did find something else. We slept like sardines on mattresses on the floor with 40 people in a room. If you’re a light sleeper bring industrial strength sleeping pills and/or earplugs, because you will get a few people who snore!

Gunns Camp – Electricity goes out at 10pm including heaters, located in one of the rainiest places in NZ, and also quite cold, very limited kitchen, in the middle of nowhere. The stop after Gunn’s Camp is Invercargill, dubbed the ‘Arsehole of the World’ by Mick Jagger. I wouldn’t fight Mick on that. Then again, who would fight Mick Jagger?!?

• Kohutapu Lodge – A Hangi dinner was included in the $65 price tag for the evening, which was a very nice authentic meal, and quite filling. But certainly on the pricier side of things. Since an average night at a hostel is $25, that breaks out to a $40 dinner! The activities to partake in during the day/night were nice, although only volleyball was free, the rest of the activities required $$.  This was also a forced activity/cost similar to the Maori home stay, with no options to lodge elsewhere.

Stray Max Pass vs Short Max Pass:

The difference of the two passes is that the Max Pass also includes two nights for the deep south of NZ. It’s one day at Milford Sound with a stay overnight at Gunns Camp, where you can spend $65 for an ‘optional‘ cruise (but everyone takes it). The following day you head to Invercargill, where you have the option to travel to Stewart Island overnight, for an additional $130 NZD. Those that don’t go to Stewart Island then go east to the Catlins, where you have an opportunity to check out some Penguins and Sea Lions in their natural habitat. Although there is no guarantee that you’ll see them. From here you make your way back to Queenstown, and pick up anyone coming back from Stewart Island, ultimately getting you back into Queenstown around 7pm. Just in time for Happy Hour!

My two cents would be this….Don’t buy the Max Pass, the Short Max is just fine. Instead, spend more time in Queenstown and try and see if you can’t book yourself a trek through one of NZ’s Great Walks. I saw some pictures from some friends who did a 3day/2night hike. They got to walk through Fiordland National Park in all it’s glory via the Kepler Track, and really soak it in. The Stray bus route only allows you to make a few stops to take pictures along the way, and then snap some shots on the cruise. You’ll have to book the Kepler Track hike pretty far in advance, since accommodation is limited. On the Max Pass you’ll end up coming back through Queenstown anyways and spend a couple nights there with a lot of the crew you’ve traveled with previously in all likelihood.

Conclusion of my Stray Bus New Zealand Review:

If you’re traveling on your own, this is a good option to see as much of NZ as you possibly can, in an organized fashion. However, traveling on the minimum amount of suggested time for each pass really makes you feel like you’re scratching the surface and not getting a true feel for each place. The trade-off to this top-level approach is meeting a bunch of great people along the way. I’d definitely do it the same way on my first trip to NZ. However, when I come back to NZ I’d feel more comfortable in traversing this beautiful country on my own now that I have a lay of the land. When you’re always in planning mode, it really feels good to not worry about logistics for 3-4 weeks. I’d give the experience 4 out of 5 stars, mainly because of the people I met along the way in combination with the beauty that NZ has to offer. If you’re traveling alone, or even if you’re in a pair, I’d highly suggest going with Stray.

If anyone has any specific questions about Stray, feel free to shoot me a comment below, or even an email and I’ll be happy to help!! While it makes me jealous, it also brings me a lot of joy to help out a fellow traveler, so don’t be shy.

I’d love to hear from those that have been on Stray before so we can swap stories.

For making it all the way down to the bottom of my post, here’s a gallery of all shots I took on my trip.

(Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. This is a 100% genuine review. If you want to help support me, please book through my link. Hit me up in the comments, or find me on twitter @jbeinstein or Facebook to get in touch with me if you have any questions before booking. I try and respond ASAP, commenting is probably the quickest way for me to get in touch with you since it generates an email.)

 


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138 thoughts on “Stray Bus New Zealand Review

  • Annie

    Hello 😀
    So glad to see your review.
    I gonna to book for stray pass by your link.
    Could you share the stray mates code with me?
    Thank you so much!

    • Jason Beinstein

      Hey Annie,

      Please get in touch w/ me via twitter @jbeinstein. I’m unable to post the code publicly online, but will be happy to share it with you privately!

      I can also answer any other questions you may have.

      Thanks,
      Jason

      • Annie

        Hello Jason!
        I have got in touch with you on twitter.
        Thank you so much for your help! 😀
        And your review is really helpful for my preparation.

        All best to you,
        Annie 🙂

  • Johnb59

    Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thanks Nonetheless I am experiencing issue with ur rss . Dont know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anybody getting similar rss drawback? Anybody who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx dbabffccddgd

  • Shane

    Hey Jason,

    Thanks for writing such a great article!

    I’m keen on booking passes with both Stray NZ and Asia, and would love if you could share the code with me.

    I don’t have Twitter… Could you please e-mail it to me if that’s okay with you?

    I’d appreciate it so much dude!

    Cheers,

    Shane

  • Essa

    Hi! Thanks for great info!
    I will be travelling NZ 5 weeks beginning Feb 1st 2015.
    I am choosing between Kiwi and Stray too, but now I feel I’m leaning towards Stray. I’m turning 33 in Feb and although I’m both outgoing and young at mind :), there is more to life than party. Would you agree that Stray would be the better choice for me?

    I will probably go ahead and book, sooner rather than latter, as some great deals are valid until Nov 30th (I’m guessing that means Nov 29th in Europe =tomorrow). Do you think I can still combine it with your great fam/friends deal? If so, please email me, as I don’t have twitter. 🙂

    Thanks! /Essa

    • Sivaram

      Hello .. Fantastic article. I am visiting New Zealand for around 15 days in Feb 2015. I am looking at Stray Willy pass. Greatly appreciate if you could send the Code to me by email. Also I would like to check if getting the willy pass in NZ is cheaper than applying online. Thanks. Also I will be travelling solo. So anyone looking for travel buddy feel free to contact me…

      • jbeinstein

        Thanks Sivram,

        I shot you an email w/ the promo code. It’s definitely better to get your pass booked before you go. Based on my experience it won’t be cheaper once you get to NZ.

        Especially since you’re traveling during the peak travel season, you’ll want to make sure you get a spot on the bus. So the sooner you’re able to book a pass, the sooner you can get in touch w/ stray to sort out your itinerary and get your seats reserved.

  • jbeinstein

    Hey Essa,

    I would totally agree that Stray is the choice for you. You can still go out and have a good time w/ the Stray crew, but it is focussed more on getting out off of the beaten path.

    I’ll shoot you an email!

  • Katie Mallen

    Hey Jason! Thanks for all the great info! I’m planning on going on the Max pass also in March or April of this year. If you could send me the code also I would really appreciate it! Thanks =: ) Katie

  • Sean

    Hey Jason, great article, this is a huge help! I’m going solo to NZD for about 12-13 days after my Australia trip, and I think stray might be a good fit for me even though it pricier than nakedbus, I think it will be worth it to meet people.

    I’m looking to book over the next few days for a trip starting late January, mind sharing your promotion code?

    Thanks!

  • Maria

    Great review! It helped me choose between Kiwi and Stray. I’m gonna book a pass through your link, is it possible to get a promo code on my mail? I don’t have twitter.
    Thanks.

  • Olga

    Hey Jason! Thanks for all the great info! I’m planning on going to New Zealand in February. If you could send me the code, I would really appreciate it! Thanks a lot Olga

  • Mike K

    Hey Jason,
    Thanks for all the good info. I will be using Stray for my trip starting January 20th. If you could send me the 5% code that would be awesome. Thanks!

  • jitka janesova

    Hi Jason,

    thank you for all the great reading on the NZ.
    I am travelling to NZ beg January.

    Would you kindly share Stray promo code with me.
    thank you so much.

    To others: I am travelling on my own for 1 month, if anybody would like to join, would be great.

    Thank you.
    Jitka

  • Essa

    Hey guys,
    I just thought that it would be a great idea to get in touch those of us who are travelling NZ in February – Sean, Olga, Mike..? Anyone else? 🙂

    Jason, could you help us get in touch with each other (without showing our private emails to the world?)

    Thanks again Jason, for great article and the promo code!

    Br Essa

    • jbeinstein

      Essa,

      I’d be more than happy to put together an email chain. I’ll reach out to everyone independently and see if they’re okay with having their email’s released to this small group.

      Otherwise, maybe we can move it over to my FB page?

      Happy to help!

      – JB

  • Zanda

    Hey Jason,

    Great article and some good hints. After some reviews I was sure I would like to book Stray tour, but still reckon which one – deciding between Short Moe (both islands) or Short Ron (south only, but I have friends to visit and can go on my own on North island). I really wanted to have the very south part of South island, but your notes make me wonder if i really want it as I will be quite short in time.
    Would you mind to share the code if it works together with Holidays promo? 🙂
    I go to NZ on the last decade of Jan, 2015 and stay for ~ 3.5 weeks. Traveling solo, so looking forward for some company!

    happy new year,
    Zanda

    • jbeinstein

      Hi Zanda,

      I’d probably go with the Short Moe Pass over the Short Ron for these reasons.

      1.) If you wanna go to Stewart Island it’s going to be another ~$100-150 or so on top of the cost of the pass already. If you want to go shark cage diving (which Stewart Island is known for, you’d probably have to spend an additional night there I’d think.)

      2.) I enjoyed the Catilins (which is what you’d do instead of Stewart), but we didn’t spend much time there. It was really cold and blustery, so we were ushered off the bus to take some photos of the Sea Lions and Penguins and what not and then hurried back to the bus.

      3.) You can skip out on Te Anu and Gunns Camp (I really didn’t like either of those desintations at all, they seemed like destinations that were put there because it’s a pretty long drive to Queenstown, so it splits up the trip). If you really wanna see Milford Sound and Fjordland National Park, spend a few more days on a layover in Queenstown and find your own way there.

      4.) The Short Moe covers the highlights of the North and the South essentially IMO. In the north island I loved Tongariro Crossing (Be prepared for a lonnng hike!), Raglan and Wellington. I probably could’ve done without Whakahoro. I’m not much into Adrenaline activities, but a lot of people went Sky Diving in Taupo as well.

      Happy New Year to you as well!

      – Jason

  • Brian

    Hi Jason,

    Great travel blog and thanks for your candid review of Stray Travel. I will definitely be picking up a pass for some January travels. Could you please shoot me over the promo code? Appreciate it!

    Have a great year of travels for 2015!

    Cheers, Brian

    • jbeinstein

      Thanks Brian!

      I shot you an email w/ the code. Also if you’re interested in getting in touch w/ some other people who are going in Jan/Feb let me know and I’ll loop you into an email thread I started.

      Happy New Year!

      – JB

    • jbeinstein

      That’s great! Thanks so much for reading and enjoying the post!

      I’ll shoot you an email with the discount code. Keep an eye out in your inbox and have an awesome time in NZ!!

  • Laurie

    Hi Jason!

    Hi Jason! Your review has been really helpful – thanks!

    If you could share the promo code that would be great, and also add me to the group of solo travellers heading to NZ in February?

    Thanks again!

    Laurie.

  • Pang

    What a good article you have written, your advise is very helpful. Now I know which bus company I am going to choose.

    By the way, if you can send me the promotion code will be great.

    Thanks and regards,
    Pang

  • Chris (England, United Kingdom)

    Hi Jason,

    Absolutely fantastic article! You’ve certainly sold New Zealand to me. I’m visiting for 5 weeks. I fly into Wellington on 17.02.15 and will be watching the England v New Zealand Cricket World Cup match in Wellington on 20.02.15. After that, I can do a full tour of both islands before flying out of Christchurch on 24.03.15.

    Which Stray NZ pass do you think I should go for? The “Stray Everywhere” or the “Maximum” or the “Max”?

    Any chance you could e-mail me your advice and your Stray discount code?

    Many thanks in advance.

    Chris (Aged 51)

  • Tom

    Hey Jason,

    Great to read about your experiences in New Zealand and other countries! I’m visiting NZ, Australia and Thailand in the coming months, will definitely check out some of the places you went to/recommended. If you could send me the promotion code, that would be great.

    Thanks a lot and keep up the good work! 🙂

    Greetings from the Netherlands,

    Tom

  • Hui Wen, Yap

    Hi Jason ^^

    Thank you for sharing! It definitely answered my doubt whether to go for Stray or not. And also for your advice on the Max pass v Short max pass (guess i might just go for the short max) It would be great if you could you send me the Stray mate promo code!

    Thank you & have a great day ahead 🙂

    Hui Wen (from sunny island Singapore)

    • jbeinstein

      Happy to help! I’d definitely suggest going with the Short Max, but make sure you slot some extra time in QUeenstown so that you can explore Milford Sound and Fjordland National Park on your own! I sent you an email w/ the promo code 🙂

      Have a blast in NZ!

  • Larry

    Hi Jason, thanks for putting this together, it helped me make up my mind to use Stray. Please send me your Stray code. BTW: if you send a message to the folks at Stray with your dates they will confirm if they are available before you purchase. I made sure to do that and now I am ready to book!

    • jbeinstein

      Hey Larry,

      Glad I could help! You definitely won’t be disappointed with Stray when it comes to the hop-on, hop-off busses! That’s a great tip for making sure the dates are available w/ Stray before actually buying the pass. I’ll include that in the post for those looking to book a pass.

      – JB

  • Rob

    Thanks for this article! Cemented my choice to go with Stray. I’m debating the Maximus tour as I’ve got about a month to see NZ. Wondered if you’ve still got that discount code? Every little helps and all that!

    Rob

  • Trudy

    Thanks for the very in depth review… it was very helpful! We are planning a trip to NZ in Oct/Nov and looking forward to trying Stray even though we are quite a bit older than the average traveler. Curious to know if you met any travelers in the 50+ age group on your tour, and did they seem to enjoy it?

    Like the others here, would love to have your Stray Mates code. Thanks again!

    Trudy

    • jbeinstein

      Hey Trudy,

      Keep a look out on your email for an in-depth response, and the promo code!

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review.

      There were a few 50+ travelers on the Stray Bus. It’s all about mindset. If you have the mindset of a backpacker you’ll have a blast. The 50+ travelers on our bus seemed to have a good time, one in particular had an amazing time with us and was all about the activities. Just remember you may have some dorm/bunk sleeping situations so if you can get past that you’ll be fine, although the driver tries to accomodate those with private rooms when available.

      – JB

  • Harry

    Fantastic review. Made up our mind to book a stray pass for this coming autumn, cannot wait to get on the bus. Gonna take advantage of the maximus pass while its currently a little cheaper! I do not have twitter but is there any chance you would be able to share the stray mates code so me and the others I’m travelling with will be able to use it?

    Thanks

    • jbeinstein

      Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to read through the review.

      I sent you an email w/ the stray promo code. Let me know if you have any issues receiving the email or using the code.

      Happy to help along the way while you continue to plan!

      Cheers,
      JB

  • Rachel Sims

    Jason,

    Found this article very helpful! I’m planning on getting the Max Pass for my upcoming trip this coming January/February, and as this will be my first solo trip to another country I’m really looking forward to seeing both islands. I was curious if the bus will make a stop at Hobbiton? I read that it was not enough time for a tour, but is it possible to just catch the next bus coming through?

    Thanks!
    Rachel

    • jbeinstein

      You’re going to have an amazing time Rachel. NZ is really something special!

      The bus does not make a stop at hobbiton. You’d have to get off at Rotorura I believe? And that’s not an overnight stop, but it is a stop where people can do activities during the first half of the day, and where people ultimately jump on/off the bus.

      If you know you’re gonna jump off a day for hobbiton you should buy your ticket sooner than later and then you can plan out when you’re going to jump off the bus, and then find the next available bus that’s coming through. It may be more than a day depending on the bus schedule. I’d suggest reaching out to a representative at Stray to help them assist you with booking the seats and making sure you’re able to jump off and then get on the next bus that comes through town.

  • Lauren

    Hi! I’ve started a new travel blog written by travellers from all over the world. We are made up of independent wanderers past and present. I am currently writing an article on the best ways to travel in New Zealand. I personally did the Kiwi Experience, but I am in need of a guest blogger to write a piece on the Stray bus. I would love if you could spare some time to sum up your experience above to use in the article – I will give credit and links to your blog of course. Please drop me an email if this is something you might be interested in and I can send you what I’ve written so far. Hopefully this will be the start of a friendship!!

    Hope to speak soon,
    Lauren

  • Katie Packham

    Hi Jason

    Im planning my NZ trip for January and would love to use the promo code if you’ve still got one available and wouldn’t mind sharing?

    Katie

  • Sofia

    Hello! I loved your review!
    Very intresting. I m going to nz for a year with a working holiday visa. What do u suggest me to do? I ll be there from the end of november and i was thinking to travel for the first month and after that to find a job (i m so afraid to find myself broke doing the trip by bus, nz looks quite expensive).
    I wanna use my VISA as best as i can! Thank you!!
    Ciao,
    Sofia

    • jbeinstein

      Hi Sofia,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review. I think you’re best served by traveling across the country (both North and South Islands) in your first month and then you can figure out where you want to look for work. Who knows maybe you’ll find a city that you fall in love with while you’re traveling all over the country.

      It is pretty expensive, that is for sure, but if you can budget accordingly ahead of time I think it’d really be worth seeing the entire country over the span of a month. If you have 6 weeks, even better! I met a number of people who stayed in NZ after the Stray trip was done and ended up finding work. So you can plant some seeds while you’re traveling and come back to see if any of them pan out while you’re on the road.

      Depending on your budget there are a couple options, but you should definitely pull the trigger on one of them while they are on sale.

      They are good for a year as well, although I’m not sure that’ll suit you if you’re working full time, but it’s always good to have that option I suppose.

      Hope this helps! Jealous that you’ll be living in NZ for a year. Enjoy!

  • Jay Shah

    Hi Jason,

    Just came across your website looking for Stray review as I’m traveling to Nz for 6 weeks in Dec/Jan (it should be a great Christmas and New Years party!).
    Do you still have the promo code? 2 of them (one of me and my friend)? It’d be great to combine it with the special deals going on right now

    • jbeinstein

      Hey Jay,

      I sent along an email with the promo code. I think they should still be good for you and your friend, although I have no way of tracking how many times they’ve been used.

      You’re gonna have a sick time if you’re there for 6 weeks!

      – JB

  • Emma

    Hi Jason,

    Well done on such a great website! I’m going to pick up the Max pass (even though I actually want the Short Max pass) before the Oct sale ends – any chance you could send through the code?

    Many Thanks !

    Emma

    (aged 30 and hoping that this is not going to make the ‘granny’ on the bus !!)

  • jbeinstein

    Thanks for the love Emma!

    Great choice w/ the Max Pass, you really can’t go wrong at that price, that was a steal of a deal.

    You’re going to have a great time, and don’t worry about being 30! I went when I was 29 and didn’t feel like the Grandpa on the bus.

  • Oana Thakur

    Hi Jason,

    Nice detailed review! I am planning to visit New Zealand in April 2016 with my husband. We want to visit the south Island as we have around two weeks.
    It would be of great help if you could provide us couple of promo codes!

    Thank you!

    Warm Regards,
    Oana

  • Julia

    Hi Jason,

    This review was SO helpful to me. Planning my first solo-trip and planning on taking the Moe bus (which is the same as max except it’s not a loop) but I have a lot of questions that I would love to talk to you about. The scheduling seems a little overwhelming! Shoot me an email if possible 🙂

    Thanks!
    Julia

  • Sophie

    Hi Jason, thanks for all the information you’ve provided about your experience, it’s really been a great help! I’d like to ask you more about the Max Pass and would also like to get a promo code – could you shoot me an email? I’ve filled it out 🙂 thanks!

  • Sydney

    Hey Jason! Thanks for your article 🙂 I sent you a tweet on twitter too but also wanted to post here! I am 29 and I am going to New Zealand Feb 13-March 15 as a treat to myself for finishing my PhD. I am looking to see beautiful landscapes, do some awesome hikes, and meet fun people. I also like to party 🙂 I am still rather torn between kiwi experience (rangi pass is on sale for $599!) and stray max which is one sale for $999 (short max is still $1425 somehow?). Kiwi Experience seems much cheaper – is stray worth the higher price?

    • jbeinstein

      My two cents is that you should go with Stray based on all of that information. I don’t think you’ll regret the decision either. Some times it’s worth a little bit more for a higher quality trip. Although I never took Kiwi Experience, so I can’t speak from experience there, I was very happy overall with my Stray trip and everyone on the bus with me.

      A month in NZ is gonna be a fantastic trip!

      Cheers,
      Jason

  • Rachel K

    Hi Jason,
    It’s very informative to read your post as I am considering to book with Stray for my upcoming trip. It would be lovely to have the promo code as mentioned. The activities sure does not come cheap so saving every dollars will be of great help.
    Advanced Happy New Year and Good Day to you.

    Kind Regards, Rach

  • claire

    Hi Jason

    Brilliant read and very informative. I have booked to travel with stray on the ‘wee Willy pass’ this March for 3weeks. I am traveling alone so I am really quite nervous, would you be able to tell me if the hostels have lockers and do you have to pay for them? I am quite nervous about leaving my flight tickets, money, phone and camera out.
    Also are there enough charge points in the dorms for mobiles/cameras?
    Also what are the WiFi connections like? Just so I can check in with my family to let them know I am safe.
    Another thing that’s making me nervous a few people have told me to watch out for bed bugs in the hostels, was this a problem for you?
    Last question I promise 🙂 due to my flight constrictions I have to stay on the bus and continue my journey, stray pre booked my seat on all the buses I am just nervous incase they are over booked as I cannot afford to hold back another day to wait for a bus, was this an issue for anyone you met?

    Sorry for all the questions
    Hope you can put my mind at ease
    Overall I am absolutely buzzing to go to New Zealand

    Thanks
    Claire 🙂

    • jbeinstein

      Hi Claire,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post, I’m glad it helped!

      The majority of the hostels have lockers from what I can remember, and you don’t have to rent them. Also you’re staying exclusively with people on the Stray Bus in all of your hostels so it’s a pretty tight knit group of people you’re seeing every day on the bus. I wouldn’t worry so much about it. I did lock up my valuables (Laptop, Passport, Camera, Phone, etc) when available though. There should be adequate places to charge your devices, but each hostel is unique.

      Wifi was spotty, it also really depends on the hostel. Some places had little to no connection, and some places had good connections. As much as we all want to share everything and stay connected, it was really nice to unplug every now and then.

      Bed bugs were not an issue for me thankfully, nor was it an issue for anyone on the bus during the ~3.5 weeks I traveled. In any sort of travel that’s a risk you’re going to take (definitely the case in SE Asia), especially when staying in hostels. I think you’re going to be fine though.

      If you have all of your seats confirmed on the busses you won’t have an issue. I too was nervous since I didn’t have a day to spare, and everything was just fine. If you’re confirmed with a seat they will not kick you off the bus, so don’t you worry! It can only become an issue if you decide you want to hop off the bus and then you’d have to re-book your seats.

      You’re going to have a blast, put your mind at ease and enjoy the trip!

      Cheers,
      Jason

  • Rose Revera

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the blog, have been deciding whether to book the Stray everywhere pass for a while and am going to go for it through your link now! If you still have a mates code that would be great.

    All the best,
    Rose

  • Claire

    Great review. Thanks very much for your helpful advice. I’m going to New Zealand in March and was torn between kiwi experience and stray, but have now decided stray is more suitable. Do you by any chance still have a discount code? Many thanks.

  • Pete

    Hi Jason,

    Having read thorough your blog it is packed full of all the details and questions that I was looking to find the answers to. Similar to a few of the people who have left comments above, I was undecided whether to go Kiwi or Stray. With the sound advice that you have provided I think I am going to stick with Stray. I’m looking to cut my journey in Tongariro National Park to do some hiking and the same again on the Franz Joseph glacier. An old work mate now lives and works in Queenstown and we are going to meet up for some Fergburgers as he also says they are not to missed!!! Just wondering if the discount code is still available?

    Cheers for the sound info on your blog.

    Regards,

    Pete

  • angela

    Hi Jason, thanks for all the information you’ve provided about your wonderful experience, it really gave me a guide to how I should plan my 30 day solo trip! Can I know more about the Max Pass and get the promo code as well if it is still valid? 🙂
    thank you so much!

  • Christine

    Hi Jason,

    I’m reading this in 2016 and see that you still update the deals so I’m hoping you’ll get back to me 🙂 Your review’s one of those that’s helped me decide to go with Stray.
    Quick question, the reviews I’ve read so far all talk about going on Stray for a certain period of time (few weeks at most) I’m actually going to NZ for 6 months, does it make sense to get the Max pass and hop on and off with a three month break in between (probably working during Jun – Sep)?

    Oh and if you’ve still got a promo code or any other tips, I’d super appreciate it. Thanks a bunch!

    • Christine

      so did not scroll to the bottom of the comments till it posted. Just read that you’d recommend completing the journey in the first month or so before finding work. I’m thinking of the following broad itinerary and would appreciate feedback (:

      I’ll head to NZ in April and am thinking I’ll:
      – hop on from Auckland, head to up towards Cape Reinga before coming back to Auckland and stopping for about a month
      – then hop on again towards Wellington where I’ll stop for about 3 months
      – and continue after that onto the South Island.

      Thanks a bunch!

      • jbeinstein

        Hey Christine,

        No worries, there are a lot of comments to scroll through. You’re a trooper for making it all the way through!

        Happy that the post helped you make your decision. I think the itinerary you have is quite a good fit with the Max Pass, but right now the Maximus Pass is much cheaper and that pass will let you see all of NZ and would be a much better decision. Since the pass is flexible for a year that’s ideal for your situation.

        I’ll shoot you an email with the promo code (I believe they’re still working, and if they aren’t I’ll reach out to some friends from my trip and see if they can’t apply), so keep a look out and perhaps I can answer some more specific questions you may have.

        – JB

  • Mashi

    Hello Jason,

    I was hoping your discount code for STRAY bus service in NZ still worked? Can you possibly share it with me. I do not have twitter though.

  • Masha

    Thanks for the article!! I’m headed to NZ in April and looks like max pass is a great deal right now.. Was debating about getting it now or waiting till I get there.. Per people’s suggestions. But maybe I should just go for it cause not sure I can get it much cheaper, plus there’s a free bay islands addition to it at the moment. Can you please pass me your stray mate code? Thanks so much!!

    • jbeinstein

      Hey Masha,

      Totally think you should pick up the Max Pass now based on the price. You won’t find it cheaper in NZ, and you’re also rolling the dice on not getting seats for the bus. The sooner you book a pass the better I think, especially for piece of mind.

      Check your inbox I sent you an email w/ a promo code to try.

      – JB

  • Jean

    Hey great article! I am thinking of getting the Ron pass to do south island trip this May. Would you happen to know how much the activities for south island costs? Could you also share your stray mate code with me? Thank you!

  • Jacki Hope

    Hi there!
    Thanks for the info about Stray! I was already looking into them since I’m a little older, but it was good to know what to expect regarding accomodation beforehand. Little nervous about that, but I’m going to hope for the best. Planning to do the Ron tour next month.
    I’m wondering if you could send me the promo code, if it’s still active?
    Cheers!

    • jbeinstein

      Hey Jacki,

      I think you’ll be perfectly fine with the accommodations that Stray provides! Some are good, some are so-so, and some are not great. You can always find your own accommodation in cities, especially Queenstown. So that might be something you want to look into ahead of time if you don’t want to stay at a Base Hostel. Just make sure that you’re close enough to Base so that you can catch the bus in the AM when it’s time to leave, since that’s the departure point.

      Keep an eye out for an email I’ll send something along shortly.

      Cheers,
      Jason

  • Kelvin

    Thanks for the useful info! Would the experience be different if I were to go during the winter season (I’m looking to travel to NZ early August)?
    Also could I get a referral code via email?

    Thanks a bunch!
    Kelvin

    • Charles

      What a helpful review!All the details are what I am looking for.I am planning a 7 days trip via Stray bus,I’m still choose between STEW PASS and PETER PASS,which basically is a choice between South Island and North Island.Do you have any recommendation?Besides I’m gonna book a pass through your link,would you please send me a stray mate code?Looking forward to your reply.Thanks a lot!

    • Tony

      I am actually thinking about traveling early August as well! Have you done any more research on how our experience might be different Kelvin?

      This was a fantastic guide and I think I’ve decided on going with Stray! Thanks for this amazing guide Jason! If that code is still available it would be greatly appreciated!

  • Katarina

    Hi Jason,

    I wonder if you still have promo code? If you have I would love to have one. I did really liked what you have written and it gave me lots of information. I don’t have twitter so please email me.

  • Emma O Flynn

    Hey Jason,

    Thanks for helping make my decision on which tour company to go with!

    Do you happen to have any promo codes left?

  • Jodie

    Hey! Thanks so much for all the useful info – bookmarked! I’m planning to book online, so if you have any codes left I’d be forever grateful if you could email me one! 🙂

    • jbeinstein

      Hey Jodie,

      Glad the post helped you with your decision making. Keep an eye for an email from me, the code should still be active at this point, I don’t believe it’s been used 10x yet.

      – JB

  • Lynn

    Hi Jason!

    I’m interested in going to NZ (South Island) this December and chanced upon your blog. I travel solo – so I’m usually worry a lot before my trips… However, your reviews about Stray have been incredibly helpful and I’m more convinced than ever to go on a new adventure! Thanks very much for sharing your experiences!

    P.S: Would you still happen to have the Stray code to share as well?

    • jbeinstein

      Hey Lynn,

      Thanks for taking the time to read the post, I’m glad it helped to assuage your fears about going solo, it was an amazing experience, I’m sure you’ll have a similar experience. Keep an eye out for an email with the promo code, I believe they should still be valid.

      Thanks!
      Jason

  • Brad

    Hey, thanks for the article. The price breakdown, even with fluctuations, was super helpful.
    I would love to get that promo code from you, if that’s still possible.
    Thanks!

  • Lisa

    Hi Jason,
    Thank you for this wonderful post, you have really helped me out.
    Would you please provide me with a discount /referral code? I am looking into booking the Short Moe Pass. 🙂
    Thanks,
    Lisa

  • Jo

    Hi Jason,

    Thanks for the review. I read it and booked STRAY MOE Pass to travel in July this year. Amazing trip with amazing people. Me too, had Postie as my Stray Driver for most parts of my journey except from Queenstown to Christchurch. He’s a great driver and thankfully, didn’t stray off the track like what you experienced. I did the deep south and I love it. Gunns Camp was quite an experience and so was Stewart Island – a quaint little town with almost no one.

    I did the whole trip in the recommended minimum days like you too because of my tight schedule and thus missing out quite a few things in the different places. I will be travelling back to NZ again this Nov (I know it sounds crazy) so that I could do what I had missed out due to the weather and bad health in July (like Franz Josef Glacier walk – heavy downpour on the days I was there). Hopefully, I get to retravel with STRAY without any problem this November. I’m going to be on the reserve list and the seat could only be confirmed the night before or on the morning itself =(.

    Given any choice again, I would still travel with STRAY. I am not the party-going girl though a few drinks at the pub once in a while or just have a glass of wine or ciders with the mates in the lodge is nice. We met the KIWI Exp travellers at some of the hostels – one BIG bunch of VERY noisy people. I was thankful I wasn’t with them. I loved the small group that I was in (mostly 10 – 20). Maybe it’s winter and quite an off-peak season. Lovely group of people I met and we became friends!

    So yes to STRAY to off the beaten track. No regrets.

    • jbeinstein

      Hey Jo, Thanks for reading and letting me know how your experience with Stray was. Glad it met and possibly even surpassed your expectations. I’ve been dying to get back to NZ myself, so you’re not crazy!

      Also very cool to hear Postie is still doing his thing 🙂

  • Joanne McCormack

    Hi Jason, wow your review was amazing and so very informative especially regarding the hostels. I plan on visiting the end of Jan 2017 with my husband (both just over 50) and my daughter is meeting us after spending 6 months in Australia travelling the east coast. We plan to spend 4 weeks travelling both islands and my son is planning on flying out for 2 weeks to join us. We thought the short max pass would be ideal as it is on special offer at present and gives the option of starting anywhere and finishing anywhere? What would you suggest me purchasing for my son? Any ideas are most welcome! Also if you still have a discount code that I could use then that would be great. One more thing, would you say that travelling as a family in a group of 4 is the most cost effective way of travelling around or is there any other options for me to consider?
    Thank you
    Jo

    • jbeinstein

      Hey Jo,

      I sent you a more in-depth email that should have a promo code included. But in case people are looking through the comments and have the same questions.

      Indeed you can hop-on-hop-off anywhere w/ the short max since it’s a loop.

      It all depends on how you want to travel, renting a car or a campervan and doing it yourself is also an option since that offers the most flexibility. I loved my time with Stray, and haven’t had anyone report back to me that they were disappointed with their experience.

      – JB

      • Joanne McCormack

        Hi Jason, thanks for that. I have had a good think about what you said and I feel that touring around by car – for us – would be the better option. Especially as my son is coming a couple of weeks later. It makes sense for me to collect him from the airport. I can therefore plan places where we would all like to go. We have visited Dunedin, Picton and the Sounds before – which were truly amazing! Any key places which are a must then please advise, also any car rental places which to use or avoid!
        Thanks
        Jo

        • jbeinstein

          Hey Jo,

          Unfortunately I don’t have any advice about car rental places.

          In the South Island I really enjoyed Mt Cook and the surrounding area, Wanaka is supposed to have some great hikes, Abel Tasman was amazing as well.

          In the North Island the Tongariro Crossing was worth the pain. Raglan was a really chill surfer town that I liked.

  • Zoe

    Right decision made – like you said, soooo many posts about Stray… I’m going all out for The Stray Everywhere Pass – People say it’s cheaper if you buy it in NZ but I might just spend my savings if I have to wait until January! Can you shoot me your Stray Mate code over please? Not had any luck yet…
    Useful to know some of the other costs too so I’m prepared…Thanks Jason!

  • Vicki Tan

    Hi Jason! I found your post very helpful thanks for the writeup. I’m going to do the Ron pass – did you consider that one? I’m having a hard time choosing which pass 🙂

    Do you still have any mate passes left by chance? My email is [email protected] (also sent you a tweet 🙂