There are some excellent hostels in New Zealand whether you’re a backpacker, want to socialise, or just want to save on hotel costs. Pick the wrong one however and you may find you’re in the middle of a big party, or it’s just now as friendly as you hoped. Although hostels can conjure up the idea of teenagers partying and sleepless nights, New Zealand is well known for its excellent hostels and locations of them. Using this guide will steer you towards how to pick the best hostels for you.
The well known hostel websites such as HostelBookers and HostelWorld can be used in New Zealand as they can be elsewhere, however there is a specific network of hostels known as BBH. There are many styles of hostels in BBH from beautiful seaside houses to residences preferred by long stayers. Anyone can book into a BBH hostel however you can join their network for $45 which allows you discounts as you book, and the membership card doubles up as a phone calling card which you can top up (you’ll get $20 credit when joining). You’ll have to stay in affiliated hostels for around 7-10 nights to get your moneys worth.
If you are arriving off season and plan to spend up to a week in a specific hostel you may find you are offered discounted rates and be classed as a long stayer, so check this before purchasing. You can buy a BBH card in any participating hostel, so don’t feel rushed into buying in on arrival (although you can purchase it in advance as well)
New Zealand has a couple of well established hostel chains such as Base Backpackers. Some people love these hostels as they can be a great way of meeting other travellers as they often have a lot of activities going on, and have an attached bar where you can get drinks promotions. The locations of the hostels are often second to none meaning you are usually right in the centre of a city or town with everything on your doorstep. Despite this they aren’t for everyone as they can be larger than many hotels resulting in an impersonal feel. The image on the left shows Base Backpackers on Queen Street, Auckland – yes it’s the whole building! The chains are often used by the big tour companies aimed at backpackers so can have a lot of people passing through. Some of the Base locations in cities such as Auckland are used for long term backpackers as well which can give the impression that there are little cliques formed, but this is only likely to be obvious in low season when there are less people around. Some of the larger hostels are superb starting points if you are visiting New Zealand as a backpacker or have a working holiday visa as the Base in Auckland has an in house jobs desk, job boards and has many cars for sale on the noticeboard.
Long Term Stays
Some hostels in New Zealand are preferred by long stayers, perhaps people working in a city for a few months who don’t want the hassle of organising a lease for a room. It’s worth taking this into consideration when booking as you may find it harder to break into the circle of people at the hostel, and some of these may scrimp on the decor as they know they have a loyal clientele looking for a basic but clean long term room.
Location, Location, Location
Yes, you hear in on all the home shows – location, location, location is the most important. But is it? If you’d rather try something a bit more homely or with better facilities, don’t be afraid to venture a little bit away from the city centre or town that you’re visiting, especially if you have transport. If you try to park your car or van in the centre of Auckland or Wellington you may find you’re driving around for a while, or have to buy expensive tickets. If you head to the outskirts a bit you can still walk into the city centre from places like Parnell and Ponsboby in Auckland, or get the cheap and regular link bus around. The city centre of Wellington is also very compact, and if you’re heading to a town you may find you can be based on the lake or beachfront instead of right next to the bars.
There are exceptional facilities in some of the hostels around the country – superb large kitchens, TV lounges, enviable locations and some may have added extras such as bikes for rent etc. If these are important to you ask when you book, or check the listings on the websites as they are usually detailed there. This picture shows one of the kitchens in one Taupo hostel we’ve stayed at – I’d be happy with the same facilities and cleanlieness in my own place!
Heading off the beaten track outside the big cities could find you in hostels with swimming pools or hot tubs as well! As they say in New Zealand – sweet!
Internet and WiFi Access
Almost all hostels will offer some kind of internet access on the premises. Beware of any that offer ‘free unlimited’ access – this could translate as free internet access for as long as you want, on their one PC that is shared by everyone. Internet access is quite expensive in New Zealand compared to other countries due to the international connections available so don’t be expecting to be able to upload as many photos as you want to Flickr or download the latest movie!
If you have travelled through Asia you may be used to getting free WiFi in your room but don’t expect this in New Zealand. There are a limited number of hostels who are using this as a selling pint, one notable one being Lantana Lodge in Parnell, Auckland. Many hostels are signed up to a specific network of WiFi hotspots ranging from Zenbu, Global Gossip etc. Be careful about buying a lot of credit for one provider as you may find the next hostel you go to uses a different one and you can’t use your credit there.
I hope this guide has given you an insight into hostelling in New Zealand. Have you been here before and feel you can add to this? Please leave a comment below.