New Zzzzzealand – Places to Lay Your Head
You’re traveling to New Zealand, so where in the world are you going to sleep? There are more variety of accommodations than I think I’ve seen anywhere, so the hardest part is deciding. From renting a van or RV, to hostels, hotels, holiday parks, B & B’s and tents, to the more unusual, including farm stays, teepees, yurts and silos, New Zealand has a multitude of choices, something for everyone. I’ll show you some of the places I stayed…
Hostels are everywhere, and are definitely a good budget choice for a variety of reasons – the cost per bed is one of the cheapest you’re going to find, especially in the multiple-bed rooms, and they have fully furnished kitchens so you can cook meals instead of eating out all the time, a huge savings.
Another advantage is that it’s a great place to meet other travelers, especially if you’re traveling solo. Who stays in hostels? Young and old, great people from all over the world.
These ladies were traveling by bicycle!
And hostels are usually centrally located close to where the action is, as many budget travelers don’t have cars. Sometimes they even offer extras, like free use of kayaks…
…or fresh baked muffins for sale!
Disadvantages are that you are usually sharing a bedroom as well as a bathroom. If you’re an extremely private person, or a light sleeper, you might not be so happy with this choice. I’m pretty private and a light sleeper, but budget dictated that I get over it (earplugs help). And although they usually provide bedding, you are required to make up your own bed, and asked to bring the sheets to a bin afterwards, and they usually do not provide towels, although they may have them for rent (I carry a pack towel with me).
I’ve stayed in hostels with 8 beds, 6 beds, 4 beds, 3 beds, 2 beds, and on a few rare occasions, 1 bed, which was lovely, but of course costs more. I saw a hostel on line with 40 beds, but opted to pass on that one. You can find private hostel rooms en suite, but they usually cost almost as much as a regular hotel room, although if there are 2 of you traveling together, your combined cost of $25 each per bed might just about cover a private room for $50-60.
Sometimes you get lucky, and you find not the usual box of a hostel…
…but a lovely old house instead!
This place in Nelson was advertised as a hostel catering to solo travelers, and was both beautiful and historic. I met some travelers who decided to stay there long term, it was so nice. It was more than my usual budget allowed, but it was the only hostel room I found open in the whole town, and hotels were a lot more expensive.
Sometimes, the hostels are a bit unusual, like the jail I stayed at in Christchurch. I had my very own cell, and fortunately, my own key! It was a little spooky at night, but they say it’s one of the safest hostels around.
Similar to a hostel, sort of a cross with a B & B, is a farm stay. People with actual working farms offer rooms for rent, sometimes including breakfast. Some New Zealanders offer farm stays on sheep farms. I discovered a fabulous place on the Banks Peninsula near Akaroa, not far from Christchurch, called Onuku Farm Hostel. They have these amazing little plywood “tents” with part of the peaked roof made out of glass for stargazing. I didn’t want to go to sleep as the milky way spread out over my head more brilliant than I’ve ever seen it! Regular private rooms and dorm rooms are also available. and yes, they even have a few sheep!
For the very unusual, try staying in a teepee, yurt or silo! Also on the Banks Peninsula, in Little River, Okuti Garden offers what they call eco-friendly glamping. You can stay in a teepee, a yurt, or a house truck. There’s a lovely shared garden kitchen and an outdoor shower.
For those who want something a little less earthy, Little River also offers SiloStay. Isn’t a silo earthy, you might ask? On the outside, maybe, but make no mistake, these silos are definitely up-scale luxury accommodations, with Mp3 stereo, satellite TV, electric blankets, and kitchen facilities. I did not stay here, partly due to the fact that they were full, but mostly due to their hefty price tag, since I’m on the budget travel program.
Another option in New Zealand are what they call “Holiday Parks.” These are like campgrounds, but usually have small cabin rooms as well. They tend to be a bit pricier than hostels, but often you have your own little cabin or room.
They also have kitchens, and sometimes other amenities, like swimming pools, hence their higher price tag. But be aware that some do not provide bedding or towels, although they may have some for rent.
I’ve only had one thing taken, at a hostel, my pack towel from an 8-bed room. Hostels and Holiday Parks may not be glamorous, but they’re usually clean and safe and will stretch your travel dollar. If you have tons of money, by all means choose something more up-scale, however keep in mind that you usually don’t spend much time in your room as there’s so much to see and do!
When looking for accommodations in Wanaka, I found all of the affordable hostels and hotels completely full (a disadvantage of not planning far ahead during peak summer season), when I remembered Air B&B. Perusing their site with my phone app, I found a lovely room with a tiny kitchenette attached to somebody’s home, and a dapper and engaging host, who even invited me to dinner!
As far as regular hotels and motels go, there are plenty all over the country, however I won’t dwell on them here, as there’s not much to say. I stayed in one on my first night in New Zealand, near the airport, booked ahead as I knew I’d be getting in at 1am. It was only 5km from the airport, but I was given bad directions, 3 times, and the only redeeming part about searching for my hotel from 1 until 2 in the morning, alone in a strange country is that it gave me practice driving on the “wrong” side of the road in a car with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side of the car, with virtually no traffic. Other than that, book a hotel if you must, but I find the other options to be much more interesting and affordable!
Something I looked into, but ultimately decided against was renting a camper van. It looked like a great choice, providing ultimate flexibility, as you carry your bed with you, instead of having to find a new place each time you move. The main thing that kept me from this choice was cost.
On the smaller side, you can rent anything from an old psychedelically-painted Wicked van or Hippie camper…
…to a small but upscale Juicy campervan…
…or if you want something on the larger side, a full-blown RV.
However keep in mind that besides the rather large rental fee, gas is expensive, they don’t get the best mileage, and you still have to fork out at least $30 per night to park the thing. For $30 you can stay at a hostel with no other fees.
In New Zealand, they’ve really clamped down on so-called “freedom camping,” where you just pull over off the side of the road or find a nice scenic spot in the woods. Unless your camper has full plumbing (porta-potties don’t count), with toilet, sink and shower, you are only allowed to camp at designated campgrounds. And even fully contained vehicles are limited to areas that are signed. As of 2011, if you opt to break this law, you’re up for hefty fines, anywhere from $200 to $10,000! I met a young couple who had pulled over in their car for a nap and woke up to a $200 ticket on their windshield. They could’ve booked a nice hotel for a lot less.
Couch surfing and house sitting are also possibilities, however I didn’t find many options for those here. Some people are afraid of the idea of couch surfing, however I’ve done it in the US and not only had no problems, but met lovely people. These are the faces of a few of my fellow hostel travelers:
As far as I’m concerned, there aren’t really any bad choices. It takes a little research, which is easy to do on line, and it really pays off to read reviews on sites like Trip Advisor, whether of hostels, hotels, RV’s or whatever option you’re considering. Anyone can make a place look good on a website, but dozens of customer reviews don’t lie. There are bound to be good reviews and bad reviews, go with the majority. Sweet dreams!!