Cheap Exotic Vacations: Try New Zealand Hostels
by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)
I’ll bet you haven’t traveled down under because you thought the trip would be too expensive. Well, it can be spendy, but there are ways around that, because New Zealand has cool hostels all over, and most places love having Baby Boomers.
Almost Always No Age Limit
Hostels in New Zealand can be used by almost any age group. When I asked one place if they had an age limit, they said, “What do you mean…like, you have to be over 18 or stay with a parent or guardian.” Well, every place has different accommodations and different rules, so you might want to email them for specifics, but most spots would love to have you. Why should you spend a ton of money on a place to crash?
If you sleep on the cheap, you can stay longer and do more fun things while you’re there. And, believe me…you will want to stay in NZ for a long time for two reasons:
- The whole country is beautiful and there are way too many cool things to see and do.
- You won’t want to get back on that million-hour plane trip just to end up back home.
Feel the Freedom of the 60s
When I first got outside of Auckland (the big city), I felt like I was in the sixties again (in a good way). Gregarious New Zealand backpackers were all over the country, zigzagging their way from Auckland to Dunedin and beyond. And, quite a few of them were not college kids. Hey, New Zealand is like an amazing new world that has been unlocked for all of you cheap-travel connoisseurs who are willing to bunk in cheap accommodations.
Kiwis are so polite and so friendly that it might freak you out at first. “What do they want from me? Why are they smiling?” But, New Zealanders are just great people. They don’t seem as jaded as Americans are. And, their country is so different. It’s clean and clear and eco-friendly, of course, but there is something else, too. People are traveling light and they’re not so uptight…just like some of us were in our Woodstock days.
Where are the Cheap Rooms?
After a while, you’ll begin to notice signs for cheap accommodations everywhere you go. Here are a few examples that I jotted down on my trip:
- Coachman on the Square Backpackers - No upper age limit (Christchurch)
- City Groove Backpackers - No upper age limit (Auckland)
- Harbourside City Backpackers - No upper age limit (Tauranga)
Stepping inside one of these hostels for a closer look, you’ll see that a few of the guests are older and they’re carrying small, lightweight suitcases, not backpacks.
Most Hostels are Spartan
New Zealand backpacking is not for everyone. In many locations, you must be prepared to lug your own pack or suitcase up a set of stairs. And, your bathroom is usually shared and down a common hallway. Well, many hostels have websites where you can find out what kind of spot you’re looking at. (Also, some places are unsuitable for small children…and other places might be too noisy for those of us who haven’t been to enough Rolling Stones’ concerts to have lost half our hearing…yet.)
New Zealand Backpackers (and Light-Packers) Have Options
There are zillions of options for those of you who like to plan your itinerary on the fly, but everyone should read these tips:
- April to October is the easiest time to find accommodations, because that's their winter.
- New Zealand’s summer months (November through February) are generally warm. This is their main tourist season, so you’ll need to plan ahead or be more flexible.
- T.I. Centers (tourist information centers marked with an "i" sign) will help New Zealand backpackers make reservations for a fee. But go into those centers and you’ll find all kinds of free info in their brochures and posted on their walls.
- Rooms: You can find everything from single or double beds in private rooms to dormitory-style bunk beds, like you stayed at in summer camp. An “ensuite room” has an attached private bathroom.
Accommodations for New Zealand backpackers/light-packers are all over Kiwi country. You’ll find backpacking hotels in city centers, in suburbs, out in the country, on islands, and on farms.
In these days of crashing 401k's and downsizing, anyone with an adventurous soul, a sense of humor, and a flexible personality can still make travel a priority. But, I warn you, you may never want to come back to the real world.
Have you ever stayed in a hostel? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page.