Tips for Surviving Hostel Living in New Zealand
I’m currently making my way across New Zealand on the Stray bus. Almost every night I have been staying in a new hostel. Along the way I have learned some tips for surviving hostel living in New Zealand. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your New Zealand road trip.
Hostel Dorm Rooms
It is possible to stay in private rooms when booking a hostel. However the cost of a private room will be more than double of getting a dorm room. Typical dorms have between 6 and 8 beds. Most of dorms are mixed gender so if you are shy about having your neighbour strip to their underwear to change pants then you may want to book a private room. Many of the hostels I stayed at also offer women only dorms. Check with the hostel before you book to see what kinds of rooms they offer.
Prices vary through the year. I visited New Zealand in Dec and January; the start of peak season so all the hostels are charging premium rates. My typical price for a dorm room was between $27 and $35 NZD.
Life on the road often revolves around free Wifi. Its common to see groups of people gathering in large random groups based on free wifi. Finding a hostel that offers free wifi is awesome. Finding one that provides fast free wifi just does not happen. High speed access is generally offered at hostels and I found the cost ranged between $4-$6 for 24 hours or up to $18 for 7 days. The actual speed of the high speed access is variable. Currently Im writing this in a location where I paid $6 for 24 hours and I measure my download speed at 1.31 Mbps. The best speed I found was at the Xbase Backpackers hostel in Wanaka with a blazing 4.1 Mbps.
Some hostels offer limited free wifi. In those locations a password is assigned upon checkin and allows anywhere from 50 to 200 mb of free, not so fast wifi. Its not usable for long Facebook sessions but more meant for checking on emails or sending text messages.
I do have a data plan on my cell phone for emergency emails and text messages. On the Stray bus trip that I took there are a few places where there is no cell reception at all. Blue Duck Station is one of these places. They did sell access at $10 for 100mb. Not such a great deal. Blue Duck is very remote and I suggest taking advantage of the forced isolation to enjoy the surroundings and put your digital life on hold. This is the one stop where I was not able to do my daily post on Pixelbip.com due to the lack of connection.
The best part about staying in a dorm room at a hostel is that you get to meet lots of people from all over the world. No need to be shy. Introduce yourself and ask your room mates where they are from. If they haven’t asked you yet its probably because they are shy so take the lead and start the conversation. Chances are great that within a short while you will be hanging out in the local bar sharing a drink and stories with them.
On the topic of bars, hostels located in the major cities either have a bar in the building or have a bar located right next door. Obviously the more remote places do not have bars but do allow people to bring their own booze.
Food is a big topic. I’m currently writing a much longer post that just covers the food situation but I will do a summary here.
When you pack your backpack leave some room for food. A common mistake is to pack you bag full of stuff and leave no extra room. Not all hostels are close to restaurants, but all hostels have some sort of kitchen along with refrigeration. I wish I had this advice before I packed for my trip. As a result I was one of the many people carrying around plastic grocery bags of food. Another option is to invest in a insulated bag for carrying perishable foods.
What should you carry? Try basics that mix and match well together. I pack oats, fruit, yogurt, instant coffee, bread, cheese, and pepperoni sticks. This combo can get me through a couple days for not much money. Salt and pepper is a great idea. If nothing else people will see you using it and ask to borrow some because they forgot to buy their own. Another great chance to meet fellow travellers.
When you do store your food at a hostel make sure it is labeled according to the hostels rules. Otherwise your food may get thrown out when the hostel cleans the fridges. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Please don’t take any food from other peoples food bags. Thats just a dick thing to do. If you find that you don’t have enough peanut butter for your morning toast either go without or ask someone for some of theirs. People are always willing to share, but no one likes to see their food has been raided.
Do your own damn dishes. So, you have left home and are out in the big world but you still want someone to clean up after your messy butt? Think again. This is just common respect. Also try doing more dishes than you made dirty. Doing other people’s dishes shows that you are a mature person who cares about your surroundings. Also it’s sexy as hell, and you never know who is watching.
Last but very important is to keep yourself and your stuff clean. Wash your clothes and your body. Many of the activities in New Zealand are created to cause a huge rush of adrenaline. Hang gliding, sky diving, rope swings, and bungy. Great hikes, and even the short ones all make you sweat. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself a little stinky. Please show respect to your neighbours and keep things clean.
Have any epic hostel stories? I would love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments below.