Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Backpacker Hostels in New Zealand

If you are staying in New Zealand for any appreciable amount of time, you should get to know the friendly blue-green BBH-kiwi logo below, and learn about the Budget Backpacker Hostels New Zealand accomodation network. They offer a huge network of lodgings on both the north and the south island, many of which are of excellent quality.

If you were planning on staying in hotels -- something a lot of older travellers seem to do -- you might want to look at our "advantages" list. If you are already sold on the idea, then have a look at our "tips" list.

BBH Advantages
  • It's Cheaper
    We paid around NZ$50 per night for a double room, mostly with shared bathrooms. This turned out to be a non-factor after a few nights. You get used to it fast -- it's just like living at home.
  • You Learn More
    When you sit around the dinner table together, or share coffee in the living room on a rainy evening, you get to meet a lot of interesting people, all of whom have travel advice and tips that are hard or impossible to glean from your Lonely Planet guide. Frankly, it's just a lot more fun to get info by talking to folks rather than sticking your nose in a book.
  • Home Cookin'
    The BBH hostels in New Zealand all have shared kitchens. That means you don't have to go out to a restaraunt every night. That means you save money, and probably save time and energy. Eating out every night actually seems more tiring to us -- somehow you have to behave for the wait-staff, and wait around a lot. Cooking for yourselves just feels more "like home". It was also nice to be able to haul provisions along in the car to the next place. We could bring our vinegar and oil along in the boot of our car!
  • Practice Your German
    Neither one of us is german, but we lived in Munich for four years. We were a bit worried about losing our language-skills, but soon found out that the germans are far and away the #1 travellers in New Zealand. We spent many wonderful evenings time talking to great people in our second-favorite-est language : )

BBH Tips
  • Buy the BBH Card
    The BBH system allows you to buy a membership card for NZ$40. With this card, you save NZ$3 per night on your accomodation. So the card pays for itself in just over 13 nights. The card also includes NZ$20 worth of calling-card credit, which can also be figured in to your ROI calculus.
  • Telephone Card Gotcha
    20 bucks worth of telephoning sounds nice, but you need to call a local access-number to get the card to work. This is a bit of a problem because:

    1) Not every BBH hostel offers a phone where you can make local calls for free, so you have to buy a Telecom card that charges 70 cents for the local access-call, upon which you can use your BBH card to call home.

    2) Not every part of New Zealand is within local-calling range, so you may have extra charges to just to get to the card's nearest access-number.

  • Look For No TV
    We found that backpackers with no television, or extremely well-separated television rooms were much more peaceful, better run, and better kept. We also found that people were more likely to socialize without a television.
  • Look For "No Shoes" Policy
    We also found that our favorite hostels had a "no shoes in house" policy. These places were well cared-for, and the people who stayed in them were conscientious, friendly and cleaned up after themselves.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

South Sea Island Sampler Cruise

One thing we learned while we are in Fiji, is that you’ve just got to get off of the main island. We’d suggest taking a “sampler” cruise at the first opportunity.

The folks at South Sea Cruises offer many different cruises, but we liked the South Sea Island combo-cruise.

We did the South Sea Island Combo Cruise, which took us to the island for lunch and a bit of activity -- your choice of snorkeling, swimming, glass-bottom boating, or massage.

After a few hours on this teensie island, we returned to the boat, which took us on a cruise all over the Mananuca islands (say: MANUH-NUTHA) in the afternoon. As the boat hops from island to island, picking up passengers, you can take in all the scenery, and get an idea of which island you might want to visit.

Since many of the passengers remain on South Sea Island til the early evening, you have a lot more room on the boat to move around, so the cruise was very relaxing and enjoyable. Here's some of the sights we took in:

Fijiians fishing in the o-so-blue Pacific Ocean

Your next vacation accomadations (?) under construction