I already mentioned something about saving money here is coming up, and here we go. That goes out to everyone who intends to stay here for a while, no matter if it’s two weeks or six months.
Let’s keep it short and neat for the first part: Obviously you have to stay somewhere while being here. NZ offers a huge variety of hostels, which can be rated from “Uargh-disgusting-WHY-DO-I-STAY-HERE-AT-ALL?” up to “Are you sure this isn’t just a small 5-stars hotel which lacks a few services and where I have to cook for myself?”. Nearly all of them have something in common: They are great places to meet new people, usually from at least three different countries. NZ has two big hostel umbrella organisations: YHA (Youth Hostelling International, also available in other countries) and BBH (Budget Backpacker Hostels, only in NZ). Also, there’s a bunch of hostels which don’t belong to either of the organisations. The latter ones offer member card which grant discounts on these accommodations; I know that the YHA card is around €15 in Germany, and around NZ$9 in China (no clue what it is in the nation’s currency RMB, sorry).
First about the YHA: You should get this card in your home country as it’s usually much cheaper than obtaining it in NZ, compare the prices if needed. YHA hostels can be found all over the country, and usually they offer a high standard of accommodation and facilities, but even with a YHA card, I would still consider them expensive: Prices are around NZ$4 to NZ$8 higher than for BBH hostels in the same area. However, free Wi-Fi is available for card holders, which can be very useful. I’d recommend this card if you’re only staying for a shorter period of time (< 2 months) and you have the intention to stay in hostels rather than camping grounds. Note that YHA hostels can only be found in major/popular spots.
The BBH is a different story. You have to spend NZ$45 to get a card (as of NZ Winter 2014), which includes NZ$20 credit to use it as phone card. Very useful for domestic calls, as the rate is really cheap and many hostels only offer free local calls, if at all – using the mobile to make bookings etc. costs a lot more. It can also be used for cheap calls to other countries, but rates differ, so check before you use it! On the other hand, the card grants you a discount on all accommodations who are part of the BBH network, usually between NZ$3 and NZ$5 off for dorm beds (example, can be different for double bedrooms etc.). Due to the big amount of accommodations (even in the smallest or quite non-tourist towns), you easily reach the amount of NZ$45 when accumulating your savings, providing you spent your nights in BBH hostels…and then, you save, save, save! So even though the BBH card seems to be a much bigger investment on the first glance, it may pay off well, even in comparison with the YHA card. The only disadvantage is that you can only used in NZ, but well, it doesn’t really matter in the end – the best idea is to get both cards, and eventually your wallet will be forever grateful. 😉