When travelling around New Zealand we decided to rent a car and drive around the two islands. Taking this option over hiring a campervan to live and sleep in, meant that we needed to find cheap accommodation and in New Zealand this resulted in staying in backpacker hostels.

We had some really good experiences of hostels in Australia and were expecting much of the same in New Zealand; what we actually got was a whole lot more.

Many of the hostels we stayed in were privately owned rather than the large chains such as YHA which made for a more personable experience.

Whilst we were staying in Oaklands Lodge in the Auckland suburb of Mt Eden we were introduced to the Budget Backpacker Hostel card or BBH card.

The benefits of a BBH card

For the relatively small fee of NZ$45 (£22 / US$35) you can buy the BBH card from any of the registered hostels.

Included in the price is a NZ$20 (£10 / US$16) phone card which we used to make calls back home and also to book hostels around New Zealand. The best bit is that the card can be topped up so you don't need to buy a sim card just as long as you can find a pay phone which most hostels had.

The card also entitled you to a small discount on the hostels that are part of BBH. When we got our card we were also given an accommodation guide that listed every hostel where the discount applied along with contact details and maps. This became an essential part of our luggage though we did have to pick up a replacement as ours became worn out with constant use.

We found booking a couple of days ahead was enough to secure a room at a hostel and we never found that a room was unavailable during our travels through October and November.

We were unaware at the time but the card can also get you discounts and deals on travel and tours around New Zealand.

More information on the BBH card »

Top 3 New Zealand BBH Hostels

We stayed in a total of 16 BBH hostels throughout the North and South Islands of New Zealand and here are my top three:

Te Nikau Retreat, Punakaiki

Blowhole at Pancake RocksTe Nikau Retreat is easily my favourite hostel that we stayed in, located just outside Punakaiki on the East coast of the South Island and a short drive to the nearby tourist spot, the Pancake Rocks.

The hostel is surrounded by a rainforest and there are little cottages dotted around the area. We stayed in the main house which was more like someones home rather than a hostel.

Each morning we awoke to the smell of freshly baked bread and muffins than the owner had baked for the guests, after which we took a short stroll to a nearby secluded beach.

Read more on Te Nikau Retreat »

Shortbread Cottage, Nelson

Split Apple Rock, Abel Tasman National ParkOnly a few minutes walk from Nelson town centre the most memorable thing from our stay was the delicious shortbread biscuit you find waiting for you on your pillow.

We found this a good base for the short drive out to the Abel Tasman National Park where we caught a water taxi out to one of the many bays. We spent a few hours walking around the coastal paths and a well deserved rest on the beach before being picked up and taken back to Kaiteriteri via the Split Apple Rock that stands in Honeymoon Bay.

Read more on Shortbread Cottage »

Pickled Parrot, Paihia, Bay of Islands

Bay of IslandsThis was our last hostel in New Zealand and by no means the least. Hidden away amongst the surrounding trees we managed to get one of the chalets that are separated from the main building meaning a good nights sleep.

We found the hostel owner very helpful in securing a spot on one of the dolphin tours around the Bay of Islands. It was on her recommendation that we took an afternoon tour and later we heard from other backpackers that they hadn't seen any dolphins on an earlier tour that day so she was spot on.

Read more on the Pickled Parrot »

We  found the BBH card really beneficial to our backpacker travels especially the accommodation guide and would fully recommend that if you're backpacking around New Zealand, get yourself a card.

Have you used the BBH card? What were your favourite hostels in New Zealand?