New Zealand is located in the Southwest corner of the Pacific Ocean, about a four hour flight from Australia. It's often called the backpackers paradise, a name gained not only for its remarkable safety, the abundance of places of interest, and the youthful and friendly attitude of the locals towards tourists, but also for the outstanding infrastructure and facilities that the country offers to budget travellers. Among young people, it's common to arrive in New Zealand with a work and holiday visa and stay in the country for a prolonged period of time, taking temporary jobs and travelling around in between. When visiting the country, one is spoiled with choices of things to explore. Given the relatively short history of the country, it does not abound with historic buildings and monuments. But the unparalleled beauty of its nature, the variety of landscapes it offers, and the authentic encounters with the Maori culture will definitely make New Zealand stay in your heart for a very long time.
The country is situated on two large islands, North Island and South Island. There is a spectacular diversity between the South Island with its fjords, glaciers, and mountain peaks that are covered in snow most of the year, and the North Island with its volcanic formations and tropical beaches. North Island is the smaller of the two, and despite its smaller size, it actually hosts both the capital city of Wellington and the biggest city of New Zealand, Auckland. It also has some places of great Maori tradition like Rotorua, Taupo, and New Plymouth. On the South Island you will mostly probably stay in smaller towns like Kaikoura, famous for whale watching, Motueka, the gateway to some great hiking and Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world.
The best thing in the country is that one does not have to travel far to find something completely new and breathtaking. The country will please both those longing for a solitude with its vast uninhabited spaces and beaches where you will bump into nobody for weeks (ideal for that would be places on the Coromandel peninsula, like Hahei or Punakaiki) as well as busy tourist spots where everything revolves around young people (like Wanaka, Queenstown, Franz Josef ,and Fox Glaciers). The country is one of the most popular around the world among the enthusiasts of extreme sports, like sky diving, bungee jumping, mountain biking, skiing, sea kayaking and white water rafting. As well as that, it offers some of the best hiking worldwide, with its 9 Great Walks that are tracks of outstanding natural importance and the Milford Track, which is considered by many as the most beautiful hiking track in the world. To be able to do the tracks and stay in hostels nearby, you will have to make sure to book a long time in advance. Your best bet is to look for a hostel in Te Anau as that is close to most of the Southern hikes.
Hostels all around the country are relatively cheap and of a consistently high standard. Cleanliness is of a high priority in most places, surprise extras (such as Jacuzzi spas or a free soup for dinner) are quite common. You can normally expect an extremely friendly, familiar atmosphere, and an emphasis on keeping the place cosy and well-serviced, with attention to each individual as opposed to the ambition of hosting a huge number of people. However, this also means that the best places fill up quite quickly, therefore, booking a few days in advance is definitely recommended.
All in all, in New Zealand, every effort is being made to keep backpacking as easy and enjoyable as possible and you are likely to encounter lots of other budget travellers on the road. Transportation relies mostly on long distance buses, with one of the two national companies selling packages of certain miles that you can use up on any of their buses within a given period of time and the other offering the first seat on every bus for only a dollar. Ferry transportation is easy and cheap between the two islands, but those who prefer can also take one of the many daily flights that operate between major cities of the two islands. Food is reasonably priced and eating in fast food and take away places won't blow your budget either.
Handwritten by local expert for New Zealand hostels JudyM