A Comparison of the Hostel Networks in New Zealand
With 300+ hostels all around the country, New Zealand spoils backpackers for choice when it comes to budget accommodation. Out of these 300+ hostels, a significant portion is part of a hostel network or chain, either: BBH, The Backpacker Group, Haka Lodges, Jucy Snooze or Nomads. Although most hostels are not part of the major hostel networks in New Zealand, five networks are battling it out all over New Zealand to offer value and consistency to travellers nationwide.
Most hostel networks in New Zealand, including BBH, The Backpacker Group, Haka Lodges or Nomads, offer perks for being a member. For this reason, you may want to compare the hostel networks in New Zealand so you can become a member of which one appeals to you or choose to save your money – whichever appeals!
Remember, whether you are a member or not, you can stay in any one of the hostels in New Zealand; they are not “members only”. What’s more, you’re not tied to a certain hostel chain either. For more information on how hostels in New Zealand work, head to A Beginner’s Guide to Backpacker Hostels.
Hostel Network Size in New Zealand:
BBH: More than 80 hostels are part of the BBH hostel network.
The Backpacker Group: New Zealand’s newest hostel network has more than 25 hostel members.
Haka Lodges: Currently, there are four Haka Lodge hostels in New Zealand.
Nomads: Nomads hostels in New Zealand has seen its network reduced to two locations: Wellington and Queenstown.
Jucy Snooze: Jucy hostels can be found in two locations: Christchurch and Queenstown.
YHA: YHA is no longer operational in New Zealand.
Base: Base hostels are no longer operational in New Zealand.
The BBH Hostel Network
The largest network in New Zealand, BBH (Budget Backpacker Hostels) is a collection of over 80 independently-owned hostels. This means that your experience will vary greatly from one location to the other.
What are BBH Hostels Like?
Using the BBH network will require you to take the time to check hostel ratings both on the BBH website and on other booking websites like Booking.com to make sure that you know what you are getting into. Some BBH hostels are true hidden gems and offer unparalleled experiences while some are so-so at best.
What we have found is that BBH member hostels are usually very well established; sometimes in the sense that they have been around for years and know how to run a good hostel and other times in the sense that they have not been upgraded or renovated for many years. This trend happens to correlate with the fact that BBH has been around since 1987 and has seen very little innovation in recent years.
Whether you see BBH’s variety, and not to mention its dated website and service, as a good thing or a bad thing, BBH is your largest hostel network where you’re most likely to find their hostels around the country to start saving money with its membership (see the below section, Is Getting a Hostel Network Membership in New Zealand Worth it? for more details).
What is the Cost of a BBH Membership?
Being a BBH member costs NZ$35 and gives you a 10% discount on nightly bed prices. Note that this discount only applies when booking directly with a participating hostel or through the BBH website.
The Backpacker Group Network
The newest kid on the block, The Backpacker Group is the fastest-growing hostel network in New Zealand with 25 independently-owned hostels and counting. They also offer activity discounts to their members.
What are The Backpacker Group Hostels Like?
Because the hostels that are part of The Backpacker Group network are individually owned (apart from a handful that are also owned by the network owner), the experience in each hostel varies. Again, like with BBH, it’s best to do your research and check reviews of each property.
In our experience, The Backpacker Group tends to attract generally high-quality albeit larger hostels – certainly some of our top-recommended hostels. Although you may struggle to find that small-scale hostel that BBH attracts, they are rarely party hostels either. Hostel facilities tend to be high-quality and upgraded regularly (or semi-regularly, at least), while each hostel has its individual perks and quirks.
What is the Cost of a Membership with The Backpacker Group?
Being a Backpacker Group member costs NZ$35 per individual or NZ$65 per couple/family, however, these memberships can regularly be found at a discount – we’ve seen the individual membership at NZ$20 and couples/family membership at NZ$35 recently!
A membership gives you a 10% discount on nightly hostel rates. Note that this discount only applies when booking/paying directly with a participating hostel (just show your membership PDF or screenshot on your phone when you check-in) or when booking through The Backpacker Group website.
In addition to hostel discounts, The Backpacker Group members also have various discounts on a wide range of activities and tours across New Zealand, which you can browse on The Backpacker Group website.
Haka Lodges, part of the same company that runs Haka Tours, has a small selection of upscale hostels across New Zealand.
What are Haka Lodges Like in New Zealand?
Haka Lodges are very similar to each other in terms of standards. All of their hostels have pod-style bunks in their dorm rooms with a privacy curtain, reading light and personal USB charging station. They also have private rooms, like most hostels in New Zealand. With these qualities combined with frequently updated facilities, Haka Lodges provide a more premium hostel experience.
However, Haka Lodges has seen its hostel numbers decrease over the years to just four across New Zealand:
What is the Cost of a Haka Lodges Membership?
Nothing! Or, at least the cost is simply staying a night at a Haka Lodge. On the said night, you can request what’s called a “Haka Passport” at the reception of any Haka Lodge, which entitles you to 10% off your accommodation at any Haka Lodge nationwide. We just wish they had more locations!
The Nomads Hostel Network (The Tourism Adventure Hostel Group)
Nomads is the smallest hostel chain in New Zealand, owned by The Tourism Adventure Hostel Group based in Australia but also running hostels in South East Asia. What used to be part of the Base hostel network (see below) with around 10 hostels across New Zealand is now reduced to only two hostels managed by Nomads and an additional two independently-owned hostels that are also part of the network.
What are Nomads Hostels Like in New Zealand?
There are only two Nomads hostels in New Zealand, both large-scale hostels with modern facilities and often having the “party hostel” vibe, despite its “dry hostel” policies. If you’re looking for a fun time with fellow travellers staying in either Queenstown or Wellington for the short-term, Nomads hostels could be a good choice.
Nomad’s flagship hostel in Queenstown, Nomads Queenstown, is a true work of art. Purposely built, it has everything that a hostel should have a much more. Learn more about it in the 10 Best Backpacker Hostels in Queenstown and see why it is a strong contender for the best large hostel in New Zealand.
The other Nomads location, Nomads Capital Backpackers, can be found in Wellington, which you can compare to other hostels in the 7 Best Backpacker Hostels in Wellington. Notably, it has its own on-site backpacker bar.
What is the Cost of a Nomads Membership?
Nomads does not have a membership but a bulk buy system called a “Bed Hopper Pass“. This is a multi-night pass that you can use at any Nomads hostels and participating hostels in New Zealand (On Top Backpackers Dunedin and The Bealey Quarter Christchurch), as well as hostels in Australia and South East Asia that are part of The Tourism Adventure Hostel Group. Choose from seven, 10, 21, 45 and 60-night passes, giving you a small discount and prepaying for nights in the largest/cheapest dorms only.
Another hostel (or more like hotel) brand that you may notice across the South Island of New Zealand is Jucy Snooze. If you don’t stay in one of their hostels, you might stay in one of their bright green campervans under Jucy Rentals.
What are Jucy Snooze Hostels Like in New Zealand?
There are only two Jucy Snooze hostels in New Zealand, both large-scale hostels/hotels with modern facilities. You will find a mixed crowd of tourists at these accommodations; not just backpackers. Their pod bunk dorms, however, are some of the most innovative in the country, which you can learn more about in What are Pod Hostels (and Why You Have to Try Them in New Zealand)?
There are only two Jucy Snooze hostels, and they are both on the South Island:
Can You Get a Jucy Snooze Membership?
Out of all of the hostel networks in New Zealand, Jucy Snooze is the one that does not offer memberships or loyalty cards for staying at their hostels.
[CLOSED] The YHA Network
[Update: The Youth Hostel Association of New Zealand (YHA NZ) is no longer operating.]
What Happened to the YHA in New Zealand?
After 89 years, YHA permanently closed its 11 managed hostels on 15 December 2021 after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The independently managed hostels that were part of the YHA network are still operating but many are now part of other hostel networks in New Zealand.
[CLOSED] The Base Hostel Network
[Update: The Australian hostel network is no longer operating in New Zealand. Where it used to have 10 hostels in New Zealand, it no longer has any. Base is part of the same company as Nomads (see above), The Tourism Adventure Hostel Group, which still has a couple of hostels remaining in New Zealand. Base is still operational in Australia.]
Is Getting a Hostel Network Membership in New Zealand Worth it?
Our tip is to only get the membership if you know that you’ll stay with participating hostels on your chosen hostel network for at least 13 to 15 nights throughout the year (remember, memberships are yearly).
For example, if your membership costs NZ$35 and gives you 10% off the average dorm night (which costs around NZ$27 on average), it will take you around 13 nights to pay back the cost of the membership with the 10% savings you have made before you really start “saving money” on extra nights in hostels. Then, bare in mind after that, you are likely to stray off your chosen hostel network in the likely event that the hostel network does not have a presence or availability in every destination you are visiting.
We typically advise that you only consider a hostel network membership if you are in New Zealand on an extended trip or a working holiday, rather than just for one or two weeks.
For more tips on saving money when travelling around New Zealand, check out 15 Ways to Save Money and Stretch Those Dollars Further.
More About Hostel Networks in New Zealand
That’s it for our guide to the hostel networks in New Zealand. For more hostelling advice, check out our other awesome guides:
- What are the Best Websites to Book Hostels in New Zealand?
- What are Pod Hostels (and Why You Have to Try Them in New Zealand)?
- 13 Most Unique Backpacker Hostels in New Zealand
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in A Beginner’s Guide to Backpacker Hostels.