Unfortunately, there's nothing standard about accommodations rates here; what you get for NZ$150 can be much better than something for two or three times the price. My advice: Ask around, visit websites for photographs, and don't assume that all places in the same price range offer the same standard of accommodations. (They probably do in the Expensive range, but certainly not in the Moderate and Inexpensive categories.)
New Zealand tourism's official mark of quality, Qualmark (www.qualmark.co.nz), has now been applied to all accommodations types and tourism businesses. This means they have been independently assessed as professional and trustworthy and graded one star (acceptable), two stars (good), three stars (very good), four stars (excellent), and five stars (exceptional, among the best in New Zealand). Each business has undergone a rigorous assessment and licensing process to receive the Qualmark designation.
However, you should realize that - according to this Qualmark system - a three-star hotel is not the same as a three-star B&B or a three-star lodge, and that a five-star B&B is not the same as a five-star hotel. Each category of accommodations is assessed on different criteria.
It is also worth noting that many accommodations operators have little faith in this rating system because it's voluntary and not all properties have been assessed. There is particular discontent at the top end of the market, where operators are disillusioned that star ratings are being applied to businesses that are already self-regulated.
If you would like more information when you arrive in New Zealand, pick up the free Qualmark Accommodation Guide from information centers (or order it at www.qualmark.co.nz); it lists all participating hotels, motels, B&Bs, backpackers, campgrounds, and tourism businesses.
Note that New Zealand now has an across-the-board legal ban on smoking in public buildings. That includes hotels and restaurants. Therefore, you should assume that accommodations listed throughout this guide have adopted a nonsmoking policy. It is also a legal requirement that all public buildings have access for travelers with disabilities. You should therefore assume that properties reviewed in this guide offer rooms with access for travelers with disabilities, although in the case of B&Bs it will pay to double-check before booking.
There is a multitude of lodging options available in New Zealand - here's a rundown on what you'll find. Price ranges are based on the following scale: Inexpensive (up to NZ$150); Moderate (NZ$151-NZ$300); Expensive (NZ$301-NZ$650); and Very Expensive (NZ$651 and up).
A hotel generally provides a licensed bar and restaurant, and guest rooms do not usually have cooking facilities. In New Zealand, "hotel" refers to modern tourist hotels, including the big international chains and older public-licensed hotels generally found in provincial areas. The latter are completely different from the former.
The country hotel, or pub, offers inexpensive to moderate accommodations of a modest nature. It's often noisy and old-fashioned with shared bathrooms down the hall. There are definitely exceptions, with upgrading a big trend in popular tourist areas. One way or another, they're usually rich in character.
Modern hotels come in all price levels. Several big international chains have two or three grades of hotels, and you can get exceptionally good deals if you book with the same chain throughout the country. In major tourist centers such as Queenstown, competition is fierce and good prices can be found. In major corporate destinations such as Auckland and Wellington, rates will be considerably higher during the week, with weekends bringing superb specials.
In the last several years, apartment-style accommodations have sprouted up in New Zealand like mushrooms on a damp day. Some have been added to existing hotels but most are free-standing complexes. If you'd like to stay in a modern apartment I suggest you contact one of the following first-class operators. Touch of Spice, Queenstown (www.touchofspice.co.nz; tel. 03/442-8672), has been rated by Condé Nast Traveler as 1 of only 49 villa rental agents worldwide best qualified to match its readers with suitable holiday properties. This meticulous concierge and luxury lifestyle specialist offers a range of 30 luxury properties from inner-city apartments to country hideaways and private island retreats - all featuring modern furnishings and five-star quality, and full staff if required. New Zealand Apartments (www.nzapartments.co.nz; tel. 0800/692-727) has a catalog of 48 stylish apartments in 33 locations nationwide. Most are under 10 years old and go for unbelievably good prices. They're serviced on demand and all have on-site managers to welcome you.
Motels & Motor Inns
A motel unit is self-contained and usually has cooking facilities, a bathroom, and one or two bedrooms. A motor inn often has a restaurant on the premises. Don't assume that New Zealand motels are the same as those you find in, say, the United States. There has been a major shake-up of standards in the motel industry, and many motels and motor inns are superior to some hotels. Look for the Qualmark sign of quality, which is prominently displayed on signs and promotional material. If you aim for four- and five-star properties I'm sure you'll be happy. New Zealand Luxury Motels (www.nzluxurymotels.co.nz; tel. 0800/692-727) can save you a lot of time. They have 23 top-end motels nationwide on their books -- 15 of them built in the last few years to the highest specifications.
Bed & Breakfasts
As the name suggests, B&B rates include bed and breakfast, but it's often difficult to tell the difference between a bed-and-breakfast, a homestay, a farmstay, a guesthouse, a lodge, and a boutique hotel. B&B operators seem to be using a plethora of terms to describe much the same thing. Suffice it to say, in all of the above, that the key advantage is interaction with New Zealanders.
Homestays and bed-and-breakfasts are pretty much the same thing, but the variation in quality within both can be disconcerting - you'll find both the ludicrously cheap and the ludicrously expensive, and price is not necessarily an indicator of what you'll get. Homestays tend to be more family oriented and modest, especially in rural areas and provincial towns. Be prepared to simply get a bed in a family home. B&Bs, on the other hand, can be as down-market or as upmarket as you're prepared to pay; some rival the best hotels for quality.
I strongly advise you to check websites, or wait until you're in New Zealand to purchase one of the numerous B&B guides. Look for The New Zealand Bed & Breakfast Book, which illustrates every property in color. Heritage & Character Inns of New Zealand (www.heritageinns.co.nz) is another good source; it details about 90 of the country's best B&Bs in heritage homes. Ask for brochures at visitor centers.
You can safely assume that farmstays are located on farms. They present an ideal opportunity to get a feel for New Zealand's rural life. Several organizations will put you in touch with a reliable farmstay; two of them are Accommodation New Zealand (www.accommodation-new-zealand.co.nz; tel. 09/444-4895 or 03/487-8420), and Hospitality Plus, the New Zealand Home & Farmstay Company (www.hospitalityplus.co.nz; tel. 03/693-7463; fax 03/693-7462).
Guesthouses generally offer good value: modest rooms at modest prices. You can check out a selection of them with New Zealand's Federation of Bed & Breakfast Hotels, Inc., 52 Armagh St., Christchurch (www.nzbnbhotels.com; tel. 03/358-6928; fax 03/355-0291).
Many establishments call themselves "lodges" when, strictly speaking, they don't meet lodge criteria as defined by the New Zealand Lodge Association. In the truest sense, country lodges in New Zealand are small and highly individual, with 4 to 20 bedrooms. They're fully licensed and have an all-inclusive tariff. They generally offer the very best of everything, including fine dining (three- to five-course dinners). The unspoken factors are the degree of exclusivity that exceeds B&Bs and the degree of personalized service and pampering that exceeds most hotels. For information, go to www.lodgesofnz.co.nz. A luxury accommodations category was also added to the Qualmark program in 2003.
When they're not being used by their owners, holiday homes can be rented by the night or for longer periods. Known as baches in the North Island and cribs in the South Island, they are a good value for independent travelers. You can buy Baches & Holiday Homes to Rent, which details over 500 properties, from bookstores or the Automobile Association, 99 Albert St., Auckland (tel. 09/966-8800); 343 Lambton Quay, Wellington (tel. 04/931-9999); or 205 Hills Rd., Shirley, Christchurch (tel. 03/386-1090). For a wider variety - cozy cottages to super-luxury homes - contact New Zealand Vacation Homes (www.nzvacationhomes.co.nz), which lists self-catering properties throughout the country. In the Auckland area, pick up a copy of the free brochure Bach Escapes from visitor centers, produced by the Auckland Regional Council (www.arc.govt.nz/bachescapes).
Hostels are generally frequented by backpackers, but most welcome people of all ages and have single and double rooms as well as dorms. They have shared facilities (some have en-suite bathrooms) and communal lounges and kitchens; some have cafes and/or bars.
You can get more information by contacting the following: YHA New Zealand National Reservations Centre (tel. 03/379-9808; fax 03/379-4415; www.yha.co.nz), which has hostels open 24 hours a day that do not impose curfews or duties; Budget Backpacker Hostels New Zealand (tel. 03/379-3014; www.bbh.co.nz) lists over 300 hostels around the country; and VIP Backpacker Resorts of New Zealand (tel. 09/827-6016; fax 09/827-6013; www.vip.co.nz) is supported by over 60 hostels. Nomads (tel. 0800/666-237; www.nomadsworld.com) offers hostel accommodations at 16 sites.
Motor Camps & Holiday Parks
These properties have communal kitchens, toilets, showers, and laundries, and a variety of accommodations from campsites and cabins to flats and backpacker-style lodges. They are very popular with New Zealand holidaymakers during the summer months, so make sure you book ahead. They make an ideal base if you are traveling by motor home. Two organizations to contacts are Top 10 Holiday Parks (www.top10.co.nz; tel. 0800/867-836 in NZ; fax 03/377-9950) and Holiday Accommodation Parks New Zealand (www.holidayparks.co.nz; tel. 04/298-3283).
In New Zealand, the term en-suite bathroom refers to a bathroom incorporated within the bedroom. A private bathroom refers to a bathroom outside the bedroom, which is used exclusively by the guests of one room. A shared bathroom is a communal bathroom used by all guests in the establishment. Many accommodations within New Zealand have en-suite bathrooms, but it still pays to request them in B&Bs and backpacker establishments, many of which still have shared or private bathrooms.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.