Kelly was determined to find the nicest little cheap place to stay that she could find on her trip to the South Island of New Zealand. She read some online travel reviews for New Zealand and found this cool wee place that looked perfect. Cheap as chips, and pretty too. She thought she’d done well, and used the same site to book nearly all her free nights away from the tour she’d also found online.
When she arrived at the motel late at night, her heart sank. There was a really good reason it was cheap. It might have been the middle of winter, but there was no heating, the beds were barely covered with a sheet and the thin walls rattled every time the neighbours so much as whispered (let alone the wind that tore up the valley at 2am that morning).
Kelly later discovered the review had been written by the owner of the motel, the pictures were really out of date, and there were many amazing (but still cheap) places nearby she could have stayed in instead.
It can feel a little daunting to know if the information you are reading is a true travel review, or merely an advertorial paid for with free accommodation or from a professional paid writer. Finding out the true story of any place, tour or event is best done when the information is coming from people just like you – travellers wanting the best experiences New Zealand has to offer.
Online travel reviews are the best ways to find out all the secret gems, and avoid the scary places like Kelly’s disaster. You can often find them by trawling through blogs, and people’s online travel diaries but doing this is completely hit and miss and can take hours. Finding a site that provides you with a mix of comments and reviews from hundreds of travellers who have placed online travel reviews after their New Zealand travels is the most ideal way of finding the secret spots (like the awesome cafe in Kingsland, Auckland or the scary Coromandel caves you can discover for free, or the gold digging brothers in Hokitika who’ll make you scones and tell you ghost stories with a cup of billy tea.)
So how do you find New Zealand online travel reviews you can trust? Here are some simple tips when looking for online recommendations:
1) Look for a site that is full of personal experiences
While one person suggesting a place is awesome, fifty people suggesting the same thing, with a few frank comments about any issues or problems is far better. Kelly certainly wished she could have warned other travellers about her motel disaster.
2) Look for one that lets real people comment
Some sites are really just travel agency sites, with lots of comments from people who have been given free trips to write about. This means the bias can be slanted a little more positively than may be due in a real response to the place
3) Look for one that caters for a wide range of people
Even if you are on a mega budget you might want the occasional night of luxury (ooh that hot shower feels great after a week tenting in the South Island.) If you’ve got a comfortable budget, the more luxury orientated sites might focus only on the high cost tours and places to stay, and so much of New Zealand’s gems can be found in places where the cost isn’t that high. Find the secret local places that other travellers have found by sharing a few quiets in the pub with the locals.
The best thing about a community driven online travel review site is you’ll get to comment on your New Zealand adventure as well. You’ll have Kelly and her mates telling you what they loved, and what they hated. And then after you’ve experienced what other people have suggested, you too have a chance to let other’s know what you thought.
Through talking with thousands of travellers while running their own adventure tourism business, company owners Cymen Crick and Nick Morrison discovered that there was a clear need for independent travel information for NZ, free of bias and written by the traveller, for the traveller.