Thinking about staying in Kiwi home on your next vacation? Wanting to experience the Kiwi way of life?
You’d better read this article before you book, first published in the Malaysian Star.
The author found cramped, messy homes and less than ideal catering arrangements. Add to that being constantly monitored, and having to defer to the comfort of “Western guests,” and you could be forgiven for thinking this sounds like the holiday from hell.
Disenchanted by farm stay and B&B experience in New Zealand
Published: Saturday February 28, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Thursday March 12, 2015 MYT 10:08:34 AM
Reader Jo Lean* from Kuala Lumpur shares about an unpleasant vacation experience in New Zealand.
DURING a recent trip to New Zealand , we were booked into two farm stays and two bed and breakfast (B&B) homes organised by our NZ tour operator. Our family of four, including two young children, were excited at the thought of experiencing a part of the famous Kiwi hospitality we had heard so much of. We had stayed before in B&Bs in Britain and the United States, and each experience had been excellent.
Of the four NZ private home stays, only one lived up to our expectations, which were not unlike those of any middle-class Malaysian family. We were told that a farm stay would give us a chance to experience farm life and to get to know real farmers, and a B&B offered a comfortable stay in a house, inclusive of breakfast.
The level of comfort at a farm house or a B&B would depend on the reputation of the farm/B&B host and the budget of the traveller. Our NZ tour operator assured us we were getting the best the area had to offer based on the price we paid.
But what ensued was a travel nightmare. We didn’t expect to be put up in homes that were full of clutter, and cramped into tiny spaces where we couldn’t even open our luggage and being served less than ideal meals. Throw in hosts that were eccentric and discriminating, and we had our nightmare trifecta.
The B&B on Stewart Island which is highly ranked by a popular trip advisory website was a disaster from the moment we arrived. Our children’s room was located beside a junk-filled garage and all the sliding doors had no locks from the inside to prevent young kids from wandering around the property which was perched on a steep slope.
We were not allowed into the kitchen by the host, despite prior knowledge that we had to use the kitchen due to the special dietary requirements of my younger child. It was only after our persistent requests that she agreed to clean the kitchen for our use and even so, she stayed in the kitchen watching us the entire time we were in there.
She also had a dog which she refused to chain or confine to a certain area of the house although we had informed our tour operator that our children were afraid of dogs. My younger child was terrified after being chased around the house by the owner’s dog (which the owner admitted wasn’t good with children).
The real shocker was when she told us she was expecting to host another couple the following night in a room that led to her kitchen. It wasn’t a big house and the host had to sleep on a sofa in a space beside the kitchen to accommodate her guests. We now had to share a small cottage with strangers.
We were warned to be very quiet if we wanted to get up early for breakfast so as not to disturb the other couple whom we later discovered were Westerners. However, at around midnight, the same couple returned from an excursion and made a lot of noise slamming doors and turning on the corridor lights while my children were sleeping. It was clear that the host imposed double standards on her guests.
There were other annoyances that I will not go into but suffice to say it was two long nights of discomfort and disappointment.
At another B&B in Franz Josef on South Island, the owner never left us alone despite living in a cabin behind the B&B. Everywhere we turned, there he was. He was friendly bordering on invasive and the breakfast was short of a couple of key items that he had promised us the night before. Key, meaning no bacon and no egg in our bacon and eggs breakfast!
Our second last night in NZ was a farm stay two hours from Christchurch. After being on a three-week long road trip across the country, we were exhausted. We thought it couldn’t get any worse, but we were wrong.
The farm stay wasn’t even on a farm. The host had an assortment of farm pets in his backyard but had to take us to another farm that did not belong to him to show us how sheep were shorn. We were directed to the bedrooms upstairs in the farmer’s cramped house that he shared with his wife and three children. When we walked around some parts of the house, we were sternly reminded by the host that those areas were private.
We looked forward to the dinner at least, since a reputable B&B booking website review mentioned that the hosts were excellent cooks but were in for a rude shock. Instead of a hot meal, we were offered leftover Christmas ham and cold beetroot and vegetables served buffet style. Adding insult to injury, the farmer was dressed in torn shorts for dinner which would have slipped my attention had his wife not reminded my older child to dress appropriately when he wanted to change out of his travelling clothes into something more comfortable.
That was the last straw. We left the farm stay shortly after dinner. Stuck in a little town with a population of 700, our choice of accommodation that night was limited, to say the least, and what happened next deserves its own article.
What astonished us was that when we complained to the tour operator, he took the owners’ side. He claimed that we didn’t understand NZ culture and the home stays were exactly what we had signed up for and that we were treated no differently from any other guests.
What are the takeaways from this tale of our travel woes? Be firm with your tour operator. Cultural difference is no excuse for poor service. Find out exactly what you are getting for the price you pay. Make sure you know the type of room and the living situation of the hosts in the B&Bs or farm stay homes.
Make known your special requests and get confirmation that they can accommodate you. Get an idea of what activities are being offered in the farm stay and what kind of meal you are having, for example, a two- or three-course sit-down dinner or a buffet-style meal. Glowing reviews from other travellers who have used the same tour operator are no guarantee of quality. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and leave no stone unturned. And lastly, our lawyer was right – put everything down in black and white.
* A pseudonym (source)
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