I always wanted to try this form of traveling. Living in a camper van. Finally, we did it!
Is it a real thing, that people ride campervans around New Zealand?
Hell yeah! You would be surprised how commonly is. Now it’s quite a low season, but still, tons of vans are on the road. I can’t even imagine what’s the situation when it’s actually warm, and high season.
What kind of car is the best to rent?
Let’s think about our budget first. You can find really cheap vans, but also luxury motorhomes. In case you want to do freedom camping, you need a self-contained vehicle, which means, that your home has a restroom, fresh water supply in it. You need to know that a lot of people buys a campervan and then sell it at the end of the trip. It might be a good option when two people can share the cost of it. You might sell it for the same price or even more.
In our cutie, there is a bathroom with a toilet which is the size of a mini closet, but it’s usable. We have a kitchen with gas burners, sink, microwave, electric kettle, but these electric appliances can be used only when your car is connected to 240V. So how is it then?
What about the campsites?
If you use the lights, electric appliances, etc., you need to connect the car to 240 V and recharge it. This is not free, at the campsites you need to pay a fee per person/night, and sometimes they charge an extra for the electricity, shower. But this can vary by sites. Here at the same time, you can get rid of the used water, toilet tank, fill up with fresh water. Who would’ve thought that it’s that amount of things to do with a van? For better campsites, you need to pay around 18 NZD/person/night, plus additional 5 dollars for electricity.
The best part of the whole thing, most of the campsites are located in gorgeous areas, like beaches, beside forests, and in case you have a self-contained campervan, you can try the freedom camping, but always ask a local if at the desired area is legal to do it. Otherwise, you can face a penalty of 200 NZD.
I suggest downloading the CamperMate application. You can easily search within campsites, holiday parks, restrooms, gas stations, there are also comments about the places, description and list of services they offer, and the price. There are a lot of free sites too, but in this case, you can find usually only a restroom attached.
New Zealand is not famous about award winner roads, but the situation is not that bad. Of course, there are some bumpy, single lane roads, but anyways with your van you can’t go with more than 100 km/h, it’s the best to take your time and slow down. About the campervans, you need to keep in mind the length of the vehicle, you might face some problems while you’re trying to park, and it’s not super easy to drive neither. You might find a companion handy who can jump out of the car and wave like a crazy when you almost hit the car behind you.
About the roads still, something surprised me a lot. On some of the beaches, you can actually drive your car, I mean, on the sand. You should be wiser than us. We thought that now it’s time to make our salmon on our grill at the beach because it would be just perfect. But, hmm, stopped in the sand, a bit away from the water, we were stuck. Some warm-hearted local gave us a
hand car and pulled us out. They also gave a good advice. We better stay closer to the water, because the sand is firmer there. We learn something every day.
Around May, the winter is coming to New Zealand. Now you can ask, then why the hell we came at this time of the year? Answer: it was just too close to Australia, we had the feeling we just need to come, even if it’s a stupid idea. But we didn’t regret it. You need to know that on the north island the weather is still bearable, aka not freezing. As you go further to the south the air can be chilly a bit. This time, we pass on the south island, but next time no excuse! Obviously, the best time to visit the country when it’s warm. But in the off-season, it’s easier and cheaper to find accommodation and rent a car.
Is it the campervan comfortable?
I wouldn’t say it’s that comfortable, barely has any space to do anything, but it’s somehow cozy and has a romantic feeling. I say you should try at least once.
Some suggestions for the road
- Don’t forget to drive on the left side!
- If there are many people behind you, try to slow down and let them advance you (in this case when they honk, it actually means they say thanks, not that they are angry)
- Never leave valuable items in the car! Unfortunately breaking into vans, cars is a big problem in New Zealand. Never leave anything you can not replace. Knock, knock, so far nothing happened with us.
- Watch out for the gas/diesel! Not everywhere you can find a proper gas station, and also you can miscalculate the time ahead on the road. You better stay without fuel.
Why is it a good place to do a road trip?
I would say it without any doubt, that this country is one of the best road trip country. The landscape is just amazing, it has a culture, and if you are lucky you can get a car pretty easily and for a good price. It’s definitely a lifetime experience!
Car rental companies are constantly searching for drivers who would relocate their vehicles from A to B. So in this case you can travel for almost free if you can get there in time. Transfercar is a good example for that, check them out! (Now they are operating in Australia, South Africa and the USA too. Might come handy if you’re traveling to those countries).
Summarizing the experience, it has a lot of positive sides, but sometimes there could be some difficulties. But I think at least once you should give a try, then there are some stories to tell to your grandchildren.
Check out our car on the pictures below!
Next time I will show the amazing places you can visit on the North Island of New Zealand!