Should You Rent a Campervan in New Zealand
One of the most popular ways to see New Zealand is to rent a campervan. When traveling in New Zealand, it almost feels like every other car on the road is a campervan. On our recent trip, we looked into renting one of these to maximize our time in beautiful country side. The thought of driving and camping around one of the most scenic countries in the world is exciting. But for our trip, it made much more sense to rent a car and stay at hotels and motels. The biggest factor when it comes to travel, for us, is cost. We’ll break down some of the pros and cons and hopefully help you decide if you should rent a campervan in New Zealand.
Great way to see as much as possible
Renting a campervan may be the best way to maximize your time if you plan on seeing as much of the country side as possible. You are essentially camping…but in your van. You can sleep, wake up, and go seize the day quickly. Heck, you don’t even have to get dressed to start driving to your next destination. Make sure to wear some pants though. We’re pretty sure the Kiwis frown on naked driving.
Campervans range from small mini-van sized vehicles to monster RV’s with showers, toilets, and kitchens on board. Depending on which one you rent, you wouldn’t even need to make a stop to take a shower or use the bathroom.
It’s the cool thing to do in New Zealand
Have you looked on Instagram and seen those cool photos of camping next to a lakeside in New Zealand? You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Damn, I want to get shots like those to impress all my friends back home and show them that I’m really roughin it out here!” Yeah, we had that thought too. Renting a campervan is almost the equivalent of backpacking in New Zealand. People want to do it cause its different, fun, and oh-so New Zealand.
It can be expensive!
A campervan might be a good alternative to staying at a hotel but it really depends on your itinerary and where you want to go in New Zealand. When we were looking at it for our trip, we did the math and compared it to the cost of renting a car and staying at a hotel or motel. We found that it was significantly less expensive for us to do the car/hotel route. The all-inclusive campervan with the shower, toilet, and kitchen will cost you a pretty penny. The other consideration is fuel, or petrol as the Kiwis call it. Petrol is not cheap on New Zealand! Do the math before you decide to rent a campervan.
Campgrounds and amenities
Just because you have a campervan doesn’t make you can just park and spend the night wherever you want! Quite the contrary actually. This type of camping is called “Freedom camping” and there are only certain limited areas where you can do it. Typically it’s not in the most ideal places and there are limited facilities to use. Take that into consideration if you rented a campervan with a bathroom!
When you decide to call it a day in your campervan, you will have to seek out a campground or holiday park. These options typically will cost you from $5 NZD to $50 NZD. Campgrounds and holiday parks offer your basic amenities like hot water, showers, and even electricity. Finding a campground or holiday park is also a task that must be planned for. While there are many campgrounds, you still have to make sure you’re close to one by the end of the day. Luckily, there is an app to for that!
Not for the inexperienced driver
Depending on which campervan you rented, you may be biting off more than you can chew when it comes to driving it. The size of the campervan, especially the bigger ones, may stress you out if you don’t have much experience driving large vehicles. While, there is literally no traffic outside of the cities in New Zealand, you’ll still be on the road with smaller and faster cars. Most of the country roads are two lanes and passing is a routine road rule.
Your campervan will probably be going slower than the flow of other cars, meaning they will want to pass you. If you aren’t comfortable making passes or being passed, reconsider renting a campervan. This isn’t too bad when you’re on the flat straight roads. The more scenic areas of the country will require to you be on more narrow and curvy mountainous roads. Some of those roads will just have a metal barrier separating you from the edge of the cliff and the ground (or lake) below.
If it’s brown, flush it down!
If you rent a campervan with a toilet, you will have to empty it. The pee and poop don’t just magically disappear! To do this, you will have to find a holiday park or campground with the proper facilities. While it is not a messy task, it isn’t for the squeamish. To know what you’ll be getting into, see the video below. This wouldn’t have been a problem for us if we had rented a campervan, but it’s just one less task that we wanted to worry about.
Do the math! If it makes sense cost-wise, then a campervan is a great alternative to staying in hotels. One thing to note is that the motels in New Zealand are some of the best. The motels are more of a bed and breakfast than what you would find here in the states, and the prices are affordable. If money isn’t a factor, then the campervan is a cool and novel way to travel in New Zealand.