Tag Archives: campervan

New Zealand: Travel tips and cheats!

How to get around?

There are plenty of ways- you can travel in luxury by being driven around in packaged trips in buses and enjoy the serenity through your window, but who wants to run on a fixed schedule when you’re in a place like this? I would rather travel at my own pace and on my own schedule. For this, you can either hire a car or a camper van.

If you’ve read past posts you’ll know I decided to go for camper van. It has a great amount of convenience that you have your own bed and kitchen and even a loo in your own vehicle at your disposal and it gives you amazing freedom with your time and schedule for travelling. It has a significant negative point though- Its a bloody big vehicle with slow and sluggish diesel engine usually and most of them are manual geared. They can roll back, stall on slopes and cause you trouble on steep inclines of which there are plenty in New Zealand. There are higher end camper vans with better engines and automatic transmission but of course they come with bigger price tags and are still big vehicles that take a bit of caution to keep straight on the narrow and curvy New Zealand roads. If you’re a skilled driver and don’t mind few difficult conditions, have a go!

Other way is to just hire a car- even a small car would do for this purpose- most roads are sealed and well maintained. The standard cars are easier to drive and you can stop worrying about toppling/ going off road on the trip and enjoy the trip better.

You can still make your journey cheap by not staying in hotels but in motels/ camping ground cabins etc. The final costs of the two ways of travelling- Car + Cabin or Campervan with Camping ground fees – come to be about the same. Choose your choice of convenience (or inconvenience)


  • Always have a navigator. It’ll make your journey more enjoyable as you won’t have to spend time guessing routes and checking maps.
  • Get a ‘Travel Radio’: The Apollo guys gave it to me free with the camper van. It is a great tool- while on the drive it tells you about all the points of interest, local history and has great selection of music as filler. It’s like having your own travel guide with you.
  • Have a printed map handy too- its easier to locate and plan your trip on a print map before you set onto your journey. Most travel agencies in NZ would be happy to provide one. 
  • There is a very smart system on the driving maps in NZ, the distances are marked out in Kilometres as well as in Driving Time. The Driving Times are important and they are very well worked out. Distances can be tricky in the rough mountainous terrain- the map with driving times are better to plan journey with. I’d recommend even have more time on hand than the driving time on map suggests as there invariably will be spots on the way where you’ll want to get down and look around or take a few pictures.
  • Also take the season in account, you’re not far from the south pole and the daylight can be extremely short-lived in winter while you can have good visibility and driving conditions up to about 10 in the night during summer.
  • Pack plenty of food and water and drinks with you. You’ll go miles and miles between finding next place where you can buy something.  
    • Just an extra observation: wines and beers are sold in supermarkets in New Zealand. In Australia they are usually separate sections but here they are just in a specialised ally in any supermarket. Convenient!
  • Try a lot of local food and drinks and crops of the season including fruit; it can’t be tastier and fresher than this. There is plenty to try here, a wide variety of local seafood from pristine environment, salmon, baitfish, local stone fruits, local venison and rabbit meat etc… also find a few smoke-houses by the road to get into some country smoked meat and fish that is absolutely exquisite.
One silly thing the hotels in Christchurch taught me: you have to lie a little!
Many motels/ hotels will pick you up from the airport and drop you back at the airport anytime if you ask them to and if it is a part of the package. 
All camper-van/ car hire agencies are happy to pick you up from the airport and drop you back there too.
Here comes the silly part: If you ask the hotel guys to drop you to the car-hire place, they’ll refuse. If you ask the car-hire guys to  pick you up from the hotels, they may refuse too! (Except if you’re living in one of the high-end hotels, they both are happy to serve you as you’re paying for that anyways)
The way out: you play double blinds with both. Tell whoever you’re with to drop you at the airport, and tell the other party to get you from the airport!
Drive carefully!