At the start of the year, I was fortunate enough to spend 6 awesome weeks travelling around New Zealand. We explored both the South and the North Island and I was blown away every single day by the beauty of it. Travelling New Zealand in a campervan is hands down the BEST way to truly see NZ, and in all honesty, it really is the only way you can really experience everything this beautiful place has to offer. Choosing a campervan gives you the ultimate freedom to fully explore, to decide your own route, and to pull over whenever you see something you want to look at (which will happen ALOT in New Zealand …plus everyone knows that road trips are awesome!
Hiring a camper isn’t cheap, so it’s really important you find the right one! After lots and lots of searching the internet, we finally found the camper for us at Rental Car Village. This is Bongo… our home and transport for 6 wonderful weeks!
There are loads of camper van hire places in New Zealand, because it’s the best way to get around, but if you rush into buying from one of the more known hire places, you might be making an expensive mistake. Rental Car Village campers were by far the cheapest we found. For 42 days, (including table, chairs and fridge), it cost us $3116 (£1782) or $74 (£42) a day. This was a fraction of the cost of all the other companies, with a similar vehicle from Jucy Campers costing $5185 (£2965) or $123 (£71) a day! You might argue that you get what you pay for, and our camper really was basic. But that’s all we needed, we went to New Zealand to explore the scenery, not to travel in a fancy camper, so we didn’t see the need to spend our budget on that! You can see in their FAQ’s here why it’s so cheap!
Our NZ road trip began in Christchurch, on the South Island, and finished in Auckland, on the North Island. We needed a hire place that would suit this journey, and preferably at no extra cost. Rental Car Village was perfect for this. They have an office in both locations, one in Christchurch city centre and the other at Auckland airport, and picking it up from one and dropping off at the other is no problem. The fact that Rental Car Village is a small family business made the process of arranging the hire really simple with a personal touch.
The Unmarked Vehicles
This is something I hadn’t thought much about before looking for a camper, but the more I researched the more it was being flagged. Many vehicle hire places cover their vehicles with logos, making you as a tourist stand out like a sore thumb. The benefit to having an unmarked camper, like our Bongo, means you are more than likely to look like a local, and not a vulnerable tourist with a van full of all their belongings and valuables!
The Awesome Feedback
We read lots of reviews before hiring and they were all so positive, that we decided to go for it!
In New Zealand, there are some insanely beautiful places to park up for the night; we slept in some awesome places, including right on the beach in the bay of islands. But you can’t just park up your camper and sleep anywhere (aka: ‘Freedom camping’). There are lots of areas that are fine to Freedom camp in, but you must check before hand to avoid a hefty fine, theres more info about that here. In addition, all campers are either ‘self contained’ or ‘non self contained’ and this has an impact on which sites you can and cannot stay in.
We found out quite quickly that having a campervan can work out to be expensive if you camp in the popular campsites or holiday parks. These often have really great facilities, which you don’t need every night, especially if you are arriving late and leaving early. They are great every so often when you really need to relax for the evening and appreciate the facilities, but are an unnecessary expense more frequently.
There are many private camp sites that are much cheaper, offering very basic facilities and the DOC (Department of Conservation) offers cheap, basic sites too. (When I say basic, many have no shower and a long drop toilet…)
We had the Rankers NZ camping app, which was brilliant for finding camp spots all over the country. As well as the location, nightly cost and main facilities, it also usefully highlighted whether you had to be ‘self contained’ or not to stay there.
New Zealand Travel Essentials
The Mazda Bongo
Campers really do come in all shapes and sizes! They range from converted cars, to full on motor homes with showers! We wanted something basic, but something that we could live in comfortably for 6 weeks and chose to hire an Economy campervan – which for us was a Mazda Bongo! The van had three seats in the front, one for me, one for Tom and one for his brother Ben! (it was cosy, but we were fine!) It slept two, so Ben bought his tent! By day the back of the van was a sofa, by night that easily converted to a double bed. Although small, there was storage space at the back and under bed. The Bongo came with a double gas cooker (you buy the gas refills), power connection with extension cable, hanging light, awning, water bottle and all the cooking equipment and essentials. We chose the economy camper, which meant that we were ‘non self contained’. This meant that we couldn’t stay in all of freedom camping spots – the app I mentioned earlier helped us with this!
There are lots of options you can choose to add when hiring your van, we opted for the table and chairs and the fridge. The table and chairs is a definite must, you do not want to have to sit inside the camper when you can be enjoying the glorious views from outside. We enjoyed eating our dinner outside on the table and chairs and it was lovely to have a few drinks under the stars at night! In hindsight, I think we would have opted for the ice box over the fridge as we often stayed in unpowered campsites, so couldn’t plug the fridge in anyway! We had sleeping bags with us, but if you don’t you can hire linen packs too. We also paid extra for additional drivers, which was really good for the longer drives! (although I only drove once, and Tom know claims that to be the scariest moment of his life…)
Alternatives to hiring a campervan
Of course hiring a campervan is not the only way to experience New Zealand. Many people who are staying for longer than a couple of months buy and sell a car or camper, which is a huge cost saver. Others use coach or bus tours like Kiwi Experience too. But for me, nothing beats the freedom of a camper!
I really couldn’t recommend experiencing New Zealand in a campervan enough! We really fell in love with the Bongo and I can honestly say I’ve never felt such a sense of freedom! I hope this has been helpful if you are thinking about hiring a campervan in New Zealand. I would love to hear about any of your experiences, and please ask any questions too!
Thanks for reading!
The Healthy Backpacker x
Booking Sites I Use
New to Airbnb? Click the link to get £30 off your first Airbnb stay. Airbnb offers a huge selection of properties at a great price. What I love most about using Airbnb is meeting people from all around the world and experiencing what it is like tor really live somewhere. If that’s not for you though, there are plenty of options to rent whole homes privately, you can just easily set that as an option in your filters.
Booking.com offers a huge range of accommodation options. Backpackers, holiday makers, travelling couples; they have something for every traveller in their huge range of hostels and hotels. It’s really easy to compare different accommodation options to find what best suits you. I found the customer reviews and ratings really helpful, so be sure to check that out when you visit the site too!
Hostel World is the perfect site for backpackers. It is super easy to find the perfect hostel for you and your experience. Simply choose the options that re important to you using the filters at the top of the site and let Hostel World find the best options for you. I found some of my favourite hostels on the East Coast of Australia here!
Whenever I am planning a trip to a new place the first thing I do is look on Sky Scanner to check the best flight prices. They find for the best deal for you, so you don’t have to spend ages searching through endless websites, leaving you with more time to plan that trip of yours!