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New Zealand by Campervan | Expert
Travel Tips

It is increasingly popular to travel New Zealand by Campervan Rental.  New Zealand is an incredible place and what better way to see it than from a campervan?  If you’re ready to Vanlife New Zealand, check out these travel tips below!

Campervan New Zealand

Campervan Rental companies offer an affordable, fun, and flexible way to travel for people who want to experience all of the outdoor opportunities that New Zealand has to offer. In March 2019, we spent 3 weeks traveling New Zealand in a campervan rental and had an amazing time! We also learned a lot along the way.  These travel hacks will help you navigate renting a campervan, traveling, and camping in a foreign country!

Check out our 21 day itinerary for guidance on the best things to do while you’re there!  Side note about planning your itinerary; New Zealand is a deceivingly big country and three weeks isn’t nearly long enough to see everything. If you have the ability to spend more time there, you definitely should. If you only have 3 weeks, that’s great! You’ll get to see most of the highlights, just prepare to move quickly and drive a lot. If you like to drive less, skip the North Island altogether.  Then you can spend more quality time experiencing the unique features on the South Island.


Campervan Rental New Zealand

As I mentioned, campervan rentals are increasingly common in New Zealand, and there are a lot of rental companies to choose from. Thankfully, since there are so many people traveling this way, there are a lot of reviews online for each company. Do you research on what each company offers and make your decision based on reviews and your budget.  When you’re shopping for your campervan rental, look out for the following items.


Pay attention to what type of insurance is included in the price of the campervan rental.  Some of the premium companies require you to pay for full coverage, while others tack it on later.  When comparing prices, compare the grand total, with campervan rental, accessories, and insurance.  Pay for the full coverage insurance.  The cost of not having it in the event of an accident will far outweigh the cost of the insurance itself.  Just think: you're driving in a foreign country on the opposite side of the road!  Accidents can (and do) happen everyday with tourists.  

In addition to campervan rental insurance, make sure to look for travel insurance as well.  You can use the quote tool on our Travel Insurance page to get started!


You can get discounts from some rental companies if you drive the van from the South Island up to the North Island.  Because it is more common for tourists to travel from North to South, campervan rental companies have to shuttle vans back up to the North Island.  We didn’t know about this until we’d already planned our trip, so our 3 week itinerary is based on going the more popular direction from North to South.  Consider going the opposite direction if you’d like to save some cash on your rental.  Some rental companies were offering discounts of between $200-$300 to drive the opposite way.


If you’re going to utilize the free Freedom Camping sites that are scattered throughout New Zealand, you will need a Self-Contained campervan.  This means that your campervan is equipped for dry camping, including its own water, propane, and toilet.  When comparing rentals, the campervan rental company will have cheaper options available, but they will not be fully Self-Contained.  Each Self-Contained campervan has a sticker and registration number that campervan companies renew annually.  Our sticker was inspected and logged by city council staff at most of the Freedom Camping locations that we stayed in.  These locations typically have a restroom, and we didn’t use the toilet in the van once.  But you have to be equipped as Self-Contained just to camp there.  We do recommend trying to camp at the Freedom Camping locations!



In New Zealand doesn’t have accessible public land like we have in the United States.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to find places to sleep that are legal and free outside of the Freedom Camping locations.  When you pickup your campervan rental, the company will provide you with driving maps as well as maps that mark the locations of campgrounds and Freedom Camping zones.

Campgrounds tend to be between $25-45 per night, depending on the services they provide.  If you’re trying to vacation on the cheap (like us!), you need to seek Freedom Camp locations.  Freedom Camping zones have limited capacity and spots are taken on a first-come-first-serve basis. Arrive at these areas by late afternoon or early evening, especially if there aren’t very many spots allocated for campers (some had as few as 3-5 spots, whereas others had 20-30).

In addition to your paper maps, download the Camper Mate app on your smartphone.  This app has tons of information about campgrounds and Freedom Camping areas, including whether or not there are bathrooms, how many spots there are, etc.  Side note about your phone:  buy a SIM card for your phone at the airport when you land.  You can try to use your phone on wifi only, but that only works if you stay in cities.  It will make your life much easier as you travel throughout the country. 




 The day you pick up your campervan rental, pick up your rental campervan as soon as the office opens.  The process of watching instructional videos, going through paperwork, and inspecting the campervan will take 1-2 hours, depending on the company.  Customers tend to get queued up, and the later in the day you get there, the longer you have to wait before you can start the process.

There are a lot of resources online to help you plan your trip, and there is no shortage of things to do in New Zealand.  Do A TON of research before you go so that you have a good idea of what you want to see, how much it will cost, and where everything is located.  Keep in mind that New Zealand is BIG.  

Map a few things out before you go so that you have idea of how much driving you’re in for.  We didn’t realize how far apart everything is and ended up driving much more than expected!  You don’t need to plan the whole itinerary, leave yourself some room to be flexible so that you can make on-the-fly decisions while your road-tripping.  If you need some guidance, check out our 21-day New Zealand itinerary.

You may need some suggestions for accessories that make vanlife a breeze.  If so, see our blog that features the stuff we can’t live without!

Don’t forget to shop for Travel Insurance before you go!  Traveling presents all kinds of risks that you can be prepared for with travel insurance.

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Lastly: Get ready to HAVE FUN!  

New Zealand is an amazing place and you’ll enjoy it no matter what.  Get ready for the trip of a lifetime!

2 Comments on “New Zealand by Campervan – Expert Travel Tips”

  1. Hi Jessica,

    I am in love with your website and I respect what you guys do!
    I have never traveld with a campervan but let’s say that it’s a dream of mine that I want to accomplish one day.
    New Zealand is a magic destination for hikers and backpackers and this article proves it.
    Thanks for the valuable insights.

    • Hi Asen, thank you so much for reading along! New Zealand really is an amazing place, I am glad to hear you are hoping to go there one day. I encourage everyone we talk to about it to go. The coolest thing about New Zealand is the variety of landscapes. You can go from the beach to a glacier in a day, how crazy is that?!

      Jess & Greg