April 2017 Tips for traveling in New Zealand with a campervan

Here are some tips that I have found that will be useful for anyone traveling in New Zealand for longer than 2 weeks

  • trademe.co.nz is the site to sell/buy almost anything, including campervans. Just remember that you need a new zealand address to sell anything, and a new zealand address to reply to any listed add. (Any address will do, like a AirBnB or a backpackers hotel). Therefore it pays to put your email and phone number in the ad text itself when you are selling something.
  • If you travel a longer period, say over a month, it pays to buy a vehicle and then sell it again at the end of the stay instead of renting one. If you are going to be staying long, and you are say over 30, you will appreciate the possibility of standing upright in the van, or of cooking inside. The trick is to buy low and sell high 😉 As the camping seasons progress towards April, it becomes harder to sell the vehicle because there is less demand. The season starts around december.
  • If possible, get a self contained vehicle. This allows you to freedom camp, and check in to a holiday camp when you deem it necessary (showers!). We found that almost nobody with a small campervan uses the portable toilets such as these:Image result for self contained toilets
  • but instead finds a free campsite with a toilet.  These sites are almost always for self contained vehicles only.
  • When you buy a used vehicle, the buyer can buy it on condition of an inspection. This is a very good idea, even if it costs 159NZD at AA, because it will be a very strong bargaining tool. I compare it with going with an 80 year old to the doctor for a complete evaluation: Hm, the knees are weak and near the end of their functional lifetime, the hip needs replacement, the eyesight is only  50%, …. The final sale price will reflect some of these problems, or have them repaired by the seller. Or you may not buy the car at all. (Did I report that we did not do an inspection when we bought Burnie, but had one done when we sold him?)
  • The north island is warmer than the south island. So depending on the time of year, you may explore first the North or the south island. If you only have a limited time, then I prefer the scenery of the south island. Queenstown is an ideal basis for exploring the majority of sights to see in the south island, but of course it is better to just drive around and do all the sights…
  • Get the free campermate app Image result for campermate app available for iphone and android. It lists all the campsites, point of interest and much much more. Read the comments left by the users, it clarifies a lot and gives up- to-date info. I have been told that there is a similar app from the nzmca.  The disadvantage is that everyone with the app will tend to visit the same places, but that does not weigh against the wealth of information that is inside the app, and all of it offline accessible.
  • Get a good prepaid phone data plan. These tend to fluctuate in value, we had one from The warehouse Mobile that got us up to 3 Gigabyte per month for 12 NZD, but that was no longer available towards the end of our stay. In general, Spark and The Warehouse Mobile have good deals. Spark has wifi booths in many places (they are indicated in the CamperMate app) where you can download 1Gb/day for free.
  • Use the libraries as a wifi and recharging station. They are open for extended periods, are free and the people are very helpful.
  • In the south island, here  is the best kept secret for saving money: get petrol or diesel at the McKeown stations. They are unmanned credit card stations, but their diesel was 1.009 dollar, when the caltex next door was 1,309 NZD! Many kiwi’s do not know about this, don’t ask me why. They have an app also that works offline. They are affiliated with Caltex, but forget those, they are the same price as everybody else, and play the “today 6 cents off” if you have a AA card (see my previous blog rant about this) . The app is only available in the Apple NZ store  but since it does not cost anything, there is a way to become a member of the NZ store without a NZ credit card, here is how. There are enough McKeown gasstations in the south island that you can usually find one near to where you are. There are some non covered areas, and for that you will need to look at the next tip.
  • Now that you are a member of the NZ app store, you need to download another necessary item: Gaspy (Gas-Spy). It allows you to search for the cheapest gas station in a radius around you. It is necessary in the North island where there are no McKeowns. This app does not work offline, so you need mobile data.
  • If you cross the channel between the North and South island with your van, it may pay to get a card from one of the two camper places: Top 10 Holiday Parks, or Kiwi Holiday parks. They each are good for 10% off on the ferry. For Top 10 parks, you get 10% off your stay at the park, extra wifi and price reductions at local businesses. It costs 49 NZD. The Kiwi holiday park card is 30NZD and gives similar discounts. If you stay every 3 to 4 days in a holiday park like we did, either card pays for itself. Also both cards are valid for two years and are also accepted in Australia by associated members. More here and  here  
  • Get the customer cards to save on buying food in the foodstores. The big ones are Countdown, New World, Pak ’n Save (no card) and then the smaller Four Square (no card).  They have all incredible opening hours, usually till 9pm or later, every day! They all still throw plastic bags at you like the is not enough plastic in the world already, except Pak ’n Save.

    Yes, there is such a place as Balclutha
  • A tip about avoiding driving on the wrong side of the road, the reason for up to 30% of accidents in NZ: The driver always sits closest to the middle of the road. I found that once you are on your way (on the correct side of the road), there are few opportunities to make mistakes. There are plenty of signs that help you conquer difficult situations such as roundabouts. The problem is starting off correct after a stop.
  • Learn to understand how Kiwi’s drive. They drive quite different from European drivers. For example, they do not want to overtake you unless they have a clear line of sight of about a kilometer. Even if you slow down to like 40, with nobody coming from the opposite direction, some will still stay behind you. Luckily there are many passing lanes where the road goes from 2 to 3 lanes for a kilometer or so. In contrast, the trucks always drive at their limit which is 90km/hour no matter what the conditions are. They are not hesitant to overtake.
  • Be carefull with single lane bridges, they occur frequently even on relatively busy highways:
  • (Ilse is filming, but at the end is so occupied with the encounter that we do not get the subject on video. I think he was European because he insisted that we parked on the right hand side of the road to let him pass….)

1 thought on “April 2017 Tips for traveling in New Zealand with a campervan

  1. Thanks for sharing! Indeed very useful tips.. maar ook heel interressante wist-je-datjes.

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