Escape Safe to travel in NZ

Embarking on the ultimate adventure in New Zealand? Hiring a campervan is the perfect way to experience our beautiful country on a budget.

But there are a few important things to consider before you book your trip of a lifetime, so we put this guide together to help you evaluate your options and prepare for #VanLife in NZ.

We’ll cover camping facilities, weather, and hidden costs besides campervan hiring prices.

Getting the boring stuff like driver licensing sorted in advance means you make the most of your holiday once you land. So, let’s jump right in.

Choose The Right Campervan For Your Needs

Choosing the right campervan ultimately comes down to your budget, your confidence driving a hefty vehicle, and your comfort levels with travelling a bit on the rugged side.

Freedom Camping?

Freedom camping is the ultimate #VanLife experience, where you stay overnight on public land, without facilities like toilets or showers, and it’s typically free.

Freedom camping allows you to experience some of the most beautiful spots in the country – imagine waking up next to pumping surf or right next to a hiking trail!

However, it comes with responsibilities. Because of the lack of facilities, you’re expected to:

  • Dispose of rubbish properly, use public toilets or those in their vehicles, and utilise recycling facilities
  • Empty your waste at designated stations
  • Be aware of local rules, which vary by council or Department of Conservation land
  • Plan ahead and carry ample supplies

Apps like CamperMate and Rankers Camping NZ can help locate campsites and amenities.

Our self-contained vans mean you can take advantage of the 500 freedom camping spots in New Zealand.

But, if you’re nervous about freedom camping, don’t worry – you can stay at the many holiday parks, DOC campsites, and farmstays with the necessary facilities.

Comfortable Driving A Large Campervan?

If you’ve never driven a large vehicle before, hiring a motorhome in an unfamiliar country might be daunting, especially given New Zealand’s narrow, windy roads!

Escape Rentals self-contained campervans are under 5m long, so they’re large enough to accommodate your adventure, but nimble enough to drive and park in regular parking spaces.

Using A Chemical Toilet?

It’s against the law to go to the toilet in the bush in New Zealand, and self-contained campervans must have the correct toilet installed.

When you’re hiring a self-contained campervan in New Zealand, you will have two options for going to the toilet:

  • Relying on public toilets and campsites
  • Using the chemical toilet in your campervan

A chemical toilet is a type of toilet that collects human waste in a holding tank, using chemicals to minimise odours.

When you hire a self-contained campervan from Escape Rentals, it will come with a portable chemical toilet.

Thankfully, though, the vast majority of New Zealand towns have free public toilets available, so you don’t have to use your chemical toilet all the time.

Visiting During Wintertime?

June to August is winter in NZ – and it can be even colder than expected, so make sure you know what to pack for your trip.

Temperatures can fall as low as -10 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) on the South Island at this time of year, and even on the relatively mild North Island, they can still drop below 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).

If you are interested in hiring a campervan in New Zealand during the colder months, we suggest looking for one with a heater. Every Escape Rentals campervan comes with a mains-powered heater.

Hire Your Campervan From a Reputable NZ Company

If you’re looking at a particular company that offers campervan hire in Auckland, Christchurch, or elsewhere in NZ, and they offer the following, they are likely to be a great choice:

  • Decades of experience in campervan hire in NZ
  • Low and transparent pricing, with no hidden costs
  • A great reputation with many positive reviews and a high average rating
  • Fast, responsive communication

Align your itinerary with camping options

Next, consider the activities and sites you want to explore! Start charting your route and the places in NZ you want to stay in, to make sure there is availability on your trip.

Check Freedom Camping Facilities

Do your research on the facilities you’re considering to ensure you stay on the right side of the rules.

Freedom camping is allowed on a significant proportion of DOC-managed public conservation land. However, there are some exceptions and special conditions to bear in mind.

Breaching a freedom camping prohibition or restriction could land you a fine of at least $400. So, it’s extremely important to ensure you don’t camp in the wrong place and check the signs for more information when parking your campervan.

Remember that these rules exist for a reason! New Zealanders want to welcome travellers, but poor behaviour – such as littering, noise, incorrect parking, or general unfriendliness – ruins it for everyone.

Check Campground Availability

During the peak summer months, many of the most obvious campgrounds will be fully booked quickly. So, you should be enquiring as soon as you know you will be interested in a particular site.

Book Any Necessary Domestic Flights or Ferry Crossings

You may need to book a flight within NZ if you are picking up the campervan somewhere different from where you land in the country.

With depots in Auckland and Christchurch, Escape Rentals is well-positioned for international flight passengers and drop-offs in the North and South Islands.

If you intend to explore the North and South Islands, you should also book your ferry to cross the Cook Strait in advance.

Book 6 Months Ahead (At Least!)

This is a good rule of thumb, especially during the summer months of December to January.

Winter is quieter, but it always pays to be well-prepared!

Choose The Best Insurance Option

Insurance can be complicated to get to grips with when hiring a campervan in New Zealand.

Here at Escape Rentals, we include standard insurance in our daily rental rate. But if an accident happens, customers pay an excess payment. The insurance excess and potential liability would be $4,000 in such circumstances.

For this reason, you might seek to reduce your maximum liability, potentially down to zero, by taking “excess waiver insurance”.

The insurance options with Escape Rentals can be summarised as:

  • Option A: no reduction in liability so that you could be responsible for costs up to a maximum of $3,000 – $4,000
  • Option B: reduces maximum liability to $1,500
  • Option C: reduces maximum liability to $0

What sets us apart is that you’ve covered on unsealed roads. (This only applies to Option “C” insurance)

Learn more about Escape Rentals’ insurance policies.

Check Your Driver’s Licence is Acceptable in NZ

It’s essential to have a valid driver’s licence if you’re hiring a campervan in New Zealand.

Most NZ campervan hire companies operate under the policy that if you have a valid driver’s licence in English from your home country, this will be fine for hiring and driving a campervan in NZ.

If your driver’s licence from your home country isn’t in English, you must have it translated.

This translation must be done by the organisation that authorised the licence in your home country, or an NZ Transport Agency-authorised translator, consulate, or embassy.

Please note that you must possess a full driver’s licence and present both your national licence and a copy of the international licence at the time of pick up.

Consider Hidden Additional Costs of Hiring a Campervan in NZ

The following are indicative estimates of how much you might end up spending on other essentials during your adventure in New Zealand:

  • Cost of fuel: Fuel prices in New Zealand vary a lot depending on where you are
  • Distance limits: some campervan hire companies limit the number of kilometres the renter can travel per day and per trip. Costs vary depending on the company. Escape Rentals doesn’t set any kilometre limits at all!
  • Toll roads: Average $5.40 per toll road in a campervan.
  • Cook Strait Ferry: Around $300 per trip in a campervan, depending on peak times and which carrier you choose.
  • Additional items: These will vary depending on the company from which you hire your campervan. Optional accessories that hirers can use from Escape Rentals include a picnic table and a portable BBQ/hotplate.

Familiarise Yourself With NZ Road Rules and Driving Conditions

NZ road rules probably differ from what you’re used to!

Here’s a basic breakdown of how driving in New Zealand is different compared to countries in other continents:

AspectNew ZealandEuropeAsiaAmerica
Driving SideLeftMostly RightMostly RightRight
RoundaboutsCommonCommonLess CommonCommon
Speed LimitsGenerally lowerVariedVariedVaried
Drink DrivingStrict penaltiesStrict penaltiesVariesStrict penalties
Cell Phone UsageIllegal while drivingVariesVariesVaries
Yellow Line OvertakingProhibitedVariesVariesAllowed in certain conditions
SignpostingStandard international symbols, km distancesStandard symbols, kmVariable symbols, kmStandard symbols, miles

While driving in NZ is an incredible way to see stunning landscapes, there are often one-way roads and signs can be difficult to read. Take care driving, especially in icy, wet, and nighttime conditions!

At Escape Rentals, we make sure customers embark on their adventure feeling confident about our roads. We’ll take the time to walk you through our road rules and also provide a guidebook to help you.

Most Importantly, Enjoy the Adventure!

Following the above, hiring a campervan in New Zealand advice will help ensure you get everything sorted in advance.

If you do still encounter any issues while you are on the road in New Zealand, Kiwis are very friendly, and will usually be more than happy to help if you politely ask.

Check out our Facebook and Instagram pages to see other travellers enjoying their escape to New Zealand.

Ready To Escape To New Zealand?

The more you know about hiring a campervan in New Zealand, the better placed you will be to enjoy your NZ adventure.

Book a campervan with Escape Rentals today to get your NZ break started, or chat with our friendly team for advice and answers to any questions.