Saturday, December 04, 2010

J&K's New Zealand Tips


We rented a campervan from Spaceships. Essentially it was an old mini van converted into a vehicle in which two people can camp. We chose Spaceships over the competitors because of the optional canvas which opened up the boot. We didn't use it even once, though, not because we didn't have opportunity. We had no trouble with their customer service. The roundabout check was quite informal. They weren't concerned with small dings, chips and scratches.

There were, of course, many other competitors vying for market share. While we can't recommend them, the names are listed and you can check the websites to see their own prices and offerings:

Wicked; Maui; Britz; Hippy Camper; Road Runner Rentals; Happy Campers (different from Hippy Camper); Backpacker; Jucy; Apollo.


Gas/petrol was expensive in NZ while we were there. We paid from $1.84/L to $2.01/L. Our particular van was not fuel efficient. We rented our van for 35 days
and spent about $1,100 on fuel...way more than what we expected. Be
prepared. Diesel was cheaper than petrol.

British Petroleum (BP), the company everyone loves to hate these days, appears to be recovering lost potential revenue from their oil spill by charging between 3 to 5 cents more per litre than every other gas station, even when the competitor was right across the street. Sometimes it was the only fuel station in town and we needed fuel, but we were most happy to shun its products and services as often as we could.


Most of the time we stayed at designated camping sites maintained by the Department of Conservation (DOC). All the sites were reasonably well maintained and cost around $7 per person per night. They always had toilets, and sometimes had showers, cooking kitchens and drinking water.

A local gave us the information that all of NZ allows for free camping or 'freedom camping' off of private land and outside of cities so long as there aren't signs saying otherwise. HOWEVER, some freedom campers over the years had been quite irresponsible and abused what was offered to them and that began a chain of municipal bylaws deeming freedom camping illegal and fine-able in their respective areas. Not all municipalities have done this, but you do need to find out in each town you wander into. Above all, be responsible campers, though.

Tourist Information

There are 'i-sites' all around NZ. Almost always they are staffed by very friend and very helpful kiwis.

Driving Conditions

You don't need to spend money on a road map of NZ. There are many good driving maps (Jason's maps) available for free from any i-site. They will get you from A to B, show you a few pretty stops, and also make sure you know both the tourist roads and the main, less windy ones. Don't buy a road map unless you want more information than the average driver. Even then paying money won't guarantee you more detail than the free maps...that's experience talking.

Don't underestimate driving times. There are many dirt roads and they are as bent as a french horn. It is not uncommon to only be able to travel 100kms in 4 hours.


NZ has a vibrant couchsurfing community. If you have any sort of question about NZ, why don't you ask a local? Your socks (if you even wear them here) will be blown off by how incredibly friendly kiwis are.

Blackflies (or sandflies)

We didn't see even one of these pests in the north island. When we arrived on the west coast of the south island, though, we had to chew our way through them. They made camping 100% thoroughly unenjoyable. They were awful. You might consider not camping while on this coast (it is absolutely unmissable: it is gorgeous) if you have as small of a camper as ours and without power. It got stuffy without the windows open.


We arrived in NZ with the misconception that we would be able to go into every town and find a cafe in which we could buy a tea and sit with our laptop on the cafe`s wireless signal. Except outside of the few major towns, these cafe`s don`t exist. Internet was largely pricey, too ($4 to $5 per hour). The secret though? Public libraries. Many (although not all) have free wireless connection for you to call home, check emails, send couchsurfing requests, etc).


This is a great service. You can call home (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) for very cheap. Monthly plans are offered per how many minutes you plan to use each month. We bought the cheapest plan (about $1.50 per month) and found out we should have bought a plan with more time (which would have cost about $2/month). We don't call home often or even for that long and we used up 75 minutes in one month very quickly. With these plans, you can call landline telephones from your computer! Skype to Skype (computer to computer) calls are free and unlimited!

No comments: