Campervan Trip Tips for New Zealand

Mount Cook National Park, South Island, New Zealand

(March 5 to 26, 2024) How big is New Zealand? It is about two thirds size of the State of California, 71% size of Japan, or 2.7 times bigger than South Korea.

New Zealand is well organized and convenient for camping in tents or motor homes. The mountainous or steep hills, volcanic peaks, and fjords are easy to access. Camping in New Zealand is safe. There are no bears, snakes, scorpions or anything poisonous or dangerous. Its people are nature lovers.

I know three groups of friends who previously visited New Zealand. All didn’t do a campervan trip but they wished they did and hope to do it someday. Below are some quick tips for my friends that we learned from our campervan trip.

A campervan trip plan is overwhelming at first. There is lots of information on the internet but one could get indecisive by too much information. The plan doesn’t have to be 100% perfect. Start booking a campervan. Then, work for the rest (flight, ferry, details). Once a decision is made, be flexible and travel based on your situation and your heart’s desires.

Before the trip, I made a rough plan on where I want to visit. For this, I referenced “Lonely Planet Travel Guide”, “Local Travel Brochures”, and the “thl” (Tourism Holdings Limited) app. During the trip, I usually planned for two days and two nights ahead (where to visit and stay). “thl” app is very helpful for finding campsites, fuel stations, dump stations, and etc.

We think our trip was short. We wished it were two months trip instead of three weeks.

<Campervan Rental>

*All cost is approximate and based in March/April 2024, US Dollars conversion.

Company: I periodically checked the rental price on as this company allows pets with an extra cleaning fee. It is owned by “thl”. THL owns many rental companies including Maui (newer/more expensive vehicle than Britz) and mighty. It also mentioned that they match the price. One day in late February, I saw 15% off deal. It cost roughly $265 USD/night including full insurance. Paying by a credit card, I had to pay extra 2.7% credit card service fee. Three weeks rental starts one day pickup and ends one day return, making a total of 20 nights.

Pickup Location: Auckland Airport in North Island (Pickup and Return). We mainly wanted to travel South Island but the Auckland location was simpler for us because we had to pick up our cats from Whangarei, North Island. It looked like more people rent from South Island either Christchurch or Queenstown. It was a long way for us to drive from Whangarei (North of Auckland) to the Ferry terminal (Wellington). We made this drive worthwhile by staying three nights on North Island before taking the Ferry from Wellington to South Island. We visited touristic places and national parks in North Island on the way to Wellington.

Campervan Insurance: Buying full coverage insurance a good decision for us (40 USD/Day). Our campervan was a Mercedes Sprinter Model. It is wider than the cars we are used to. Some roads are narrow and tight. Having full insurance coverage, we were more relaxed. It is costly but we recommend it.

Vehicle Type: There are mainly two types of campervan vehicles: Mercedez Sprinter (Diesel Fuel) and Toyota Van (Gasoline Fuel). We rented a Mercedes Sprinter one because we needed extra space for cats (litter box and etc.) We were surprised how good the mileage was for Mercedez Sprinter. However, using Diesel Fuel, you will be paying “Road User Charge” based on the kilometers you drive (about 45USD for 1,000km), when you return your campervan.


Price differs based on the time and date and size of the vehicle. Book early for a good departure time. We paid about NZD 500 (about USD 300) for one way with 17% ferry discount for an Interislander Ferry because I joined “Top 10 Holiday Park” membership (33 USD for 2 years)


There are free campsites available in local and national parks. Pets are not allowed most of those parks. For this reason, we usually stayed at various Holiday parks, mainly “Top 10 Holiday Park” as I get 10% off for a site. We were advised by the campervan company to hook up the electricity every other day. We often ran the electric “Air Heater” at night in our campervan. Average cost per a Holiday Park is about 30 to 45 USD/night for a powered-site. They offer a kitchen and shower facility.

<What to bring>

Carry SOFT luggage and pack ONLY simple clothes and your cosmetics. The rental campervan includes a coffee pot, microwave, four sets of dishes, wine glasses, pretty much everything, even toilet paper, clothing line, dishwash soap, and etc. You buy food after you pick up the campervan. That’s it. We brought extra blankets but it wasn’t necessary. To have more space in the van, pack smart!

<Other Tips>

  • Rent a Self-Contained Campervan (self-toilet); this gives you more options for staying at remote campsites.
  • Credit Card Service Fee; In New Zealand, if you pay by a credit card, you are often charged a credit card service fee ranging 1.5 to 3% extra.
  • Fuel Purchase; we had a few occasions we couldn’t buy fuel with our US credit card at un-manned gas stations. Knowing that, I fueled whenever I saw a manned gas station before the fuel tank gets too low.
  • Simcard for Navigation and Calls; I bought a ‘2Deg’ (Two Degrees) simcard from a grocery for Wi-Fi connection and phone calls. It worked most of the locations. One camper told us “Spark” simcard offers a better coverage.
  • Bring an Electrical Conversion Plug for US/New Zealand to charge your electric devices.
  • We frequently noticed road constructions. Google map/direction with Wi-Fi connection helped us.
  • Total Trip Cost: Roughly 9,000 USD for all for both of us for three weeks (not including airfare)
  • Next time, if we do this again, I would rent a smaller vehicle (Toyota Van Type) with high top. Less room inside but easier to drive, less Ferry cost…
  • The Most Favorite Place: Milford Sound for John and Mount Cook for Kay
Glacier Water from Mount Cook, South Island, New Zealand (*Photo by Brian Bezalel/Heli Hike Guide/Photographer)
View from Helicopter, Mount Cook, South Island, New Zealand (*Photo by Brian Bezalel/Heli Hike Guide/Photographer)
Milford Sound in the Rain, South Island, New Zealand
Haka Fall Lookout, North Island, New Zealand
Tongarito National Park, North Island, New Zealand
Pancake Rocks, Paparoa National Park, South Island, New Zealand
Rotorua Volcanic Park, North Island, New Zealand
Green Lake, Rotorua Volcanic Park, North Island, New Zealand
Rotorua Volcanic Park, North Island, New Zealand
Queenstown View from Gondola Ride, South Island, New Zealand
The Church Brew Pub, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand
One of “Cook Strait Ferries”, New Zealand
Traffic Jam at Josef Franz, South Island, New Zealand
Our Home at Te Anua Top 10 Holiday Park Campsite, South Island, New Zealand
“Glentanner High Country Heli Hike” (, Mount Cook, South Island, New Zealand
Rabbit Poison on Glentanner High Country Trail (Private Land), South Island, New Zealand

Posts By Month