April 18, 2016

Things to know when driving an RV around New Zealand

  1. There are campgrounds everywhere, because even locals use this as a way to see New Zealand, so it's a really easy way to get around.
  2. Campgrounds are places where RVs can park on powered sites or tents can pitch on non-powered sites. Let them know which you want, and pay for the right one upon arrival.
  3. Install an app on your phone to help you find them. We found Campermate to be the best one.
  4. Read the comments on the campsite left by the users. They're often pretty frank, and can help you find what works for you. Just be careful that an angry face may have been left due to something you don't care about. So read them carefully.
  5. Once you're parked, it's best to stay that way. So if you need to get into town, be sure to choose a facility close enough to your liking.
  6. Most campgrounds have showers and kitchens. Some have paid laundry facilities, dump areas, and water refills. Still others have different amenities. Just read the icons and it'll be pretty clear.
  7. When they say they have BBQs, they are really just electric fry pans located outside.
  8. The kitchens vary in degree of how well stocked they are. Plan on bringing in your own pots, pans, and dishes. Dish soap and clean-up tools were always available.
  9. If you want to socialize, the kitchens are great places to do so. If you don't want to socialize, stay away from there, and you'll be left alone. Check them out, though, because campers who are done camping will often leave their things behind in case anyone else wants them.
  10. Top 10 Campgrounds are really family friendly. Sort of the Jellystone equivalent here. They are a little more expensive, but have jump pillows, trampolines, game rooms, rentable go-karts, and lots of families. So if this isn't your thing, avoid them.
  11. Laundry facilities are located at most campgrounds, and chances are you're parked nearby. Have NZ$2 and NZ$1 coins handy for them. It saves on the need to bring so many clothes, and you can get clean towels and/or sheets.
  12. Weekends are definitely rowdier times in the campgrounds because locals are out camping. If this isn't your thing, consider freedom camping.
  13. Freedom camping is where you just park your RV clearly off the road and camp for the night. It's pretty simple, but we found you have to find your spot at least an hour before dark or the prime spots are taken.
  14. Do a quick google search on whether freedom camping is allowed in the area you are. There's some backlash by locals that tourists are leaving the area trashy, so they are prohibiting freedom camping in certain areas.

  1. An obvious one - You're on the left side here. Always. Roundabouts - go left. Parking lots - go left. Fast lane - on the right.
  2. Most vehicles are stick shift. If you want to make learning how to drive an RV easier, get the automatic.
  3. One lane bridges are everywhere. If your sign has the larger white arrow, you get the right of way. Smaller red arrow, and you need to wait. Sometimes, on the longer bridges, there's a passing bay where you can pull over to let the oncoming vehicle go by. Train tracks down the middle? Luckily we didn't have to find out how to navigate this one!

  1. Towels were provided, but washcloths were not. Same with dish cloths and towels - bring your own.
  2. The RV is going to get dirty on the inside, so have some way to clean it up. Disinfectant wipes came in handy.
  3. Campgrounds often have dump stations and grey water refill, but don't always have fresh water refill. Make sure you know which it is so you don't drink undrinkable water.
  4. Try to avoid check out time to get this done, as there will be a line. And it takes about 15-20 minutes to do.
  5. Use the dump stations at least every third day or it'll start to smell up the place. Sometimes gas stations even have these. The phone apps will point the way.
  6. Parking lots more often than not have Camper Van parking. Look for it and park there.
  7. When you're ready for a break from driving, look for a lookout pull-off spot (because it'll be a great view), or even better, a marked walk. Every walk is clearly marked as to the distance it takes. When it says 25 minutes, they mean 25 minutes round-trip. This time is not padded, and the walk is not disability friendly.
  8. Cell service is often non-existent. Have a car GPS for directions instead of only using your phone, because the phone will be sketchy. A hard copy map doesn't hurt either.
  9. Have food delivered to your camper prior to your arrival. It helps you avoid needing groceries right away. Although if you need beer, you have to provide a copy of an ID or have the people at the RV place vouch for you.
  10. Having wi-fi in the RV was a plus, and I highly recommend it. Although, because of the sketchy cell service and pay-by-the-MB usage plan, it isn't the easiest or quickest. But it does provide a nice link when you need it.

Taking an RV around requires being in a vehicle, and more importantly, someone willing to drive the vehicle. The roads through the mountains are switchbacks, which can get tense. The beds are RV beds, so you're not in a posh hotel. And cooking and cleaning is on you. But as long as you're okay with that, it is an excellent way to see the country when and where you want. Your schedule is your own, so if something turns out less stellar than expected, or the weather isn't that great, you move on. It also allows for you to stop and get photos at lookouts and of sheep whenever. And the best part was when we were tired of driving, we got out and saw something for a bit.

It's an experience we won't forget, and I'm thankful to have had it.

1 comment:

Kim said...

I loved reading about your trip and seeing the photos! I never would have thought to do an RV trip in another country, that's brilliant.