Campervan-ing is one of the best ways to explore New Zealand, especially the South Island where there are so much to be seen and experienced. We ventured down south in the middle of the winter season for an epic experience. Armed with 8 days and 7 nights, it was crucial to map out a route that maximises the decision to rent a certified self-contained campervan. There are many spots away from the cities that allows freedom camping. Kindly note that freedom camping is only for certified self-contained vehicles (having bathroom and toilet facilities on board). You will and might get a ticket for parking a non-certified vehicle at a freedom camping site.
If you want an Airbnb experience along the way, it is also feasible. For first time users of Airbnb, you can click on my link to get NZD45 credit to be used in your future bookings, more if you start hosting (I get NZD45 if you sign up via this link too).
After months of research on the best campervan rental companies, Britz seemed to be the best in terms of price and quality. Their vans are relatively new and had the best reviews. Their marketing team offered to do away with the one way drop off fee and Queenstown location fee in exchange for some social media push. That shaved off a few hundred bucks of the total rental cost, great work Britz NZ!
We chose the Venturer plus 2+1 (typically for a couple with a kid) over the Venturer because of the diesel heating capability while the engine is off. This is really important in winter because we would have been miserable in the cold without a powered site. It was a Mercedes Sprinter that runs on diesel which is great because it is more efficient and cheaper than petrol. But in New Zealand, there is a road recovery surcharge which is at NZD6+ for every 100km travelled. We decided to go for the Liability Reduction Option at NZD40 a day, otherwise there would be a NZD7500 charged to the credit card and refunded after rental if all is good. I figured out that there would be twice exchange rate losses if we were to choose the latter because I was using a Singapore-issued credit card.
Later on in the journey, we got a cracked windscreen which could have cost thousands and up. This is another perfect illustration of how important insurance is to protect your wallet. The majority of parking spots in South Island are free except in parts of cities at the time of writing. However, there are even free parking spots in Queenstown if you do your due diligence. For example, we parked up to 5 hours for free at a holiday park. This was by buying our Queenstown gondola tickets through them at no additional cost.
- Rental cost for 8 days (Christchurch to Queenstown): NZD479
- Total liability reduction option: NZD360 (40 per day)
- Diesel expenses: NZD151.86
- LPG top up: NZD15.33
- Road recover surcharge for 1300km travelled: NZD81.60
- Powered sites for 4 nights: NZD146
- Total cost: NZD1233.79, comes to about NZD77.19 a day for each person
Literally woke up to this on the first night, freedom camping at its best.
One of the main determinants of your overall expenditure is food, we cooked majority of our meals since we went with a luxurious campervan option. Our Britz Venturer plus came with full cooking capabilities; stove, microwave and a barbecue pit. Eating out is expensive in New Zealand, but cheaper than the US, UK and even Singapore. In the US, you tip an additional 10-20% depending on the service. While in the UK, there is a discretionary service charge of 12.5% is added to the bill. A ridiculous 10% service charge and a 7% Good and Services Tax is on top of the bill in Singapore. Yet in New Zealand, you pay for whatever that is on the menu, nett and loving it. Pak’nSave is one of the cheaper supermarkets around, however certain items are cheaper at other outlets. Avoid buying certain seasonal fruits or vegetables. I bought a cucumber for a hefty price tag of NZD5, never again just to make Pokebowls in winter.
Groceries for 8 days: NZD157.50
Eating out at restaurants for 2 meals: NZD84.90
Total cost: NZD242.40, comes to about NZD15.15 a day for each person
Another big portion of your expenditure comes from the activities, especially in Queenstown – the adventure capital of the world. We are not adrenaline junkies and managed to save quite a bit here. For data plans, try to get the roaming data plan from country of origin because it works out cheaper for me. It varies between countries so there is some research work to be done.
Queenstown Gondola with 2 luge rides for 2: NZD98
Onsen Hot Baths for 2: NZD96
Ziptrek Queenstown for 2: NZD378 (sponsored)
Milford Sound cruise for 2: NZD180 (sponsored)
Total cost: NZD194, this amount totally varies according to individuals.
Overall, be prepared to spend about NZD110 a day if you are following my way of travel and budgeting. This excludes the price of air ticket to get to New Zealand and travel insurance. For such a fantastic experience (though it was bitter cold at some point) and the trip of a lifetime, it is definitely worth it.
Ziptrek Queenstown, located at the top of the gondola.
Magnificent view of Queenstown from the top of the gondola
There are so much to be seen in the South Island so we mapped out a couple of checkpoints along our Christchurch to Queenstown route. We covered about 1300km in the end due to some of the detours we made along the way. Always check for driving conditions updates, especially in winter. There were snow blizzards and road closures in the last few days of the road trip but it did not affect us too much. It is good to allow the itinerary for some slack days and travel delays. Read about my itinerary here.
Sunrise shot taken from the campervan rear windows
Duck paradise shortly after
Experience Lake Tekapo in winter, beware of black ice on pavements.
Or get really up close to the scenes in Game of Thrones, winter is definitely here in Mount Cook.
Renting a campervan comes with hands on session for sure
Can’t complain about how affordable diesel vehicles are
And you get to see postcard looking scenes
Time to plan a trip to New Zealand soon! I would recommend shoulder seasons to avoid the crowds in summer and cold in winter.