Campervan New Zealand

Derik and I spent the first three weeks living in New Zealand living in a campervan. Two months prior we made the quick decision to move continents, and we didn’t give ourselves much time to research areas for general living, jobs, and housing. We didn’t have a good feeling about just picking a random city to live in, and didn’t want to feel rushed finding a job and a house. Our only obvious solution was to rent a campervan and drive around the country until we found a city that just screamed ‘us.’ We couldn’t be happier with our decision to move to New Zealand so quickly, as well as taking that (almost)month to road trip around the entire country. What a gorgeous trip that was!

Now that we’ve settled down and are starting to build a daily routine, I’m beginning to dissect all the parts of moving to this gorgeous country. Last week we talked about getting a work-holiday visa, this week we’re going to talk about one of the #1 pastimes in New Zealand: road-tripping in a campervan.

What is a campervan? 

A campervan is exactly what it sounds like- a van renovated to live in (get that RV/camper picture out of your head. It’s definitely not an RV). Some campervans have toilets, kitchen sets, and full sized beds, some do not. It really just depends on what size, make, and model you choose! Derik and I went with one of the bigger sizes, just because we brought along almost everything we owned from Korea. I wrote down a few thoughts on living in our particular campervan here.

Campervan New Zealand Campervan New Zealand

Which campervan company should I choose?

It’s difficult, especially living out-of-country to figure out what rental agencies are reputable, and which ones have the best deals. We rented our campervan through Apollo because they had a great winter sale: buy 7 days of a rental, get 2 days free. Just be aware that Apollo has a lot of hidden fees they don’t tell you about at the initial booking (more on that in a minute). Our rental ended up costing twice as much as we thought it would, which can definitely through a huge wrench in your travel plans if you’re on a strict budget!

Another popular rental choice is Jucy Rentals. If you’re wanting to stick out in a crowd, nothing will do that better than your bright green and purple van. Jucy doesn’t have many big vans, but they do offer an affordable choice for those that are on a strict budget! I don’t want to write too much about Jucy since I haven’t personally rented through them yet. They appear to be a great rental agency to work with! One of their major perks this Winter season? Free ski passes! How’s that for saving money?

What do I need to rent a campervan?

-A driver’s license, and (preferably) an International Driver’s Permit. You can legally drive around New Zealand for an entire year with your current country’s driver’s license or the International Driver’s Permit (required if your DL is in a language other than English). How cool is that? On a side note, before you drive be sure you read up on NZ road laws. The rules of the road can be quite different than what you’re used to back home!

-Passport. If you’re from out of country, odds are if you’re acquiring something of substantial worth to rent, employees are going to want to copy your passport. Don’t ever let a company keep  your passport for the duration of a rental (this is mainly practiced in places like Thailand and Vietnam), but a copy is ok. Just remember they’re trusting you with a very expensive item, they want to make sure they can keep tabs on you somehow!

-A credit card. Although not required, it is recommended you bring your credit card to rent a campervan. Some people don’t have a card so they bring cash. The downpayment/security deposit will be twice (if not 5x more) than your rental rate, so be prepared for that. If you chose the basic rental insurance, Apollo requires a $5,000 security bond on your card (or cash). That’s hefty! If you choose full insurance they require only about $2,000.  Scams I tell you, they’ll always do the lower price if you’re paying more per day. Sigh.

Costs to be aware of? 

Diesel Tax- It’s calculated per kilometer, and with the extensive milage we’d be covering over three weeks, our tax was in the hundreds of dollars. Why were we not told of this before we reserved/pre-paid for our rental vehicle? However if you were to purchase full coverage (All inclusive package) with a rental agency,  the milage is free so you don’t have to pay the Diesel Tax. We went ahead and changed our plan from the standard coverage to the full just because of the bond and the Diesel Tax.

Bond-We already talked about this, but be prepared for the hefty bond you have to pay to get the campervan rental! I don’t want to discourage you from renting a van and hitting the roads, but I do think it’s important to let you know you’ll have to pay a couple thousand dollars down (which you get back obviously) right away!

Ferry Fees- We all know ferries can be expensive. Especially when taking a 3 hour trip to another island. When you add a gigantic van into the mix, the price of a ferry ticket can go up exponentially! We had to pay a few extra fees for our campervan because it was bigger than a normal sized road van (4 meters), and was classified into the ‘work van size’ (6.7 meters) category. Be prepared to pay $170-315 to get your campervan to the other island! Check out Bluebridge Cook Strait Ferry and Interislander Ferry anywhere from 35+ days in advance to get the best deals! I don’t suggest waiting until 4 days before like we did. #fail

Roadside Assistance- The rental agencies will tell you this is a must-get for New Zealand. They’re not kidding. The windshield in our van was chipped twice with rocks, something we would have had to pay $300-400 dollars to replace if we didn’t have the roadside assistance.

We also had to get our campervan towed to higher ground after getting it stuck in the mud at a crappy campground. The sad thing? The campground manager said it was our fault our van sunk overnight, even though she told us it was the only place we could park overnight. We had parked in the dark and had no idea it had rained the night before. Moral of the story: if you pull up to a campground and the manager seems rude and barely tells you hi, leave. She also wanted to charge us $500 bucks to tow it out. Thank goodness for roadside assistance, we were able to have it towed out for free 20 minutes later.

Ideally, how long should I look at renting/road-tripping through New Zealand?

If you’re trying to visit both islands, 1-2 weeks will be almost impossible. There are so many gorgeous places to visit in New Zealand, you’ll be constantly driving and only experiencing these sights a couple hours a day! Even at three weeks we were super rushed and missed the entire east side of the North Island. To view the whole country on a fast paced timeline, give yourself at least a month! Want to enjoy more? A month and a half.

Campervan New Zealand

Freedom camping, budget camping, or quality RV parks?

Freedom camping is camping basically out in the middle of nowhere for free (no electricity, water, or bathrooms btw). In other countries it can be considered ‘camp wherever you want to,’ but in New Zealand freedom camping is highly regulated, and you’re only allowed to freedom camp in designated areas. Why? People were basically coming into this gorgeous ecofriendly country and trashing it up. Now, the rest of us  responsible folk aren’t allowed to camp wherever we want to due to the irresponsibility of those who have come before. Doesn’t matter though, there are so many locations to camp, park your campervan or RV, you’ll never have to look too far.

On a strict budget? With a little help you can find nice budget camping/RV sites to stay at for $10-25 dollars a night. Most of these do not include power or wifi. Some have showers, but you usually have to pay per minute. We spent a lot of time in budget campgrounds, and would splurge every few days on a nicer, quality RV park. It’s hard to find these budget locations on a map, so be sure to download CamperMate and use their in-app location services to find the budget campground (color0coded in blue) nearest you! CamperMate also helps you find freedom campgrounds (color-coded green), quality campgrounds (color-coded purple), gas stops, restaurants, free wifi, and things to do! Our favorite travel NZ resource!

While road-tripping around we discovered the Top 10 Holiday Parks and Kiwi Holiday Parks were some of the best and most luxurious to stay at! We actually paid for the Top 10 membership because we were so impressed with their campground parks throughout the country. With that membership we get 10% off all Top 10 Holiday Parks, as well as a bunch of other discounts including transportation, tours, and lodging! Both of these holiday park chains offer wifi, free showers, restaurants on the campground, clean facilities, full kitchens, power sites, and are usually near gorgeous, scenic locations! Holiday parks are usually a bit more expensive:  $35-65 dollars per night, with an average daily rate of $45.

What were your favorite road trip locations?

This is so difficult because you almost have to experience each part to see how epic New Zealand is as a whole!


The Northland gives you a 90 mile beach, enormous sand dunes, the Bay of Islands, and gorgeous (warm) weather.

Sand Dunes, Northland, New Zealand Paihia, New Zealand

The Coromandel boasts of hot water beaches, Cathedral Cove, and the Karangahake Gorge.

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

As we were driving from the Coromandel to the south, it was basically required that we had to take a pitstop in Matamata, otherwise more famously known as the location of Hobbiton. Real middle earth full of rolling hills, blue skies, sheep, and yes, Hobbit holes.

Hobbiton, New Zealand

The heart of the North Island is home to Rotorua and Taupo’s, in which you can soak the day away at the thermal spas and hot pools. We also loved hiking around the area to view the geothermal landscapes: geysers, waterfalls, mud pools!

We initially thought we were going to live in Wellington and worked our way down there from Taupo.  Once we arrived, we fell in love with the gorgeous windy city, with its’ bustling farmer’s markets, busy harbor, and amazing shopping streets! However, we arrived about 9 days into our journey and were ready to try out the South Island to see what it had to offer. The South sucked us in, and I’m afraid Wellington (although still one of my favorite stops) will only be a travel destination for us, not a place where we will ever live.

Wellington New Zealand Wellington New Zealand Wellington, New Zealand

(speeding things along here)


The first town we fell in love with was beachy, quiet town of Nelson. I don’t know if it was the absolutely perfect weather we had there, watching the surfers have fun in the waves all day, or the amazing street cart food, but we just loved Nelson. We almost decided to stay there, but jobs and housing weren’t readily available this time of year. Looking back on it, I’m glad we continued on.

The most epic and picturesque location in New Zealand is handsdown Queenstown. A town surrounded by epic mountainscapes, right on a bay of gorgeous blue water, filled to the brim with adventure loving people, Queenstown is just buzzing with excitement 24-7.  There is a never-ending list of things to do in Queenstown, so saying you’re bored would never be an option. Food and housing is remarkably more expensive here than any other place we looked at in NZ, so we moved on. I can see countless trips over to Queenstown in the next year. We’ve already visited twice and it’s only been two months.

Queenstown, New Zealand

Wanting a quieter weekend filled with hiking around in nature, Derik and I visited the very southern tip of New Zealand in a location known as one of the prettiest in the country: The Catlins. Waterfalls, rainforest, beaches, rivers, cliffs, lighthouses, penguins, seals, and more? This little pin-on-the-map has it all. Oh, and the stars are gorgeous.

Nugget Point, The Catlins, New Zealand The Catlins, New Zealand The Catlins, New Zealand

Dunedin, the place we call home. A university city chalk full of history. I could walk around for hours taking pictures of the gorgeous architecture. Once I’m finished it’s always a good idea to grab a beer at one of the local pubs. Dunedin is home and nesting grounds to the Royal Albatross. Nothing like seeing a bird with a 9 foot wingspan. If that little tidbit of bird news wasn’t enough for you, rare Yellow Eyed penguins  and Little Blue penguins also live in the area! Loads of white sand beaches (with great surfing), hiking trails, and a cloud forest gives you plenty to do while hanging out in Dunedin.

Sandfly Bay, Dunedin, New Zealand Sandfly Bay, Dunedin, New Zealand

If you could make another trip soon, what would you do differently?

Not pack so much! Even though Derik and I consolidated everything we owned into two large 50lb military bags, two backpacks, and two carry-ons, it was still way to much stuff to have in a campervan. It’s funny how we thought we didn’t have a lot of stuff until it couldn’t fit in the 4 drawers we were provided and we had to look at it ‘not put away’ for the next 20 days. It was horrible. Next time, only ONE large bag should do it. Do we really need all those clothes anyway?

I should have taken more pictures. I thought I took a ton, but looking back on them, I guess I didn’t take as much as I thought! Oh well, I guess that just means we’ll have to go on another trip someday soon. :)

A Case for Travel Partners

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but lately in the travel blogging world, solo travel empowerment posts, explaining the multiple benefits of traveling alone, are being published almost daily. I’m all for traveling alone, and finding independence, but not all of us enjoy traveling alone. Talk about how awesome, liberating, life-changing it can be, but you’re most likely not going to convince me that solo travel is better than traveling with others. I’ve experienced traveling alone in South America in my younger days, and I wasn’t a big fan.

Here’s the deal. I’m a social butterfly. In fact, my love language is quality time; I enjoy people in my life! Traveling alone doesn’t necessarily empower me, but makes me wish I had someone there to experience it with me. This may be one of the many reasons why I’m married my best friend and travel partner 4 years ago.

To say there is only one right way to travel is completely dumb. It’s like saying chocolate ice-cream is better than vanilla- It’s all a matter of personal opinion. I just wanted to get this post out there for all us social loving people.

Whether you like to travel solo or with others, you’re making memories and experiencing a new way of life, and that’s the most important thing. :)

A Case for Travel Partners

Why is traveling with others so awesome?

1. You can watch each others bags at the airport. Since Derik and I primarily travel with backpacks- we often take our 65L backpacks and one carry-on. Having to tote around four full bags together can be kind of a drag in the airport,  but it’s a lot better than having to wait in line at baggage claim. One of the worst parts about traveling alone is that you have to take your bags with you everywhere you go, including lugging them into the dirty bathroom stall. When you travel with a buddy you can leave your bags with them, and then go to the bathroom without being weighed down by luggage.

2. Sharing airplane food. Sometimes airplane food is great, sometimes it’s not. When it comes to meal times on the plane, usually two meals choices are provided. Derik and I get both choices, and then figure out what we like best. I’m a big fruit and veggie eater, so he usually gives me his and I give him most of my meat or bread choice. Works well!

3. Using each other as pillows for sleeping on. Airplane seats are crazy uncomfortable, and its almost impossible for me to fall asleep. Having a travel partner helps because you can prop up a pillow between the two of you, and both can benefit. I also enjoy giving my legs relief from hitting the seat in front of me by occasionally draping them over Derik’s. He put’s up with a lot. Shoulders are also remarkably comfortable to sleep on!

4. Taking each other’s pictures instead of awkwardly setting up a tripod and taking a picture of yourself. Although I’m the shutter bug, Derik has gotten better about taking pictures of me as well. Or at least offering. I’d rather be behind the camera instead of in front of it, but Derik worries that when we look at pictures down the road it’ll look like he was the only one that went on vacation. :) I also hate asking strangers to take my picture. You never really know if they’ll just take off with your camera or not. Also, what if you look stupid in the picture they took?

5. Staying safe. A travel partner can discourage pickpocketers, swindlers, and people just generally trying to take advantage of you. Why? You have twice the amount of ears, eyes, physical force, and brains. When faced with something that appears a little sketchy, you have someone to bounce thoughts off, and you can work out issues easier.

6. Not having to go through food poisoning and other sicknesses alone ( although sometimes solidarity may be the more pleasant option). There’s nothing worse than traveling and getting sick. It’s inevitable, especially if you’re visiting remote locations, that you’ll get food poisoning once or twice. Going through that alone just sucks. No one’s there for you to give you cold, refreshing towels, make you drink water, and go buy you medicine.

When we were traveling in January I came down with a 104 degree fever (getting off the subject of food poisoning). There’s absolutely no way I would have been able to transport myself to the Urgent Care clinic alone. Derik was a huge help to me!

7. Twice as hard to miss a flight, bus, or tour because of sleeping in or forgetfulness. One of my biggest fears on a trip is sleeping in too long and missing a flight! When you travel with someone you’re twice as less likely to sleep past your alarm or forget something…which is AWESOME!

8. Not having to eat in restaurants and cafes alone. Some people like eating alone, but its depressing for me to get a ‘table for one.’ I’m also a talker, so having to eat in silence is no good!

9. Seeing the look of childlike wonder on your travel partner’s face. There are certain things in life that should only be experienced with the ones you love. Watching the look on your husband’s face as you summit a mountain and take in the views, or hearing his giggles while night swimming with manta rays makes the trip a million times more meaningful. Those are the moments that count and the ones you’ll remember.

10. Having someone to relive memories with. It’s one thing to tell your friends stories of your travels, but an entirely different thing when you can bounce off memories and amazing places you’ve been together with your travel partner! Certain details are always forgotten, but when you have someone to refresh your memories about certain random moments, it allows you to appreciate traveling so much more!

What about you? Do you like traveling alone or with a partner?


Getting a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand

You might remember my original post about why we moved to New Zealand, and in it I briefly mentioned that we’re here on Working Holiday Visas.  I had a lot of people express interest in the visa process, so let’s talk a bit about getting a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand.  I’m writing this specifically for citizens of the US, as I have no experience with what the process is like for citizens of 34 other selected countries, but I’d imagine it’s not much different.

How to get a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand

What is a Working Holiday Visa?  

The Working Holiday Visa (also formally called Working Holiday Scheme) is literally what it sounds like. Its a visa that allows you to work, travel, and play in one of the most gorgeous countries in the world. For most countries you’re only allotted a 12 month period, but if you’re from the UK you hit the jackpot and are given 23 months! You’re also allowed to leave the country as many times as you wish within this 12 month period and not have to fill out any extra paperwork with the country of New Zealand.

The whole concept behind this visa is to be able to experience New Zealand and all it has to offer, but be allowed to work to fund these experiences. So, there really isn’t a need to save an ungodly amount of money before heading over.

Who is qualified for a Working Holiday Visa? 

Only 34 countries are currently in partnership with the New Zealand government for the Work Holiday program, and those are:

Argentina Austria Belgium Brazil Canada Chile China
Croatia Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France
Germany Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Hungary Ireland Israel Italy Japan Korea Latvia Malaysia
Malta Mexico Netherlands Norway Peru Philippines Poland
Singapore (work exchange programme) Slovakia Slovenia
Spain Sweden Taiwan Thailand Turkey United Kingdom
United States of America Uruguay Vietnam

Click on the links to learn more about a specific countries’ holiday scheme.

On the same note, unfortunately the Working Holiday Visa is only available for those ages 18-30. If you do not meet the age quota, know there is quite a few other visas you can get to work and live in New Zealand, so don’t be discouraged.

Some other facts to consider:
Your passport needs to be valid for at least 3 months after you plan on arriving to NZ
You cannot bring children with you or be pregnant
You can only do the Working Holiday Program once
You cannot be a convicted felon or have records of bankruptcy

How to get a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand

So you want to apply…how do you do it? 

The links above should give you the information on how to apply, but for United States citizens, the application process is online and only takes about 30 minutes. Yes, 30 minutes. There’s a good chance you won’t have to send any extra documents through snail mail unless you have lived abroad in the last 3 years.

For Derik and I, we had to go get general health exam and chest x-rays for Tuberculosis since we had been living in Korea for a long period of time, and Korea is on the hazard list for  Tuberculosis. *insert raised eyebrows here* The pain about getting the exams and X-rays is you can only go to specific clinics…country wide. For example, there is only one clinic in Korea to get your tests done and that’s in Busan. Thankfully we lived only about 1:30 minutes from Busan, so it wasn’t that bad of a trip. For others though? It could be a 4-6 hour trip just to get a 10 minute test done. You do not get your results right away either, you have to wait a few days for those.

The tricky part is the NZ Immigration only gives you 15 days to get your health exam, have the results sent via courier to your house, and then rushing the results to New Zealand via priority mail. Even though we got our health exams done the day after we were told we needed to from NZ Immigration, our results didn’t arrive in New Zealand on the requested date. I had to ask for an extension. Thankfully the Immigration officer working with us was super nice and understanding. I also had everything documented (even down to keeping all the receipts) to show him that we did everything in our power to get them to their final destination as fast as possible.

How long does the application/approval process take? 

After we sent off our medical test results, I kept a tracking number on the package to see when it arrived at the Immigration Office in Auckland. Although it took longer than it should (especially since I paid $40 to send 3 pieces of paper), the day after they received the papers my electronic visa appeared online. I was continuously checking my account on to see if the status had changed, and lo and behold it did faster than I thought it would! I didn’t receive my approval email until two days later strangely enough.

Once you are approved, all you need to do is print off your electronic visa (available for download from your member log-in on the immigration website), and bring it with you on your New Zealand flight! No visiting embassies, sending passports in, or anything. Can’t get much simpler!

What do I do once I arrive in New Zealand? 

This is the part that’s filled with adventure. :) Do whatever you want to! Some people dive straight into getting a job, and some take a month or two to travel and enjoy. Derik and I took the second route, spending 3 weeks in a campervan, trying to find our ideal place to live and work. Cars, housing, and jobs are readily available and not super difficult to find. I will be writing more on each of these categories soon, just to help you get a general gist as to how we did things and see if it would work for you. As in everything, there will always be trial and error, and maybe you can learn from our mistakes!

It is important to note that before you start looking for a job, you need to apply for a tax ID (you can apply at a local post office), and get a bank account. Future employers will ask right away if you have those things.

Getting a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand

What if I want to stay longer than 12 months? 

Working on this. You can go to the NZ immigration website and answer a questionnaire to see what you qualify for. Derik and I currently qualify for a skilled migrant visa (you get points for having a degree, certain trade skills, years spent working, etc and if you have over 100 you can qualify), but another good option is to apply for a residential visa, or a work visa (basically your place of employment sponsors your visa). I’ll be revisiting this question as our 12 months draws closer.

Getting a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand

So that’s the Working Holiday Visa in a nutshell. Ready to come join me?

Please let me know if you have any questions pertaining to the visa in the comments below!