Image: Tongariro, New Zealand
A fair amount of organisation goes into a successful New Zealand campervan holiday. There’s a lot to think about – not to mention the distraction of being in such a beautiful country – so it’s not surprising that some people manage to forget a few silly things. Here’s a list of ten common things that catch campervanners out in New Zealand:
The toaster will not work unless the campervan is connected to a powered site.
It’s amazing how many people fall into this trap, perhaps because they see that the fridge is on and automatically assume that the toaster, kettle and microwave are on as well. The fridge can run off the campervan’s battery and the stove is gas-powered, so food can be stored and prepared when the campervan is ‘on the road’ and not plugged in, but the other appliances use too much power for the battery alone. If you want to use the toaster, you have to stay at a campsite that has powered sites and plug your campervan into one.
In New Zealand, people drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Most of the world drives on the right-hand side of the road and tourists sometimes make the mistake of doing this in New Zealand, which has led to fatal collisions in the past. Campervans are large vehicles and have the potential to cause chaos, particularly on New Zealand’s narrow, windy roads. You must remember to always drive on the left.
Make sure you have insect repellent handy.
In summer, New Zealand is notorious for its mosquitoes, but perhaps worse are the sandflies, especially on the West Coast of the South Island. It is far too stifling to sleep with the windows closed and one should not rely on fly screens – I have seen sandflies struggling to squeeze themselves through the tiny holes in the mesh and succeeding. They are both vicious and determined.
Make sure the person sleeping above the cabin is not someone who tosses and turns.
The sleeping space above the cabin may be awkward to climb into, but it is easy to fall out of. Also, the person sleeping there should be wary of bumping their head – this seems an obvious hazard to watch out for, yet it is one that is rarely avoided.
Do not empty the wastewater tank into a stream.
The incorrect discharge of wastewater from campervans is all too common in New Zealand and damages the health of the environment. Those responsible face a hefty fine if caught. All campervanners should empty their wastewater tanks at designated dump stations only – there are plenty around. You can find a map showing every dump station in New Zealand here.
Do not park your campervan on someone’s driveway.
In the countryside, people often have very long driveways, which tourists in campervans can easily mistake for quiet side roads, using them as places to park up for the night. Aside from the fact that you should not park in the middle of narrow country lanes anyway, it is best to check where you are on a map.
Do not try to drive a campervan on a beach or off-road track.
If you do this, it’s likely you’ll get stuck and/or cause damage to the campervan. Some campervanners are misled by the fact that some New Zealand beaches, such as the famous Ninety Mile Beach, are officially counted as public highways. This does not mean that they’re okay to drive heavy vehicles on! For more information about where it is or is not appropriate to drive campervan rentals in New Zealand, see this example of the Terms and Conditions of New Zealand campervan hire.
Beware of draining the battery.
Using the fridge, turning on the lights, flushing the toilet and turning on the taps will all drain a campervan’s auxiliary battery. The battery will charge while the campervan is being driven and while it is connected to a powered site, but you’ll want to be careful if you’re planning on spending more than a day camping somewhere that does not have powered sites.
Make sure you put all the crockery and utensils away correctly before driving off.
You should always do a quick check to see that everything is secure.
Remember to always lock your campervan!
Especially in Rotorua, apparently.
Oh, and here’s a bonus piece of advice: don’t forget to put the handbrake on when you park your campervan near a cliff. (Yes, I heard a story once.)
List compiled by Abigail Simpson