“Campervanning New Zealand” has become a quintessential bucket list item for every person who dreams of travel. The freedom of living like a turtle with your home on your back while exploring perhaps the most beautiful country in the world is an experience no one could possibly forget.
There is much to consider before setting off to travel New Zealand by campervan, however. The locals (known as kiwis), hospitable as they are, have grown quite tired of gap-year students treating their home like a hotel with maid service. Excessive litter, overflowing toilets, and inundated parking lots have forced the country to respond to the unrelenting surge of “freedom campers”.
New Zealand has a special designation called “self-contained”, which is awarded to campervans that can serve as a legitimate home for 3 days. The specific requirements your vehicle must meet continue to evolve, but it primarily comes down to water and waste storage.
The absolute most important decision you will make for campervanning New Zealand is what vehicle you will road trip in. Having something that is self-contained will open up a “heap” of options for parking overnight.
Having a campervan that is certified self-contained allows you to “freedom camp”, which means that you may legally park overnight on public land unless local restrictions have been implemented. Having this ability will save you a lot of money in camping fees, and will also allow you the most flexible itinerary. With that said, this is not a ticket to parking anywhere. You must still be proactive in finding places where you can park for the night.
Strong consideration should be given to something that has the self-contained sticker regardless of whether you are buying or renting your campervan. Most rental companies will sub-categorize these options for you. If you are considering buying a campervan for an extended trip, however, you may want to review the most recent guidelines for self-containment designation.
Whether you are renting or buying your campervan for New Zealand, you will discover the cheapest options are non self-contained vehicles. When deciding whether to upgrade or not, your decision should weigh the additional up-front expense with the increased cost in having to pay for most campsites. You will not be allowed to camp overnight on public land if you do not have the self-contained sticker.