If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll probably know that I was privileged enough to be able to take the trip of my life (to date) to the aw-so stunning New Zealand. We travelled from Christchurch to Queenstown and back to Christchurch via both car & camper van respectively. We rented a car for 5 days and headed down to Queenstown before heading back up to Christchurch via a camper van, in 7 days.
Now, don’t get me wrong, camper van-ing
i’m pretty sure this term isn’t legit but I’m still going to use it anyways was fun. In fact, I would highly recommend everyone to try camper van-ing in New Zealand! But, having said that, “fun” does come at a cost.
On hindsight, I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to save a bit more should I have taken the necessary efforts/ measures but hey! we always learn it the hard way right?
Now, I wouldn’t want you to learn it the hard way, so here’s 7 ways campervan-ing can make you poorer:
1.Book a camper van less than 6 months before your trip. Now I did get a earful from the bf for not heeding his advice, but his advice is legit! I didn’t quite believe him but it was proven time and time again throughout the trip. We gotten ourselves a 2 pax Venturer for 7 days at a whooping NZD 2814! and that’s not even including all the extra charges (which I will cover later).We settled for that as that was the only option available from Britz, there was a NZD 200 cheaper option for 4 but the bf thought it might be too big to handle. Oh and they don’t price the car according to the no. of pax; hence it would definitely save a whole lot should you be camper van-ing with a group rather than as a couple. Mind you, we made this booking 3 months in advance and was only left with those 2 options.We met an american couple who wanted to rent a camper van as well but they couldn’t get any as they only decided to book theirs a month in advance Last example was when we were retuning the camper van, this family of 4 was actually charged 8k for 4 days! I’m not sure which model they picked nor the insurance coverage they received but that’s almost 2k per day! #madness
2. Pick up your camper van at Queenstown. As the bf needed some time to get use to the roads and was afraid he couldn’t manage the camper van for the first few days, we decided to drive down with a sedan (which added up being an SUV for some reason -_-) and return to christchurch via a campervan. That added an additional NZD 170! NZD 95 was charged for the pick up at Queenstown and NZD 75 was charged for the “oneway fee”. So if you don’t want to be NZD 170 poorer, just get & return the camper van at Christchurch itself.Christchurch city center is a teeny weeny bit more congested than the other parts of NZ but so if you don’t like driving in congested areas, just avoid the city center and you’ll do just fine.
3. Pay with a credit card. Ok, I know this is a bit duh… and I should have expected a surcharge but I didn’t expect 66NZD worth of surcharge. Then again, the bf’s rationale was that he was afraid such large amount of money could get “mis-transferred” so how or rather so to “play safe” we should use a credit card. Not that I mind a whole lot but hey, this post is on how you can get poor-er right?
4. Put up at Holiday parks instead of free camp sites. This might be really subjective but if you’re as pampered and as electrically reliant as me then you won’t really save much on accommodation.
For those who don’t know (don’t worry I didn’t know before either), your power sockets don’t work when your camper van is not plugged in aka recharging hence if you need to charge your handphone, turn on the heater/fan, or basically sue anything that requires electricity then you basically need to book a “powersite” in a holiday park.For necessities like fridge, toilet lights, inbuilt air conditioning & heater that runs on the battery which is suppose to last 1 or 2 days without recharging.Now here comes the screwed up part… if you’re unlucky (and trust me, there’s no guarantee) you might get a vehicle that has a faulty/ older battery which means it either doesn’t recharge fully or in short requires daily recharging. No points for guessing who was unlucky
Don’t get me wrong I’m extremely thankful that we had a toilet at the very least; nothing beats having the option of pulling over at the side for a pee break as and when you need 🙂 but showering… that’s a whole new level. The toilets in the camper van are basically meant for 3 min refreshment, rather than a 10 mins shower. It’s not only small, the water supply is kinda cranky as well (due to the water pump, and air bubbles in the tank etc.). And that’s only the shower part. When it comes to drainage, you probably should bear in mind where the drain is located and how you should park your van accordingly i.e. if you’re drainage hole is on the left side of the van then your life will be easier if you park slightly slanted towards your left’ then again you can’t quite dictate the angle of the parking lot can you?
c. Cooking & Water
It’s ok to cook at freedom camping areas. In fact, it’s awesome to be cooking with a lakeside view or a mountainous view but washing up is a chore! Especially when you have to ensure nothing gets into the sink strainer (otherwise it would clog up the sink) or when you need to ration water or when you just need space but that 30cm by 30cm by 20cm sink just can’t accommodate. Oh and yes, if you’re cooking 2 meals everyday, you probably need to refill your fresh water supply daily.
With all those factors above, we paid an average of $25 per pax for a power site at holiday parks; which to me is pretty ok. I get to have warm long showers in clean toilets, get to wash & dry any clothings for NZD 3 respectively, get to cook/ wash dirty cutleries at their properly stocked up kitchens and we get to recharge the campervan, dump our waste, refill water supply and basically having an ease of mind.
5. Use Diesel Yes, at a glance, diesel seems cheaper but the NZ govt actually imposes a tax on your diesel consumption based on the distance you’ve travelled, the weight and type of your vehicle. It seems fair as petrol users are also being taxed (just that the tax is already included in the charges per litre indicated) however this posts is to show you how those little savings you thought you could have with a camper van is actually non-existent.
6. Use an LPG with size below 9kg. I’m not too sure what is the compatibility of LPG bottle size vs the size of vehicles but ours was an LPG of size 4.5 or 5kg? and boy was it difficult to source for a place that actually swaps/ refill/ changes the LPG bottle. Many gas stations would do the refill/ swap free or at a minimal cost for bottles 9kg and above but since ours was smaller in size, no gas station provided that service. We went to 4 stations and more. Best part is, nobody knew how we could do it, even Britz customer service didn’t know how and advise us to pay NZD 28 to change it upon returning, haha of course *inserts smug face*
7. You cook all your meals. This was the part where we actually looked forward to the most! Testing our culinary skills, eating fresh produce & presumably cheaper meat. Meat like lamb & beef is indeed cheaper than Singapore (if you’re comparing like for like -e.g cut, type of meat, size, etc.) but that’s about it. We spent about NZD 260 on grocery for 6 days! but to put things to perspective, we did buy ALOT of food. Here’s just an example of how grocery costing is like (i’m just going to state the cost of the normal stuff which you would need should you be cooking)
- Anchor Salted Butter 250g (somehow we couldn’t find unsalted): NZD 5.35
- Cerebos Sea Salt 100g (this is the smallest size we can find):NZD 4.50
- Masterfoods Mixed herbs 100g: NZD 3.69
- Olive Oil 500ml: NZD 7.65
- Broccoli: NZD 2.29/ ea
- Potato: NZD 1.89/ kg
- Capsicum: NZD 2.19/ea
- Lettuce: NZD 3.29 / bunchAnd mind you, these are stuff bought from Pak N Save which is supposedly the cheapest supermarket option (think Sheng Siong, if you’re Singaporean). Of course, there are some stuff which are much cheaper than Singapore & of course there will be stuff on discount. In short, it really depends on when and where you shop but I’ll cover more of this in another post.In a nut shell, you wont save A HELL LOT from cooking your own meals, you will however save a little considering the fact that a meal out, on average, costs about NZD 15-20. Then again, these are all subjective. You may eat in a cheaper cafe/ restaurant or you may also eat boiled pasta & canned tomatoes only (which wouldn’t cost you more than NZD 3?) so it really depends on how you would like your meals to be.
So there you go, 7 ways having a camper van would make you poorer! But you can always save a bit more by not doing/ doing less of the above. Here’s a few other tips:
- Jio more people. IMO, traveling in a group is pain but its super cost effective as you can split the cost of almost everything. Let me give you an example, you can’t buy a few drops of olive oil, neither can you buy a few pinch of salt In short, economies of scale is pertinent in almost every single scenario (apart from holiday parks though, they charge per pax). Likewise, camper van pricing does not go according to the size and no. of pax a vehicle can hold hence the more ppl to split the better!
- You can actually save on diesel/ petrol via coupons (issued on the receipts). It’s not a whole lot but its still something. I managed to save 6 cents/ litre using these coupons. Alternatively, you can hunt for Mobil stations which gives 6cents off every litre should you pump more than NZD 40 worth of fuel. Not too sure how long this offer holds though.
- You don’t have to buy Wifi in your camper van. We bought 5GB worth of Wifi (NZD 65) and we didn’t even use 1GB worth! Why? because there isn’t any signal, majority of the time! Oh and this is considering the fact that we were putting up at holiday parks, high traffic, good connectivity holiday parks! In fact, if you’re really desperate and need some sort of connectivity you can just buy some data from the holiday parks which would be working at 100%. Some holiday parks even provide you with free wifi, albeit only 200-500mb?
*disclaimer: I complained to Britz and they were nice enough to refund me 🙂
- Check you battery before you head out of the collection point. I’m not too sure how you can test it but ensure its not as old or as cranky as ours.
- Buy extra toilet chemical at Britz collection point. I can’t advise you how many you’ll need but if you’re planning to dump your waste daily, then you’ve probably need 1 toilet chemical per day. You’re better off buying more at the Britz collection point @ NZD 2.50 per chemical. I somehow destroyed the additional toilet chemicals the bf bought (shall talk about this some other time) and needed some more hence we paid NZD 15 for 5 packs, when we only needed 2 more Oh and we had to purchase this from a holiday park as no supermarket (we went) sold these toilet chemicals. In addition, the ones we bought from the holiday park weren’t as strong and didn’t quite get rid of the smell of our waste.
- Refuel your camper van before returning. I’m not too sure about the cost of refueling but I’m very sure its cheaper if you fill up the fuel tank before returning it.
- Do not open the first aid kit box if you a plaster or something not very urgent/ important, just head to the nearest supermarket/ pharmacy to buy one. Opening the first aid kit would definitely cost you more than a pack of plaster/ antiseptic cream etc.
Other things to note: If you’ve rented vehicles before then you’ll most probably know that you might not get the exact same model/ exact same vehicle you’ve paid for.They will always give you something close but not 100% close. E.g. The bf rented this venturer from Britz as this particular option included a bbq pit/ rack but alas we weren’t given any. We also thought we booked the one which could join 2 single beds into 1; unfortunately that wasn’t offered as well. Hence, a word of advice, do check out the van THOROUGHLY before leaving the collection point. The peeps at Britz are really nice and accommodating so just ask or clarify with them when in doubt.
Would I get a camper van the next time I’m in NZ? yeah, if it’s gonna save me some money. Did I regret getting a camper van during our visit, HELL NO! It definitely pained me to part with 1.5k ( split across myself & the bf) but the experience was definitely worth it! Bottom line is you need to manage your expectation according to your budget. Only have 500 to spend? then try looking for more people to split the cost, freedom camp all the way and eat simple plain fuss free food- it can be done! I’ve not tried it myself as I choose not to but I’ve seen many other tourist/ backpackers doing it and they’re rockin’ it! Just remember to do your bookings way ahead & you’re good!
I rented a camper van during our NZ trip, when was the last time you rented a camper van?