Truth about living a campervan life in New Zealand

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In this article I would like to be 100% honest with my readers and reveal the truth about living a campervan life (mainly in New Zealand as this is the only country where I tried it). Descriptions will be based on my 5-month stay and personal experience with living in a campervan and travelling across the whole country.


The first step after arriving to New Zealand with Working Holiday visa was to buy a self-contained campervan. Click HERE to read about “Everything you need to know about buying campervans in New Zealand” which I wrote in order to make your lives easier. You might ask what self-contained means. It is a campervan with installed kitchen and not necessarily installed toilet (ours was packed in a box all the time!), thus, giving you a freedom to park overnight at many places around New Zealand. However, not anywhere!!


Before arriving to New Zealand, I thought I could stay parked overnight anywhere around New Zealand having a self-contained campervan. But the opposite was true. There are so many restrictions around NZ which won´t allow you to camp and/or stay overnight in many spots. Mainly in cities, towns, villages, beaches. You will find many signs saying “no overnight parking” or “freedom camping prohibited”.

The best way how to find legally a spot for overnight stay in a campervan is by using following apps: “Campermate” and “WikiCamps”. I think the WikiCamps app costs around NZ$2 but it is worth spending it as this app showed us some freedom campsites which campermate didn´t.

In case you stay at a place where it is not permitted, you might get a fine of NZ$200 if you get caught. Luckily, we didn´t, although most of the time we tried to stay at official campsites.


Yep, not all the campsites are for free. Actually, in a campermate app you will have campsites differentiated by colours. Green ones are for free, blue ones are middle priced and purple are the expensive ones. We usually stayed at freedom camping spots (the green ones), however, from time to time, we stayed at the “blue ones” usually paying between NZ$10 to NZ$18 per person per night. And about the paying, there are usually so called “honesty boxes” where you are supposed to register yourself and leave cash in a box. OR you can book the camp online in advance and pay it by card.

During the high season (November to March) I guess it is wise to book it in advance (although we didn´t, not even once!) but during the low season there is always plenty of space. And not many “rangers” coming to check whether you paid or not. It happened to us only once that someone came to collect the fees.


Equipment of campsites really vary from one to another. Once we stayed at a camp for NZ$10 that was fully equipped, meaning flushing toilets, 2 dollar coin showers, kitchen, fridge, electricity and even wifi and being surrounded by breath-taking greenery, cows and sheep in Catlins regional park. Check this camp out btw – Hillview Campsite – really beautiful and the owner was really nice to us.

But then we stayed at few campsites which were for NZ$15 per night/person and the only thing they had was a long drop smelly toilet. There we weren´t so keen on paying. So, it really depends. The campermate app also includes comments from previous visitors so you can study about the camp a bit before heading there and make your own decision if you want to stay there or not.


Not every camp is equipped with showers, not mentioning laundry service. Actually, only very few, especially if you are planning to do freedom camping most of the time (as we did). Therefore, the campermate app is the winner as it can show you where you can do laundry, take hot shower, find a public toilet, a dump station, etc

For the public shower you will usually need 2 dollar coins so the hot water would run for around 3 mins. I will never forget our very first hot shower. We were in Mount Cook village with no cash, two of us completely sweaty after Mueller Hut hike. By other words – in an urgent need to take a shower! One guy took mercy on us and gave us the only 2 dollar coin he had – me and Klara felt extremely grateful but I am telling you, those 3 mins of hot shower for both of us (including hair washing) were the shortest 3 mins of my life!!

PS: Regarding public toilets, there are plenty of beautiful and clean, fully equipped public toilets all over New Zealand. No issue with that.  


The prices of gas are not fixed (as the opposite to my country – Slovakia). They vary depending on the location of the gas station. The more distant and secluded gas station, the more expensive gas. The cheapest gas we ever found was for NZ$1,99 per litre and the most expensive for around NZ$2,80 per litre.

But let me give you our secret of always finding the cheapest gas around us. Download the application „Gaspy“. Thanks to it you can google the best priced gas not only in your surrounding but anywhere you are heading in New Zealand.


Keep in mind that in many parts of New Zealand there won´t be any or only some poor phone reception. And imagine you get “stuck” at a secluded place with no reception and rainy weather. Therefore, be prepared and download heaps of offline music, movies, TV shows. And more importantly download offline Google maps for proper navigation.


Well, it is hard to talk about comfortable life when you travel and live in a campervan. The space is limited and small, doing the dishes is a fight for at least two people (one washing, another pumping the water to the kitchen sink!). No toilet, no shower and no privacy at all.

The campervan life will teach you minimalism and cross all the possible boundaries of privacy you ever had. Therefore, heading for such a campervan adventure must be with a person who is your true travel buddy, your true travel soul. Someone who will stand your farting and burping on daily basis, your occasional complaining about lack of privacy or about never-ending rainy weather which makes you stay inside of a campervan all the time.


At the end of your travels you start to feel the pressure of your own questions: “Will I be able to sell my car?”, “For how much will I be able to sell it?”, etc…

You can add yourself to various FB groups for buying/selling campervans OR you can visit the website Travel Cars NZ where you can easily buy, sell or rent campervans in New Zealand.


As negative or pessimistic as I might have sounded in above mentioned paragraph, I would like to express my eternal gratitude to the campervan life I tried in New Zealand. It gave me exactly what my adventurous soul needed.

The freedom to wake up every morning at different beautiful spot. To watch sunrises and sunsets from under the comfort of my warm blanket inside of our home on four wheels. It taught me to be even more minimalistic (I had had no idea I could be more minimalistic than I used to be!). It reminded me again not to take small things in our lives such as a comfortable bed and hot shower for granted. The campervan life in New Zealand not only met my expectations, it exceeded them. It gave more than I ever could wish for.

It gave me the halcyon feeling of freedom, adventure and spontaneity which I craved for so long and so much…

DO you want to read more about NEW ZEALAND? Click HERE.

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