Thinking of a trip to New Zealand! Travelling adventure is not fulfilled unless there is an easy transport available to visit the surroundings. New Zealand has epic landscapes and wildlife to explore. Also the real beauty lies in its inaccessibility and remoteness. Taking full advantage of your dream trip to New Zealand it is worth to travel by road to enjoy the scenic beauty, go for tramping. If you can manage your own vehicle then good enough otherwise it is always better to have a rental cab to visit favourite surprises in nature.
Either you hire a van or have your car or plan on a camping visiting each place by road there are few things to know and take care of.
Pick the right vehicle
You must always pick the right vehicle for your trip. There are many flashy and colourful vans around New Zealand. Look for your budget and the budget options these van operators provide. According to the number of travellers you can choose to opt for a big or small vehicle. Most of the vans have bed pulls out from the benches and mini kitchen in the trunk with all the cooking stuff and bedding that you would need. Curtains come down at night for you to rest peacefully.
But for some remote areas and ski fields and mudfest road to the mountains with snow and rain or creeks like the famous Mount Aspiring National Park in Wanaka, SUV vehicle is the best. So choose according to the roads and the trail also matter. Think about the kind of trip that you want to do and get a car or van that fits it.
Know the camping system
It is better to understand how the campervan and freedom camping system works in New Zealand. There are two types of campervans you can rent here – fully self-contained and non-self-contained. The difference is pretty much a washroom. If you have a campervan that doesn’t have a toilet, you can’t freedom camp.
Freedom camping is allowed around most of New Zealand and means you can camp on public land for free as long as you have the right facilities. If you are caught freedom camping without the right van or in a restricted area, it’s a $200 instant fine by the police. So it is better not to abuse the nature by lighting illegal fires or emptying the sewage tank in the van in the wrong place. It is better to camp in holiday parks though they are not so cheap.
Never underestimate roads
While travelling to remote parts of New Zealand you will find that roads are crooked, winding and gnarly and without guard rails.. All the roads are basically one lane in either direction, with usually a dotted white line down the middle and either a mountain or a cliff on the sides.
The max speed limit to drive is 100 kph (63 mph), but it still is a bit disconcerting to be going so fast with traffic going in the opposite direction just next to you, on the left side of the road nonetheless. Nothing is straight so you always have to be pay attention. Also the New Zealand landscape frequently likes to add obstacles to the adventure like landslides, hitchhikers, and sheep, so be on your guard when you’re behind the wheel.
New Zealand roads are but really well labelled, for you to look about your driving area. For example, when the road bends, there are massive yellow reflective signs warning you in advance and on the curve to lower your speed.
Remember to drive on the left
Here you have to drive on the left. Frequently there are enormous arrow pointing you in the right direction on the roads, and in cities with intersections, there are also arrows on the medians pointing you in the right direction. All the roads here are well marked. Never pull over just anywhere to take a picture New Zealand is really photogenic, and the urge to pull over to take a photo on the side of the road is really dangerous for both you and other drivers. Just think about a safe place where you pull over.
Carry your accessories from home
Make sure you bring along USB charger adapter and your needy things along with you. They are overpriced here, and more likely than not you have one floating around at home. Also bring a cable to plug in your iPod or music to the stereo so you can jam out on the long road trips.
If you have a van that doesn’t plug in, you might want to also bring one of those adapters that plugs into the lighter and you can charge a computer or an outlet plug device too. If you get a powered van, they’ll have outlets and the works so you don’t have to worry so much about that. Also not to forget your torch and gumboots.
Pay attention to the weather
It’s important to check road conditions and heed all warnings. The weather in New Zealand can be intense, and especially around the South Island, landslides are a common occurrence, especially in winter and after heavy rain. Once you see the roads here, especially the mountain passes, you’ll understand.
There are 3 passes through the Southern Alps on the South Island to get between the east and west coasts – Lewis Pass, Arthur’s Pass, and Haast’s Pass. Do not drive these passes in bad weather and listen to the locals. Avoid the more “challenging” roads at night here in New Zealand, especially in the rain and definitely not in hurricane-type weather. Just remember how untamed and wild New Zealand can be and don’t take unnecessary risks.
Suggest your best driving tip? Or share your experience on New Zealand roads.