Plan Your Trip
As you plan your trip I’m sure you will have lots of questions. We have a wealth of knowledge collected from our travels around New Zealand, and the stories from our customers.
Below you will find some answers to frequently asked questions. If you have any further questions, please get in touch. We are happy to answer them.
Freedom Camping (sometimes called Wild Camping) is allowed in many parts of NZ, however it is getting more and more difficult to find good, free camping spots. The rules changed in 2011, just before the Rugby World Cup, when a new law was passed that allowed councils to make up their own regional rules regarding freedom camping. This law also allows councils to hand out fines to people breaking their rules.
Freedom Camping in General
In general it is legal to park up and spend the night on public land, apart from in places where there is a regional by-law prohibiting it. Regions that have passed these laws tend to be the really popular places for tourists to visit e.g. Queenstown. Places where freedom camping is prohibited are usually very well sign posted. If you see a no camping sign, it’s best not to as you could well be in for a fine up to $200.
Self Contained Campervans
In some areas you will see a sign saying ‘self contained campervans only’. To be self contained your campervan has to have a toilet on board, a grey water tank to catch the water from the sink and a valid certificate of inspection. All of our PiwiWiwi Campervans are certified Self Contained, meaning that you can take advantage of some great freedom camping spots around the two islands of New Zealand.
There are lots of great camp sites in NZ. Our favourite places to stay are the DOC campgrounds. These are run by the Department of Conservation (DOC), are located in beautiful conservation land and are cheap! The standard campgrounds cost $6 per person per night. For this you get a field, a toilet and a water source – what else do you need? We tend to stay in these, or freedom camp, for a few nights. If we are staying in one of our HiAces we then book into a Holiday Park when we really need a shower. Holiday parks will cost anywhere from $10 to $25 per person, and have facilities such as hot showers, kitchens, laundry, TV lounge, book swap etc.
Freedom Camping Etiquette
If you do come across a beautiful spot where you would like to spend the night, please follow these guidelines:
1/ Assume Nothing – Ask a Local. Make sure that you are staying on public land, and that you are allowed to do so. Ask at the nearest house, or check with the local i-Site (information centre).
2/ Use the Facilities – Leave No Trace. Public toilets are abundant in NZ, so there is no excuse for leaving toilet paper (or even human waste) lying around. Also make sure that you tidy your campground before leaving – make sure all rubbish finds a bin, or (better still) is recycled. If you see rubbish left by someone else, do your good deed for the day by picking it up and helping dispose of it correctly.
3/ Protect the Environment – Be Aware. New Zealand’s ecosystem is beautiful and fragile. Be aware of where you are parking and avoid damaging vegetation. Also be aware of the local fire danger, and follow the rules for open fires. Open fires are often prohibited during the summer months as the land is so dry a small spark can have devastating effects.
Freedom Camping Resources
Finally, if you are travelling with a Tablet or Smart Phone, there are some great Apps available to help you find off the beaten track camping options.
• Camping NZ (aka the Rankers App). This is by far our favourite! It lists every designated camp site in NZ (including the free ones) and includes reviews of most. It also lists and reviews great free things to do, and the best paid things too.
• CamperMate – also includes wifi spots, recycling bins, public toilets, petrol stations & supermarkets!
• WikiCamps NZ – includes backpacker hostels, points of interest, information centres & day stops.
If you are not travelling with ‘smart’ devices or if you feel like talking to real people for information, the information centres around New Zealand (called i-sites) are a great place to get information and advice.
There are two companies that run ferries on this route. Both sail between Wellington on the North Island & Picton on the South Island. Both have online booking facilities, cost roughly the same & take roughly the same time. So try both for prices:
To help you, our vans are classed as campervans. They are 4.9m long.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about our campervan rentals. We hope you find them useful.
To see our full Terms and Conditions, click here.
Rates, Booking & Payment
What is included in the rental rate?
Our daily rates include:
- Use of one of our vans and all the kit that comes as standard in it, as explained in the ‘what’s inside’ section of our website.
- Standard Insurance
- Unlimited kilometres
- AA 24-hour roadside assistance
- Up to 3 drivers
- Taxes (GST at 15%)
- Christchurch start and end location
- FREE transfers Christchurch Airport / Christchurch city and our base
What is the minimum rental duration?
We love long rentals (more fun for you, less cleaning for us), and give great discounts if you rent for 6 weeks or more.
Do you do one way hires?
We currently do not offer one way hires. All rentals start and end at our home-base just outside Christchurch (with free transfers from Christchurch airport or Christchurch city).
From the experience of our customers, we recommend a circular trip around NZ – this will give you more flexibility with your route planning, meaning you will be able to see more amazing places. We can give you some great tips which will take you away from the crowds and into the real New Zealand.
When are you open?
When do I have to pay?
Payment of the balance of the rental cost is due 28 days prior to vehicle collection (we’ll send you an email to remind you when it’s time).
What payment methods do you accept?
- Credit / debit card payments by telephone (Visa & Mastercard only)
- Bank trasnsfer (we like using Transferwise)
- Paypal (we can send you an invoice)
When you’re at our office we can accept the following:
- Credit / debit card (Visa & Mastercard only)
What happens if I need to cancel my booking?
Once the balance of the rental cost has been paid, the following charges will apply:
- 21 days or more prior to pick up: 20% of total rental charge.
- 8 days or more prior to pick up: 50% of total rental charge.
- 7 days or less prior to pick up or no show: 100% of total rental charge.
Insurance & Bond
Is there a security bond?
Yes, we do take a security bond. The value depends on the level of insurance you choose. The bond is $2,500 for Standard Insurance, and $500 for Extra Cover and Full Cover options.
The bond must be secured when the van is collected by a person named on the Rental Agreement. The easiest way to secure the bond is using a credit card – we freeze the funds for the duration of your rental. We can also secure the bond on a debit card or in cash – please let us know if you want to do this and we’ll give you more details.
The bond is released once we have checked that the vehicle and its contents have been returned with no loss or damage, and that all terms of the Rental Agreement have been complied with. This is usually within 24 hours of the vehicle being returned.
How does insurance work?
Our HiAce vans come with standard insurance with an excess (deductible) of $2,500. We take this amount as the security bond at the start of the rental by freezing funds on a credit card.
We also have 2 options for reducing the insurance excess. Both of these options include full tyre & windscreen cover.
- Extra Cover – Excess $500 – Bond $500 – cost $25/day (max $750)
- Full Cover – Excess $0 – Bond $500 – cost $30/day (max $900)
Are there exclusions to the insurance?
Yes – as with any insurance there are exclusions, which are times that you are not insured. Our insurance exclusions are very standard. In broad terms, if you are unlucky you are likely covered by the insurance. If you are being deliberately negligent (e.g breaking the law), you are likely not covered by the insurance. See clause 26 of our Terms & Conditions for more details.
Driver & License Requirements
How old do I have to be to drive one of your vans?
All drivers must be 21 years old or older.
Do I need a special license to drive your vans?
No – A standard car license is all that’s required. You will need to show us a full driver’s licence that is valid for the whole length of the rental for each driver.
Do I need an International Drivers License?
You need to have an approved English translation of your license if your license is not already in English. An international drivers license is an approved form of English translation. Please remember to bring your regular license as well as the international drivers license as we will need to see both. See here for more info.
What comes inside your vans?
We pride ourselves in being able to offer you a van full of useful stuff and without clutter that might get in the way. A full list of van kit is available here. If you have any special requests of things that you’d like in your van, please let us know and we’ll see what we can do.
What boards fit the surfboard straps?
Our straps are designed to hold most types of surfboard from short shortboards to longboards. (We’ve frequently used them with a 9’3” but nothing bigger so far). You can fit up to 3 shortboards, and up to 2 longboards in the van.
Kitesurf boards, Skis and snowboards will be fine too.
Windsurfers and SUPs might fit, depending on the size. Please get in touch if you’ve a particular requirement & we’ll see if we can get hold of something similar & try it out before you book.
Do you have any vehicles with automatic transmission?
No – all our vehicles are manual transmission. Manual transmission vans give better fuel consumption and are in our opinion more rewarding to drive.
Do you have diesel campervans?
No we do not. Diesel is a lot cheaper to buy than petrol but diesel vehicles are liable ‘Road User Charges’ (RUCs) at roughly 6 cents/km. This makes petrol and diesel vehicles cost roughly the same to drive.
Other companies advertise Toyota HiAces as 2-3 berth. Will you allow 3 passengers in your HiAce Campervans?
We advertise our vans as suitable for two people because we think that they fit two people perfectly. However, the van has three seat belts and can accommodate three people.
We have had many small families travel with us (children aged 4 months to 14 years). We have tried out a number of sleeping arrangements, and can recommend something that suits your child’s sleeping requirements.
The van is a bit cramped for 3 adults, however it has been done! We can fit a third bed into the van, however it has a max. weight of 60kg.
Can a baby seat or a child’s booster seat be fitted to your campervans?
Yes, baby seats can be fitted to the front passenger seat of our campervans. In New Zealand, children under the age of 7 are required by law to travel in an “approved” child restraint. We can provide baby and booster seats, just let us know what you need when you make your booking. There is no additional charge for a child seat.
Can I charge my phone / camera / laptop in the van?
Our vans come with three 12v outlets (cigar lighter style, two in the front, one in the back) AND twin USB charging adaptors. If you bring the correct lead, you’ll be able to charge your gadgets while driving or camping with no hassles.
For things requiring mains power, there are plug sockets in our vans. You’ll need to be plugged into the mains at a campground to use them.
Can I smoke in the campervan?
We have a strict NO SMOKING policy in all our vehicles, and if there is any sign and/or smell of cigarette smoke we will charge a significant fee for cleaning the van
Can I bring animals on holiday with me?
Sorry, you’ll have to leave your pets at home. Animals are not allowed to travel in any PiwiWiwi vehicles, with the exception of registered guide dogs.
Are your vans Certified Self Contained?
Yes – all of our vans are Certified Self Contained to NZS 5465:2001
Pick-up and Drop-off
Where and when can I pick up and drop off the van?
PiwiWiwi is based from our home in Rangiora, a small town just 20 minutes from Christchurch. Rangiora is a kiwi town with everything you need (cafes, supermarkets etc), without having to navigate around a big city. We’re an easy drive from some beautiful camping spots – we think it’s the perfect place to start and end your NZ adventure.
Vans can be picked up and dropped off 7 days a week. We offer free transfers to / from Christchurch city and Christchurch Airport.
Can you pick me up from the Airport?
Yes, we can arrange for someone to be waiting at Christchurch airport to meet your flight. We will then bring you to our home-base in Rangiora (a 20 min drive away) to meet your van.
Negotiating your way around a new city, in a new vehicle, straight after a long flight is a stressful way to start your holiday. With us you can skip this unnecessary stress – Rangiora has everything you need in a compact town. Stock up your van in our nearby supermarkets, have some food in our great local cafes and then get on the road and into the wilderness!
How long should I allow for the handover at the beginning of my holiday?
We usually spend between 1 and 2 hours with you at the start of your rental – depending on how much we talk! This gives us time to complete the paperwork, show you how to use everything in the campervan, and give you some tourist information.
Can I leave my baggage and boardbags with you when I’ve unpacked?
While you are renting one of our vehicles we are more than happy to store your suitcases, boardbags and most other things if you feel you don’t need them.
On the Road
Are there any restrictions on where I can drive your vans?
You may drive our vans on most well maintained formed road in New Zealand. This includes gravel roads (some of the best things are at the end of a gravel road – just remember to drive carefully).
You are not insured to drive on the following roads.
- Ninety Mile Beach – Northland
- North of Colville Township – Coromandel Peninsula
- Bluff Road that runs between Kuaotunu and Mataurangi – Coromandel Peninsula
- Skippers Canyon Road – Queenstown
- Ball Hutt Road – Mt Cook.
These roads are excluded because they are dangerous. All rental vehicles are excluded from these roads, so they are very well signposted. Please note that if you ignore these restrictions the van will not covered by insurance when travelling on these roads & you will be fully liable for any damage and/or recovery costs.
Where can I camp?
New Zealand is an amazing country to travel and camp in. It’s safe, there are no nasty animals to be wary of and of course you’re surrounded by incredible scenery.
You have three main options for camping
- Holiday Parks – these have all the facilities (hot showers, laundry, kitchen) and cost the most, usually between $15 and $35 per person.
- Basic Campgrounds – these are often just a field with a toilet. They cost betwen $5 and $15 per person
- Freedom camping – there are a lot of designated free campsites (often for self contained vehicles only). There are also lots of great places that you can pull off the road and stay the night. See here for more details on freedom camping. If you do freedom cam, remember to LEAVE NO TRACE of your visit.
What about freedom camping?
Freedom camping is generally permitted but there are restrictions on where you can freedom camp. If unsure, always ask; the official advice with stopping on the side of the road or bush reserve is – ‘Assume nothing, ask a local’. We recommend that you check online or with the local information centre first. More information can be found here.
It goes without saying that if you do free camp, please ‘leave no trace’, don’t leave any rubbish or traces of your stay. We also recommend that you go to a campground every 3rd or 4th night to fill your fresh water and have a shower!
- camping.co.nz – official guide to responsible camping
- Respect NZ – one map, every camping location (same as Camping NZ app)
- DOC Campgrounds – we also recommend picking up the paper brochures from an iSite
- Holiday Parks – useful when you need a hot shower
- Camping NZ – remember to download the ‘offline maps’
- CamperMate – remember to download the ‘offline maps’
Driving in NZ
- drivesafe.org.nz – provides basic information about New Zealand road rules and etiquette, along with links to more details about everything that those unfamiliar with our roads need to know.
- MetService – good for national weather warnings
- WeatherMap – easy to read forecasts (usually fairly accurate)
- metvuw – detailed forecast charts
- WeatherWatch – daily forecast videos
- surf2surf.com. A few good webcams on this one.
- marineweather.co.nz. Detailed and pretty accurate.
- swellmap.co.nz/. Intuitive integration using Google Maps, a scoring system & graphs. Don’t rely on the score, make sure you check the graphs too!
- surf.co.nz Lots of information. Watch out though, the webcams are sometimes weeks behind.
- MSW New Zealand Summary
Cycling and Mountain Biking
- Whakarewarewa Forest The most famous and apparently best in NZ. We’ve not been there yet so we can’t tell you for sure but it will have to be very good to beat Woodhill.
- Woodhill Bike Park A fantastic collection of trails just West of Auckland. Sandy ground and so good for wet days. Tame routes through to crazy structures. Mountain bike to your heart’s content
Aotearoa / New Zealand
For those who don’t know, ‘Aotearoa’ is the ‘Te Reo’ name for New Zealand. ‘Te Reo’ is the Maori language. See, you’ve learnt something already
- Pure New Zealand You Tube channel with some great little min-documetaries. Check this blogpost for one about surfing.