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Budgeting for a Campervan Road Trip in NZ

A campervan trip around New Zealand spells adventure, exploration and travel at your own pace. The best part? Driving through this beautiful country doesn’t have to break the bank.

Fully equipped campervans are designed to be your home and your ride in one sweet package. It’s a great solution for travellers who enjoy having the freedom to explore the country at their own pace. It also lets you tailor your trip according to your own whims and fancies. 

Lake Tekapo new zealand

Key areas to account for in your travel budget:


A campervan is a convenient vehicle for the modern-day slow traveller, offering a functioning living quarters and a way to get to your destination all in one. There are different models and rental companies to choose from, so compare price points and reliability before you settle on one. It makes sense to rent a campervan if this is your first attempt at travelling in one and if you’re planning a short trip. You may have to pay a security deposit upfront. If you’re planning to travel for a month or two, you could consider buying a van and selling it after your trip. 

Hiring a self-contained campervan means you have a wider pool of campsites to choose from. Map your trip according to the campsites you can stop at: many of them are free and travellers often use the Rankers app to locate them. There may be a few along your route that you need to pay for – factor this into your budget too. You should also mark dump sites, petrol stops, hiking trails, visitor centres and supermarkets. Mapping your trip before you set out means that you won’t be stuck should you find yourself without a signal or Wi-Fi. 


The amount you spend on petrol will depend on the type of vehicle you choose and your route. You can expect a full tank to last you about 400 km. As of December 2020, the cost of petrol was $2.080 per gallon.  To save petrol, drive at a constant speed and don’t exceed speed limits. Smooth driving without braking or accelerating too quickly prevents wastage. Remember not to leave your vehicle on idle too long, as this will consume more fuel. Roads are generally in good condition.

Don’t spend all your time driving. Once you get to a place you like, park your campervan safely and spend a day or two there just enjoying the sights. This will give you a good break from the road and prevent making driving tedious. This way, you will be able to take the road trip at a steady, enjoyable pace. 


Your campervan will be kitted out with a kitchen, so you will be able to cook your own meals. This will help you to keep your budget to a minimum. Every time you reach a new town, make a supermarket your first pitstop so that you can stock up on supplies. Having plenty of food in your campervan will reduce the risk of splurging on emergency snacks; when you shop hungry, you tend to buy a lot of things you don’t need. 

Being on the road doesn’t have to mean eating unhealthily. Salads, pasta and fruit-based desserts are all economical and nutritious. They’re easy to whip up as well. Don’t forget to keep your tea or coffee tins full so that you can enjoy a cuppa on the road. With some planning, your food budget, per person, can come to about $15 per day, but you can increase this if you plan on eating out often. 

Sightseeing and adventure sports

You can set your budget for activities and entertainment according to your own preferences. If you enjoy visiting popular spots in towns, check websites and factor in entrance fees in advance. Most museums are free and big towns often have movie screenings and other cultural events that are ticketless. NZ is well-known for its adventure sports, so if you’re an adrenaline junkie, look up activities such as white-water rafting, bungee jumping and sky diving that are available along your route, though note that these are likely to be on the costlier side. Websites such as BookMe are useful resources for planning adventure sports opportunities and travel activities.  

Exploring NZ’s natural beauty

The best aspect of driving around New Zealand is the natural beauty that you can witness at every turn. If regular tourist spots are not your thing, explore off the beaten path and find hidden waterfalls, roam empty beaches with your Ray ban sunglasses and hike wherever you can. You can also check out for more ideas. Day hikes are free because you don’t have to pay to enter national parks; however, you will have to pay for campgrounds if you choose to do multi-day treks. These could be expensive: for instance, an overnight stay in a hut on the Milford Sound Track is about $70 dollars.  If you’re visiting Rotorua to enjoy its geothermal spots, explore its villages a little to find hot springs in lakes or in creeks. There are plenty of guidebooks you can refer to before you set out to explore the wild. 

Additional costs

Depending on where you’re travelling to and which route you choose, you could incur unavoidable additional charges such as taxes or levies set by the government. If you need to cross rivers or lakes, ferry charges could come into play as well. Many campgrounds offer laundromats, but they may charge you to use them. Showers are another thing to keep in mind: at a camping ground, the cost would be approximately $5 per shower. You may also want to check-into an Airbnb for a few nights to give yourself a chance to recharge and catch up on laundry, which will, of course, cost you extra. Always keep an emergency fund for sudden expenses and ensure all your insurance coverage is up to date. 

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