You’ve done it! You’ve planned your epic New Zealand road trip using this handy-dandy guide and you’ve booked your flight to the land of kiwi birds, kiwi fruits, and Kiwi people. So now what?
Although New Zealand feels familiar to travelers from English-speaking countries, you may have questions…
- Where should I rent a car?
- Is there anything I need to know about fueling up the car?
- Don’t they drive on the wrong side of the road there?
- What do I need to wear?
- What the heck is an L&P?
Well, dear reader, I have you covered.
Car or campervan? That’s the first question to answer. I chose car for two reasons: 1. It cost WAY less than a camper van. And 2. I really love knowing when I’m getting my next shower.
If you choose car, I cannot recommend Apex Car Rentals more highly. Do your own research, but they were by far the cheapest of all the rental companies I spoke with.
If I can give you one piece of advice, it would be this: get the FULL insurance. Barring a couple (totally reasonable) exceptions, like drunk driving and off roading, you’re 100% covered for anything.
Don’t Kiwis drive on the wrong side of the road?! Nope… but they do drive on the left side. Pay attention, because driving on the right (opposite of left) is an easy mistake to make but extremely dangerous…. especially on New Zealand’s winding roads.
One more thing to note: in most cars, the windshield wipers switch and the turn signal are switched from cars in the U.S. We ended up with some very clean windows those first couple of days.
There are long stretches without gas stations… especially on the South Island, so once you hit the halfway point on the fuel gauge, fill up.
Most of the gas stations we visited didn’t have a pay at the pump option. Fuel up, then head inside to pay by credit card or cash.
Instead of renting a GPS, consider renting a portable wifi device… that way you can get real-time directions and upload the awesome photos you’re taking on Instagram (just don’t post while driving!)
Passing the time
Don’t forget to bring an aux cord and a car charger for your phone. Most rentals have an aux plug, but you’ll need to supply your own cord to listen to your road trip jams. Don’t count on the radio because the stations won’t last long as you cross mountains.
With lots of driving to do, consider an audiobook to pass the time and keep you awake.
What to wear on your New Zealand road trip
I am not a fashion consultant… but I’ve learned a few things the hard way here in New Zealand.
Bring a fleece and rain jacket on any excursion. You never know when the weather will change… and it would be terrible to make it to the top of a mountain when it begins raining freezing rain, and you’re only wearing a tank top and shorts. (Or so I imagine.)
Hiking shoes or sneakers with good traction are a must. I’m not gonna say I slid partway down a mountain in tractionless Nikes, but I’m not gonna say I didn’t…
Sunscreen and insect repellant are definite must-wear items. Sand flies are no joke and the sun in New Zealand is strong!
Speak like a Kiwi
You’ll get by on American English… but in case you’d like to be prepared with a few key Kiwi phrases, here’s a translation guide:
Kia Ora! is Maōri for hello.
When someone asks How are you going? the correct answer is not on foot. That’s just the Kiwi way to ask how you’re doing.
You’ll hear Sweet as! in place of awesome, sweet or any other expression of agreement.
Choice is not just a decision… It’s also a way to say that something is very good.
Whether you’re a guy or a girl, expect to be called bro or mate while you’re in New Zealand.
If you’re here in summertime, be sure to pack some jandals (flip flops).
Staying fueled… the Kiwi way
I’m not talking about petrol here!
- Pineapple lumps
- Chocolate fish
- Whittaker’s chocolate
- Jet planes
- Kiwi fruit
- Feijoa fruit- cut this fruit in half and scoop out the sweet, tart insides with a spoon, just like a kiwi
- Pie (Not your granny’s apple pie!)- Mince and cheese pies are a good, on-the-go snack
- L&P stands for Lemon and Paeora (Paeora is the city where this iconic Kiwi soda is bottled)
- Ginger Beer (Bundaberg is an Australian company… but it’s loved and readily available all over New Zealand)
Alright, mate! All that’s left to do now is pack your suitcase for an epic New Zealand road trip!