Campervan Driving Tips
Driving in NZ – things to remember
Keep left! The most important thing to remember when you’re driving your rental campervan on New Zealand roads is that we drive on the left hand side of the road. If you’re not used to driving on the left, remind yourself constantly, particularly when you’re leaving car parks or when there’s not much traffic.
Keep an eye out for one lane bridges. In many parts of New Zealand you’ll find the road narrows in some parts, particularly for bridges. These are known as ‘one lane bridges’. There’ll be a sign warning that one is coming up – slow down when you see that sign. Look out for the arrow which shows who gives way (the people going in the direction of the small arrow give way!). You’ll need to stop if there are cars coming across the bridge in the opposite direction, and wait for them to pass before you can go.
Be aware of animals. Not only are there possums and rabbits on our roads, particularly in the dark – you’ll also find native birds such as kiwi and takahe. Swerving to avoid them can be hazardous. Please take extra care when travelling in the dark.
Watch out for livestock. Farms often take up both sides of the road, and farmers need to move their stock. It’s not uncommon to find the way ahead blocked by hundreds of sheep, or to be surrounded by cows going off to milking. If you come across a farmer and his herd/flock, slow down as soon as you see them. They may wave you through – if not, turn off the engine and enjoy the view until the animals have safely crossed. Maybe you could have a chat with the farmer and use some of your New Zealand slang!
Heed the road signs. Road signs in New Zealand will tell you the speed you should travel around corners, if there’s a particularly sharp corner or steep hill coming up, if visibility is limited or there is other traffic joining your lane, or whether there may be wildlife in the area. They’ll also warn about possible landslips in some areas (beware of falling rocks) and icy roads. The latter is particularly common in winter (as you would expect) so if you’re travelling to New Zealand in winter please take extra care.
Be conscious of your campervan’s size at all times. We’ve seen many a campervan accident where the driver has simply forgotten they’re travelling in a high vehicle, and attempted to take it into an underground carpark, or below a low roof (look out for this at service stations in particular!). Also look out for branches which may hit or scrape your campervan. This particularly applies if you’re travelling in a big 4 or 6 berth ‘motorhome’ which is built above the height of the cab.
Use your mirrors and camera. Campervans are NOT hard to drive, and you’ll be surprised at how good the visibility actually is. Use your mirrors, it’s what they’re there for. And if there’s a reversing camera, use that too.
Check behind before reversing. Particularly if there are children playing nearby, have a good check behind you (and use your reversing camera if you have one) to make sure the way behind is completely clear before you back out.