Just returned home from a road trip of New Zealand (NZ), and I decided to make this list as a reminder to myself for future road trips I plan. Hope you find it useful too.
Make sure that your passport has at least 6 months of validity on it.
Check if you need to apply for a Visa or Electronic Travel Authority (eTA) for the country of travel. For Singapore passport holders travelling to NZ, an eTA is required. The best way to apply for it is to download the NZeTA app. Use the app to scan your passport, take a photo of yourself and make payment for the eTA with your credit card. The app was very easy to use, and my eTA was issued almost instantaneously. Don’t wait till the last minute to do it though, as the processing time may take up to 72 hours. The eTA can be used for multiple visits and is valid for 2 years.
Check if you need to apply for an International Driving Licence (IDL). For Singapore driving licence holders, it is not necessary to apply for an IDL to drive in NZ. Our Singapore driving licence is in English and it will suffice.
Be realistic about the distance you can actually cover in a day, and have at least one backup driver per vehicle. When planning the route, remember to take into account jetlag, weather, daylight hours (time of sunset varies), road conditions (wet, snowy or icy conditions) and possibility of road closures. The NZ Transport Agency’s website is key when planning a road trip for NZ, as it provides information on road closures, etc. I learnt it the hard way when our travel plans almost went up in smoke on the first day of our trip. After driving more than 100km south from Christchurch, we encountered road blocks due to NZ’s worst flood in 20 years. Our accommodation, activities and car rental had all been booked and paid for in advance, and everything was non-refundable. We had to retrace our steps to Christchurch, pay for alternative accommodation, and when there was no end in sight for the road closures, we had to book flights to fly over the flooded region to continue with our travels. This would be the second time that I encountered road closures during a road trip. Years ago, we were driving north from Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies in winter when heavy snow and ice prompted the Canadian government to shut roads. It was a harrowing experience driving without effective use of the vehicle’s brakes, and watching cars and trailers spin out of control and overturn right before our eyes. We never made it to the Canadian Rockies and our payments for activities like snowmobile and Hammer rides were never refunded.
Make sure that you have comprehensive insurance coverage for travel, rental car excess, etc. I had foolishly assumed that we would be able to receive some form of compensation from our insurers as a result of the road closures due to flood, but I was wrong. There was absolutely no coverage under the circumstances, so we had to bear the full brunt of the prepayments and extra costs for flights and accommodation ourselves.
To rent a vehicle, use Shopback to connect to Rentalcars.com. For our family of 8, we rented a Toyota Hiace from Hertz. We confirmed our booking several months ahead of our travel, and their rates were competitive. Their rates included unlimited mileage, no extra charge for additional driver, no extra charge for one-way rental (our original booking was for pick up from Christchurch Airport and drop off at Dunedin Airport), and no extra charge for changing our pick up and drop off points (we returned our vehicle to Christchurch Airport after 2 days due to the road closures, and picked up a similar vehicle in Queenstown Airport when we flew there on the third day of our road trip).
To rent a wifi router, use Shopback to connect to Klook. If you’re travelling in a group, rent a wifi router, so several members of the group can access the internet in the vehicle. For NZ, I rented the Skyroam 4G Wifi plus powerbank from Klook. There was no service at remote locations, but for the most part of our trip, it worked well.
Bring your own mobile phone holder and charger for the vehicle.
Pack a foldable cooler bag. As we moved from one accommodation to the next during our road trip, we found this useful in transporting our leftover food which needed to be kept cool like margarine, cheese, ham, chocolate, etc.
Download GoogleMaps in advance, so navigation is possible without wifi.
Download useful travel apps for the country of travel. For NZ, I installed CamperMate and Gaspy on my phone. When driving long distances in more remote parts, it’s good to know where the gas stations and public toilets are located.
Have your credit card pin with you. In NZ, quite a number of gas stations are unmanned and you need to authorise a charge on your credit card using your credit card pin before pumping. We had our credit card pins with us, but it was tricky getting the pumps to work. In the end, we stuck to manned gas stations. Paywave worked without the use of pins. Where paywave didn’t work, we just had to insert our card into the machine and sign the transaction slip, so no pin was required either.