Review: Apollo Camper Van

Weary and tired we arrived at the Apollo camper van rental center outside of the Cairns Airport about mid-day. The humidity hung in the air and it started to sprinkle as we sat patiently by our bags waiting for someone to check us in. After about ten minutes we were pulled to a service desk to start the paper trail associated with any rental.

As we walked outside for a walk through of our new home, we walked past rows of camper vans and into a garage where ours was hiding behind a dumpster and pillar. As our sweet and helpful representative walked us through the basics, I quickly drown her out in favor of hopping inside to poke around on my own. As I swung open the door of the van, a musty odor permeated my nose and instantly I was disappointed – it smelled awful. The stench led me to believe it hadn’t been properly cleaned or cared for in the past. The worn, cream and green patterned material was darkened with dirt. The deep red curtains were dated, but sufficient.

This was our first Apollo rental, but our third camper van rental in two months. I eagerly began pulling open drawers ensuring we had the same useful utensils we had been using in our other vans. I was sorely disappointed. Miss-matched, old silverware sat in a dirty plastic container in one drawer and a shrink-wrapped set including a big stirring spoon, a potato masher, tongs and a spatula were found in another drawer sitting atop a tiny, and dirty, cutting board. I then pulled a filthy tea kettle from a cabinet, an electric water boiler, a toaster and two dirty plastic bowls from the shelf below. Two meal plates, two salad plates and two small coffee mugs along with two tiny worn glasses sat in a cabinet beneath the sink. Then it caught my eye – the sink. The pump sink standing at the side entrance to the camper was not in the online description, nor was the small refrigerator nearby. Seeing as these are the two things we use most, my husband was sure he had selected the camper with a regular sink and a 55 liter fridge. As he rounded the corner to peer into the van he immediate saw it as well. “Online it said this had a regular sink and a bigger refrigerator,” he told our representative. Confused she responded, “No, all of our hi-tops have a pump sink and … ice box.”

I was already frustrated, after spending more than 30 days in two other camper vans in both New Zealand and Australia and loving every minute of it, I couldn’t hide my disappointment with Apollo. Instead of raising a stink, we figured we would make due and headed out (only after I pushed the dumpster out of the way myself so we could navigate out of the Apollo garage).

First things first, we had to stop and buy everything the camper was missing. A tub to carry dishes in, a sufficient cutting board (now we know we should have picked up some new knifes as well), a cheese grater, candles and cleaners to fight the horrible smell and two clean pillow cases. Yes, the linens provided were not in a sealed, clean package as they had been with each rental company before; instead, the thin, worn and dirty pillow cases looked as though they hadn’t been washed. We considered buying bigger pots and pans as the two pots provided and the one sauté pan are cheap and small.

More than a week in now, and we’ve established our routine and have settled in just fine. The van has enough space for two people and enough storage space for our bags and clothes – although we had to do some rearranging to get it that way. The dust pan and brush found in each camper have been lifesavers for cleaning the dirt from the floors, however, the brush in our Apollo was worn down to the nub, leaving us to try and sweep the camper floor with a few ratty remaining bristles.

Overall, the camper drives like a car and easy to maneuver around busy towns. The USB plugin is great for listening to MP3 music and charging our iPhones. The bed is comfortable enough (we added the pads intended for the top bed to double ours), but the bedding is less than sufficient. We found two thin, ratty pillows and two sheets topped off by one mummy sleeping bag and another worn sleeping bag.

If this review is scaring you away from Apollo – it should. The camper vans are terrible and old, but that’s not the worst part.  The company is notorious for making off with people’s money – charging extra fees and basically screwing people on their transactions.  Unfortunately, we were bitten by the big bad Apollo bug as well.  The company did not refund our $5,000 AU bond (an absolutely crazy amount to begin with).  When we finally called the company on their “lack of attention” – our bond was refunded…after the Australian dollar dipped drastically against the US dollar.  While there is a portion of the contract that states the company is not responsible for fluctuations in currency, had they refunded our bond in a timely fashion, we wouldn’t have been charged more than $100.00 in interest fees and $500.00 in lost exchange rates.  The heck of deal for an approximately $500.00 rental has now cost us an EXTRA $600.00 US!  That’s a joke!

If you do rent a camper with Apollo, be warned.. they’ll try to sell you on additional insurance fees, and make sure to calculate the credit card transaction fee into your total price (this is something to do BEFORE you even get screwed).  Depending on the card you use, you’ll be hit with anywhere from 100 to 250 dollars in transaction fees, which is true of all rental companies and something we were fine with. Apollo does allow you to choose the bond of your choice (we chose the 5,000 insurance deposit- the cheapest option), which will be charged to your card no matter what and the claim will be removed when the van is returned in good condition.  If they do decide to return it without you hounding them, you still pay a foreign transaction fee on the 5,000 dollars and it can add a couple hundred dollars to your final bill (our credit card company refunded this – thank goodness)!

Overall, we had a much, much, much better experience with Mighty/Britz in Australia and United in New Zealand, but in the end it boils down to cost and what you need to get by. If you do want to go for the cheaper option, just beware of what you are getting yourself into.  We did our research and thought we had our bases covered, but the company still found a way to take us in the end.  Rarely do I whole-heartedly advise against something as I believe each traveler is suited to different hotels, restaurants, tour companies, etc..but, I do %100 advise against rental with Apollo.  In my humble opinion, it’s a bad company that scrapes by on rentals from uninformed tourists.  No wonder they don’t have a TripAdvisor account, a Twitter, Facebook, etc.  They would be overwhelmed with negativity.  Do not rent with Apollo.