When I started planning our trip to New Zealand, travelling by train didn’t even cross my mind. I didn’t know that the country had such a comprehensive train network, let alone what’s regarded as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world! Travelling by car or by camper is always going to be the best way to really see the country and get off the beaten track but if, like us, you’re stuck in New Zealand without wheels then the train is a great option to take in the breathtaking New Zealand scenery while you travel to your final destination.
Here’s everything you need to know to book your trip on the TranzAlpine train;
The TranzAlpine Route
There are three train routes offered by ‘Great Journeys of New Zealand’. The Northern Explorer, which takes you from Auckland to Wellington with seven stops between the two; the Coastal Pacific which travels between Picton and Christchurch along the Kaikoura Coastline (unfortunately this is closed until mid-2018 due to earthquake damage); and finally the train we took, the TranzApline, which runs from Greymouth to Christchurch and takes you through Arthurs pass with a magnificent view of the Southern Alps. The journey covers 223 kilometres of winding rivers, majestic mountains, spectacular forests in a little under 5 hours each way. I’ve detailed how to book and prices below (including a little trick for saving money on your ticket!)
TranzAlpine Ticket Types & Prices
New Zealand Rail offers three different ticket fares for the TranzAlpine route;
Starter: from $99 / £45 / €50 one way. These are non refundable but you can change the date of travel up to 48 hours before departure with a $20 fee.
Flex: $179 / £70 / €75 one way. 50% refundable and you get one free date change.
Flexi-Plus: $219 / £110 / €115, fully refundable and unlimited free stopovers can be booked.
As you would expect the cheapest fares go first so it can be worth booking your train early for an estimated date and taking advantage of the $20 date change if you need it.
Check out the TranzAlpine discount page to see if you can save even more money. This page is regularly updated with discounts, promo codes and other deals.
How To Book Your Journey On The TranzAlpine Train
Seats are relatively straightforward to book through the Great Journeys of NZ website – just follow this link to get to the booking page. You can buy tickets from agents in various places around NZ but you’ll probably end up paying more so I would recommend booking online.
You are allowed to have one item of checked in baggage with a maximum weight of 32kgs. It’s worth noting that you can’t bring large bags, backpacks, or suitcases onto the TranzAlpine train with you, these need to be checked in before you board. You can bring bags on board with you so have one ready with everything you need for the journey.
How Comfortable is the TranzAlpine?
The train itself is a lot more modern and comfortable than I expected, and the seats were far more spacious. The layout has definitely been designed with tourists in mind to give everyone the best experience and views. Your seats are assigned when you book and I was little worried whether we would have seats with a good view, but the great news is that all of the seats have the same view. They’re are set in rows of 4, two seats either side of the aisle, with panoramic windows that go right up to the ceiling so everyone can has a great view. Every few rows there’s a configuration of 4 seats with a table between them for groups.
There’s plenty of space in the seats and you’re welcome to move around the carriages and make your way to the dining carriage easily.
Facilities On Board
There are outlets at your seat so you can charge your devices and an audio guide provided in the arm rest with earphones for you use (but you can use your own if you like).
There are well maintained bathrooms and changing facilities on the trains, and there are also ramps and wheelchair spaces. You can read about all of the accessibility details here.
The train has an open air viewing carriage where you can go to take pictures and get a 360 degree view of the scenery. It’s the best part about the journey and you should definitely spend some time here. The driver will announce when you’re passing something particularly stunning so you’ll have time to get out to the viewing platform to see it! There’s a TV screen at the front of every carriage showing your progress and upcoming sights which is really handy for knowing when to go take photos.