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07 Useful Tips For KiwiRail Travel

Always game to explore the different transport options in a destination, I was thrilled to learn about the KiwiRail prior to my arrival in New Zealand. Somehow, trains fascinate me and I was determined to explore this national rail freight network that also provides passenger services (around both the North and South Island).

Did you know that New Zealand’s first railway tracks were built in the early 1860s?

Doing research does pay off, as I was able to save more 50% on the rail travel and ensured minimal hassle during my journey. The following are 07 Useful Tips For KiwiRail (Potential) Enthusiasts:


07 Useful Tips For KiwiRail (Potential) Enthusiasts!

1. Book early / watch out for seasonal promotions – i.e. Winter Specials, KiwiRail Anniversary etc. The best way to keep abreast on current promotions is to “LIKE” the Facebook Page of KiwiRail. Alternatively, the time-consuming conventional way would be to log on to every now and then.


2. Get the BEST BARGAIN! There are generally three tiers of fares for the Tranzapline journey (which I went!), namely the Flexi, Smart-Saver and Super-Saver. However, if you try to make reservations online outside of New Zealand, you’d NEVER get the Super Saver fare. This is because the KiwiRail website can detect and filter computer’s IP addresses.

The Super-Saver fare offers close to 50% discount of the regular Flexi fare!

The only way to get the best deals (i.e. super saver fare / seasonal promo) would be to (i) book in New Zealand either by internet or phone or if you would like to make reservations prior to your arrival (ii) call from overseas to make your reservations.

KiwiRail check-in counter at Christchurch

Passenger seats onboard the luxurious and comfortable KiwiRail

3. Request! Request! Seats are not allocated at time of booking. However, if you book by phone – you can make a seating request (subject to confirmation) or try your luck when you do your check-in. Keen photographers may want to request a seat closer to the open-air viewing platform.

Open-air viewing platform

If you are booking for the TranzApline (Christchurch to Greymouth), you’d probably get the best views from seats on the right-hand side of the train going towards Greymouth. Those who are travelling in a group can request for one of the few bays of 4-seaters that face each other around a table.


4. Note the checked baggage allowance. Per person are allowed to only check-in two items, each not exceeding 20kg. Size must not be more than 200 linear cm. There will be $10 charge for carrying extra items like surf boards, bicycles or skis. Read more at

There is overhead space for storing hand-carry luggage(s)

5. DO NOT pack your phone or camera chargers in the checked-in luggage. Bring it onboard the train, as there are power sockets at each seat! Handphone at low battery or have you exhausted your camera battery due to excessive beautiful scenery? No worries for you can always charge your gadgets!


6. Get out of the comfort zone! Be it the Northern Explorer or TranzApline route, it is the journey of a lifetime. Be prepared to have a visual feast, as magnificent natural landscapes take place before your eyes. The trains are equipped with big, tall windows but before you get too engrossed and stay glued in your seat… …


STOP! Once the commentary stopped, take time to go out into the viewing platform! PS: It would be beyond-imagination cold, so do bundle up!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMagnificent scenery along the TranzApline


7. Easy convenience upon disembarkation. This tip is more for passengers taking the TranzApline from Christchurch to Greymouth. If you are taking a bus (like me!), you’d be happy to know that there’s a West Coast Travel Centre directly at the Greymouth station. Free WIFI are available here and you may request to store your luggage for a while. Nearby, there are Warehouse (for daily essentials), Countdown (supermarket) and Subway (for a quick lunch/takeaway).

Upon disembarkation at Greymouth

I hope these tips are useful for you! Next up, stay tuned for snapshots of my trip of a lifetime – the TranzApline!

The above information has been complied based on various sources, including my own experience and should only be used as a reference. Check out for more information on KiwiRail. 

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