New Zealand's Tranz Scenic trains travel, as a rule, north and south along the main trunk of New Zealand. If you want to crisscross the country, then you'll have to abandon the country's rail network. There are some exceptions, most notably the famous TranzAlpine Express, a spectacular scenic ride across Arthur's Pass and the mountainous spine of the South Island between Greymouth and Christchurch.
Even the most popular services tend to run only once daily. They do leave and arrive on time as a rule. Trains have one class, with standard comfortable seats and a basic food service selling light meals, snacks, beer, wine, and spirits. Special meals (diabetic, wheat free, or vegetarian) can be arranged, but you have to order at least 48 hours before you board the train. Most carriages have large windows from which to view the spectacular passing scenery, and some routes have a commentary on points of interest. Most trains also have a viewing carriage at the rear.
Travelers can purchase a New Zealand Travelpass for unlimited travel by train, bus, and Interislander ferry for a variety of periods. Senior citizens (over 60) get a 20% discount with proof of age.
You can obtain both schedules and tickets at visitor information centers and at train stations. Major credit cards are accepted, as are cash and traveler's checks. Reservations are advised, particularly in the summer months. Book at least 48 hours in advance.
InterCity Travel Centres (09/583-5780 in Auckland; 03/365-1113 in Christchurch; 04/385-0520 in Wellington.)
Tranz Scenic (04/495-0775; 0800/872-467 toll-free in New Zealand for bookings. www.tranzscenic.co.nz.)
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