Travel to Christchurch
Flying to Christchurch
There are no direct flights to Christchurch from the UK, but Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Emirates and British Airways all offer tickets with one stopover. The fastest route is via Singapore. If flying from the USA, there are direct flights from Los Angeles to Auckland, from where it's a short connecting flight to Christchurch. The most expensive time to travel is between December and February. Cheaper fares are usually available from mid-April to mid-June.
From London - 24 hours (including stopver); New York - 24 hours (including stopover); Los Angeles - 16 hours (including stopover); Toronto - 24 hours (including stopover); Sydney - 3 hours.
Travel by road
New Zealand is an ideal country to explore by car, as the scenery is spectacular. All roads are State Highways, with SH1 running the length of both islands. Most roads are single lane and travel will take longer than you think, especially in Christchurch where many roads require levelling post-quake and underground services still need to be replaced; be prepared for lumpy roads.
You need a valid national driving licence, for up to 12 months. The legal driving age is 16 years, although there are restrictions placed on drivers under 18. Insurance is not mandatory but is recommended. Traffic drives on the left. Speed limits are 100kph (62mph) on open roads, 50kph (31mph) in urban areas and 20kph (12mph) in the vicinity of schools and stopped school buses.The New Zealand Automobile Association (tel: +64 9 966 8688; www.aa.co.nz) provides information on road conditions (tel: 0900 33 222, in New Zealand) and general information (tel: 0800 500 444, in New Zealand) and has a reciprocal agreement with the British AA, so visiting members can get free maps.
Helmets are required to be worn by riders of all bicycles, scooters and motorbikes.
Emergency breakdown services
AA (tel: 0800 500 222, in New Zealand; +64 966 8688 from overseas).
The main road to Christchurch is SH1. It bypasses the city, though, so from the north (Picton and Kaikoura), follow SH74 for the city centre. From the south (Dunedin and Queenstown), follow SH1 or SH73 for the city centre and Lyttelton Harbour.
InterCity (tel: +64 3 365 1113; www.intercity.co.nz) runs coaches throughout New Zealand. Backpackers also use the Kiwi Experience (tel: +64 9 366 4286; www.kiwiexperience.com), which sells a variety of travel passes including accommodation. Naked Bus (tel: +64 9 979 1616; www.nakedbus.com) often has very cheap fares.
Time to city
From Dunedin - 5 hours; Queenstown - 6 hours; Invercargill - 7 hours; Picton - 6 hours 30 minutes.
Travel by Rail
Christchurch's railway station is on Troup Drive, in Addington. Regular shuttles run from the station to the city. The Scenic Rail Pass provides access to the entire Tranz Scenic Rail Network, and is a great way to explore New Zealand.
KiwiRail Scenic Journeys (tel: +64 4 495 0775 or 0800 872 467, in New Zealand only; www.kiwirailscenic.co.nz) operates train services to and from Christchurch including the TranzAlpine to and from Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass, considered one of the world’s great scenic train journeys. The Coastal Pacific line runs to and from Picton via Blenheim and Kaikoura, but it is closed indefinitely due to earthquake damage.
From Greymouth - 4 hours 30 minutes; Picton - 5 hours 15 minutes.
Taxis and shuttle buses meet trains (or book beforehand to ensure you don’t need to wait or queue for one). The station is a 10-minute drive from the city centre.