Newest Review: ... was through the highly recommended tram network. The tramway has a bit of a mixed history as they were originally introduced in the ci... more
New Zealand has trams that drive through buildings and occasionally crash into them
Christchurch Tramway Tour (New Zealand)
Member Name: beckyX
Christchurch Tramway Tour (New Zealand)
Advantages: Fun way to do a city tour
Disadvantages: Rickety, don't run often, expensive, slow
The Christchurch tramway is a 2.5km long tourist tramway that loops around the city centre of Christchurch in New Zealand. Although vintage trams are used, this is not a historical remnant (the tram networked stopped being used in the 1950s), but were reinstated as a tourist attraction in 1995.
Each tram has its own quirks and features, and each driver tells you different interesting stories about the places you are going around. We thought that some of the stories may have had fictional elements added to them - the drivers were all charming and eccentric. Some of the trams are a little more rickety than others, though I found that they were comfortable enough inside for short distances. With these being vintage trams, accessibility isn't great - wheelchair access to the trams is available, though not from every station, and you get the driver to help you with pushchairs.
You buy a ticket that lasts for 2 days (current cost NZD15, about £7) and hop on and off at one of the 11 stops. The trams take about 25 minutes to go around the whole circuit. The number of trams on the circuit at one time goes down outside of peak times, but it's usually every 8-12 minutes or so, so we found that we didn't need to plan too carefully, but just kept an eye out for how far away the next tram was (you can often see them in the distance some time before they get there). Sadly, as this is a tourist attraction and not public transport, they do not run very late or very early (9am-6pm in winter).
It's more of a fun activity to do in itself than a sensible method of getting around the city centre - I found that the centre of Christchurch was so small that once I'd seen everything once, I got a bit bored with the tram and it was generally quicker just to walk places rather than use the tram as transport. So a ticket that lasted two days wasn't much use to me - I just wanted to go once around the loop and the ticket is quite expensive for that. But they do have some special tickets that combine a tram ticket with entrance to other attractions - if you are going to lots in this area, this might make it more affordable.
In the evening, they run a restaurant tram, which goes round and round the loop over a period of 2h or so as it serves dinner. We didn't do this as with the exchange rates it was very pricey (about £30-50 per person!), but even though the catering facilities are not large (they don't have a range for children), they do have vegetarian, gluten free and dairy free options.
The tram station is a shopping mall that was re-engineered to take the tram route through it. So this tram actually goes through a building! There are sliding glass doors at the entrance to the building to keep the draughts out when the trams are not around. The tram is supposed to wait for a traffic light to say it is time to go, but when I was on it, they went a bit too late and the tram crashed into the closing doors and pulled them off! Fortunately, nobody was hurt and we all got an excellent story for our postcards "I was on a tram. It crashed into a building!"
In summary, this is a fun tourist attraction and if you can afford it and like rickety vintage vehicles, it's worth a go as a tourist attraction, but don't bother using it as your main method of transport.
Summary: Like an unusual tour bus. Fun enough, but gets a bit dull quite quickly.
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