New Zealand Nuance #5: Train tickets

If you want to travel by train into Wellington from anywhere along the Kāpiti Line, you’ll either have to be organised enough to buy your ticket in advance from the ticket office at your local station (make sure you check the opening times as some of the smaller ticket offices are only open for a few hours in the morning) or you’ll need some cash to buy the ticket from the conductor on the train. Currently, there are no machines from where you can buy a ticket in Wellington or any other station on any of the lines in/out of the capital for that matter and incredibly, the conductors can’t take card payments.

At the moment, if you want to buy a monthly travel pass, you have to actually buy it on the 1st of the month. I know this because I tried to get monthly travel passes for my children as they’re now taking the train up to Plimmerton to catch the school bus to Whitby and was politely told that the monthly passes had to start on the first of the month. Hmmm…….

Another staggering fact is that any ticket you buy is not actually dated. The validation of your journey relies on the conductor noticing that you’ve boarded the train and then punching your ticket on one of the dates:

My husbands Explorer ticket from his trip into Wellington

So if the train is particularly crowded and the conductor doesn’t see you, you’ve just got a free ride as there are no barriers to pass through at any of the stations. Let me repeat that for UK readers who might not believe what I’ve just told them; there are no ticket barriers at any of the stations on any line going into New Zealand’s capital city and if the conductor doesn’t punch your ticket, you can use it again another day. Crazy.

Although saying that, the conductors in New Zealand have some serious observational skills and it’s rare that they won’t notice that you’ve boarded the train. On the trains I’ve been on, there are no toilets so don’t go thinking you can just hide in there for the whole journey either. Train fares are half price here at the moment thanks to a government incentive ($10 or roughly £5 for an Explorer ticket from Waikanae to Wellington) so there really is no need to try and fare dodge. Just like our Travelcards, an Explorer ticket will allow you unlimited travel on both trains and buses for one day. Even at full price ($20 or roughly £10), this is still a super cheap price for a days unlimited travel to and around the capital city of New Zealand.

There is something called a Snapper card (a bit like the UK’s Oyster card) which allows passengers to make contactless payments for certain bus journeys in Wellington, including the Wellington Cable Car and soon you’ll be able to use it on the trains too.

Believe it or not the Snapper card has been in existence for 14 years but it’s only being introduced on the trains later this year.


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