All photos in this post were either taken with the Samsung S9 or Note8
I’m just going to preface this with the disclaimer that Christchurch was a solo trip for me that I wanted to do totally on my own – meaning not just a solitary trip, but one without the trappings of (admittedly self imposed) obligations to my web platforms. That’s why I didn’t bring a camera on the trip – I wasnt expecting to take photos for anything other than keepsake so a phone would do (though come to think of it the ones that my phone takes are actually very good) and I also didnt consciously plan to pen any guides or anything like that on the trip. All that is to say that if this seems a little sparse compared to my normal BSGs, forgive me. I didn’t plan for this! Something i also say when my phone runs out of battery when i’m out and about, but nevermind. Think of this, then, more as notes from a broke student rather than a full on guide. Alright? Alright, then we are aligned, and without the pressure of expectations, here I go.
Getting to Christchurch
Most people will see Christchurch as sort of an entry point to the South Island of New Zealand, which is one of the most beautiful regions in the world, I think, if you’re a scenery sort of person. Consequently most people dont stay for more than a couple of days in the city – they’re trying to get to the mountains, the lakes, the gorgeous Milford Sound. I had no car and the purpose of my trip wasnt really to see scenery, so I was happy to stay based in Christchurch. But either way, Christchurch serves as a gateway, and one where you’ll probably want to stay a night or two to stock up on groceries and stuff before moving on.
Flying into Christchurch International Airport is easy enough – Singapore has a few carriers that fly that route, though most of them feature a stopover somewhere. I did my stopover in Brisbane via Qantas. (A mild digression: Qantas has surprisingly good in-flight entertainment options – not a huge movie library, but very curated, very recent. I flew in early March and already The Shape of Water and Red Sparrow on the movie list, both of which had just been released in Singapore cinemas)
A note if youre flying out of Christchurch as well – if you have an early morning flight, it’s good to know that unlike most major airports, the Chirstchurch airport does not allow sleeping overnight. You’re going to have to get there at 3am in the morning the normal way, like by taxi or shuttle or something. Which brings me to my next point:
Getting to and fro the Christchurch Airport
Christchurch is (I ran a search) the most expensive city in the world for airport taxi transfers. Seriously. The city center is about 20 minutes drive from the airport and that’s a cool 60-70 bucks and beyond. I nearly choked blood when I saw it – I have disposable income now but the broke student in me refuses to pay for that purely based on principle. That was ok going from Christchurch to the city center when I arrived – there are a number of buses that take you to the city, and it’s NZ8.50 cash or NZ2.50 if you’ve got a Metro card.
It’s getting from the city to the airport thats the problem.
If you’ve got a midday or night flight, you dont have anything to worry about since the airport bus will probably still be running. But my flight was 650am, meaning i had to get there at 450am, and no buses are running. Uber is new in CC so there were NO UBERS on the road at that time also – I had a heads up because a few days into my trip, two japanese girls started knocking on my door at 3am in panic because they had assumed they could get an uber to the airport and freaked out when they realised there were none available. I didn’t want to risk waiting on an Uber after that, and I refused to pay for a taxi, so I started looking for other options.
I finally settled on a shared shuttle service. A shuttle (which most major cities have) is a shared minivan or private bus that you pre book, and they come pick you up on the way to the airport. I didnt dare take it before because I’ve heard so many bad things about shuttle services, like how they run late because there are so many people to pick, theyre uncomfortable and stuffy, they dont show up, etc.. so I figured i just had to find a good one. I found a small boutique one called Steve’s Shuttles which was a small company with mainly 5 star reviews on facebook. I felt safer going with a small / boutique company because I felt bigger organizations (like supershuttle) would be prone to inefficiency or messing up, and also cos Steve’s Shuttle had a free phone number I could call up, and I thought the dude on the phone sounded like a decent bloke. Yes I judge people based on their voice tonality!! It’s a side effect of being a choirgirl. Anyway, tt cost me $25 bucks cash, and the shuttle came exactly at 4am to pick me up from my door! Score!! Super happy with this, would definitely recommend. Here’s the link if youre keen: http://www.steveshuttle.co.nz/
Also, plan to get to the airport early. Both the Christchurch and Brisbane airports I passed through were crowded despite the odd hours I kept. The Brisbane airport was also very inefficient in it’s security checks with only one line open both times I phased through, so you might want to make sure your connecting flights arent too close together.
Data/ SIM cards
There are service provider booths just by the airport gates. I went with Spark’s data lover bundle, meaning no calls or texts, but 4.5GB of data with an additional 1GB for purely social data (FB and the like). It was great. NZ40! Connection was super good and never dropped. There was also a 1.5GB option for 20 bucks but .. the math didnt compute. Haha.
If youre travelling solo you probably want to look at getting a Sim card. Otherwise, if youre in a group of 3 and above, a wifi egg might be more worth it, depending on the duration of your trip. Do the sums on your own based on your trip!
Accommodation in Christchurch
There are lots of hostels in Christchurch but I think getting an Airbnb is the best option AND ITS NOT BECAUSE I WORK WITH THEM OK.
A bed in a mixed dorm is anywhere from NZ25 to NZ50. Which means you share a bunk bed with like five to eight other strangers, male and female. I’ve done this a lot, and while I’m happy to stay in hostels, the prices of airbnbs in Christchurch give hostels a total run for their money. I paid SGD26.8 per night for a private room in an Airbnb, which is basically the price of the cheapest hostel bed in a shared dorm. NO BRAINER. I didnt take photos because I was living in someone’s house and didnt think it was very nice for privacy reasons, but just run a search on Airbnb if youre coming to Christchurch, it’s a very good alternative to hostels!
If you’re a first time Airbnb user kindly sign up with my link so I get referral credit and can do more budget solo trips and bring you more broke student guides thank you! Airbnb.com/Jemma
Transport in Christchurch
There are no trains in Christchurch. I know, right? Weird. But they do have a very extensive bus system which is not very reliable nor on time, but at least it tries. That’s the theme of the city i think, because it’s still finding its feet after the earthquakes. But anyway, the bus system is called the Metro, and I took it everywhere.
The metro card is a non refundable ten bucks and this is where you need to decide whether it’s worth it for you. If you pay cash on the bus it’s NZ4. If you use the metro card, it’s NZ2.50 valid for 2 hours (So if you get off and do groceries and take a bus back within 2 hours its free), and total limit for one day is NZ5, so max you pay is NZ5 a day anyway. The bus network extends pretty far out though, and I took the bus to neighbouring towns/beaches/ports just to look see, all for NZ2.50 a trip.
This made a lot of sense for me because I was in Christchurch for 10 days, so the number of times I would take the bus (and thus the discounts I would have via the bus card) was enough to justify the 10 bucks spent on the nonrefundable card. If youre only in town for one or two days, it may not be worth it. Do the math on your end. For reference, I spent NZ10 on the card, and topped up a total of NZ30, which I used to the last penny. Then I gave the empty card to my airbnb host so other guests can top it up and use it in the future, because I am a good person. That is all.
Food in Christchurch
I spent a lot of time in Auckland as a kid because my dad’s a pastor and our founding church is Emmanuel Church in New Zealand. In addition to that, in recent years, my family did a trip to NZ again – both north and south island, to visit family friends and the such. So it is from experience that I confess: food is really not New Zealand’s strong point, and it’s expensive to boot.
You’d be much better off cooking, because groceries are decently priced and fresh because they have their own produce. That’s another benefit to staying in an Airbnb – you might have access to cooking pans, oil, spices, etc, that your host lets you use, whereas in a hostel you might need to buy everything. Groceries in New Zealand aren’t cheap either, but at least you get to control the food you make and it’s still way cheaper than eating out. I cooked every single day in Christchurch, and only ate out a couple of times – when I was meeting someone for dinner, and when I felt like having unagi, which I couldnt make. (Samurai Bowl, Christchurch. Cheap for NZ standards and good food. Check it out.)
An example – I bought pork sirloin at the discount section of the grocery store, it was NZ4.50 for 3 slices, and I had it for three days with a fried egg and sautéed kale. GOOD OR WHAT.
Things I cooked:
Coffee in Christchurch
Entertainment in Christchurch
I fell in love with independent movie theater Alice cinemas in Christchurch. It’s a DVD rental store that has been remodelled to fit two theaters, and they screen modern and retro curated films. The whole place is themed like Alice in Wonderland, and you can bring wine into the theater!!!!!
I watched three films there: The Square, Ladybird, and A Fantastic Woman. I didnt know what any of them were before going in, and they were all very good. A good parallel to this is those indie bookstores that stock curated reads as opposed to chain bookstores that stock mass titles.
If you have a student card, it’s NZ12. Otherwise its NZ17 per show. More expensive than Singapore but it’s also not like a regular theater so I guess you’re paying in part for the experience.
209 Tuam St, Christchurch Central, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand
Payment Modes in Christchurch
Oh yes, one last point. I only changed NZD100 for my trip and I had money left over. This is because most places in NZ accept card – not just card, but paywave, so it’s incredibly easy to just use your credit card, especially if you have a travel card with miles tied to your overseas dollar spend. I only used cash for a couple of things:
1. One ice cream cone on the beach
2. Second hand books at some random bookstore
3. Airport transfer
4. Some coffee place that didnt accept card
That’s it! Otherwise most places take card, so you can just keep a bit of cash on you for safety. Otherwise it’s all good.
Okay that’s all I have that is relevant to notes for a guide. Hope this was helpful to anyone gathering notes on a New Zealand trip via Christchurch. 🙂 Goodbye, now.