The Truth About Living in Queenstown, New Zealand

the truth about living in queenstown

Living in Queenstown has its pros and cons. After moving to Queenstown for myself, I am revealing the truth about living in Queenstown including how expensive it is, how easy it is to get a job, how much fun you can have, as well as why I think it is a great place to live!

We made the move to Queenstown about three months ago now. It has been a great time, most people would agree that Queenstown is the best place to spend the winter in New Zealand.

And while it has been fantastic learning to ski/snowboard, drinking mulled wine and gazing out at the beautiful mountain peaks, there are a few downsides to living in Queenstown that are important to know.

In this blog, we will answer the questions that most people have before moving to Queenstown with our honest opinion based on our experience living there!

hike to bobs peak is one of the best cheap things to do in queenstown
That is Queenstown! Arguably, one of the most beautiful towns in the world!

Is finding somewhere to live hard?

Before we left Auckland for Queenstown everybody told us that the hardest thing would be finding somewhere to live. There is a serious housing shortage in Queenstown especially in the peak season of winter (June to September) and summer (December to March.)

With this drilled into our heads, we applied for a lease for a two-bedroom place before we even moved! We ended up getting the place but this was probably because the lease started in May, before it started to get busy in town.

There are rooms for rent for short term or long term but expect to pay $250 NZD for a single and $350 for a couple per week (and that’s not including bills.)

living in queenstown is beautiful
This is our living room…can you believe that view?! We wake up everyday feeling lucky to be living in Queenstown.

Because of the high demand, it is a bit of a task finding somewhere to live. I have met many people who gave up on trying to rent a room and just live in long-term hostels. That being said, there are some nice hostels in town and it wouldn’t be the worst option.

Check out some of the best hostels in Queenstown here!

If you are determined to find a proper house, then make sure to look in advance of the busy season and you will be just fine!

Is living in Queenstown it really that expensive?

In short, yes. New Zealand is already expensive and Queenstown is even more expensive than anywhere else. Besides the cost of housing, power is ridiculous, oh, and did I mention we pay $3.30 for ONE garbage bag! Don’t even think about eating cucumbers ($4.59) or eggplant ($6.50 each!) Fruits and veggies are very expensive in the winter, but prices do drop in the summer!

the price of vegetables in queenstown
These are pictures I took at the local Pak n’ Save the other day. That is the price for ONE!

If you own a car, fueling up will be one of your biggest expenses each week. Fuel is $2.36 NZ per liter and Diesel is $1.70 per liter currently (as of December 2018) and it is only expected to go up in price.

That all being said, there are things that are very reasonable. For example, skip driving and take the bus which only costs $2 to get you anywhere in or around Queenstown. Some veggies are cheap, we can buy a whole pumpkin for $2 or cauliflower for $1.70 for example.

If you watch out for dinner specials and happy hours it is possible to get a drink for less than $5 and a good meal for $15. There are also lots of deal website such as Book Me, Grab One, and First Table that can make going out to eat a lot more affordable.

If you need to send money from an overseas bank account to your new New Zealand bank account, use the company Transferwise. Dan and I only use this company for sending money. It is WAY cheaper than using any international bank transfer. We use it ALL the time. Use this link and get your first transfer for free!

the view from the stratsfare restaurant at skyline
Such an amazing view up at Skyline for dinner!

The truth is, it is possible to save money while living in Queenstown and it isn’t the expensiveness that is the problem, it is the lifestyle. What exactly do I mean by lifestyle? Well, a lot of drinking and partying as well as going out for dinner, lunch and breakfast is common, not to mention how expensive skiing and snowboarding is.

Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand, and adventure activities are costly!

If you want to truly experience Queenstown and do more than just work and sit at home, you ’ll likely find your wallet suffering.

moke lake is a beautiful place near queenstown
Living in a place with views like this just around the corner doesn’t come cheap! This picture is of Moke Lake, which is only a 20-minute drive from Queenstown!

Is the party scene really that good?

Queenstown is a little town with a lot of party! Every night of the week there are several places to party until 4 am – and it is busy!

There are literally hundreds of bars and restaurants all within a few hundred meters. The food is good, really good (we have yet to have a bad meal out in Queenstown.) The bars lure you in with awesome live music and bar food deals.

partying in queenstown
This picture was taken at a local brewery on a Wednesday evening.
drinking in queenstown

The party scene is fun though. Queenstown is full of backpackers who work in hospitality and party when they are off as well as rich tourists here on a short holiday. And for some reason, the combination of the two out partying makes for a wild and fun night of people from all corners of the globe.

How easy is it to get a job?

Very easy! Because of the transient nature of Queenstown, it seems like everywhere is always hiring. If you speak English and don’t mind working for minimum wage, you have a very large selection in retail or hospitality.

The construction industry is booming in Queenstown and if you have construction or trade experience you will also easily find a job, – and a better paying one at that!

Don’t expect to find much for office work in Queenstown especially on a short-term basis. Queenstown is a tourist town and the majority of jobs are in hospitality or tourism!

Book Cheap Flights to Queenstown

Click here to check out affordable flights to Queenstown from wherever you are now!

What are the benefits of living in Queenstown?

There are so many reasons why living in Queenstown is amazing. Sure, the job selection is limited, it is expensive, and finding a place to live is a challenge, but I can guarantee you that it is 100% worth it. I couldn’t think of a better place to spend a chunk of my working holiday than Queenstown.

Why? Well, let me tell you!

The Hiking

There are dozens of trails for hiking near Queenstown. Each hike is unique to the next and offers incredible views.

hikes close to queenstown
Looking out at Ben Lomond summit from the Fernhill Loop

The Beauty

Queenstown is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. The town itself is cute and it is situated right next to a lake and mountains. The surrounding area of Queenstown is breathtaking and worth exploring.

living in Queenstown has its benefits
Check out that view!

The People

The friendliest people are travellers and Queenstown is full of them! Sure, you won’t meet many Kiwis (people from New Zealand) while living in Queenstown, but you are sure to meet lots of nice people from all over the world. Your list of places to go and friends to visit will grow after just living in Queenstown for a short period of time.

Queenstown craft beer tours
Cheers friends!

The Acitivies

Skiing or snowboarding in the winter is so awesome! Two different ski hills are less than 45 minutes from Queenstown making it the perfect base for getting your fill of shredding in the winter.

ski season in queenstown
Daniel, snowboarding at The Remarkables.

Hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting, cycling, and camping are just a few of the common summer activities that the people of Queenstown do regularly.

Like I said before, Queenstown is the adventure capital of New Zealand so while you are here be sure to bungee jump, skydive, go canyoning, get on a jet boat, and go rock climbing!

Via Ferrata Queenstown
Climbing high above Queenstown!

There are so many different activities and things to do in Queenstown, check out some of the different tours you can book here!

The Weather

In the winter, there is snow on the mountains but not in the town. In the summer, it is warm but not sweltering hot. And no matter what season, it feels like the sun is almost always shining!

we love living in Queenstown
We love living in Queenstown!

If you haven’t moved to NZ yet, make sure you read our blog about Things to Know Before Moving to New Zealand!

So far for us, living in Queenstown has been awesome. Choosing to make the move from Auckland to Queenstown was a great decision that we don’t regret for a second.

But besides Queenstown being great itself, it is also a great base for making short trips elsewhere. There are just so many things to do in and around Queenstown!

Just two weeks ago we were exploring Milford Sound and then we came back to Queenstown for a craft beer tour. Last weekend we went night skiing at Coronet Peak, and tonight we are going to a Paella night in town at a brewery. This weekend we are making a little ski trip to Mt Hutt! And, one of our favorite places, Mount Cook, is just a couple hours away!

Doesn’t that sound like a great life? We think so!

Do you have any questions about living in Queenstown? Let us know in the comments and we will get back to you!

We have written a ton of more information about Queenstown and New Zealand in general, check it out!


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7 Replies to “The Truth About Living in Queenstown, New Zealand”

  • Hi Bailey ,
    Thank you for a great post ! I’m making the move to Queenstown myself from London in April 2019… no job, no where to live and knowing no one eeek. I’ve been worrying about the housing and job situation but this has made me a bit more relaxed it can be done ! Can I ask where you looked for housing before you got there ?
    Thanks a lot and hope to hear from you soon .

    • Hey Gemma,
      You will LOVE Queenstown and April is a good time to move as it’s between peak seasons. Should be fairly easy to find a job and a place to live.
      Without a job you’ll have a hard time signing your own lease, but you will be able to rent a room easily. The best way to find a room to rent is on Facebook pages like “Queenstown rentals”, “for rent in Queenstown”, and “Queenstown-lames rent/buy/sell a room.” You might even be able to arrange a place before you arrive and look at the room on a Skype video chat. Once you’re settled in and want something more permanent you can go on local real estate websites and find an entire place to sign a lease.
      Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

      • Hi bailey ,
        Thanks that’s really helpful..Who knows I may see ya there !. I’ve started following you guys on insta so I can get some inspiration for my move. I’m sure you’ll get more questions from me at some point . Thanks again and chat soon

  • Hey there!
    Great write up!
    Very informative.
    I was just wondering, if you’re living and working there, and you’re an keen snowboarder but don’t have a car, what’s the best and cheapest way to be getting out to the mountains very frequently?

    • The cheapest way would be to hitchhike which is very common. Otherwise, take the bus which is $20 return but if you buy several trips at once I believe you can get a discount.
      The other thing you could do is try and get a job on the slopes and they will provide you transport to and from work each day and you can just go snowboarding before or after work!

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