Queenstown on a Budget

Our tips for those travelling on a budget

With so many attractions and activities on offer Queenstown is an easy place to empty your wallet. Here is some insider knowledge and tips for those travelling on a budget.


The most obvious choice for budget accommodation is backpacker hostels. Queenstown has a big range of affordable places to stay and room options vary from dorms (sharing with anything from 5 others to 9 others), to shares (usually just 2 or 3 others) to your own private rooms: singles, doubles, twins and triples. The standard of backpacker accommodation has risen over the last few years and many people opt for hostels instead of motels and cheap hotels. 

Due to the improved standard, many backpackers hostels are now known as "flashpackers" – this means that dorm rooms could have anything from an ensuite, to hair straighteners, to flatscreen TVs or even a fridge. Freebies often apply at backpackers hostels as well as flashpackers: Wifi, Tea & Coffee, DVDs, phone calls, and more. 

BBH membership will save the cardholder a minimum of $3 per night in BBH hostels. There are twelve BBH hostels in Queenstown with one more in Arrowtown and three in Wanaka. Check out www.bbh.co.nz to find out about becoming a BBH member.

Lunch deals are on offer in many pubs and restaurants, typically around $10 for mains. If you want to do your own cooking Fresh Choice supermarket on Gorge Road often has special offers – but on the whole, do expect for it to be more expensive than supermarkets in bigger cities.

New World out in Frankton is slightly better priced but you have to weigh up how much it costs you to get out to Frankton on the bus or by car. Alpine Supermarket in the centre of town on Shotover Street tends to be the most expensive out of the three.

The fierce competition of so many bars, pubs and clubs in Queenstown has led to an increase in value and special offers for the budget-conscious drinker. 1876 Bar and Restaurant offers year-round drinks specials and is double the value for its fab sun-deck and lively atmosphere. Pig & Whistle Pub serves real pints and is reasonably priced with several specials and live music on each week. Cowboys even offers free pizza with drinks from late afternoon to early evening. It is quite possible to do a tour of the happy hours around Queenstown and not pay full price for a drink.

During summer you might also want to opt for buying some beers from the supermarket, grabbing a blanket and finding a spot on Queenstown Bay, in Queenstown Gardens or at St Omer Park. However, do be aware of the 24 hour liquor ban in the city centre at certain times of the year (around Christmas and Winter Festival) and at all other times of the year, liquor is banned in the downtown area 10.00pm-8.00am.
Getting Around:

Hitchhiking is common in Queenstown and some Queenstown residents use it as a means to get around, get to the supermarket and even get home. This is not to say that the safety of hitchhiking can ever be fully guaranteed so it is wise to travel in pairs where possible, or think twice about buying that extra beer and paying for the bus instead. Popular hitching spots are by Steamer Wharf opposite Crowne Plaza hotel for Fernhill and Sunshine Bay; at the beginning of Glenorchy Road just after the Fernhill Roundabout for Glenorchy; Gorge Road for Coronet Peak Skifield and Arrowtown; outside Bungi Backpackers on Stanley Street for Frankton or anywhere else in the South Island (you have to go through Frankton to get anywhere else).

You can travel anywhere within the Queentown bus network for just $2 with a GoCard. The card can be purchased from the bus driver, at Queenstown Airport or O’Connell’s Mall kiosk for $5. Read our 'Buses Guide' for more details. Without a GoCard you can pay with cash but it's $5 per trip for an adult. For trips paid in cash that start or end at the airport, it's $10.
Things To Do:

Despite Queenstown being a spending black hole for some travellers, the more research you do, the more able you are to make savings. There are things to do for under $25 and there is even free stuff, yes free stuff!

Simply enjoying the region's parks and gardens cost nothing while Queenstown Gardens is home to a 18 hole disc golf course - all you need is a frisbee. Staying within the gardens, a game of bowls costs just $10. There are plenty of walking trails that offer spectacular views including Queenstown Hill that's accessed from the town centre.