- 1 Living and Working in Queenstown with
- 2 Getting the Working Holiday Visa
- 3 Cost of living in Queenstown
- 4 Money Transfer
- 5 A word on Accommodation in Queenstown
- 6 Local Knowledge
- 7 Essential Information
- 8 Meeting people & finding your crew
- 9 Getting the Dream Queenstown Job
- 10 Insider Tips on Saving Money
Living and Working in Queenstown with
You’ve heard all about it: Queenstown, a magical place where the mountains play host to four world class ski fields & dynamite outdoors experiences year round.
Summer parties on the shoreline where strangers become new buddies and an exciting cultural scene. You envision an adventure like no other: hobbit lands to discover, crisp mountain air and sweet kiwi summer vibes. You pack your bags, book your tickets and land in Queenstown, just in time for the season of your choice to take off.
Here is the Insider’s Guide to everything you need to know about working and living in the resort mecca Queenstown.
Getting the Working Holiday Visa
If you’re aged between 18 and 30, in good health, and are applying for the first time from an eligible country, you have a good chance of securing a visa.
Countries whose citizens are eligible to apply for the working holiday visa are as follows:
|Hong Kong SAR||Philippines|
You can apply for the visa while in New Zealand but you must already hold a temporary work permit. Some countries can apply for a 2-year visa so check the individual country details. The intention of the visa is to encourage cultural awareness and travel. Permanent jobs are not permitted as they are not in line with the goals of the visa program.
Queenstown is a very popular destination for working holiday visa holders. It’s a town that offers everything: mountains, lakes, activities, international and local travelers, work, and a great standard of living for temporary and permanent migrants.
Apply online for the visa (it’s the only way), and make sure you can prove a source of income. NZ$30,000 should be enough to show that you can sustain yourself in the event that you cannot find work. Once you have been accepted you have 12 months to enter the country.
Cost of living in Queenstown
Queenstown is one of the most expensive destinations in New Zealand due to its immense popularity. Tourists and New Zealanders love the lifestyle opportunities. Many move here permanently from other parts of the country and the rest of the world. Apart from permanent residents the town experiences huge influxes of people during the peak summer and winter months. As a result, prices increase to keep up with demand. House prices are the biggest expense for most people. Sports equipment, while not outrageously expensive can be pricey.
According to Expatistan, Queenstown is 11% less expensive than London, 17% cheaper than New York, and roughly the same as living in Dublin, Ireland. (These figures are based on low number of data points, so it’s just a general indicator of difference in price). Numbeo gives
Numbeo gives the following indicators of prices for every day items in Queenstown (note: prices are in USD to show a more ‘universal’ number):
|Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant||17.88 $|
|Meal for 2 People, Mid-range Restaurant, Three-course||107.30 $|
|McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)||7.15 $|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 liter draught)||7.87 $|
|Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)||5.72 $|
|Cappuccino (regular)||3.22 $|
|Coke/Pepsi (0.33 liter bottle)||2.03 $|
|Water (0.33 liter bottle)||2.74 $|
|Milk (regular), (1 liter)||3.33 $|
|Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)||1.59 $|
|Rice (white), (1kg)||2.05 $|
|Eggs (12)||2.97 $|
|Local Cheese (1kg)||8.35 $|
|Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1kg)||14.31 $|
|Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)||21.46 $|
|Apples (1kg)||2.79 $|
|Banana (1kg)||2.15 $|
|Oranges (1kg)||2.86 $|
|Tomato (1kg)||7.39 $|
|Potato (1kg)||2.15 $|
|Onion (1kg)||1.61 $|
|Lettuce (1 head)||2.79 $|
|Water (1.5 liter bottle)||0.95 $|
|Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)||12.16 $|
|Domestic Beer (0.5 liter bottle)||4.65 $|
|Imported Beer (0.33 liter bottle)||2.86 $|
|Pack of Cigarettes (Marlboro)||13.59 $|
|One-way Ticket (Local Transport)||5.19 $|
|Monthly Pass (Regular Price)||33.62 $|
|Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)||3.58 $|
|Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)||2.86 $|
|Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)||71.53 $|
|Gasoline (1 liter)||1.41 $|
|Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or Equivalent New Car)||32,189.99 $|
|Basic (Electricity, Heating, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment||128.76 $|
|1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans)||0.46 $|
|Internet (10 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)||58.66 $|
|Sports And Leisure|
|Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult||35.77 $|
|Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat||11.80 $|
Clothing And Shoes
|1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar)||90.61 $|
|1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …)||40.54 $|
|1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range)||154.99 $|
|1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes||112.07 $|
Rent Per Month
|Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre||1,486.94 $|
|Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre||710.85 $|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre||1,824.10 $|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre||1,685.80 $|
Buy Apartment Price
|Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment in City Centre||8,226.33 $|
|Price per Square Meter to Buy Apartment Outside of Centre||4,828.50 $|
Salaries And Financing
|Average Monthly Disposable Salary (Net After Tax)||1,716.80 $|
|Mortgage Interest Rate in Percentages (%), Yearly||4.95 $|
If you’re going to be living in Queenstown for any length of time you might need to get some funds transferred from back home. Sending money overseas via a currency transfer service saves on ATM fees, currency exchange and banking fees.
I recommend Transferwise as it’s the most reliable of all of the currency transfer options I’ve tried over the years. The service offers the cheapest rates for sending money overseas and can save you money automatically when rates fluctuate. Many times I’ve had funds returned to me as currency rates drop during the transfer.
A word on Accommodation in Queenstown
Queenstown has always made headlines for all the right reasons, but lately, the town has been making headlines due to the chronic shortage of accommodation. This problem has many complex factors but can be simplified down to the fact that more and more people are hungry to experience the winter wonderland dream and, with travel being easier & cheaper these days, Queenstown’s infrastructure has not quite caught up with the influx of travelers. Many efforts are in place to remedy this but debates are raging on both sides of the fence. The problem is more centralized to long term accommodation, with seasonal workers and middle-income families being hit the hardest. There is now talk of the council purchasing the local high school site which is set to move in the upcoming years, solely for the purpose of building seasonal worker accommodation. All we can advise is to get organized and to realize that it’s not as easy as it used to be to find cheap accommodation in Queenstown. Local businesses are doing what they can to provide, but more and more demand is pushing up the prices. So plan ahead, get creative and do your research. We provide a short list to help with accommodation research which is by no means exhaustive.
The best places to find accommodation are online sources such as the Lakes Weekly Bulletin and Facebook community pages (see below), Trademe.co.nz, local papers and through local agencies specializing in property management such as The Queenstown Accommodation Center and Housesmart, but be aware that these places charge leasing fees.
Short Term Rentals
To get you started, short term rentals in Queenstown are plentiful and worth looking at for a few days or weeks. This will give you time to learn the layout of the city, find a job, and not stress about longer-term rentals
Try Roomorama.com for multiple options and a wide range of prices.
Airbnb is a great option and one that more and more people are using every year.
VRBO, an Airbnb alternative is a viable option for those that require apartment or house living.
If your budget doesn’t stretch too far then Hostels are a great way to save money on accommodation, meet people and network.
Long Term Rentals
For long term accommodation in Queenstown, you will need more time. That’s why we recommend booking a place to stay for a few days before you arrive. It removes some of the stress of moving to a new place.
Trademe, as mentioned above, is a great option for long-term housing.
If you’re staying in a hostel make sure to check the notice boards at the reception. Hostels can be a mine of information for travelers all looking for and sharing information the same things.
Go to meetups and talk to people. Put the word out that you are looking for a place to stay in the long-term and be as open as possible. People will always want to help others that they trust.
Harcourts is one of the biggest real estate companies and they have a huge range of rental properties. Contact them directly and try to build a rapport with a sales agent. Before you call them up, have a look at the Harcourts website to see what kind of property you’d be interested in renting.
If you don’t mind sharing a house, and even a room, EasyRoomate is an awesome service that links up travelers, tourists, and locals with spare rooms in houses.
Expect to pay at least 2 weeks rent in advance and 2 weeks ‘bond,’ which needs to be lodged with the Tenancy Services. You should receive evidence of this. Your bond will be returned when you move out provided you gave 2 weeks’ notice period, unless otherwise agreed, and you have not caused any damage to the property. More information on the in’s and out’s of renting in New Zealand can be found here.
Facebook is great at providing fast, local information on topics relevant to living and working in Queenstown. The facebook page for Queenstown Trading is no exception. This page has everything from snow report information, road closures, where to find the best view of the Southern Lights, and of course buying and selling – you can score great deals on second-hand snow gear or last minute tickets to sold out Winter Festival gigs, it is a page worth checking out even if you are only in Queenstown for a short time, but do note the page is restricted to ‘locals’ and you need approval to become a part of the online community.
This is also a good way to source a cheap car. Car turnover is pretty high in Queenstown with people buying and selling on the regular, reflecting the transient nature of the resort.
Banks are open on weekdays between 9-5pm, with Westpac Bank offering a banking service through their ATM machines 24 hours. Post offices are open from 9-5pm during the week and from 10-2pm on Saturday. There are banks throughout the township as well as in shopping areas such as Remarkable Park Shopping Center and the new 5 Mile development.
Not all banks are in these areas though. Major supermarkets include Fresh Choice which is central to town, New World at Remarkable’s Park and Countdown at 5 Mile. The town’s only video shop is in Frankton Village. The petrol stations tend to be dotted along Frankton Road as well, with BP being super busy in winter. Z is the only petrol station in town. The latest supermarket open is Fresh Choice which is right in town and open till 11am. The local paper is The Mountain Scene and comes out on Thursdays. The Mirror is a district paper and the Lakes Weekly bulletin (known as the LWB) is more of a community bulletin with jobs and gig guides, you can places short free adverts in the LWB each week. Tradeyaskills is a new printed trade’s directory. All are available online.
If you are keen to drive and make life generally easier then get a NZ driver’s license which can be obtained for around $100 or more if you have to sit a practical test, but most countries only need to do a theory test and pay the application fee, once you have your driver’s license you can also then apply for an 18 plus card at any post office this is great to have as ID on a night out when you don’t want to take along your precious passport.
Meeting people & finding your crew
In Queenstown, everyone is pretty friendly. You will be happy to know that the town hosts a significant percentage of people between 20-35 who are living there on a working holiday visa. Expats and WH Visa workers are welcomed and there is a community of like-minded individuals that will help you.
Many Kiwis also come to Queenstown to experience something a bit different to the rest of the country. There are plenty of ‘scenes’ to get involved with. During the summer months you can find the Golf Frisbee crew and the Slack-lining crew in the Botanical Gardens and along the lakefront. Spiritual types regularly get together at the local yoga centers, ecstatic dance sessions, at the Sherwood (for great open mic nights and wellness retreats, not to mention awesome food and drink). You can find the snow bunnies on the slopes and in the many, many pubs! Outdoor types hit the bike tracks, the smorgasbord of hiking tracks, the frothing river rapids and generally everywhere there is fun to be had amongst Mother Nature. And of course, you will make friends at your new job!
Try attending a meetup for one of your interests. Meetups can be the spark that ignites your social scene in town. There are get-togethers for all kinds of interests: coding, outdoor sports, photography, world travelers, and more.
Head over to Reddit and search through the many SubReddits about New Zealand. You can drill right down to comments about Meeting people in Queenstown.
Herepin is a new app designed to help travelers meet other travelers.
Getting the Dream Queenstown Job
Now you are here and you are settled – it’s time to get that dream job!
- If you have flown in from overseas then the first thing you will need to do is open a bank account so you can then apply for an IRD number, this refers to your tax number which is issued by the Inland Revenue Department. You can contact them via phone and they have a helpful although slightly overwhelming website packed full of ‘fact sheets.’ We have the link right here which takes you to the four-step application page for people on a working holiday visa – you will also need to obtain the right form for the tax number application from IRD and you can print it out from the linked page. An IRD number takes around a week to process
- NZ Banks: You can choose from ASB, BNZ, ANZ, SBS, Westpac and Kiwibank – the latter being the only NZ owned bank. Most are competitive so therefore fairly similar in what they offer. You will need to make an appointment to open a bank account so give the bank a call on their free 0800 numbers (easy to find on Google) and book in. Take your passport, any other form of I.D, your Visa and if possible a proof of address. If you are staying at a backpackers you can use this as a form of temporary address
- Once you are all set up with a bank account and a tax number then you are ready to pound the pavement in search of that job which allows you the perfect balance of time up the mountain and a bit of partying on the side – good luck! One way you can achieve this is by working for one of the ski fields – you also score a seasons pass as part of the job package – bonus!
- In the summer you can head over to Cromwell, Central Otago for the fruit picking season, many backpackers stay put for the season and move on to other parts of the country, following the seasonal fruit picking trail. Some head back to Queenstown and pick up something else. Glenorchy is a good place to find WWOOFing work in the stunning farmlands – literally Lord of the Rings Land! The opposite end of the lake also has farming communities around Kingston and Garston
- If rural life just ain’t your thang and you want to be right in the mix of Queenstown’s non-stop action, then year round you can usually count on a job in the booming hospitality industry. The trades are going off as well, many UK tradies head over throughout the year. With all the development happening in and around Queenstown it usually isn’t a problem finding work in the trades and hospitality industry. Turn-over is high as the main two seasons of summer and winter roll over
- Babysitting is an option for many short-term workers in New Zealand. Many parents look for carers with language skills to teach their kids a foreign language. Check out Babysitting Queenstown but be aware that the selection process is pretty tough.
Queenstown Job Agencies
While searching for a money maker you can fill your time with temp work through one of the local job agencies. See below for a list of agents.
Insider Tips on Saving Money
Second-hand shops, Southern Lights, and Special Places
Being a traveler in Queenstown on a working holiday means money may be tight, so visit some of the awesome second-hand shops on offer. The Salvation Army is great for clothing and bargain furniture and is also a good place to donate once you leave town. Happiness House also helps out those in need and is a great outfit to support as they help so many in the community.
The Walk in Wardrobe is a little more ‘upmarket’ for second-hand goods – there is a small men’s section but mostly this place is gold for that second hand find many women live for! You can also get money or shop credit for your goods when it’s time to offload and head off on another adventure.
Queenstown is an incredible place in which to view the famed Southern Lights playing out against a backdrop of crystal clear skies. Jump online to get tips on how to get the best pics. Queenstown Trading has a loyal fan base for the Southern Lights with people letting each other know where the best viewing spot is. Take a hot toddy or some mulled wine and snuggle up for a show you will never forget!
There are so many beautiful places to discover when it comes to Queenstown and the surrounds. Pop on over to Arrowtown and feel like you have stepped back in time. There is a great hospitality culture there so it’s also a good place to look for a job if you don’t mind commuting or you want to live near to Queenstown but not right in the mix. Glenorchy is approx a 45min drive at the head of the lake and is the gateway to many world class hiking trails. There are also Horse Trekking companies in Glenorchy who take on seasonal workers who know their stuff, this is a great way to experience working in NZ.
Whatever dream you are chasing by coming to Queenstown for a working holiday you are guaranteed never to forget it. You will be bound to form a lifelong love affair with Queenstown and will no doubt want to find a way to become a long-term local. Some of the born and bred locals have never left town and a lot of us return once we have traveled and are ready to settle back down.
The thing about Queenstown is the unique vibe you feel just by being here, surrounded by nature.
Imagine yourself on your way to the pop-up winter ice skating rink on the village green, mulled wine in one hand with a backdrop of fireworks setting the sky ablaze. If you are lucky enough, it might just begin to snow.
And in summer you may be enjoying a BBQ at the lakefront with the mountains, lakes and flowing seas of long grass giving Queenstown one of the prettiest and breathtaking outlooks to be found in New Zealand. Soak it up!
Author: Georgia Todd
Photo Credits: “Queenstown by night” images abound.