Five Mistakes to Avoid in Queenstown

Five Mistakes to Avoid in Queenstown New Zealand -- Em Dashed

Queenstown, New Zealand is a place of much regret. The town is home to top-notch landscapes and a range of heart-racing activities — but it’s also home to the largest abundance of first world problems you’ll ever find in such a small area.

“Why did I have that seventh shot?” “What happened to all the cash I withdrew yesterday?” “What do you mean, I have to climb another hill?” For some backpackers, Queenstown can easily seem like a monster, lying in wait to chew you up and snatch away your hopes, your dreams, and most of your money.

Some problems are unavoidable (you will certainly have less money); but some, hopefully, are not. Here are five mistakes everyone can and should sidestep when visiting the Adventure Capital of New Zealand.

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1. Don’t get too caught up in the “locals” game.
Being a “long-term resident” (which, in Queenstown, basically means more than a few weeks) has its perks. Many bars, shops, and activities offer discounts and freebies to locals, especially during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn, when tourism is low and things are quiet. But don’t push it.

Be friendly, ask politely, and, perhaps most importantly, accept “no” without a fight. Queenstown is small, and people talk, especially the hospitality staff. There’s no quicker way to get yourself blacklisted than to start shouting at a bartender about $2 off your drink.

(For the record, other people will be straight up dicks about this — customers and staff alike. Try not to get sucked in to their shenanigans; it ain’t worth the trouble.)

Five Mistakes to Avoid in Queenstown New Zealand -- Em Dashed
The view from Queenstown Hill

2. Don’t patronize businesses on public holidays if you aren’t prepared to pay extra.
Queenstown is expensive — that is rapidly becoming the theme of this post. So, yes: an extra 15 to 20% tacked onto your bill “just because” it’s a holiday can feel like overkill. I get it.

But the staff working on New Year’s Day? They didn’t get that holiday off. They weren’t allowed to sleep till midday and nurse their hangovers in peace. They came in at 7am to start making flat whites for folks like you, and it’s not nice to repay them by throwing a fit about something outside of their control.

For better or for worse, surcharges are fairly common in many bars and restaurants on public holidays. There should be a sign or note on the menu stating this policy; if you don’t see one, it’s worth asking before you place your order.

(For a list of public holidays recognized in Queenstown, see the bottom of this page. In particular, note Otago Anniversary, which is specific to this region.)

3. Don’t try to do “too much.”
Queenstown is filled to the brim with partiers, adrenaline junkies, and various combinations of the two. It’s easy to get the impression that everyone else is going full on all day long, and it can be overwhelming to try and keep up. So just…don’t.

There’s always going to be someone doing more Jägerbombs than you, skiing more runs than you, or bungy-jumping off more bridges than you. This is not a competition, and you’ll be a lot happier if you let it go from the start.

Five Mistakes to Avoid in Queenstown New Zealand -- Em Dashed
Jet boat on the Shotover River

4. Don’t waste hours of your life at Fergburger.
I know, I know. Fergburger is iconic! It’s at the top of everyone’s must-do list! How can you go to Queenstown and not get a Ferg?

Look, I’m the last person to tell you not do so something just because it’s popular. If you want to wait in Fergburger’s infamous long lines for the better part of your day, then hey: go for it.

But may I recommend that, once you’ve done so, you cross it off your list…and go somewhere else next time? Fergburger is great and all, but they didn’t invent frying up a meat patty and giving it a cutesy name. There are a zillion other food joints in QT just itching to overcharge you, and some of them even serve burgers.

5. Don’t restrict yourself to Queenstown.
Despite its frequent turnover of visitors and veritable buckets of activities, living in Queenstown can quickly begin to feel like living in a bubble, cut off from the rest of the world. It’s important to get out and stretch your legs now and again, especially in an area like this.

There are several nearby destinations worth seeing, from the quaint charm of Arrowtown to the rugged untamed beauty of Glenorchy; and in the Southern Lakes, every route is the scenic route. Don’t get so caught up in the “glamour” of Queenstown that you forget to get out and explore while you’re there.

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Queenstown can be downright magical. Follow this advice, and hopefully, your visit will be, too.

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