6 Things to consider when booking Queenstown accommodation

Learn what you should take into consideration and watch out for when booking accommodation in Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand.

I previously wrote an article about booking Queenstown hotels in peak and low season and about how to deal with cancellation policies. So if you are looking for that kind of information, please refer to the aforementioned article.

In this article, I’ll highlight 6 things you may want to consider when you go about choosing a Queenstown motel or hotel.

You may want to consider a few or all of the following things when looking to stay at a hotel or motel in Queenstown…

1. How limited is your budget?

If you want to spend your money on “doing fun things” like tours and activities, and on eating rather than on staying at a luxurious hotel in Queenstown, you may want to look into hotels or motels that are clean and offer only the basics.

I once met a Frenchman who told me the following: “If you’re only looking to sleep somewhere, you don’t have to spend a fortune. I’d rather spend my money on good food than an expensive hotel.”

2. What is the purpose of your visit?

If you’re going to Queenstown to rest, relax, and pamper yourself, and will therefore be spending most of your time in a room, things like whether a hotel has a restaurant that provides room service or whether you’ll be staying in a room with a view of Lake Wakatipu and/or the Remarkables would weigh more heavily in your Queenstown hotel selection.

On the other hand, if you are visiting Queenstown for photography or being outdoors, and are usually up and about very early in the morning, it does not make sense to stay in a hotel or motel that offers lake views or any other amenity that might be perceived as being “nice to have”.

If you’re anything like me and leave your room very early in the morning and come back to the hotel or motel late in the afternoon or when it’s already dark, you won’t be enjoying much of your “lake view room” anyway. So why waste the money on a “room with a view”?

The Remarkables, Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

3. The difference between hotels and motels in New Zealand

Hotels tend to have a restaurant and offer things such as room service and a 24-hour front desk. The rooms tend to be smaller than in motels, but that’s because they only tend to contain a bed and desk.

Unlike motels, though, you share the hotel entrance, depending on how the hotel is laid out. With motels, you tend to park your car in front of your motel unit, so don’t have to walk past a front desk every time to enter or leave the hotel.

A “motel” here in New Zealand is not the same as a “motel” in the U.S. or Canada. Motels in the US and Canada usually do not have their own restaurant. Motels here in New Zealand also don’t have their own restaurant (unless it’s a bed and breakfast style motel), but they do offer what’s called “self-containment”. This means that motel units may have cooking facilities – either a full kitchen or a kitchenette with a microwave and fridge. You can then buy food from a supermarket and cook for yourself. Hotels don’t have cooking facilities unless they are apartment-style hotels. Some may come with a small fridge in the room, though.

And one last thing to note is that tourists generally stay in hotels, while locals tend to choose motels. This is not a general rule, though, because I have seen small tour groups stay at motels. But because hotels generally have more rooms than motels and host more tourists and larger tour groups than motels, they tend to be busier, especially when you’re in a hurry to check-in or check-out. So if you want to “blend in with locals”, stay at a motel.

4. Do you have a car you’ll need to park?
While I like Queenstown, what I don’t like about it is its city center. It is always busy, the roads are narrow, there are many roundabouts, and everything seems so squeezed up together. I tend to get claustophobic every time I have to drive through Queenstown city center.

After reading this, it won’t come to you as a surprise to hear that parking is an issue. While there are parking lots where you can park your car for free, the space is very limited.

This parking issue extends to hotels. Some hotels may have over 200 rooms available, but space to park only 60 cars. Now while there are hotels in Queenstown that are popular with tour groups (who generally arrive in large tour buses), parking spaces may still run out because a hotel may be popular for example because of the entertainment or good food they provide, so they’d attract non-hotel-residents, who would use up these parking spaces.

So if you’re headed for Queenstown without a car – and so will be picked up from the airport or will be paying $20-$30 for a taxi ride into town – parking will not be an issue for you. Otherwise, I’d suggest asking a hotel how many parking spaces they have before booking a room there.

Lake Wakatipu and surrounding mountains, Queenstown, South Island, New Zealand

5. Don’t shoot for the stars

The quality of accommodation can differ a lot in Queenstown. And while there are hotels and motels that are Qualmark-rated, the rating often only says that the hoteliers have put in an effort to get the stars.

For example, some motels may try to distinguish themselves as “being friendly”. Remember that “being friendly” is a courtesy, not a service. So you don’t have to pay extra for that. Also, I once stayed at a 5-star motel in Queenstown that did not provide essential things such as soap.

So don’t let the stars or extravagant claims blind you when booking accommodation. Be very practical in your decision and choice.

6. Reading Queenstown hotel and motel reviews
You can use a website like TripAdvisor to find reviews of hotels and motels in Queenstown, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.

One word of caution: Don’t believe everything you read. But if you see several people are complaining about the same issue, do assume that it could be true.

For example, if there are 5 people who say something about “there is too much noise coming from the street”, do a quick search to find out what the location is of the hotel or motel. If it is on a busy road – these would be roads that are arteries leading into and out of Queenstown – you can assume that the claims might be true.

Also, if you read things like “the motel walls are thin”, don’t ignore it. I once slept in a room in a hotel that had extremely thin walls. And I can assure you that you won’t get a good night’s rest when the person next door is snoring and you can hear it the whole night long.

Don’t go too crazy with reading reviews, though. There is no such thing as a perfect hotel or motel. Take what’s important to you into consideration so that you can make your decision about where to stay in Queenstown, and discard the rest. Besides, the way you experience a hotel or motel might be totally different than the way someone else would experience it.


Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details
directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.



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