“ Address: Corner Victoria St. & Albert St / Auckland CBD / New Zealand „
We only stayed at Surf 'n' Snow Backpackers in Auckland for one night on a stopover whilst travelling through the North Island. We were dropped off directly outside the hostel and immediately we thought what a great location it was in. It is in the very centre of the CBD (Central Business District) and one road along from the main high street which has a load of shops and restaurants and a short walk to the bus station. We'd already been in Auckland for a couple of nights beforehand and so we didn't want to do much - just wanted to have a wander round the shops but our previous hostel had been much further out of town and we would have been in a much better position if we'd have stayed at Surf 'n' Snow.
We were checked in easily and quickly and there was a lot of information in the reception/common room area if you hadn't been to the city before such as maps and leaflets about activities all over New Zealand. There was also a huge range of books that you could exchange for your own as well as internet access and telephones. The bathrooms were decent with plenty of showers and toilets that were kept nice and clean.
Our room was up a couple of flights of stairs and there was building work going on but this didn't get in the way or interrupt us at all. As we were only staying for the one night we went for the cheapest option of a 10 bed dorm which surprisingly was actually OK. I hardly got woken up at all when the other guests came in and we were the first ones to go to sleep! But I suppose that just depends on who you have in your dorm though. The dorm was a good size, vary basic, and had 5 sets of bunk beds - although I was in the bed by the door which made my stay a bit cramped as the door couldn't open fully. It was a bit of a struggle getting up and getting my huge backpack out of the door in the dark in the early hours of the morning to catch a bus! Reception is 24 hours which was great for our early check out.
Our room was about 24 NZD which worked out to be around £9 each per night which is a great price for such a great located hostel. If you have a VIP or YHA card you also get a $1 discount.
As we were only there for the one night we didn't use a lot of the facilities such as the kitchen so I can't advise on that. I definitely wouldn't stay in the 10 bed dorm if I was staying there for more than a night but I would recommend the hostel due to the location and good prices - it was a great stopover for us.
I chose Surf and Snow (SnS) Backpackers over other, similar hostels in Auckland because of three main factors: first of all, it got a good write up in my 2006 edition of the Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand. Secondly, it's right in the middle of Auckland's CBD giving good access to all the stuff I wanted to do/see during my limited time in Auckland. Finally, it actually had availability of single rooms which was an issue with other similarly located hostels. As I was travelling on my own for periods of my trip around New Zealand, I wanted single rooms for privacy and security (I was carrying over £1000 worth of electronics etc.)
Surf and Snow Backpackers is located just off Queen Street (the corner of Victoria Street and Albert Street) and within a few minutes walk of most city center attractions. It's about ten minutes walk from the train station (although it's all uphill) and the airport bus link drops you off about 300 metres from the hostel itself. It can be a little tricky to find as the hostel itself is located on the first floor of the building and from street level, there's only a sliding door/lobby to give away its position. That might have been my jet lag though as I was without sleep for approximately 44 hours at this stage. For reference, it's right beside a NZ travel agency, a Flight Centre, that's more easily seen.
Before I arrived in New Zealand, I had been dealing with Surf and Snow via email as their website doesn't give details of availability. Communication was excellent and emails were replied to very quickly.
When checking in, I found the staff to be very friendly and helpful. I whizzed through the check-in procedure and within minutes found myself in my room, warned by the girl at the front desk that there was no air-conditioning but a fan was provided.
Compared to other hostels I've stayed in over the years, the only word you can really use to describe the rooms in SnS is 'basic'. In my single room there was a bed, an old MFI-like wardrobe and a stand-alone fan on a laminate floor. I was slightly disappointed in the room, of course, but I was paying very little (NZ$55 per night) for staying there and the old adage of you get what you pay for rang true. The major negative factor/disappointment was that there were no windows in my room. On the positive side, the room was approximately ten feet by five feet, giving me plenty of room to drop my bags which wasn't at all bad for a single room and it was clean. There were a couple of power points for charging digital cameras and iPods etc. which was also useful.
My travelling companion arrived into the hostel later the same day and she reported a similar experience to me (friendly staff, disappointment in the room, no windows). My companion's single room didn't have a wardrobe, but instead had a foot locker, and her room was roughly the same size as my own. Suffice to say, she was not amused at the lack of options for hanging her clothes. During our stay, we had peeked into other rooms while they were being cleaned and our assumption is that only the single rooms were windowless. The twin and double rooms that we saw were equally as basic, but the addition of a window made HUGE differences in how welcoming the rooms could be.
Luckily for us, we were not planning on being in our rooms for very long (and that was indeed the case) so these negative factors didn't influence my enjoyment of my stay in Auckland and my bed was comfortable enough that I wasn't dreading returning to the hostel each night.
The public areas of the hostel that I saw were all clean (laundry room, toilet/shower room, lifts, lobby and reception), although we never prepared any food in the hostel. The toilets were cleaned at least twice daily (that I saw) and my own room was cleaned daily (and was spotless when I arrived). My only gripe here was that the doors to the toilet cubicles/shower stalls needed a bit of work done to the locks which looked as if they were about to fall off (but never did, thankfully).
Apart from the staff and a few nodded greetings on the stairs with other guests, I didn't really interact with anyone at the hostel, but the communal area around the reception seemed quiet any time I had cause to be there (e.g. internet access, getting the security code for the front door etc.) Contact with other guests is all-important in a hostel, especially if you're travelling alone and I feel that Surf and Snow was somewhat lacking here (but how much of that is the hostel's problem?) There also seemed to be a lot of noise quite late at night due to other guests who were seemingly oblivious to other guests, but that seemed to be only at the weekend.
When checking out, I found the staff to be very courteous (as they had been throughout our stay) and they were quite prepared to engage in conversation (offering advice for the remainder of my journey) for a while as there were no other customers to deal with.
All in all, once I got over how basic the hostel was, I think I got OK value for money from the hostel, but would have preferred spending a little extra for something less basic. The lack of windows in the single rooms was a huge disappointment though we managed to keep ourselves busy enough that it didn't matter. The central location is ideal for anyone looking to explore Auckland CDB and is handy for other transport links within Auckland and the rest of New Zealand.
My stay was from 29th Feb until 4th March 2008.