Hostels & Hostelling
What is a hostel?
A hostel is a unique and much cheaper version of a hotel. You check in, pay your money and get your head down.
While a Hostel may be a little more basic than a hotel it certainly has its benefits and can prove to be a much more social experience.
What does a hostel offer?
Most hostels offer loads of different facilities, discounts, knowledge and advice. You instantly feel like you are at home.
It is a great environment for people to meet up, relax, cook some food, keep in touch with family and friends and to discuss and plan their trip.
Some of the features you will find in a hostel are as follows:
• A kitchen – you can label, store and cook your own food – great on a budget!
• Work for your room – often you can work a few hours for Hostel benefits
• Reception – hugely valuable local knowledge and advice
• Airport transfers and pick up – these can be free and waiting when you arrive
• Internet access – usually paid for but readily available
• Showers / bathrooms
• Maps of the local area – often free maps of the city and local area
• A BAR – say no more…
• A TV room – missing your favourite program or fancy a movie…?
• Chill out areas – comfy chairs and time to read your book
• Lockers – security can be important
• Beds – dorm rooms, single or double & family rooms
• Breakfast – some offer free breakfast
• Linen – some you may get free some may be a small deposit
• A social scene – A great opportunity to may friends
• Packages and tours – often discounted tours can be booked at a Hostel
Nearly all of hostels will offer free advice and if they don’t know the friendly staff will try their very best to help you out.
(you may be surprised what you may find in a vending machine:right)
Hostels generally offer many different deals on trips, tours and packages etc.
Some they will have already negotiated locally to get you the best deal at reduced rates saving you the time expense and effort.
Some larger Hostels will offer free walking and other tours offered by local volunteers to help you get your bearings and learn a little about the local history and culture.
What rooms do they offer?
Hostels generally offer a variety of room types from a single, double, family (YHA), twin or dorm.
A dorm room will typically offer a varied number of bunk beds that you share with other people the more you share with the cheaper the price.
Are there female only hostels?
Most hostels are mixed although many offer non mixed dorms.
One hostel I went to in Melbourne even had a female only floor with a secure pass system to ensure that only women could enter – this is great if you are a little self conscious or want to ease your way into the scene.
Speaking to some of the ladies I was told that the hostel was kitted out with all the luxuries and stuff women would want, sink, hair dryer, and mirror in the room, more space, less crowded etc.
Why book a hostel?
To me hostels are a no brainer they offer much more than what you would expect and are usually pretty cheap meaning value for money….
Travelling around using hostels is a great way to experience a place, you will meet new and like-minded people, share experiences, play some games, watch some movies and have a laugh without the feel of a hotel where you can find yourself isolated from everyday life!
You also have the advantage that you can book to stay for a short or long term. If you like the place book it for longer and enjoy the area or scene, work for a little while etc. If you don’t like the vibe move on to another hostel or destination and find one that you do.
In the most popular areas there are usual several Hostels to choose from giving you loads of different options and price bands, it really can depend on what you are looking for to determine how your experience can change.
How do I know if it is a good one?
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find the hostel you want.
Many of the most popular hostels are popular for a reason whether that is the kick arse night-life; the blind eye to a shady smoke, the great facilities, the social life or the chilled out ambiance it is all about the experience and knowing you you want.
A hostel is a great place to meet new people; people who will be more than happy to share a story or experience and tell you what they think you should to do next!
This can be really valuable whether you are on your own, in a couple or in a group. You will soon learn to find out where to go, what to do, what to recommend and more importantly what to avoid like the nasty bedbug ridden place in the next town.
Failing that get onto a website and check out the reviews!
Finding a good hostel is important, they can vary considerably and how good the hostel is can really impact the duration of your stay.
Should I book in advance?
Sometimes it is a good idea to book a night in a hostel when you are turning up at a new place.
If you let them know you are coming a lot of the more popular hostels will offer a pick up and transfer from the airport. This saves you a lot of time, hassle and money and can be just what you need to give you a boost when you get there after a long trip.
A lot of hostels can be pre booked or be offered as a part of a tour, (although they aren’t always the best ones available)
When you book the tour you can negotiate your accommodation to ensure you get the hostels you want. If you don’t get the ones you want you can laugh it off and book it yourself along the way.
As with most things in life you tend to get what you pay for, if it sounds too good it probably is.
I like to turn up and check the place out before deciding what to do. Usually it doesn’t hurt to stay a night, get a feel for the people and the vibe you can always move to another hostel the next day if you are not happy with the place.
How do I find one?
It is more than likely you will have met people just like you along your journey, they could be on similar trip but going the other direction or you may bump into someone you have already met before.
Word of mouth is great for finding your next hostel or destination, exchange some stories and recommendations (more importantly those you think “don’t go there whatever you do its a shit hole”).
Maybe you could find a chain of hostels you know you like such as Hostelling International. If you have stayed with them before you know what to expect from the next place. These guys also have a loyalty scheme which works like the coffee card, stay a certain amount of nights and get one free what more can you ask for…
If you haven’t already booked a hostel then these tips can be very helpful to your decision making, you should be able to gauge how long you will need in each place and this means you can plan where your next hostel will be.
Still not sure hit the net; I have added some great links that you may find useful even if you just book that first night before you go!
Are there discounts or a loyalty scheme?
Some associations offer membership and with membership, discounted room rates such as YHA and HI (10%)(hostelling international) used to do a loyalty card like they do in a coffee shop where you got a free night after a certain amount of nights stayed so it could be worth asking about that if you are looking to use a certain hostel chain for several parts of the trip.
As a rule YHA hostels and some of the HI hostels are more traditional and this means you may have an evening curfew, noise restriction policy’s etc. This can be useful to know if you want to have some peace and quiet or if you wish to avoid it.
With HI (hostelling International) you can get a free guide for each country on their website.
How long should I stay?
The great thing about a hostel is that you can stay as little or as long as you like, if you like it stay a while if you don’t move on out the next day!
Can I stay there a long time?
Most of the time as long as you are paying the money and not causing too much trouble a hostel will be happy for you to stay as long as you like.
If you know you are going to be somewhere a while it is a good idea to ask if there is a discount if you wanted to stay for a week, 2 weeks, a month etc as you can get a really good price (it can help if you sweet talk the staff too….)
Make sure you like the people and the place enough though as you don’t want to get stuck!
I stayed at this one for over a month and loved it the people, place, staff and hostel were great and that is why hostelling can be so beneficial and so much fun!
What about the people / culture?
Some of the best people I met on my trip I met in hostels, I thought the whole hostelling experience was great and if I had my choice I would probably use hostel over hotel most of the time.
The advantages are that you can get up, check out, move on and stop somewhere else, you are not tied to a certain place like you would be with a Hotel and this provides you great flexibility meaning you are able to enjoy your trip how you want to.
The next time you book a holiday that looks great, you get there and it is in the middle of nowhere with naff European entertainment and no escape for 2 weeks you will understand.
How do I get there?
Well there are the more obvious and traditional options but you may need a map or smart phone!
check this out before you book….
If you are arriving somewhere new and its on a general route the chances are the hostel will do a pick up service which can save you a lot of time, money and hassle assuming they know you are coming of course.
Some places where there is a lot of people travelling around (like in Australia) backpacking is a so well set up, organised and a simple experience some hostels will have buses that will turn up at the usual pick ups to collect people regardless of whether they booked in advance or not but don’t just rely on it!
How about some links and recommendations?!?
Well here are a few of my favourites but I am sure you will have some of your own to add to this list.
Ocean Island Backpackers – Victoria – BC – Canada
This place had it all, not the most pristine place I have ever stayed but there was a great vibe. The backpackers were from all over the world, some worked to stay and worked for free trips.
The hostel staff were really friendly had loads of local knowledge, were happy to join you for a beer and let you come and go as you pleased.
Facilities weren’t too bad either, there was a large kitchen, a bar and chill out area, internet, TV room, smoking area and you were in the heart of the town with $ slices of pizza 2 minutes up the road.
The hostel offered a variety of in house tours which provided you a great value budget way to see some of the sites you would otherwise have overlooked.
I was there a month and was gutted to leave…
Its been a while since I stayed and it looks awesome now since its referb…Ocean Island are still offer casual work for stay and food / drink discounts, 7 nights for the cost of 6 and have received lots more great reviews
Base Backpacking (ACB – Auckland Central Backpackers)- Auckland – New Zealand
This was my first hotel in New Zealand, smack bang in the middle of the city.
Its quite a busy place but you cant miss this great big hostel. My first memories of this place came back to the staff so helpful and friendly.
I spoke to a girl on reception and it wasn’t long before we had an idea of loads of the things we could do, how we could do it and a date in the diary for myself and girlfriend to have a personal tour of her home town and surrounding area.
You just cant buy that kind of service and advice and I am still in contact with her today.
Not only this as you may not find the same experience Base in Auckland offer specialist travel consultants who offer packages, deals and advice, a couple of bars (one which lead me to a drunken agreement to do a bungee jump), a wireless internet cafe, 2 sky TV rooms, a large kitchen and chill-out areas.
In the end I booked my car hire (a camper van) through their travel centre for my ongoing travelling across New Zealand and my discount bungee jump)
Gilligans Backpackers – Cairns – Queensland – Australia
I tried a couple of Hostels in Cairns but the first one was shocking and the second wasn’t much better.
Cairns is quite a small town is Australia although there is plenty going on Gilligans has to be the backpacking central of Cairns. Its a massive hostel with all the facilities a little more pricey than some of the others but the people staying there walk around with their pass around their neck in pride.
Dont get me wrong but this is a bit of a party hostel loads of fun and a travel centre offering deals on the tours, great barrier reef, bungee jumping, cycling and so much more.
Some of the reviews aren’t brilliant but I guess it is difficult to please everyone when the place is so large and party related.
I met a great bunch of Norwegian people in my dorm and still keep in contact now.
They had a kitchen on each floor and a nice pool and bar area with entertainment and competitions for the brave ones of you out there.
Somehow I got talked into a Red bull promotion where I drunk vodka Red bull upside-down in my underpants while attached to a bouncing bungee cord. I won what I hoped to win a free bungee jump well why not I enjoyed my one in Auckland…
Budget Backpackers – Edinburgh – Scotland
My first trip to Scotland I stayed here on my own to start with. I arrived there and the first thing you think is WOW, the building has the WOW factor. Its the one towards the top of this page.
Its quite a funky place as you can tell but the décor but they website is retro and gave me enough to want to book there fist. I wasn’t disappointed the Hostel was sat at the bottom of some stairs that take you straight up to Edinburgh castle.
Within a half hour of arriving I had already been recruited to the pub crawl lead by the lady on reception who was the “tour guide” for the evening.
Discounts at all the bars and free entries to the clubs helped you to gather your baring of the city in no time and it was a free tour…good times.
My friend turned up the next day and we were set, I already knew where to meet, what was worth seeing and where it was not to mention the pub scene for night 2.
Ok so I seem to have had a few good nights out along the way but you got to let your hair down some times..
Edinburgh was a great city, I wasn’t there for long, made some friends, saw some great places, a market, the castle, some ghost tours etc.
With room prices starting from £8 a night this place is always worth another visit and doesn’t let you down….
Dusky lodge – Kaikoura – New Zealand
I arrived here in the spring time so not everything was open (they have great facilities including a pool, sauna and jacuzzi) but was really amazed by the place.
You just don’t expect to see what you do when you arrive.
It is well situated and when you book in and wander about the hostel you cant believe where you are staying on a budget. Its got a ski lodge feel with lots of exposed wood, great views big broad wooden kitchen tops and loads of room to lounge about .
The place is clean and well maintained, the staff are friendly (although staff do change) and its just a nice place to hang out…
Got somewhere to recommend?
Please feel free to post some of your own but don’t forget to say where it was, what you liked about it and why you would recommend the place…
N.B I will review and approve appropriate posts and add more to the page and country as the number of reccomendations increase for easy reference