Austerity has hit British holiday makers and travelers like never before and has forced many of us to make severe cuts in the money we spend on our holiday digs, but cheaper travel need not mean poorer quality. Hostels are budget oriented accommodation for sociable people where guests can rent a bed and share facilities like the bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. The beds are normally bunks in mixed sex dorms but can be single-sex. Sometimes meals are included in the price but they’re usually self-catering and adventure oriented attracting a younger, more venturesome crowd.
However, whilst some may have a youth focus and may indeed have an age limit, people of all ages, backgrounds, origins and interests stay in hostels; first-time travelers, seasoned travelers lone travelers or large groups. Hostels are on the whole much cheaper than hotels and usually have long-term guests that work as desk clerks or housekeeping staff in exchange for free accommodation. Hostels can be found in just about every country in the world and are most likely to be associated with backpackers and gap year students. The hosteling market is generally split between a few large hosteling organizations and a variety of independently operated hostels.
Staying in hostels is usually a no frills affair but it’s not something to be endured, it’s something to be enjoyed. Many still have bunk beds and dorms but the newer generations of designer hostels are have much fancier offerings with private rooms and ensuite bathrooms. For me there are two things that distinguish the hostel from the hotel: the price and the occupants. Hostels are usually much cheaper and almost always have shared communal living spaces that bring travelers together. Some have their own bar but most at least have a kitchen and some have secure storage lockers.
Hostels can have some drawbacks, especially the official ones, some have strict rules, some lock up during the day and a few have a curfew at night when the doors are locked. Although some might consider this an advantage – hostels that don’t have curfews are more likely to have guests returning at ungodly hours. You’ll hear lots of sounds just after everyone’s turned in for the night like snoring, laughing, burping, farting as well as other strange noises, and conversations in many different languages. Hostel rooms can be large and packed. Sometimes you’ll meet a school groups and sometimes theft can be a problem. But with a little preparation, a modicum of understanding, a splash of patience, a sprinkle of common sense and a spirit of adventure hosteling can be awesome!
Here are some of my favorite hostels from my trip based on character, security, location, staff, cleanliness and design.
Chillax, Moscow (Russia)
The Chillax Hostel is the best equipped hostel you’ll find in Moscow! It’s generously sized but maintains a friendly and personal atmosphere with very friendly and helpful staff that will go above and beyond to assist you. The hostel is easily found in the heart of Moscow and is only a short walk away from Trubnaya Metro station, giving you quick and unfettered access to the whole city. The hostel is up three flights of stairs, and clearly signed. Moreover, Chillax is only a stones throw from the Moscow Police HQ, so you probably couldn’t find a safer place in all of Moscow.
The dorms vary in size from single-sex and mixed dorms for 10-14 people, but the rooms are very big so you won’t feel crammed in. All the rooms are equipped with the widest and most comfortable bunks I have ever experienced in a hostel. The bathrooms are separate: male and female, each with three toilets, two sinks and two showers – so no long queues for the facilities. The house is clean and tidy and the dorms have plenty of free secure storage lockers. Furthermore, on street parking is available, if you can find a space, however, lots of parking is available to the rear of the hostel and given the presence of the police HQ I was quite confident leaving my motorbike locked up here.
The common space and the amenities at the Chillax Hostel is what makes this hostel unique. It has a HUGE HD TV which dominates the lounge with cable TV, DVD and PlayStation 3, so kick back and Chillax on one of the three soft sofas or on one of the many bean bags. You’ll enjoy this air-conditioned lounge even more when the corn start popping and it becomes the Chillax Cinema for film night or for the PS3 tournament. If that’s not your thing, they often have master classes on Russian cooking. In addition, the hostel is equipped with two modern desktop computers with the fastest Wi-Fi I have ever used in a hostel. The kitchen is modest but reasonably well equipped, and with a giant American style fridge freezer with ice dispenser. Laundry facilities are reasonably priced at 150 Roubles per wash and 150 Roubles for the tumble dryer. The Chillax hostel is very clean and exceptionally well decorated throughout.
From the moment you arrive you’ll be made to feel welcome and the staff will help you in any way they can. The toilets are a tight squeeze but manageable and the hostel has excellent facilities. Moreover, it is well priced for the budget conscious traveler that wants something a bit nicer but at no extra cost.
The 4.Friends Hostel is a very nice hostel in a convenient location. It’s generously sized and has a friendly atmosphere. The staff are helpful and will make you feel very welcome. It’s situated in the heart of Krakow only a short bus ride from the town centre. The hostel is only about an hour’s drive from Oswiecim and a memorial visit to Auschwitz. It’s very easy to find and is well sign posted. The hostel itself is located at 8a not 28, which is actually part of the street address. It’s also on a quiet street with a bakery only a stone’s throw away, ideal for fresh pastries and bread. Moreover, there’s lots of on-site secure parking.
The mixed sex dorms vary in size from 4 beds up to 8 beds and all the rooms are well sized, although lacking in personal, locking, storage space, however, some group storage is available on the landings. All the rooms are equipped with comfortable bunks and fresh linen with the beds already made up when you arrive, a nice touch when you’ve already ridden your motorbike thousands of miles. There are two shared bathroom facilities with shower, toilet and sink. The house is very clean and tidy and well decorated throughout.
The common space is open plan and modern with a large cable TV and soft sofas. The kitchen-dining area is also part of the open plan common space and has ample room with dining tables and chairs. The Wi-Fi is fairly good but despite what the hosts will tell you, the Wi-Fi is not strong enough to be picked up in the dorms. The best access can be found in the common area or out on the veranda, which is pure bliss on a cool summer night. The breakfast buffet is substantial and varied and is free to guests, as is the laundry facilities, but you’ll have to find a spot outdoors to hang your clothes out to dry. The garden has a patio with heaters as well as a barbecue area and the reception is open 24 hours, with no curfew.
From the moment you arrive you’ll be made to feel welcome, the staff may even offer to do your laundry. The Wi-Fi isn’t the best but there areas in the hostel in which you can get a decent connection. Moreover, it’s a very nice, modern hostel, and is very competitively priced.
Deciding to stay at the Trans-Sib Hostel was exceedingly fortuitous and by the end of my stay here the staff had become more like friends than just hosts. The hostel itself is a small apartment but it preserves a warm and friendly atmosphere. It’s greatest asset is the staff, who are extraordinarily thoughtful and friendly.
The hostel is situated on the riverbank running through Irkutsk and is only a stone’s throw from the train station. The hostel is easy to find but access is at the rear of the building and guests should press number 8 on the keypad to alert the hostel staff of your presence. There are no exterior signs for the hostel but it is possible to access the hostel by vehicle, the turning for which is adjacent to the bank and pharmacy at the road junction. Adequate parking is available but I would advise locking motorcycles.
The main dorm has bunk beds that can accommodate six people as well as a separate room with one double and one set of twin beds. All of the beds are comfy and the pillows are generously sized, with all linen and towels provided free of charge. You can be assured of a good night’s sleep at the Trans-Sib Hostel. A secure storage cupboard is available for luggage but no other personal storage is available in the dorms themselves. The hostel has one shared bathroom with shower, toilet and sink. There is a corner bath but this seems to have become a laundry basket…
The hostel is clean and tidy and well decorated throughout. The common areas are comfortable with a dining table that can easily hold seven people as well as two soft armchairs. The kitchen is well equipped with the usual amenities, including a toaster, and there is always a free and plentiful supply of tea, coffee, cakes and other sweets. The hostel has a reasonably priced laundry service that costs 150 Roubles per load. Moreover, a single computer with good internet access and free printer is available for guest use.
From the moment you arrive you’ll be made to feel welcome and the staff will go out of their way to help you with advice or any problems that you might have. It was here that I met Alexei, aka the Monster, who helped me to get my bike stripped and packed up onto the train to Moscow – thanks dude. The Trans-Sib hostel is small but with decent facilities and is good value for money. This is one of the better hostels in the immediate vicinity.
Golden Gobi, Ulan Bator (Mongolia)
The Golden Gobi is the best hostel in Ulan Bator – FACT! It’s generously sized and has a friendly and personal atmosphere. It’s greatest strength is in providing it’s guests with tourist information and guided Tours of the Mongolian countryside. The staff are very friendly and exceedingly helpful, they really go above and beyond to ensure you have a great time and have all the information you need to negotiate Mongolia.
The hostel is situated in the centre of Ulaan Baatar and is well placed for exploring Mongolia’s capital city and beyond. Banks, restaurants, cafe’s, shops, public transport links and of course, the cities sites, are all only a short walk away. To find the hostel itself, you take the turning off Peace Avenue between the state department store and the Adidas store, and then turn right at the camping shop. The hostel is on the other side of the park on the far left corner of the square. You can’t miss it as the Golden Gobi sign is proudly on display.
The dorms vary in size and are conveniently laid out along the main corridor. Two separate showers are available as well as two separate toilets. Whilst the dorms themselves do not have storage, a large secure space for luggage is available if you ask a member of staff. Parking is available but it is not advisable. A secure parking facility with a night security guard is available for motorbikes 300m away at the local car market. The bunk beds are adequately comfy and the pillows are generously sized to ensure that you get a decent night’s sleep.
The Golden Gobi has a kitchen with the usual amenities as well as a filtered water cooler that’s free for guest use. Just off the kitchen is the hostel reception and lounge/briefing area, to find out all you need to know about the various tours that are available, and there are lots, with a tour to suit all tastes and budgets. A second common area is available downstairs with soft chairs and a big screen TV, as well as two guest desktop computers. The Wi-Fi is decent but bandwidth is reduced at peak times due to the number of guests all trying to use it at the same time. The common areas are excellent and really make you feel welcome and at home, whether you’re planning a tour or just relaxing after a long day of sightseeing or travelling. The hostel is clean, tidy and well decorated throughout.
From the moment you arrive you’ll be made to feel welcome and the staff will bend over backwards to assist you in anything you need. It has some decent facilities but it’s the local knowledge and the friendly atmosphere that will make you want to return. The Golden Gobi is well priced and it’s refreshing to find hosts that actually care about their guests. Moreover, the tours that are available will ensure that you connect with a wide range of different people
Hostel Anton, Tivat (Montenegro)
Hostel Anton is the best hostel I have stayed in! I wish I could have stayed here longer. It’s generously sized but is has the best atmosphere and the most friendly staff I have met. The Hostel Anton’s greatest strength is in its ability to connect people. The staff, they really go above and beyond to ensure you have a great time. The hostel is situated in Tivat with a great view of the Boka Kotorska Bay and is well placed for visiting Podgorica and Dubrovnik. To find the hostel itself, you must turn onto the small road behind the Petrol Station and follow the road up the steep hill.
The dorms vary in size, are conveniently laid out and all have en-suite facilities: toilet, shower and sink. The house is clean and tidy and the dorms have plenty of storage space with big wardrobes. Whilst there is no secure parking, you’ll be confident leaving your vehicle out front. The bunk beds are comfy and will ensure that you get a good night’s sleep.
Hostel Anton is a treasure trove of interesting things and is colourfully decorated throughout. The common areas are excellent and really make you feel welcome with a homely community feeling. The hostel has a wonderful music room with piano, drum kit and guitars, indeed, there are various instruments scattered throughout the hostel just waiting to be picked up and played. Likewise, there are lots of books and interesting pieces of art all over the house. The outside chill out area and bar is a marvel and is the focal point of the house and is a great place to chill out and chat with others. The hostel has a single computer with decent internet access.
From the moment you arrive you’ll be made to feel welcome and the staff will bend over backwards to assist you. It has some decent facilities but it’s the personal touches and the great atmosphere that will make you want to return to Hostel Anton over and over. Moreover, Hostel Anton is well priced with great staff that are well placed in their roles as ambassadors of travel and Hostel Anton. If you like the laid back hippy community vibe you’ll feel right at home here.
And there we have it, my five favorite hostels of my trip, so even in these tight times cheaper travel need not mean poorer quality. In fact, it was quite the opposite, I found hosteling to be a great way to travel on a budget. And hostels are much more sociable and can encapsulate everything you could ever want from your adventure.
For more great hostels around the world, at great prices and with easy booking, as well as how to write reviews and get paid for it whilst traveling, check out www.Hostelz.com