I’ve travelled a lot in my life. I’ve stayed in hostels, hotels, B&Bs, cabins, all the way to luxury all-inclusive resorts.
After staying in a hostel recently, I believe I’m at that point in my life when I’m over the hostel thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I think they are a great accommodation offering for the young backpacker who’s just looking for a bed. Particularly for the young backpacker who’s looking to party all night. Some are even good for families looking for a cheaper accommodation alternative. I have had some good experiences, but they’ve been few and far between. I guess the first hostel I stayed in, the [YHA Metro in Melbourne] blew away my expectations but that was a few years ago.
Since then, I’ve come to realize that hostels are a rip off. At least in Australia.
Hear me out.
I’m not the dorm room girl. I am at that age where I like a private bathroom. The room and facilities can be completely bare bones and I perfectly happy with that. But I like being able to get up in the middle of the night to go pee and not have to tip toe around urine, vomit and water on the floor.
Sadly, that has been my experience when I’ve dealt with shared bathrooms in hostels.
I’m going to argue this point with some stays in Melbourne Australia.
In June 2017, my daughter Natalie and I stayed in both a hotel and a hostel in Melbourne. The initial stays were a week apart then I stayed on my own, within the same month.
The hotel we stayed in was the Vibe Savoy on Spencer Street.
It was convenient, with trams available outside the hotel, the Southern Cross station across the road, and plenty of restaurants in the area to choose from. It has views of the carousel and overlooked the station. It was clean, had two very comfortable king-size twin beds with down comforters, free WiFI, a private bathroom and we were given two free drinks at the bar.
The cost for the hotel for a king twin room was $AU 111 for one night.
Less than a week later, we stayed in the Space Hotel on Russell Street, which is actually a hostel.
It, too, was in a convenient location, but the room consisted of two twin beds were on slab bases, outfitted with rough sheets and thin, scratchy blankets. There was a desk and a flat screen television in the room. The bathrooms were shared. In fact, there were 5 shared bathrooms for an entire floor which were constantly busy and overrun by what I can only describe as rebellious teenagers. There was a movie room on our floor that was filled after 10pm by the same rebellious teenagers. WiFi was available on the ground floor on communal computers. With the hostel located above a bar, we fell asleep to the thump thump thump of a deep base.
The cost for the hostel for a private twin room (no bathroom or sink) was $AU 100 for one night.
Less than two weeks after the hostel stay, I stayed at the Ibis Styles Victoria Hotel on Little Collins Street.
The Victoria Hotel was in a great location, walking distance to most of the main sites but half a block to trams if you wanted to venture further. I had a queen room with private bathroom. WiFi was not included but offered. The bathroom was large and the bed was comfortable, albeit on wheels (which I don’t quite understand). There was no view from the room, but I was there at night, so it wasn’t too important for this trip. The room was quiet and cosy and would be perfect for a couple travelling on a budget.
The cost for the hotel for a queen room was $AU 104 for one night.
Upon research, AirBnb options are widely available in the CBD area.
With Airbnb, you can have a private residence completely to yourself, where it’s convenient to the tourist areas, have free Wifi, a kitchen, washer/dryer etc, all for around $AU 118. And, of course, the more you share our experience with Airbnb, you gain a credit when others sign up and use the service for the first time, so it can be essential be free if you have enough credits (We stayed in one place on Australia’s Great Ocean Road for $18 because of these Airbnb credits!)
After all of these stays, I have realized I’m not a backpacker anymore.
I’m a traveller. A long term one at that. I own a backpack and I have the frugal mindset of a backpacker. I’m just not what is classified as a backpacker.
I want a comfortable, secure place to sleep with WiFi and a bathroom. My tastes aren’t extravagant. They are quite simple really. If the place is clean and neat, I don’t care if it’s dated. Most times I’ll call that retro or vintage.
I just don’t want to have share a bathroom with a number of kids who don’t clean up after themselves, or in a hostel that doesn’t provide adequate facilities for the number of guests.
I guess I’m over not having simple things like bath mats. Or I’m of the age that I don’t want to deal with the overwhelming smell of the bathrooms in the early hours, after rebellious teens had been drinking the flat (case) of beer, a goon of wine and god knows what else in the bar before it.
I’m a long term traveller who looks for value and just happens to carry a backpack.
I look for value.
Free Wifi is a no brainer with accommodation nowadays. Hotels etc can re-coup that money easily. There’s no reason not to provide that to guests for free.
I want comfortable bed for a good night rest. I will admit I’m a total bitch without sleep. I can do without a lot, but sleep is not one of them.
I want privacy in my bathroom and I want it to be clean when I use it, no matter what time of the day or night.
And I also don’t want the ‘Mum gene’ to kick in while I’m traveling and yell at the young things to shut the f*** up after 11pm!
Isn’t it better to spend a little bit more? At my age, you bet. I’ll forgo the bottle of wine or the extra night out to eat in exchange for a quiet room where I don’t have to line up to use the bathroom.
There’s definitely a market for hostels and I’m not dismissing the advantages. Even if you do spend $30/night for a dorm room, I still don’t see the value.
There are so many other things you have to account for. It goes further than the money:
You’re contending with noise in a shared room with strangers.
You have to content with security of both person and possessions.
You have to pay extra for WiFi most of the time, which can be up to $25/24 hour access (yes, it’s a rip off!).
You have to wear thongs/flip flops in a shared (most likely wet/messy) bathroom so that you don’t contact some foot fungus. A bathroom that you most likely have to queue for, if you don’t shower at odd times.
If you’re a backpacker, you’ll probably have washing to do, and that’s something else you have to pay extra for. In our experience in Australia at least, you’re paying around $8 per load for washing and another $8 per load for a dryer and that’s not including detergent.
Of course I say all of this and yet I’m planning on walking the Camino de Santiago in April 2018 where I’ll be staying in alburgues (Spain’s equivalent to hostels for pilgrims) along the way. But that’s part that experience right?!
You can bet your ass though that I’ll be staying in a nice Airbnb in Santiago at the end of walking the 800 km. I envision standing under a long hot shower, soaking up the quiet before sleeping for a long time in a nice comfortable bed.