So many people talk about how they have the best time staying in hostels. But for some people like us, it isn’t always the case. Some hostels are dirty, some are noisy and some are just filled with the type of people you don’t want to come across. We haven’t stayed in many hostels on our Australia road trip, and mainly stuck to motels and free camping, but there was one in particular that made us realise that we’re not cut out for the hostel life.
My boyfriend Alex has never let us stay in hostels when we’ve gone on a weekend away, even though they will have saved us a considerable amount of money. As a result of that, we’ve both been subject to a lot of lovely (and expensive) hotels and apartments in Europe, and really, that’s what we’re used to. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve also stayed in some pretty basic, budget accommodation – Campanile, Ibis Budget, friend’s floors with nothing but two blankets between us, all of my student accommodation. The list goes on. Basically, we shouldn’t really be this fussy.
I’ve only ever had one positive experience while staying in a hostel, and that was the first time I went to Amsterdam (blog post here). There were significant reasons as to why this was different though. Firstly, it was an organised tour by a company. So they had booked out as any rooms as possible in this said hostel, and everyone in those rooms were all on the same trip, all going to the same events, all with the same mindset. We were all coming and going at the same time, and all coming back just as drunk as each other. Everyone just gelled so quickly and had an absolute blast each night. But, given a different scenario where we weren’t all on the same trip, I don’t think this would have worked out for me.
The hostel we stayed in when we first arrived in Australia was in Brisbane (here) and it had a great atmosphere and the staff were great and very friendly. A lot of people who where staying there looked as if it was temporary until they found more permanent accommodation, such tradies and young professionals. It had a very laid back feel and seemed to be a great place to make your base when you first arrive in the city. There was never any noise in that hostel when we stayed there, and the reception seemed like a nice, quiet area where you could sit and get some work done.
Now having a relatively good experience in hostels up until this point, instead of forking out a fortune to stay in a hotel in Airlie Beach, we decided to get a private room in a hostel. How I wish we hadn’t. With Airlie Beach being such as huge tourist destination, with it’s amazing access to Whitsunday Island and massive backpacker following, it was clear this was going to be a busy hostel, but we didn’t quite imagine this sort of atmosphere.
Even though the hostel seemed to have a policy where guests were only allowed to stay with them for a maximum of two weeks, it seemed that a lot of people already knew each other, and people were bouncing between the groups in the common area. Straight off the bat, we felt like outsiders. We had to sit and wait around an hour for the reception to reopen so we could check in, and watching all this unfold was just a super weird experience. It was like being in a room full of people from the year above you in school – awkward and slightly intimidating.
Now I don’t want you to think we are bashing the hostel all together. The room was clean and comfortable, the view was quite lovely, and we even had a little outside seating area. We also had a major incident where I left something in the room and the staff very kindly posted it back to us, but that is for another post, another time! All in all, the hostel could have been really lovely, if it didn’t have this weird vibe that made us feel totally excluded from the get go.
Just to give you a quick insight as to “types” of people staying there – while we were settling down for the night, there were still a number of people out and about, drinking, socialising, having a great time, but we could hear every single word that was being said. I’m super noisy so I love that, but it wasn’t the noise, it was what was being said. A group were playing Heads Up, and someone describing said “What do you do when you’re sleeping?” The first answer that came out of the other person’s mouth – “Lucid dreaming.” We were in stitches. The next one – “What does a lumberjack do?” Next hilarious answer, “Fell a tree.” Fits of laugher from me and Alex ensue. The correct answer was chop wood, I mean you just cannot write this. Basically, if you are on a Gap Yarh, and are travelling to find yourself, this might be perfect for you. But Alex and I, we don’t fit in with these kind of travellers, and this hostel just didn’t suit us at all.
In general, there are things I don’t like about hostels. Deposits. Everything has a deposit on it – your key, your towel, cutlery, plates, even your bed sheets. On the subjects of bed sheets, what is all this bringing your bedsheets to reception when you check out thing all about? I know we’re staying on a budget, but that just seems a step too far when it comes to cutting costs. Another thing I hate doing is handing over my passport for it to be photocopied or adding my passport number to a long list of guests staying there. Anyone could get their hands on it and it just makes me feel a little uneasy. I understand it’s probably for some form of security thing, but it isn’t needed in hotels, and that just makes me feel a little bit better about my stay.
This isn’t to mean that every hostel is going to be like this. But we know now not to risk it. The right accommodation can truly make or break a trip – it definitely had a negative impact on our time in Airlie Beach. Now I’m not saying you need to spend a fortune on a fancy hotel either – we’ve stayed in a number of budget options over the years, and had a fantastic stay. But really look at what you are after in regards to your trip. If you want peace and quite, look for that in your hotel. If you want to meet new people, and aren’t afraid to get a bit crazy with a ton of people you don’t know, then look into a funky looking hostel. If you need to know that everything from the bed sheets, to the cracks in the bathroom tiles, and even the walls and ceiling are going to be clean, then look for newly refurbished accommodation – as in my personal experience, they are the only places that are 100% spotless. Really think about what you want from your accommodation, don’t just book because it’s cheap, or a great deal. Sometimes it’s totally worth spending that extra £20 and truly having the perfect trip.
If you want to see my live reaction to our hostel stay, check out the video below.
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