In the game of travel, you define the terms. Yes, you! Stay in the city or in the coutry side? Tuk-tuk, taxi, uber or local transportation? AirBnB or Hotel? Ball-out or budget friendly? For many people, this can be overwhelming and coordination can be exhausting.
Recently, I was traveled to Barcelona during a holiday weekend and hotels were excessively expensive (think $200+ USD for the Holiday Inn Express).
Long before I knew about credit cards and points, I had traveled to many countries and stayed in hostels (or the cheapest hotels) in an effort to save money for my next trip. At the time, I never found value in hotels. Often, I found myself asking “You want me to pay you $200/night and I can’t check-in until 3pm and I have to check out by 10am!?!? That seems like a waste.”
My flight itinerary would require a 2 night stay (Arrival: 10PM on Monday, Departure: 6AM on Wednesday). $400 in hotel costs is a tad more than I would like to spend for, essentially, 1.5 days in a Holiday Inn.
THE ALTERNATIVE: GENERATOR HOSTEL
Now, before you turn your nose up at the idea, let me say that I’ve stayed in MAAANNNNYYY hostels in my lifetime. Some were good and some….needed some work but this may be the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in!
Let’s start with the basics. All of these photos are in chronological order…
I arrived just before midnight. Taking photos can be tricky because if you take more than 1, people become suspicious about why you’re taking so many photos. I prefer to fly under the radar so I did not take a photo of the reception desk. The individuals at the reception desk were attentive and wore nametags with the country from which they resided and the languages they spoke. They welcomed me to the Generator and directed me to my room. Once I arrived on the 5th floor and the doors opened, this was my view. I was in Room 514.
I walked forward to the wall, turned around and took a photo of the hallway (sort of) and the elevator. The lights on the floor are motion-sensitive. As I fumbled to get change my settings on my camera, the lights in the hallway turned off. I appreciate that electricity is not being wasted.
Typically, when reserving a hostel, you have a two options: book a dorm with a shared bathroom or book a private room. Some hostels have various types of dorms (e.g. 16-bed dorm, 10-bed dorm, 4-bed dorm, single-sex dorm, mixed-sex dorm etc.). The more individuals you have in a dorm, the cheaper the price.
To give you an example, your options may be: a 16-bed dorm for $15 per person / per night, a 4-bed dorm for $30 per person, per night or a private room for $85 per night.
Often, arriving at this time of night can be challenging because you’re trying to unpack in the dark and be courteous to those that are sleeping. Ironically, no one was in my room when I arrived so I snapped some photos. I booked an 8-bed mixed dorm. As you can see, there are four bunkbeds in total.
I was given bed #1 so this is where I would be laying my head. The mattress was super-comfortable and the pillows were soft, fluffy and ones you melt into .
Often, people will leave their phones or computers charging on their bed. There is always a chance that someone could have bad intentions and steal your possessions. However, in my experience, people are respectful of your property and do not touch it. Personally, I don’t take any chances and lock my luggage in a locker everytime I leave my room. Everyone is assigned a locker. In this case, the drawers underneath the bed are the lockers and are big enough to store suitcases. You can bring your own lock or can purchase one from the front-desk for minimal costs.
As you enter the room and turn to the right, you will find a toilet behind the door and a sink outside the bathroom.
To the left, you will find a trash can, another sink and a location to dry your towel.
There is also a full-length mirror next to the sink in case you’re planning to live it up that night and need to ensure you’re FLY!
I had just flown a long-haul flight from Los Angeles so it was “lights out” for me. This was my view of ‘Bunk 7’ from my bed.
I’m an early riser so before everyone made their way to breakfast, I snapped a few pictures of the social space. This is the loft above the lobby. Comfortable and oversized beanbag chairs, a sleek pool table, vintage arcade games and a lot of light make this loft a into a great social space.
You will also find additional lockers space in the loft space for items that may not fit in your room locker.
Again… a foosball table, a comfortable coach, a plethora of reading books, and intersting items that you would find at a yardsale but, nonetheless, add character to a space were found in this space.
Nothing is better than a comfortable couch and a good book.
…and if you happen to have a tape on you, pop it in the deck and… *wink*
Returning to the lobby, you can see they have a set of comfortable reading chairs and beanbags for your enjoyment.
You can also rent bikes from the hostel for 7 Euros ($8 USD) per day.
Directly behin the reception area, you will find a restaurant / bar / social area.
Adjacent to the lobby and facing the street is a cafeteria where you will find an assortment of breakfast items in the morning and appetizers in the afternoon. They also host daily social activities in this area if you’re interested in meeting others.
When I returned to my room after breakfast, I decided to take a shower and get ready for the day. As you can see, my carry-on suitcase fit comfortably in the drawer below my bed.
As I returned to the lobby, you can see the comfortable “birdcage chairs” were now occupied by a few teenagers. Often, you will find that familes are staying in hostels because it is cheaper than staying in a local hotel. For example, if a family of 4 stays in a 4-bed dorm, they could slash their overnight expenses in half.
This blog post may not appeal to your, specific, tastes but it offers an alternative if you’re just getting started with international travel, are a seasoned-pro, are budget conscious or all of the above.
I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO SAY NEXT…
“I can’t do that! I’m TOO OLD to be staying in a hostel!”
Just to give you a slight glimpse of my roommates:
Bed #2: Woman, New York City, visiting Barcelona for a few days because she loves the culture. Early 20’s
Bed #3: Woman, Australia, backpacking through Europe, 68 yrs old (I didn’t ask but she told me)
Bed #4: Woman, came from Germany to meet her soulmate from online dating. She was skeptical about him so she was staying a few nights in the hostel. She told me she was 52 yrs old. <–this led to great conversation and connection among the roommates in our room
Bed #5: Man, Istanbul, Turkey, came to Barcelona because he loves architecture and wanted to see Gaudi. Mid to late 40’s.
Bed #6: Woman, Sweden, 76 yrs old (I didn’t ask but she told me and she was NOT traveling with Bed #3).
Bed #7 and #8: This couple was from Japan and spoke very little English or Spanish. I would say they were in their early 50’s.
As you can see, if you’re between the age 21 and 76, you’re elgible to stay in a hostel.
Hostels may not be everyone’s “style”…I get it! Everyone sees “value” differently. I arrived in Barcelona at 10pm and during a Holiday weekend where hotel priceswere astronomical. I wasn’t interested in spending my points and I wasn’t interested in spending any money. I just needed a location to place my head.
For the grand total of $42 ($21/night), I met some great people and was able to explore another great European city.
Have you ever stayed in a hostel? What was your experience?