So while gallivanting around “down under”, and in keeping with the TNL pattern of firsts, I spent most of my time staying at hostels. Now, I went with faith since my friend Sidney knew the ins and outs of how to survive sharing space with strangers from all parts of the world. Thankfully, I’d never seen the movie “Hostel”, but a few were charming enough to mention it amidst my pre-trip excitement. (Thanks guys). My main concern was bedbugs which led to images of me being quarantined and sprayed upon my return to Canada. Oye vey.
But hey, I’m down for whatever – especially if there’ll be a story to tell at the end. I remained open-minded and was actually very excited.
So with all that, I’d like to share my reviews of each of the hostels at which we had the pleasure of staying. This is all from a newbie’s point of view; although by hostel #2 I was pretty confident in my backpacking ways. Not to mention that I gots MAD packing skillz too, yo. Or something.
Okay…. just keep reading.
BIG Hostel – Sydney, Australia.
Ah, my first hostel. After 3 flights and 24+ hours of travelling, I would have slept pretty much ANYWHERE. It didn’t come to that, though. When we arrived at the hostel, check in was a breeze and the place was clean. Bonus. Here’s the review:
We were greeted by friendly and helpful staff and someone was available at reception 24/7.
- It is in a convenient location close to bus stops, restaurants and shopping.
- The duration of the stay includes WiFi (password provided at check-in).
- There is a common lounge area with tables, couches and one large flat screen tv. You are not permitted to sleep on the couches at any time.
- Our room held 8 people with 4 bunk beds. I slept on the top bunk like a champ!
- I didn’t fall once!
- In the rooms there is a locker for each person to secure important belongings – you must bring your own lock.
- Everyone is very respectful of each other’s space and it never felt crowded since occupants come and go at varying times.
- There are rules that need to be followed and consequences if they are not. The signs with the rules are posted for all to see everywhere. Some of them are quite witty.
- You weren’t allowed to bring your own sleeping materials – blankets, sleeping bags etc – in an effort to avoid bedbugs at all costs.
- In the kitchen, plates, glasses and cutlery are provided. You are expected to wash up after yourself and are warned there is surveillance. People respected this rule.
- Breakfast is included from 7am-10am and includes bread to toast along with butter, jam and peanut butter. There are canisters that hold sugar, tea bags and coffee, and a hot water dispenser and a cooler.
- There is a large fridge in which you are required to place a small cooler with items you have purchased and a shelf area to do the same with dry items. If there are items you no longer want,they can be placed in the free food box for anyone else to help themselves.
- There is a large stove to do cooking.
- Housecleaning comes daily and the bathrooms are kept clean.
- Laundry facilities available and they provided detergent for $1 charge.
BIG Hostel is located at 212 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills. TWO THUMBS way up for this hostel. IF you’re staying in this area, I highly recommend BIG.
Pinewood Lodge – Queenstown, New Zealand.
Here I am thinking: “awww it’s a cute lil self-contained lodge” which I thought was going to be a step up from BIG and it’s plethora of travellers. BIG was overall a great experience, so smaller would be better. Right? RIGHT? Well…. Let’s get right down to it, shall we?
- Each self-contained lodge had a common area (living room), small kitchenette along with 2 full bathrooms.
- There were 3 small bedrooms and in ours there were 2 bunk beds – thankfully we all knew each other.
- There was only one outlet in the rooms which made charging electronics quite a challenge. Because we all knew each other, we were able to work out a system and charge our devices based on priority (whichever item was the lowest in power was charged first. Cameras trumped everything else).
- Time to lay out the issues:
- This quaint little place had all the appeal from the outside but that was unfortunately marred by the other rather rowdy guests.
- Housecleaning did not come very frequently, and actually it wasn’t until my friend notified reception that one of the bathrooms was completely out of toilet paper did they show up… a while later.
- The common area and kitchenette remained rather filthy as the other guests did not clean up after themselves very well. With that – I did not take any pictures of the interior.
- We were less than thrilled when we had to stay at the hostel an extra night after learning our bus to Fox Glacier had to be cancelled after a slip (avalanche) at one of the mountains which blocked the road. The only bonus to the delay was being able to take in more of Queenstown.
- 2 nights in a row someone from our room had to get up and yell at the rowdy guests who had several friends over, music blaring and loud talking well into the wee hours of the morning.
- Do you know one dude had the NERVE to share that they’d been kicked out of another hostel because of their noise? HA!
- We’re up outta here – DEUCES.
Pinewood Lodge is located at 48 Hamilton Rd. When Sidney and our friend Mark complained at reception, they advised if they’d been told earlier (about the rowdy co-occupants) action would have been taken. But um…. what about housecleaning?
Ivory Towers Lodge – Fox Glacier, New Zealand.
Another cute lodge, but at this point I was skeptical after our Queenstown experience. But already the people were quieter which was a huge bonus.
- The feel of this hostel made me think of what a bed and breakfast would be like; it was cozy and clean.
- There was a spacious kitchen/dining area and off to one side were the bedrooms and enough bathroom areas to accommodate the guests.
- To the other side of the kitchen/dining area was a small lounge with couches and a fireplace. It was the perfect place to unwind after we’d visited the glacier.
- Behind the kitchen were a hot tub and sauna that were free to use until 10pm. As our stay here was cut short to one night, we did not take advantage of either. Womp.
- Our room had 3 bunk beds but we had the room to ourselves for the evening.
- Although there was only one outlet, a power bar was also provided so there were no issues with charging our electronics.
Ivory Towers Lodge is located in the heart of Fox Glacier. The town is so tiny that you really can’t miss it, or someone would be able to direct you. I really enjoyed this hostel and it definitely made up for the negative experience at Pinewood Lodge.
Around the World Backpackers – Christchurch, New Zealand.
We only spent one night here, but enough to get a feel of the place. There seemed to be a few long-timers which gave it a homey feeling. And a Canadian worked at reception – totally made our night!
- Check in was a breeze and each person is provided a code for the front door. So unlike the other hostels, if you were not staying there you could not get in. Well – unless you came with someone who was staying there.
The rooms were small with two bunk beds and a shortage of outlets. By this time we were used to it! It worked for one night.
- On our floor, there was one unisex bathroom and one female-only with a nice big shower.
- The kitchen was spacious with a table and enough shelves to store items and had the same rules seen at all the hostels – clean up after yourself.
- The kitchen looked out onto a lovely backyard but because it was raining while we were there, we didn’t get to go outside and enjoy it.
- We were provided shuttle service (reception made the arrangements after confirming the time) to the airport for a flat rate of $15, which worked out cheaper than a taxi and removed the hassle of taking the bus.
- There wasn’t really anything around, but with a 10-15 minute walk we found a grocery and Subway for a late dinner.
Around the World Backpackers is located at 314 Barbadoes St. I would recommend staying here if you are staying in that area of Christchurch.
With all that, there were things I took away as mental notes and others I was glad I remembered from going to youth retreats back in the day. So here are things to note when staying at a hostel:
- be mindful of other guests as much as possible. “Do unto others” and such.
- honour the rules of the hostel – they’re pretty serious.
- bring flip-flops and a portable caddy for the shower.
- bring ear plugs – other guests can be LOUD.
- use your indoor voice when there are others sleeping – seriously now.
- bring a sleep mask if you’re a light sleeper – the lights WILL go on.
- stay neat – you’re sharing a room/space with others.
- make your bed – it’ll make mama proud!
- be open-minded – you will encounter people from all over the world.
- be prepared to tell people where you’re from at least once a day.
- don’t hog the outlets – that’s just rude.
- if it’s a smaller location, don’t hog all the hot water with long showers.
- take a glance back when leaving the shower/change area. Your abandoned underwear WILL end up in the “Lost and Found” basket for all to see. IS that what you want?
- people tend to mind their business so no need to be paranoid…. Unless you also saw “Hostel”. Of course.
- Clean. Up. After. Yourself.
Guess what guys – NO bedbugs! If you have any other hostel stories or tips, please leave comments below!