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Monday, April 14, 2014

The Insider's Guide To Hostels (and Hostel Etiquette)

When Couchsurfing fails you, and your student bank account curses at the thought of paying for a hotel during your trip to London, rest assured that you will find a happy backup plan. Hostels are becoming more and more popular amongst people from all ages as a cheap alternative to hotels, where you basically don't really care about what beautiful chandelier there is in the reception, but rather just need a place to crash for a couple of nights.

Doing my research, I managed to find a hostel in Clapham. London (20mins by bus away from Central London/ Victoria coach station) for only 8 euro a night (plus 2e booking fee). This is the place: The place is basically a cute little pub with stairs at the back leading to dorms. Upon check-in, you get two door code which you punch in the gain entry to the rooms.

Overall, the staff were really helpful and friendly, and we got there before the check-in time but were still allowed to dump our backpacks in the luggage room to pick up later, so that we could simply go off and enjoy London without lugging around unnecessary weight. A free breakfast of toast, peanut butter and jam, coffee, and cereal was served during 7-9am, and the surrounding area was really nice - in fact we took our last day there to explore it - it's clean, safe, less expensive than central London, and there are lots of quirky little shops where you can get vintage scarves from.

General warning though, the cheapest beds are those in a 12 or 18 bed mixed (both men and women) dorm, which basically accounts into very little privacy and having to brush your teeth next to a strange man in a towel; which can feel oddly intimate, but not unpleasant. I was grateful, however, that I had brought my ear-plugs to cut out the noise of cars coming in from the window, people moving around, the door opening. I would probably also recommend an eye mask too.

During your stay at a hostel, you soon begin to realise the incredibly diverse nature of the human spirit, as well its sheer knack for creativity. For example, I awoke one morning and went to the bathroom to find a pad stuck to one of the tiled walls of the cubicle. Creative, indeed. This inspired the following list of To-Do's and To-Don'ts when it comes to hostel etiquette:

1. Don't stick pads to the walls of bathrooms - please.
If you can't find a bin, wrap it in toilet paper and throw it away elsewhere.

2. Don't use your cellphone on full-brightness and full sound after 10pm in the dorm. Some travellers are very tired and it isn't fair to keep them awake simply because you're using Instagram to post a photo of a pad stuck to a wall.

3. Don't go round shining a torchlight into people's faces to see who's sleeping there (this actually happened, and although it wasn't done to me, the two French pricks did get a severe telling-off)

4. DO clean up after yourself. Pick up any hair left in the shower, chocolate wrappers in the dorm, and don't leave your clothes on the floor. This should be done out of courtesy to fellow travellers.

5. DO be nice. Smile and say 'good morning' to the staff and fellow travellers. This may seem unnecessary, but it does serve to create a generally positive environment around you - plus you'd be surprised at how much more willing people are to help you out, like if you've run out of toothpaste or just want some general advice on travelling round the city, sightseeing, etc. My sister and I got to see two versions of Van Gogh's Sunflowers (free of charge at the National Gallery) as well as get musical tickets for Billy Elliot at half price from a tip-off we got on where to buy the tickets.

Hope this blog came in helpful :) Any questions, please leave a comment - and happy travels!

My sister holding up her juicy burger from The Crown Hostel, Clapham.

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