Youth Hostels? What to Expect?
This is going to be a really long entry but I guarantee that it’s going to be helpful for you, my little wanderlust.
If you have been following my Big Blog Exchange trip, then you’ll know that I only spent one day in each of the places I’ve visited. I slept in 9 different Youth Hostels or YHA (A stands for Association) in 10 days. I must admit that an overnight stay is way too short to provide a proper review for each hostels I’ve visited, but at least, I can provide an overall feedback! :)
But before I begin, let me just clarify that YHA gave me a private room throughout my sponsored stay. Occasionally, I would share rooms with Lucy but she was my companion throughout the trip so I don’t think that counts. The real hostel experience (sharing rooms with a stranger and the like) happened when I extended my trip.
Now, shall we begin with the review? I promise it’ll be really informative!
Top: My room in YHA London Central / Bottom: Our room in YHA Ambleside + my mess
At YHA, you’ll be sleeping in a bunk bed with white sheets and green blankets (YHA’s official color). Sometimes, they would cover the sheets for you. Sometimes, you’ll have to do it for yourself. In the room, you’ll have your own cabinet to store your valuables and a personal bed light with an electric plug/power point. I like the personal electric plug because I don’t have to worry about the other guests stealing my phone or something (just a precautionary measure) because it’s just within the vicinity of my bed.
While the room looks pretty basic, all of them were clean and cozy. In fact, I didn’t have a hard time settling down in any of the hostels because they all look welcoming and presentable.
Due to the architecture of the building, the layout of the rooms were different in each hostels. Some rooms have their own bathroom, some don’t, but rest assured that all of the rooms will have their own sink. I think the reason why there’s a sink in every room is so that you can still freshen up even if you can’t use the common bathroom yet. Anyway, hostels like the YHA Stratford and Manchester have rooms with an attached bathroom and toilets, but the latter was much smaller. Then the room they gave me at YHA Oxford has a small balcony and TV. While the Wilderhope Manor has a Bridal Suite because the hostel is often used as a wedding venue.
There’s no bar fridge, but you can deposit your food in their self-service kitchen. Just make sure you properly label your food.
YHA London Central’s Beauty Room
With the exception of the London hostels, most of them offer breakfast for five quid. I’m not going to lie but I absolutely love, love, love the ones with breakfast because they were always offering a full English breakfast and that means bacon and scrambled eggs for me! :3
One meal I loved the most was this poached chicken that I ordered from YHA Stratford’s chef. I forgot the name of the meal but I loved it to bits! Too bad the other hostels were not offering it. /sad
Some of the hostels have computers and wi-fi (not for free unless you’re a YHA member), but I can’t remember which. I am certain London Central and Manchester has one.
Oh! They’re also partnered with a lot of tours and sights. So if you’re interested in watching a show or joining a group tour, the front desk will be able to assist you and even offer you a discount! :)
My room in YHA Stratford and its bathroom
It’s my first time to stay at a hostel and I didn’t really know what to expect. I used to have so many questions about hostels. Are they safe? Are they clean? Will I share a room with the opposite sex? Those are just some of the questions that I was able to personally answer.
Are the beds comfy? Yes, they were! I never had a hard time sleeping! But for better comfort, I highly recommend you sleep at the top bunk.
Are the bathrooms clean? Yes, but my least favorite bathroom was YHA Ambleside because it was a shared bathroom where 8-9 rooms (2-4 guest in each rooms) have access. But the bathrooms and rooms were still spic-and-span!
Do they offer free breakfast? No. Majority of them, except for the hostels at London, offer a full English breakfast for five quid. Personally, I wish YHA London Central would offer a English breakfast since they have a big kitchen (the self-catering kitchen).
Is it safe to stay at a hostel? To be honest, I felt safe throughout my stay. They have CCTVs installed and most of the hostels use a key card system.
Will people steal my stuff if I leave it at the hostel? I can’t vouch for every backpacker but I did leave my locker unlocked for most of my trip and no one stole anything (of course, there was nothing valuable in there). But don’t follow my footsteps! Remain vigilant, don’t leave valuables unattended. Get your own padlock! ;)
Will I share a room with the opposite sex? This depends on the hostel. I’m not sure if YHA offer such kind of set-up, but there are hostels that do. Be sure to check before you book.
What happens if someone’s snoring so loud? Use an ear plug. I’m glad that the girls I’ve shared rooms with were mindful with the noise they’re making, especially during the morning when some are still sleeping.
What are the things you need to bring? Kindly research this because it’s different for each hostels, but with YHA, you can rent towels, padlocks, earplugs and umbrellas for one or two pounds. You can see the full list of amenities on their websites.
Why should I stay at the hostel? I get you. Who doesn’t want to stay at a hotel? I would, if I could! But given the expenses to travel, I just find it ridiculous to stay at a hotel for $200 per night (the average rate at Agoda for London).
If your definition of traveling is to spend the whole day outside, roaming around the city, then stay at a hostel. If you’re visiting for a special occasion, like honeymoon or something, then go for a hotel… but still check with the hostel if they offer private rooms.
Since each hostel is different, here’s a brief review + lots and lots of photos.
YHA London Central
Pros: It’s located in Central London (duh!). They have an elevator. Love the cozy mood in their common room. About three blocks away from the nearest Tube. Alternatively, you can ride Bus 453 and you’ll have your own tour of Oxford/Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Big Ben! Oh, they also have a beauty room that I discovered on my last day of stay!
Cons: No breakfast, but there’s a huge self-service kitchen.
Pros: This place looks amazing! The room they gave me was pretty big and comes with its own bathroom and sink. +1 for that poached chicken I ordered!
Cons: A bit far from the town central. I took a cab at 11PM because I was freezing to death and my jet lag was starting to kick in. It was a quick and safe ride though.
YHA Wilderhope Manor
Pros: You get to live in a really old manor. Hill-side view! The manor may look old on the inside, the Bridal Suite looks pretty new and modern. Definitely a perfect place to do weddings and digital detox. Oh, and I did not experience any paranormal activity during my stay. ;)
Cons: In the middle of nowhere? No signal for Three mobile, my choice of network throughout my stay.
Pros: Very near MOSI! Manchester is somewhat a small city, so you won’t have a problem roaming around.
Cons: I can’t think of any, but tall people might not like their small bathrooms? I’m petite, so that’s not really a problem for me!
Pros: Overlooking Lake Windmere and is located beside Ambleside Pier. Place was full but quite peaceful.
Cons: Rooms may be a little small for taller people, but that’s just what I think. Not enough shared bathrooms.
Pros: They gave us a really spacious room with a big bathroom. The place looks really big!
Cons: A 15/20-minute walk from the town central. It started to drizzle when I was on my way back to the hostel, and I’m not gonna lie, I was cursing because I didn’t have any brolly. The rain wasn’t that bad, it’s the cold wind that was literally killing me. I thought I’m going to get sick! But that’s not the hostel’s fault!
YHA Boggle Hole
Pros: My favorite hostel because of the quirky feel. Outside, the hostel may not look much, but visit inside and you’ll be taken to a different world. Maybe I’m exaggerating but I absolutely love this place. You’ll definitely be a kid at heart here.
Cons: The hostel is a hidden gem, which is a good thing, but I absolutely have no idea how to get there by commute. May not be ideal for the disabled.
Pros: The place’s huge and has a small garden with an amazing view of the town and Whitby Abbey. Suitable for the disabled.
Cons: I can’t think of any, since I did not stay here. The manager gave me a tour of the place, including here and there history of the house and the surroundings. :)
Pros: Located near the train and bus station.
YHA Oxford Street
Pros: Very near Oxford Street Station. I really like the room they gave me because I can see the London Eye from afar.
Cons: No elevators for the rooms, no breakfast but there’s a small self-service kitchen.
You might think I’m just being biased because this trip was sponsored by Hostelling International, but I really had a fantastic time staying at their hostels. Most of the staff I met were very accommodating, including the team at YHA Whitby! And the guests I met were also really nice. :)
For more information about the Youth Hostels in England and Wales, please visit their website at http://www.yha.org.uk/. And if you have any other questions, feel free to ask on the comment box below.