My trek across Europe was on a shoestring. I didn’t have much money at the time, (not that much has changed!) but I bit the bullet and went for it and the friends and memories I made changed my life. The cliches around travel are true. It definitely changes you, for the better, forcing you out of your comfort zone to explore new things. On my interrail I got to meet so many people and it’s an experience I don’t think I’ll be able to relive again. Travel with an open and positive mind and you’ll be surprised where life will take you. Be safe and have your wits about you but be talkative, friendly and put yourself out there. You’re only young once and the memories you will make, even those spent sleeping on a train floor for 7hrs – will stay with you forever!
This scrap will give eager backpackers some tips on travelling on the cheap. Giving pointers on three of the cities which have been posted on this blog already. In one of my first posts I mentioned staying in Paris in a hostel close to Bastille, a gorgeous part of Paris – fit for Vogue or an emotive movie scene under moonlight. In Brussels I stayed in the Meininger and in Amsterdam I was guest in StayOkay.
Blue Planet Hostel – Paris
Don’t expect much from this hostel. I stayed there for 2 nights. The bed was clean and there were warmish showers. I paid 12euros per night which included ‘breakfast’, meaning tokens for a vending machine (stocked with pain du chocolat, cartons of orange juice) and a coffee machine in the common room downstairs by reception. The reviews on TripAdvisor are not kind and for good reason. There is only one key per room, meaning I had to share a key with two others. The person who checks-in first is given the key meaning the other guests in the room must knock, waking those sleeping who had forgotten to leave the key behind at reception.
Another huge annoyance was the lack of plugs (or outlets), One plug was expected to be shared by three guests, which as you can expect was a nuisance between charging phones and cameras. It also meant we had to climb on-top of someone’s bed as the plug was mounted high up on the wall with a small shelf under it. It was ridiculous and meant someone’s bed for the night got trampled on.
There is no free wi-fi, but pubs close by have open networks which can be used. Some reviews spoke of bedbugs but my stay was comfortable and the hostel itself was not unhygienic. This hostel was extremely basic but its location was amazing as it was close to Bastille and only a 2 minute walk from Gare de Lyon metro station. For its location the Hostel was great value but the building could do with a refurbishment. I wouldn’t recommend this hostel for a long stay but if only expecting a bed for the night, the hostel was brilliantly connected to tourist sights and locations.
24hr reception. With staff that were neither rude nor friendly.
No frills & cheap – expect what you pay for in Paris. 2/5
Address: 5 Rue Hector Malot, 75012 Paris, France
Meininger Hostel – Brussels
You’ll see a lot of these around Europe as they are a popular hostel chain. Like the hostel in Paris, it’s located in the heart of city. With a 6 minute walk from the metro and a 20 minute walk from the central train station, the hostel is easy to find, looking out over the Canal Bruxelles-Charleroi. It’s a huge towering brick building, with its own history as the hostel itself was a former brewery.
I can’t fault it. The rooms were modern and clean. The decor resembles Ikea (which is a good thing!), the showers and bathrooms were hot, clean and functioning and private to those only sharing the room. The hostel was also very secure. Rooms were locked by individual room cards and the room cards also locked and unlocked individual lockers within the rooms. The common room and bar was fantastic (and is what attracted me as a guest in the first place). The beer garden was also a plus and the bar itself was busy at night with pool tables, TV and free and open wifi was available everywhere within the hostel.
It cost about 15euros (for a mixed dorm shared with 9 others) per night but breakfast was not included. Breakfast however could be bought in the restaurant on the ground floor at 8 euros but for its price, it was a little limited. It is best, as I did, to eat out as the hostel is situated in downtown Brussels where plenty of restaurants or cafes can be found. Laundry facilities were available but not a kitchen to prepare your own food.
24hr reception. With friendly staff and tours.
Great atmosphere, dorms and location. Brilliant value – 5/5
Address: Quai du Hainaut 33, 1080 Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Belgium
StayOkay – Amsterdam
I spent 3 nights in Amsterdam and I would return to this very hostel again. It was great value for money, costing just 14 euros per night for a mixed 10 person dorm. It was located right in the heart of the city along the scenic canals and was just a 20 minute walk from the central station. It’s an original Dutch townhouse but because the house is old there are no lifts and many stairs. Inside however the decor is modern and extremely clean. Bathrooms and toilets are shared with all guests along one floor of the hostel which are segregated by sex. The showers were warm and clean and there is laundry facilities but no kitchen. The hostel itself is very secure with room cards which also function as a key to individual lockers.
The price included breakfast which was great as long as you like cold meats, breads and cereals. Coffee and juice was also served and it was a self-service buffet style between 7-10am. The hostel bar was nice but a little small. It didn’t have a great atmosphere either as it wasn’t busy but the staff were lovely.
They only downfall however was that the dorms were without plugs or outlets. Meaning you couldn’t charge your phone beside you while you slept. Instead you could charge your electronics in the common room or you could hand in your phone at reception and they would charge it free of charge as a service.
24hr reception. Tours and special tourism deals on offer too.
Great location, lovely stay – 4/5
Address: Kloveniersburgwal 97, 1011 KB, Amsterdam, Netherlands