After staying in many places over many years, I feel there is a standard that is easily obtainable for all Hostels. I have endured long nights in shitty places, the worst of which in Belgrade, Serbia. I have also enjoyed the spectacle at such a simple comfort as a curtain on a bed. I ran a hostel for a year in which I learn’t a lot. The most important thing in most travelers’ eyes are cleanliness and happy, inclusive staff. Bed bugs are the biggest issue I have faced, but as travelers we are bound to come across them. They piggy back on bags, socks and anything fabric you carry, but the reaction of staff is the main attraction. They are unavoidable, but if staff react quickly and decisively that comforts me. If not, you know it’s a lasting problem. Atmosphere is paramount, and I believe staff play a huge part in that. From excursions to simple beers on an evening together, staff play a huge role in the feeling of a place. I read a lot of reviews about the knowledge of staff at hostels, mostly negative, but as a great believer in Workaway, I would rather spend my time finding my own way and enjoying the travel experience with someone who maybe knows less about the area but more about the world.
As manager, I was thrust into a world which I didn’t fully understand. My first bad experience was with our first bout of bed bugs. My girlfriend brought them with her (can you imagine why I fell in love) and we closed the entire floor, gave free washing to all customers and sprayed every inch of the dormitory. Problem solved. I loved spending time with travelers and making their stay and adventure worthwhile. I made plenty of friends and thousands of acquaintances. As far as hostels go, there are good, bad and ugly ones.
Hostel Colours in Milan. This hostel has individual dorms, a bar with a pool table. The common area downstairs that leads to a work area and small library downstairs. The general atmosphere is good and the permanent staff knowledgeable. It is rather far from the center of Milan, but then that makes it affordable. We walked every night which took about 25 mins, totally fine as far as we were concerned. The beds are clean and comfortable and overall we really enjoyed our stay there.
Alex One in Bulgaria was a last minute fully booked everywhere situation. We had to extend our stay in Sofia the night before new years eve. Obviously, this was an issue and we ended up quite a while away from the center. The hostel was poorly managed, we couldn’t get in for an hour, and difficult to find. Once inside the rooms didn’t lock properly with no lockers available and the manager seemed really dodgy and unorganized. The beds were smelly and fusty, but there was a shop around the corner with cheap beer, so we didn’t notice this by the end of the evening. Nothing wrong with a bit of alcoholic courage to sleep the night away
Hostel Museum Propido in Belgrade, Serbia. This hostel had decent reviews and pretty good pictures. We booked on the way from Bulgaria during our BlaBla Car excursion. This place was fucking atrocious. We started by climbing the horror movie staircase, past the random refuse collections on each floor. We entered our room and received no bedding whatsoever. The room was foul, and the walls were covered in a shiny glisten in random areas. I hoped it was a snail trail, but we all know what it really was. The bar downstairs was cheap, but they used the glasses that were already waiting for cleaning. The staff didn’t even want to reply, and we found some bedding, but it was wet. We went out as late as possible and we slept in our clothes as it was disgusting but also because the window did not close, and this is January in fucking Serbia. I even slept in my hat with a t shirt as a pillow case trying to avoid all suspect stains on the bare, pre-war mattress. We spent one night there, that was enough.
Hostels don’t make much money, but the simple things in life are almost free. A general level of cleanliness, nice atmosphere and decent staff are all that is required. Trust me when I say, I have slept in train stations, on windowsills and in airports as I am sure many of you have. I have very low standards and a very cheap wallet. Bedding would be nice on a bed though, lets be honest.