Hotels, Hostels or Homes? How to save money in your sleep whilst on Holiday.

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The decision of whether to stay in a hotel or not whilst on holiday is not usually at the forefront of many people’s minds. Most holiday goers will book their flights and then the top recommended hotel without even a second thought as to where else they could stay.

Why are so many of the population failing to remember that there are alternative, cheaper,  more immersive and entertaining options available. Or maybe they just haven’t been informed yet. Well in that case, let’s begin.

And a hostel in Venice offers comfy and private beds with a large communal area bar and kitchen. Very code to the train stationAt crazy affordable prices – Anda Venice offers comfy private sleeping areas, bar and kitchen areas, and a communal space that spans the entire ground floor.

Hotels: What are you paying extra for? Absolutely nothing.

If you enjoy late night strolls around a resort, listening to a British expat performing Whitney Houston Covers, and fighting other holiday makers for the sun lounger closest to the pool then hotels are definitely for you. Hotels are notoriously safer, and offer heightened security for families with private lockable rooms with en-suits and balcony areas. Great! But this is not the say that the same quality can’t be found elsewhere.

To offer some tangible evidence of what Hotels offer lets look at ibis hotels.

Whilst staying in an ibis hotel I couldn’t fault the breakfast service, the room, or anything else for that matter really. Although, the common area was less of a common area and more of a standard entrance area into the hotel.

Ibis hotels make good on the buffet breakfast and provide you with all your breakfasty needs from cereals to continental meats you’ve probably never thought to eat for breakfast.

This is all well and good you might say, but why oh why am I paying £50 – £100 (or more) a night. One person, one room, one bed, one breakfast, and you are asking for £60. Call me a cheapskate (because I am) but I say this pricing is totally unnecessary!

Hote de Paul in Belgium Bruges is small but charming At over £50 a night Hotel De Pauw offers a breakfast buffet, close proximity to the main square, and a nice view of a church…

To be completely fair to ibis hotels, I searched the going rates across 10 countries in Europe, even ‘cheap’ countries and the prices were pretty similar across the board. Ibis hotels aren’t the only offenders of high prices for little in return, Premier Inn, Travel Lodge, Best Western, Hilton, Marriott…  You name it, it was all a little too overpriced for me.

In my opinion, if anyone is paying £50-£80 per night, this is the least you should be asking for:

  • Blackout Curtains
  • Sound Proof Walls
  • Breakfast and Dinner
  • A fun, free, functioning common room
  • Outdoor seating areas
  • Comfortable bed and en-suit
  • Tea and Coffee in your room

If your paying over £80 for a hotel room then firstly – what on earth are you thinking? And secondly, there had better be a huge heated pool and a sauna with onsite creche for the kiddies to play in.


 Hostels: It’s not all doom and gloom

Once you understand that not all hostels are as grubby as they seem in the movies your holiday savings will increase, and your holiday experience will change forever.

Hostels are available in almost every country in the world, and at a fraction of the price of booking a hotel you’d be silly not to consider it. Some of the nicest places I have ever stayed have been hostels costing no more than £13 a night WITH breakfast included. For more information about what staying in a hostel is really like read Myth Busting: Hotels – To stay or not to Stay.

Bosnian hostel sign on the front gate entrance pink sign This is one of the most enchanting hostels in Bosnia. The host is friendly, helpful, and fun. The location is excellent and the vibes are chilled.

So, let’s address 3 of the main issues that people talk about when I suggest that they stay in a hostel.

1- “I don’t want to stay with 10 other people with no privacy or bathroom to myself.”

2- “It won’t be a safe environment for the kids to sleep in or to be able to walk around in.”

3- “I’m not sleeping in a dirty room where the sheets are gross and the bathroom smells”

I am happy to report that for the most part I have found none of this hearsay to be true. Read

Overall I have found hostels to be more welcoming, friendly, cleaner, entertaining, and helpful than any hotels I have previously stayed in. Private rooms are always a little pricier, but you get what you pay for after all. Booking is easy with sites like Hostelworld and HostelBookers offering a transparent efficient service to users.


Home Stays: Living like a local

Staying in someone else’s home can feel daunting, especially if the family are still in the vicinity during your visit. Unless you had selfish plans to trash the place there’s no reason to feel nervous at all, provided  that you have done your research beforehand.

Jemma Miguel Katie Juan Roxana jenifer Rocio Francisco Beth given Karen host famil picture in front of house in Nicaragua

Me with my incredible host family in Nicaragua. 3 months together and we were part of the family.

Whilst in Vietnam we stayed in a host home – accidentally.  The family had advertised their home on a hostel site. We were pleasantly surprised as, luckily, we got on well with the family. They were knowledgeable and friendly, and we learnt a lot from the experience.

Whilst some host family / home stays are advertised on the usual hostel sites your best bet is to head over to sites such as Homestay.com or simply type ‘host family stay’ into Google and check out the many country specific results available.

Another option is the increasingly popular Airbnb which offers a wide variety of options depending on your needs. You can rent a whole home, a room, or shared accommodation. The majority of places you find on Airbnb will be self catering, so you will miss out on the luxury meals you are used to at the hotel, but with thousands of yummy restaurants around every corner why not sample the real local cuisine in the streets. This also cuts out all of the moaning about the lack of diversity on the hotel menu.

When booking with Airbnb be sure to tick the ‘whole house’ option if you don’t fancy meeting the homeowners each day. Another mistake we made whilst in Paris was not ticking this. We didn’t mind ultimately, but we did find it strange that the owner was still at the house. That is, until we realised we hadn’t ticked the all important ‘home alone’ button.

Despite any booking errors we may have faced in the past, staying with a host family is always a very enriching experience. I’ll admit that it’s more of a solo traveller / couples travel option, but if children are welcome then why not just book the whole house instead for a fun family experience?


Will you take the plunge?

I think it’s clear to see that I am a hostel kind of girl. Be it a private room, or a communal room, it’s all good to me. Don’t forget to read my blog ‘Myth Busting: Hotels – To stay or not to Stayfor a real insight into why I view Hostels as being the best.

Camping serenissma in Venice Italy is a hostel and a camping ground pitch up a tent of stay in the bungalows pictured by the grassWhy not push the boat out and stay in a hostel camp site!? Camping Serenissma in Venice offers private bungalows or tent space, and even has a restaurant and pool!

Next time you book your accommodation for your holiday perhaps you may take a step back and consider just how much you could save to spend on enjoying expensive foods or activities, rather than on the £100 room that you could have got for £20 elsewhere.

Happy Booking!

Myth Busting: Hostels – To stay or not to Stay

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A significant part of your travelling experience lies in the places that you choose to call home each night. Whilst you may not return home with wondrous stories about the incredible comfort levels hidden within the mattress, or the delicious breakfast you ate each morning – the chances are that you will always recall the things that made the accommodation terrible.

When booking my stay anywhere in the world I look at five factors. 1. Is it close to the main attractions. 2. Are the rooms clean and comfortable. 3. Am I paying a decent amount for what is on offer. 4. Will I have somewhere other than my room to hang out in the evening, and 5. How well has the space been rated by past experienced travellers.

I hope that by confronting some of your doubts and answering some of your questions with real experience I can bring you to book your first hostel stay somewhere.


1. You said: I’m not sharing a bedroom with anyone I don’t know. So I might as well just stay in a hotel room anyway.

I say: If you really don’t want to stay with anyone random then the answer is simple, don’t stay with random people. Booking a private room in a hostel is easy and will still save you a large amount of cash. Let’s look at an example I have stayed in –

Where we stayed: The Secret Garden Hostel – Krakow, Poland. 5 nights, two beds for £160 total.

For just £160 we stayed in a lovely private twin bed room with ensuing, TV, cleaning service, common room, kitchen area, and free city maps.

This hostel has family vibes – meaning you are unlikely to be awoken by noisy party goers at 2am in the morning. If you like your privacy and like being slightly out of the centre of town then The Secret Garden hostel is an excellent choice.

If you want breakfast included then you only need to pay a small fee for this, or why not pop to the grocery store just a 2 minute walk away and make your own?

If you opt for one of the many Hotels in the area you will notice ( with a quick search on booking.com ) that you will be lucky for find a room for 5 nights for two people, and under £350.

Choosing a private twin room in a hostel in Krakow saved us £190.

Secret garden hostel in Krakow Poland room with twin bed and green cupboards. This homely hostel got mums seal of approval with its pristine, pretty, and private rooms.

2. You said: Hostels are for young people.

I say: No they’re not!

Where we stayed: Basecamp Bonn – Bonn, Germany. Suitable for all ages.

This quirky hostel offers a very varied environment, and by varied I mean – you can stay in the train carriage a private caravan a tour bus and more, all housed in a giant warehouse of fun.

Whilst younger visitors might opt to stay in the entirely cramped tour bus, older travellers can opt for the privacy and spaciousness of a private caravan for the night. The hostel offers traditional fun boardgames for the younger visitors (not that it stopped us from playing) and a mature atmosphere for the older ones.

If staying in a caravan isn’t your thing then there are plenty of other options available for all the travellers in the world of hostels. All you have to do is set your preferences wisely when searching, and if mobility is an issue then check the facilities and the location before you book.

In the peaceful town of Bonn, Germany is this bonkers hostel. Housed under one huge warehouse sit a renovated train carriage, private caravans, and tour buses to sleep in!

In the peaceful town of Bonn, Germany is this bonkers hostel. Housed under one huge warehouse sit a renovated train carriage, private caravans, and tour buses to sleep in!


3. You said: I’m not sharing a bathroom!

I said: Whilst it can be hard to find, hostels with private bathrooms do exist.

Where we stayed: Villa Varich – Chumphon, Thailand private ensuit.

Ok, ok, so this hostel isn’t on Hostelworld anymore because it wasn’t technically a hostel, but as the owner was just starting out these private villas were placed on Hostelworld and for bargain price. It’s just so great not feature it here. This does however raise an interesting point about being meticulous in your search for the perfect private bathroom.Once again I urge you to set your preferences to private ensuite and searching for a decent hostel with a private bathroom. Who knows you might just stumbled upon something is great as Villa Varich!

Jemma and irfan outside selfie by the river on the swing in Thailand With the villas on the river front it would have been rude not to take a self on the swing.

4. You said: I don’t want to party all the time. I just want to read with some light entertainment.

I said: party hostels are all around but if you search with the correct preferences you will find a hostel that suits you perfectly without all the loud music.

Where we stayed: Easy Tiger is an incredible hostel located in Phong Ngha, Vietnam.

Whilst from the booking websites this may seem like an incredibly rowdy hostel you couldn’t be more wrong. You’ll also be pleased to know (for those of you that wanted a private bathroom recommendation) that rooms with four beds in one private bathroom or available.

Upon entering your room you will be greeted by tiger print walls, floors, bedding – you name it! The rooms have thick walls keeping all outside noise out. Scheduled musicians and other interesting acts play in the evenings for your entertainment whilst you grab a bite to eat from their yummy restaurant.

I also recall there being a pool, pool tables, and a theme of supporting good causes.

Hills and mountains in phong nha Thailand by easy tiger hostelThe entire hostel is surrounded by incredible 360 views such as this. You also get an awesome wrist band upon entry.

5. You said: I’ve heard stories. Hostels just aren’t safe!

I say: To date, I have yet to be robbed of anything, nor attacked in some dark hallway. I’ve thought that I’ve been robbed a few times by then realise I just dropped my things next to my bed.

Where we stayed: Asta Venice, Venice, Italy. The locker is under your bed, and bag storage options are available.

some hostels have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to security, but we were pleased to see that Asta has nailed the locker system. Although Asta has done a good job, always travel with a minimum of two padlocks as most hostels or not supply them for you free of charge.

Many of the newer hostels you will notice have cameras around the building and outside rooms (which by the way most hotels only have cameras in the lobby). If you notice any suspicious behaviour, notify the staff (as you would anywhere else) and you will be just fine.

Anda Venice hostel entrance sign. Modern Art DecoAnda Venice is the trendiest hostel inVenice offering security, young fun vibes, and funky decor.

Berlin: Things to know before you go

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Getting in:

Flying into Berlin is a pain free, quick, and easy process that is truly reflective of that good old stereotypical German efficiency .

Shame about the train stations… The train stations that baffle and bewilder many a tourist ruin the efficiency illusion in an instant and, if you don’t speak German, will have you wishing that you had listened more in German class (if you even had the option to learn it).

Unless you have arranged a pickup, I strongly recommend that you research the route to your chosen destination BEFORE you get on the plane. If you are staying in Berlin then you will probably find that the S Bahn is your best option. Type your route into google maps and print it before you leave home. Google maps has a tendency to be rather incredible without shoving your stupidness in your face.

blue sky clouds Germany

 

When to go:

Berlin is a city that can be visited all year round with no real limitations to activities due to weather conditions. Just bare in mind that if you want to climb a tall building (because there are so many here) to get a great view, this is not going to happen when it’s poring with rain or foggy outside.

Remember that Sunday afternoons and public holidays can be quieter, with many museums and shops being closed.

Money:

The currency is Euro. Berlin can be expensive in and around popular tourist sites. Despite this, it is easy enough to find cheap food if you venture into the suburbs. Kebab shops, burger stops and chippies are never more than a five minute pace away.

Getting around:

The Sbhan is the easiest way around the city. If underground trains aren’t for you then grab a map and explore on foot. Many attractions are close to each other so you shouldn’t have to walk too far between sights. Typical to most European cities, Berlin’s inhabitants do fall prey to telling tourists that “it’s too far to walk” and that they should “take the train because it’s faster and easier”. At least once I challenge you to ignore the nice citizen and go on foot to see if it really is too far. And if come back and it was too far… Well, I’m sorry and I’m sure you made memories that made it worth it anyway right!?

Things to do:

Reichstag dome – Tickets must be purchased online in advance of your visit or you will be refused entry. Allow 15-20 minutes to get through the quick security checks before you enter. Upon entering through the mini airport security you will be transported by an elevator up into the huge dome that sits on top of the reichstag. Audio guides are free and automatically feed you information as you scale higher and higher into the sky. If you are scared of heights you may want to think twice as the majority of the dome is glass, so not looking down is not really an option! germany architecture berlij

Brandenburg Gate & Around – The gate is situated near some of Berlin’s other main sights and is usually tourist heavy. Before heading here have a walk through the Jewish Monument situated a ten minute walk away. Both the gate and the monument make a big impression at night when the lights come on.

History:

It is almost impossible to go to Berlin and not learn a little about the history it possesses. Going down to see the remaining wall is an interesting visit along with Checkpoint Charlie (be warned that it gets very crowded with tourists), and free museums such as the Topographie des Terror (a highlight of our trip).

Not so central – Venturing out of the centre is highly recommended. Just in the train and explore outer Berlin for some spectacular sights and entertaining things to do. Parks, museums, and more are easy to find.

olympic rings outside berlin stadium

A place to stay:

If you are looking for a decent place to stay then Plus Berlin Hostel is great. The hostel is by far the biggest hostel I’ve ever stayed in, and with a swimming pool, family friendly rooms, common rooms, restaurant, gardens and even its own art exhibition,it’s as though this hostel made love to a hotel and produced this huge beast. Staying in a dorm here was strange. The rooms were cleaned daily with cute chocolate pieces left on your pillow. Fresh towels were on the foot of the bed when you came back from a days adventures ( see! Just like a hotel right). The pool was a great addition. On one of the days when it was raining we opted for a swimming session which was totally worth it. The food was reasonable for dinner, and the all you can eat breakfast buffet was delicious. Every smart traveller knows – get up a little later and make the buffet a brunch instead of a breakfast for optimum money saving.

plus berlin hostel in central berlin

Extras:

 

Vibes- The general vibe in Berlin is a friendly yet equally standoffish vibe. Kind of like London but with less rushing and more chit chatting. An example of the humour and lightheartedness of Berlin was when I asked a guy if he would take a photo of us. He joked saying that he could not… I didn’t get the joke and stood apologising for even asking, embarrassed. My boyfriend, the comedian, and his friend found it hilarious and laughed at my expression.

Bears, green men, and red women-

If you really pay attention to your surroundings you will notice things that people often miss. Sadly for the unobservant (and I’ve asked around) many people return from Berlin having not seen a single bear statue. Considering its significance here it is sad that they have not one photo or memory of seeing one. Sadly, these same people also have no idea what I’m taking about when I ask them what they thought of the traffic light people. They stare at me blankly… “There are entire shops dedicated to the little people inside the traffic lights! How could you miss them?!” It turns out they just weren’t looking hard enough. Therefore, my recommendation is to pay close attention.

Overall thoughts:

Berlin for me is a standard city of art, culture, history, business and pleasure. Personal preference sways me to feel no real urge to return. A controversial feeling I am aware. Personally, having seen Potsdam, Dresden and Bonn I find that I prefer these smaller jewels for reasons of which I’m not quite sure. But why does it matter? Make up your own mind and get to travelling! berlin map on the berlin wall british and german

Destinations At a Glance: Europe Mini Reviews

1 week, a month, architecture, backpack, backpacker, backpcker, beaches, destination, europe, holiday, home, itineraries, itinerary, return, review, travel, Uncategorized

Hello!

If you’re planning your next holiday or backpacking trip in Europe then take a look at my brief overviews of the places I’ve been.

Some travel advice can be all waffly with more information than you really need.         The whole point is that YOU find your own way and do what YOU want to do.

You can save the images, or you click the location from the list below to read the full blog.

So without further chat, here are the good and the bad about the places I’ve been…

(Updated every time I venture out)

Here you can find the following mini reviews and links to my full reviews:

Bosnia & Herzegovina – Mostar – (Read the Mostar blog)

Belgium – Ypres, Bruges and Brussels full blog

Croatia – Dubrovnik, Lokrum,

England – Windsor & Eton, Oxford

France – Paris,

Germany German Tour’ blog for wider Germany, and Augsburg blog

Hungary – Budapest (Read the Inside Budapest and Outside Budapest blogs)

Italy– Rome,

Poland – Kraków

Portugal – (see separate ‘Portugal, Itinerary‘)

Slovakia – Bratislava

Slovenia (full Slovenia blog here and Horse riding in Bled )

Spain – Majorca

Ypres Belgium review Holiday review of Croatia DubrovnikHoliday review of lokrum Croatia

Kew Gardens review Review of Windsor and ErinReview of oxford in EnglandReview of backpacking in France Paris Hungary Budapest review

Italy Rome reviewKrakow poland reviewBratislava Slovakia reviewMajorca Spain review

Watch this space for more Europe Mini Reviews.

Reverse Culture Shock: Dealing with it

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Reverse Culture Shock is an issue that affects us all at some point, and yet most people don’t even know it exists. Experienced differently by everyone, it can take many forms.

How it affects me:

One hour after disembarking the plane and I’m being horrible to everyone, even my boyfriend whom has so kindly picked me up from the airport. Before I left the hostel I text him… “Miss you, can’t wait to see you xxxx” and I really had missed him. So why am I being so miserable? This is more than holiday blues.

This reaction is one that I am not only becoming increasingly aware of, but one that I am constantly working towards rectifying. No matter where I go, no matter how far, or for how long I get this feeling. Reverse Culture Shock sucks.

What is it?

Returning from a place where the culture and way of life is different puts your normal every day life under the microscope. Even if your travel destination wasn’t actually that different from your home town, the change of scenery, food, style, living etc. can have an impact on your positive thoughts towards home.  Some will react with sadness, others will close themselves off to others around them, you may become returned traveller that tells everyone that “they’re doing everything wrong” or that they’re “using too much water”. All of these reactions are normal, and they don’t all occur as soon as the plane hits home soil.

When does it happen?

You may never experience these feelings, you might feel them straight away. You could even be sat watching Fashion Week 5 months after your return when you suddenly realise it’s just not as important to you as it used to be.

How I get over it:

For me I have a clear plan of action.

  1. Unpack my bags as soon as I get home – No matter how tired I am it is necessary for me to put it all away. This way, it means I don’t need to be bogged down with unpacking, washing, sorting and everything else wind-down related over the next few days. Instead I can focus on the fun stuff , like giving souvenirs.

2. Travel Journals – Collect all the receipts, postcards, tokens and, spare leaflets that I have from my trip and putting it in my travel journal. Each place I visit has it’s own section. Within each section are all the items I need to remember my travels in a fun and interesting way.

3. Make sure that all of my photos have already been shared before I get home – For me,sharing my photos is important. This is because I would rather show people than tell people about what I saw and what I got up to. I’m not sure why or if this is even an important part of my returning home experience, but it is definitely something that I try and stick to.

4. Contact – For me contact is important. If I’ve been somewhere on my own then I find that staying connected with the people I met on my travels is important. Where I’ve travelled with another person I find it important to recollect on our shared experience. (This can be particularly difficult if the other person deals with returning home by shutting down.)

5. Plan my next trip – Whenever I get back from somewhere you can guarantee that within the week I will have mentally planned my next destination. During our annual April bonding venture my mum turned to me and asked “Where are we off to next April then?”. I guess I know where the coping mechanism comes from!

*

Reverse Culture Shock is important to recognise, both for you as a returning traveller and for those around you. The last thing you need is to return home and get everyone riled up with your judgement or miserable attitude.

Look after yourself and always remember the good times!

J.