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The Best Budget Hostels in Europe

For anybody planning a trip to Europe, finding the right hostel which won’t kill your budget or compromise comfort can certainly be a task.

Fortunately if this is your first time hostelling then Europe is a great place to start.

With so many options and ‘styles’ of hostel accommodation to choose from, you will easily be spoiled for choice.

For me, what makes a great hostel is memorability and atmosphere. Despite even staying in some pretty run down places, the staff and people I met were definitely what made the experience worth while.

There are so many hostels I could include in this, especially over the past 12 years I’ve been staying in Hostels but I thought it would be a fun idea to get you started by putting together a small list of my absolute favorite so far.

So here is a list of my top 8 hostels to date, in no particular order:

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1. Ostello Santa Fosca, Venice, Italy

Location – Cannaregio, 2372, 30121 Venezia VE, Italy

About
Ostello Santa Fosca is situated in the Cannaregio District of Central Venice. Looking at the building entrance and courtyard you would think it was once a church and you would be right.

Parts of the building incorporating parts of Chiesa di servi dei Maria, which once served as the 3rd largest Catholic Church in Venice.

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Whats nearby
Ostello Santa Fosca is within easy walking distance to popular Venetian sites and landmarks such as:

– 15 minute walk to St Marks Square
– 10 minutes walk to Rialto Bridge
– 8 minute walk to Museo Wagner
– 10 minutes walk to Santa Lucia Train Station
– 5 minutes away from local food shops and markets

Atmosphere
The vibe of the hostel is extremely relaxed, with a large open plan communal kitchen and private courtyard equipped with deck chairs and picnic tables, this makes this the ideal place to mingle with other travelers.
Inside, the building is light and airy with it’s basic decoration, however what gives this hostel its appeal is the spaciousness and simplicity.

The hostel gives off more of a Riposo (Siesta) vibe than a party hostel which is ideal place to unwind when the tiredness of the busy city tires you out.
Ostello Santa Fosca overall is a very pleasant youth* hostel which is open all year round.

Amenities
I will include a link to their website here.

– No curfew
– Bedding/linen and blankets are included
– Free WiFi
– Hot Showers plus hairdryer hire etc.
– Fully equipped kitchen with cooking facilities
– Wheelchair Access
– Free luggage deposit after check out
– TV lounge/seating area
– Lockers available

My experience
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here, I felt safe, comfortable and found the hostel very easy to find. The staff were extremely friendly and I would highly recommend this hostel if you are looking for a more relaxed environment.

Ostello Santa Fosca is a popular hostel which does sell out quickly, I just thought it was worth mentioning.

The only downside is that breakfast isn’t included, however there are local food shops nearby.

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2. Rossio Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal

Location – Calçada do Carmo 6, 1100-193 Lisboa, Portugal

About
Rossio Hostels wonderfully inviting atmosphere is not to be missed. Located on the very doorstep of Lisbon’s beautifully iconic Rossio Square, Rossio Hostel offers the perfect central location. Just a short walk away from many of the cities sight and attractions.

Rossio Hostel has won many awards such as being voted the 2nd best Hostel Worldwide in 2008 and 2009 as well as 2nd Best Small Hostel Worldwide in 2010. Rossio Hostel was by far my favorite place I stayed in Lisbon.

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Here’s a link to their website.

Whats nearby
Rossio Hostel is in super easy reach of many sites and attractions, either by walking or from the nearby metro station and tram systems.

– 1 minute to Rossio Square
– 2 minutes from Metro Station
– 10 minute walk to Praça do Comércio
– 10 minute walk to the beach front
– 20 minute walk to Castelo de S. Jorge

Atmosphere
The hostel inside is very modern and beautifully decorated with cozy seating areas and wooden beams. The kitchen is fully equipped for you to cook meals and is a handy supermarket located just behind the hostel.

The hostel as a whole is very clean and comfortable and gives off a very laid back yet sociable vibe.

I stayed during winter and although a little quieter, I found everybody there to be very chatty.

It was easy to get to know the staff who were very knowledgeable about the area.

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Amenities
– Towels, Linen and blankets included
– Breakfast included
– Tea/coffee available all day
– Free and fast Wifi
– Bar and Media Cinema Room
– Hot showers/Towels Included
– Luggage Storage and 24 hour reception
– Book exchange

My Experience
The staff were extremely kind and diverse, speaking many languages between them.

I told them of my previous bad experience at another hostel nearby and they went above and beyond to ensure I had a comfortable stay.
The manager was kind enough to upgrade me to a private room with amazing views over Rossio Square for no additional cost.

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3. Avenue Hostel, Budapest, Hungary

Location – Budapest, Oktogon 4, 1067 Hungary

About
Set in the heart of the Oktogon Intersection, Avenue Hostel is a modern and lively hostel which is easily accessible by tram.
The hostel may be tricky to spot at first so look for the corner with Starbucks, from there the hostel entrance is 50 foot to the right. There is a lift available once you get inside so the hostel is wheelchair accessible.

Whats nearby
The beauty of staying in Oktogon means you have direct access to the excellent public transport, trams and buses are the most popular and cheapest way around and only costs roughly €2.00 = 641 HUF in local currency.

– 15 to 20 minute walk to Vajdahunyad Castle, Art Museums and Heroes Square
– 5 minute tram ride to the River Danube
– 5 minutes from Terézváros a popular spot for traditional Hungarian food
– 5 minute tram plus 10 minute walk to the Hungarian Parliament building
– 20 minute bus ride to Fishermans Bastion (Line 105 bus)
– 20 Minutes from Citadella via tram or bus (Line 6)

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Atmosphere
Avenue Hostel is one of the larger hostels I’ve stayed at, offering a simple yet industrial design with a casual yet busy buzz about the place. I found this hostel to be very popular with groups and tours.

Upon return to Budapest quite recently I decided to stay here again as I enjoyed it so much.

The staff were very approachable and always happy to help.
The hostel itself is very spacious and clean and the breakfast is one of the best ones I’ve had. Think continental but with added extras.

You can read more about Avenue hostel here.

Keep in mind during check-in you may be queuing for quite some time, this is a large hostel.

Amenities
– 24 hour reception
– Self catering kitchens
– Breakfast included
– Free Wifi
– Fresh linen provided
– Bar and lounge area
– pub crawls and tours available
– Airport transfers available
– Locker provided

My Experience
I have stayed at Avenue hostel on two occasions during my visits to Budapest, I just really like the location which makes getting around so easy.

I loved that I was so close by to Heroes Square and Vajdahunyad Castle and parks.
In winter you can also enjoy a spot of ice skating next to the castle.

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4. Whole Wide World Hostel and Bar, Zagreb, Croatia

Location – Kačićeva ul. 3B, 10000, Zagreb, Croatia

About
Situated in the Commercial district of central Zagreb, Whole Wide World Hostel was definitely one of the more vibrant and livelier hostels I’ve stayed at and highly recommended by other friends and travelers.
Often referred to as your ‘home away from home’ WWW hostel hosts many themed nights and international holidays taking place.

Be sure to check out the windows of this place which are decorated with flags from around the world. A really cool touch.

Side note: Be sure to book direct with them either on their website or at reception to get the best deal.

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…and the link to their website here.

Whats nearby
– 15 minute walk from Dolac Market
– 15 to 20 minute walk from Zagreb Cathedral
– 20 to 25 minutes from the main train station Zapadni
– 15 minute walk from Old Town Zagreb
– 15 to 20 minutes from the Museum of Broken relationships and St Marks Church
– 10 minute walk from Ban Josip Jelačić Square (also the meeting point for free city tours)
– 1 minute from tram services

Atmosphere
This hostel was an absolute blast, there was always something going on from guided tours and day excursions to celebrating holidays and national/Independence days from countries around the world.

The staff (or ninjas as they’re called at the hostel) are an extremely fun bunch who really make an effort to get guests involved with themed nights, parties and other games.

The guests were very sociable and fun to be around, it would be hard not to make friends here.

A very lively place to be.

Amenities
– 24 hour reception desk
– Linen included
– Free Wifi
– Laundry Facilities
– Communal kitchen with cooking facilities
– Breakfast included
– Bar and cozy lounge area with beds
– Airport shuttle if required
– Food shops nearby

My Experience
I stayed for 4 nights but wish I could have stayed longer. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and I’ll definitely be back.

During my stay the manager was ridiculously generous and made it his mission to offer the best Thanksgiving dinner to the American guests.

As I stayed just before Christmas, the hostel team very kindly took all us guests out for a dinner. A very kind gesture and an amazing experience.

I highly HIGHLY recommend this hostel!

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5. Hostel Tivoli, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Location – Lepodvorska ulica 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia

About
Just across the road from Tivoli Park is the small yet cozy Tivoli Hostel. Located just a 10 minute walk away from the city center of Ljubljana.
This peaceful yet friendly hostel has only 3 rooms which includes 1 Double room, an 8 bed mixed dorm and a slightly larger 12 bed mixed dorm.

From the outside the building almost looks like a converted shipping container which is tucked away at the side of a motor repair garage but inside it is a very modern and bright little space.

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Don’t be put off by how this hostel looks on the outside, it truly is a gem.

You can check out the photos here.

Whats nearby
– 2 minute walk to Tivoli City Park
– 10 minutes walk to from Ljubljana train and coach station station
– 15 minutes into Ljuljana City Center where you will find popular sites such as the Prešeren Square, Franciscan Church of the Annunciation and the Dragon
– 45 minute walk to Ljubljana Castle however there are other modes of transport such as the Funicular Railway or buses. I will leave a link here.
– 15 to 20 minute walk to Metelkova

Atmosphere
During my visit in November there were only 5 guests staying so it was very easy to get to know one another and spend in the city together.

The hostel really is quite special.

If you’re one for a peaceful area next to a beautiful park then I highly recommend this place.
Another bonus is that because there were so few people, it meant a great nights sleep with minimal to no disturbance.

Amenities
– Free Parking
– Linen and bedding included
– Breakfast included
– Free Wifi
– Communal kitchenette made up of a kettle, microwave and fridge
– Lounge area with TV
– Laundry Facilities
– Bike rental

My Experience
The moment I entered the hostel I was greeted by extremely courteous staff and given a shot of Viljamovka, a type of Slovenian pear Brandy.

The staff were extremely enthusiastic to share and tell stories about the history of Slovenia and the amazing things to see in Ljubljana.

For me the people of Slovenia were some of the most friendliest people I’ve ever met.

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6. Wild Elephants, Bratislava, Slovakia

Location – Františkánske námestie 8, 811 01 Bratislava, Slovakia

About
Ahhh the Wild Elephants Hostel, the clue is in the name. It is a wild place which I think everybody should visit at least once.
Cheap in price and perfectly situated in the heart of the city, Wild Elephants is a vibrant arty hostel which hosts a variety of colorful people to match.

Be sure to check out the artwork around this place, it’s spectacular.

Located in Bratislava’s historic Old Town Hall, be sure to look up as the hostel is sneakily located above a Mexican Restaurant.

Here’s the link if you wish to know more here.

Whats nearby
– A 6-minute walk from the Jesenského tram station
– 10 minute walk from the Slovak National Museum
– 10 minute walk from St. Martin’s Cathedral
– 5 to 10 minute walk for Michaels gate
– 1 minute to the main street and markets
– 20 to 25 minute walk up to Bratislava Castle

Atmosphere
Most of the staff who work/volunteer there are also big time travelers so they’re always keen to get you involved with activities such as live music, drinking games and city tours.

At the back of the hostel is a fully equipped communal kitchen with a large table where guests love to gather.

Keep an eye on the menu as vegetarian/vegan meals can be purchased for a small price.

Overall the atmosphere is lively and busy, particularly in the attic bar, so be sure to check that out.
Wild Elephants attracts folks from all walks of life.

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YOU WILL GET DRUNK!

Amenities
– Free Wifi
– Linen included
– TV and lounge area
– Fully equipped kitchen
– Attic bar and smoking area
– Chalkboards and graffiti friendly walls
– Laundry facilities
– Clothes Swapping
– Cheaply priced evening meals

My Experience
The staff certainly know how to throw a crazy party.

Almost every night I was there I ended up on some wild night out around the city.

Tours which take place in and around the city are also offered if you fancy a more relaxing day to nurse your hangover.

Overall Bratislava was a quaint and wrongly overlooked city. I would 10/10 go back.

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7. Cosmopole Hostel, Prague, Czech Republic

LocationSpálená 8/3, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia

About
Cosmopole is a fairly new addition to the city and a beautifully renovated build, holding many of its original features which are spread across 6 floors.
Cosmopole Hostel is a centrally located within the city and just minutes away from the Vltava River and popular attractions.

Whats nearby
– 1 minute walk from the bustling main street which is loaded with shops, restaurants and bars
– 14 minute walk to the famous Charles Bridge
– 15 minutes walk to Old Town Square
– 8 minutes walk to the Dancing House
– 30 minute walk to Prague Castle
– 20 Minute walk to the main train and coach station (Praha hlavní nádraží)

Atmosphere
The atmosphere here at Cosmopole even though a hostel didn’t feel like one, it almost felt like a hotel.
Although fairly quiet during my stay I can certainly see this being a popular spot for groups.

Equipped with an amazing roof top terrace with views overlooking the city, a couple of snooker tables and an on site library which I absolutely adored.

The staff were very informative and were happy to answer any questions I had in regards to walking tours and recommended places to eat.

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Amenities
– Breakfast included
– Lockers included
– Full kitchen and appliances
– Linen included
– Roof top terrace
– 24 hour reception
– Library
– Games room

My Experience
Having come from another terrible hostel in Prague, I felt completely spoiled once I arrived here, I was sad I hadn’t booked sooner.
The other guests in my dorm were very diverse bunch which just proves that Prague attracts people from the world over.
During my Euro Trip Prague was definitely a major highlight for me.

Here’s a link to the hostel website here.

8. Castle Hostel 1004, Bled, Slovenia

Location – Grajska cesta 22, 4260 Bled, Slovenia

About
Castle 1004 hostel in itself was fairly standard, however what really made this place special was the unbeatable location and absolutely amazing views over the town of Bled.

Located just a 2 minute walk from Bled bus/coach station is the hostel situated to the right. If you reach the convenience store you’ve gone too far.

The hostel is basic in design but does have a great roof top terrace, a computer/communal area.

Upon check in you will be given a special wristband which gives you x% off at selected restaurants and tours.

Whats nearby
– 12 minute walk to Bled Castle
– 5 minute walk to Lake Bled
– 2 minute walk to local shops and grocery store
– 10 to 15 minutes walk to the lake side cafes and restaurants
– 90 to 120 minutes to walk around Lake Bled
– 2 minute walk to the bus and coach station

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Atmosphere
The overall atmosphere here was very ‘walking tour’ oriented, I can see why.
Bled itself was everything I had hoped for and then some.
As I mentioned previously for Hostel Tivoli, the people here are so friendly and hospitable, which certainly brought in the right crowd of people.

This place is perfect for anybody who wishes to get back to nature and enjoy a more peaceful trip.

Amenities
Here I will include a link to the hostel here so you can check out more.

– 24 Hour reception
– Daily free walking tours and pub crawls
– Breakfast included
– Rooftop Terrace
– Bed linen included
– Library/Lounge
– Fully equipped kitchen
– Free Wifi
– Free food swap

My Experience
I fell in love with this place, which makes me eager to return. I do hope to come back later in 2019 and explore more of this beautiful country.
I cannot fault anything. 1000% recommend.

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So there we have it, just a hand full of my favorite hostels in Europe.
Hopefully these recommendations will inspire you to check out these hostels.
I will be putting together a part two later down the line as fitting them all into one post would go on forever.

I want to know, have any of you folks stayed at any of these hostels or do you have any recommendations for me to check out?

I’d love to connect and hear your thought on what you think about these hostels.

For now though…

Happy travels.

XO
O8

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Bedbugs, Bruises and Backpacks – Travel Mishaps and what I’ve learned from them

After travelling on and off for the past 12 years it will come to no surprise that I’ve experienced my fair share of travel mishaps, from almost being denied entry to the US to being held at knife point in Paris.

Although some of these experiences were terrifying they also taught many valuable lessons, not just on how to become a safer traveller but a smarter one too.

Here are some of my most memorable travel mishaps and what I learned from them.

Ps: If you’re reading this mum, sorry for the grey hairs.

1. Hostel from hell – Prague, Czech Republic

Being messed around in what I can only describe as one of the most sketchy and worst hostels I’ve ever stayed in.

Having just arrived from an overnight coach from Slovenia I was tired, hungry and aching. As always I booked my coach for a 2pm arrival to avoid waiting around for check in.

When I arrived I knocked and waited patiently for staff to answer… nothing. I knocked again, still no answer, called the number, voicemail.

I decided to grab a bite to eat and return later. Already experiencing a pretty sketchy feeling about the place I put together a backup plan by researching other hostels nearby.

When I arrived back at the hostel I banged loudly on the door to which a nervous guest answered instead. At first she hesitated to let me in as the hostel owners said not to let anybody enter without a booking. I explained to her that I had one and pulled out my phone to prove it and said I’d been waiting since 3pm to get in. It was now 4.30pm

She told me that this was a pretty oddly run hostel and that the owners were barely ever here. Another guest entered the kitchen and stated that the owners did nothing whatsoever.

Between them they started listing everything wrong with the place, not that they needed to convince me, the place was dark and dirty, ants crawling over rotten food, a broken leaky bathroom, smashed windows, no locks, mouldy walls and matresses which reeked of urine.

In the dorm room I noticed that the girls had opened up their sleeping bags and created make shifts bed on the floor with their bags and clothes. The mattresses were grotty with black mould and crawling with bed bugs. I took photos and video footage of this.

I asked the other girls why they decided to stay here and they told me that the manager had fobbed them off and had already charged them in full, he refused to refund them. One was a student visiting a friend and the other had just moved to the area and needed an affordable place to stay whilst she was flat hunting.

It was clear that they were just as pissed off and I was but now I was also worried that I wouldn’t get a refund either.

By 6pm the manager had returned and I started questioning him about the bedbugs and being late. He immediately got defensive with me and accused me of bringing the bed bugs with me, I told him that was impossible as I’d just arrived a few hours ago and hadn’t even touched the bed as I was waiting to check in.

I also pointed out that:

A) The website stated that only the first night would be charged and the rest to be paid on arrival but he took the full payment from me.

B) That the photos did not accurately represent the hostel, they were completely different photos.

C) That I’d been waiting almost 4 hours to check in but nobody was here.

He threw every single excuse at me, saying that he ran multiple hostels and that they were awaiting repair work but the maintenance guys didn’t turn up and that guests just left bad reviews because they didn’t want to pay.

I asked again for a refund but he told me that he didn’t know the log in details to booking system, I called bullshit.

He was the maanger and a compulsive liar at that, I told him that I worked at hostel back home and that it was impossible for him to not know his own log in details, he knew how to charge me!

In the end I just grabbed my bags and left, accepting that he was zones theif. He robbed me of €60 and I was furious.

I vowed to warn every Backpacker visiting Prague to avoid this place, otherwise they would catch the plague… literally.

What did I learn from this

Despite doing my research this was just a simple case of being mislead by thieves.

I checked out the hostel website, reviews, location and booked with them. It pirely was just a case of bad luck.

I should have just gone with my gut feeling upon arrival and booked elsewhere but either way I still lost €60 and then had to fork out extra for a new hostel.

I later learned from other backpackers that the manager had been deleting negative comments from social media and their website, so when travelling do talk to other travellers.

I don’t like doing this but I’m calling them out and warning you all:

Since visiting Hostel Marrakesh in Prague they have changed their name on booking.com to ‘Backpackers Hostel’, and have removed most negative comments. I know this because I went to screenshot my comment to add to this post but it has disappeared, however you can find recent reviews on Facebook.

2. Death in Amsterdam – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Even though this wasn’t a mishap on my part, I still wanted to include this story to highlight the severity of peoples actions.

This was by far the most shocking wakeup call ever to witness and took place during short visit to Amsterdam.

It was around 11pm when I arrived and had 12 hours to burn, so instead of hanging around the airport I decided to head out and do a little night-scene sightseeing.

I’ve never been one for smoking pot or drinking but I was still keen to try out some food and visit the Red Light District.

I dropped by a small cafe and ordered a coffee and some crepes and sat outside to watch the world go by.

Whilst relaxing there was one guy in particular who caught my attention on the other side of the canal. He was stumbling around and blatantly under the influence. Other people passing by dodged to get out get out of his way.

Suddenly there was a loud splash. He’d tripped on the cobbled stone floor and stumbled head first into the canal. Tourists started running to see what had happened and within seconds a huge crowd gathered.

By this point the guy had been submerged for around 2 minutes but all I could hear was the chattering of a dozen languages, I overheard an Australian guy behind me saying that people weren’t advised to jump in the canal to save anybody as the undercurrents of the water would drag people under.

It was at that moment that the streets lit up bright blue from the incoming police vans, followed by an ambulance, sirens wailing.

People being forced to back off. In jumped the scuba divers.

There was an eerie silence across the street. More tourists gathered, waiting. It had been almost 10 minutes now since the guy fell in and still nothing. 15 minutes, 20 minutes.

Eventually the scuba divers emerged from the water, body in hands. Officers scrambled to help pull him onto the ambulance bed but there was no movement. Paramedics rushed to his side, conducting CPR but there was still nothing.

A blanket was placed over his body and he was loaded into the ambulance.

I stared in disbelief… followed by a wave of disgust as I watched other tourists around me, phones out recording and taking photos of the events. I couldn’t believe these people.

I decided to head back to the airport early.

What I’ve learned from this:

On average there are about 18 deaths in Amsterdam, mostly by drowning caused by inoxication.

I can’t stop anybody from doing anything here but the lesson is to be mindful of how much you drink or smoke. Never mix drugs with alcohol.

Stay with your friends, don’t buy from dodgy street vendors. Only licenced cafes as you never really know what you could be smoking.

The risk is never worth it.

3. Knife point in Paris

What was meant to be an exciting and spontaneous getaway to Paris, soon turned into a terrifying nightmare.

After landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport pretty late at night me and my friend decided to head straight to the hostel. We catched the metro and then transferred trains to our destination. Everything seemed pretty fine, just a regular Saturday night.

The train was pretty crowded but we kept our guard as people entered and exited the train.

But then…

Out of the corner of my eye that I noticed a man staring at me, I didn’t want the attention and turned around to face my friend, whispering to her that the guy behind me was creeping me out.

The train stopped and the guy gave up his seat to other boarding passengers and made his way over to stand behind me.

A surge of uneasiness crept over me as I felt the pressure of this guy leaning into me but I tried my best to keep calm, all the while my friend grabbed my hand. Looking at me and acknowledging my discomfort. She had been watching his every move.

It was plain as day to anyone that we were not locals and not a single other person spoke up or said anything to help.

In that moment I felt a cold sensation against my skin and peered down to find that the guy had a blade held against my side, next to the strap of my backpack. He was standing so close that nobody else on the train could see what he was doing.

Was he planning on robbing me? Was he going to stab me?

In my mind I’d always played out what exactly I would do in a situation like this but when faced with the srality, I just froze.

My friend whos eyes widened at the sight of my face turning bright white, I whispered ‘We need to get off this fucking train now’

She peered to the glass window opposite the carriage and saw the reflection of a blade in the guys hand.

She whispered back into my ear ‘When we pull up, run left”

There was no other choice but to run, I could live with my bag being stolen but I didn’t want to get stabbed.

The train slowly pulled up to the next station and without any hesitation a dropped my backpack off my shoulders in hopes of knocking his hand and blade away from my back. We legged it, barging past everyone who was in our way. No fucks were given as we pushed and dived our way off the train and down the platform, jumping the ticket barriers.

We didn’t stop running for about half a mile.

We weren’t sure if the guy followed us but we didn’t take any chances.

What I’ve learned from this

Moral of the story, keep your belongings separate. I wasn’t prepared to risk my life or slow myself down with a bulky heavy backpack. Everything that was important to me (apart from my wellbeing) was in a small crossover bag on the front of my body. Passport, money, phone.

Research the area in which you are staying, steer clear of any known danger zones and avoid travelling at night if possible.

As hard as this may be, try not to stand out too much as a tourist.

The biggest mistake I made was travelling with a backpack embellished with world flags patches, making me an OBVIOUS tourist. Opt for a smaller plainer rucksack instead.

4. Almost being denied US entry because of an Instagram fail – Newark, NJ, USA

After an 8 hour flight and hours of queuing at US customs I was so ready. This was my first ever visit to the states and had saved for over a year and planned 3 months worth of amazing adventures.

Once I was called over to passport control, I walked over and handed the officer my passport, plane ticket and ESTA paperwork.

He frowned at me whilst holding up my passport and asked,

“What is this?”

“It’s my passport sir” I replied, I was confused.

He then proceeded to take my fingerprints and photo and then called over another officer to escort me to secondary screening whilst they investigated my documents.

I couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong.

After about 20 minutes the second officer called me over to explain that they had problems with my passport due to damage. He asked me if I had been tampering with it. I said no.

He asked me why it was so damaged?

(The penny finally dropped)

I told him I’d previously dropped my passport in a Venetian canal whilst trying to take an Instagram photo, I was aware that my passport had some water damage but I didn’t think it would be an issue as lots of backpckers I’d met had battered passports.

The officer legit laughed the me.

After further questioning (and realising I wasn’t a psychopath) he allowed me to enter the United States on the condition that I got my passport renewed as soon as I returned home.

He said he would make a note of this on my entry/exit records to the United States.

Eventually I got through, just about.

What I learned from this

Don’t risk your possessions for the sake of a cutesy Instagram photo.

Do get your passport renewed if it gets damaged, don’t chance it like I did. It almost cost me my travels.

US Border Control is shit scary.

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If you’ve made it this far to my post then congratulations! You’ve survived part 1!

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post, even though quite a long one for me.

I was initially going to make this an 8 point post but realiased it was so long. So if you folks are interested in a part 2, let me know in the comments.

Now I want to know, what are some of your most memorable travel mishaps?

Happy travels xo

How to actually travel on the cheap

How to actually travel on the cheap

So by now most of you will have already read a tonne of travel hacks on how to bag cheap flights, and compare deals online.

So now comes the next step, extending your stay and maximising your money.

Travel europe on a budget by girl about europe

In this post I want to share with you how to make the most of backpacking on the cheap, particularly across one of the worlds more expensive continents. Europe, however these general rules will apply to most countries.

Europe as a whole (especially Western) can be a pretty expensive and exhaustive place to be mindful of the cash but with a few of my tried and tested steps, I have put together some actual tips to stretch your cash a little further.

Five weeks in and enjoying a free walking tour of Vienna, Austria.

1. Be Realistic

Depending on which countries you visit will largely play a role in your budget. The trick is to always overestimate. Countries such as the United States, New Zealand and Norway will always be considerably more expensive than say Moldova, Mexico or Thailand for example. So bare in mind the countries on your itinerary aswell as the mode of transport. An 8 hour first class train journey in Ukraine may only cost $8 but a train from Edinburgh, Scotland to London, England UK can cost around $120 if not planned.

2. Hostel life

If Air-b&b isn’t your thing and you worry about last minute cancellations and flaky hosts, hostels will become your best friends.

Europe is rammed with thousands of Hostels to choose from, you can even choose a theme of hostel, such as an all female hostels, art themed, and even dedicated party hostels.

My advice when booking a hostel is to go firstly by rating and then price, trust me.

The ratings really depend on how picky you are but if you plan to spend 80% of your time out exploring, then a locker, clean bed and shower will do just about everyone fine.

*Tip – Try carrying a couple of different sized padlocks with you, I found that some hostel lockers came in varying sizes, so sometimes my padlock wouldn’t fit.

Many hostels will be conveniently located nearby major trains and bus stations, so if you do want to save on added transport fees do your research and check out the distances from city centres and main attractions, your hostel may only be a 500 meter walk away and won’t require spending a fortune in transport costs. Lastly, the closer you are to a major attracrion, the more expensive the hostel.

City Passes

City Passes are a great way to take the hassle out of buying multiple tickets as well as fumbling around with change. They also include fairly generous discounts and free passes to many attractions, eateries and of course transportation.

They free up a little more of your budget which certainly helps to stretch it further.

However be sure to plan out what you wish to see and where to travel to really maximise the benefits of the city pass, some sights and attractions may be free already.

Definitely do some research beforehand to make sure you’re getting the most out of your money.

Here is an example of a city pass:

Berlin Welcome Card – Transportation is covered within zones A,B and C dependent upon the type of pass and duration. Whilst in Berlin I opted for the cheapest option and purchased the Zones A and B six days pass as everything I wanted to see was right within these zones.

Also because I was flying out of Tegel (TXL) airport in zone B.

Tip* Zones A and B passes include airport transport to and from Airport Tegel (TXL)

Zones A, B and C passes include airport transport to and from Airport Schönefeld (SFX) and Airport Tegel (TXL)

It’s always worth checking out of your destination of choice offers some variant of the city pass and if not, it never hurts to look into weekly bus/train pass but remember ID may be required upon purchase.

Accommodation

Although there are some dedicated Hostel booking sites out there like Hostelworld and Hostelbookers, I do encourage you to check out other popular booking sites such as Booking.com, Trivago and my personal favourite Agoda.

Booking.com

It’s free to sign up, easy to use and just after 2 bookings you are automatically added to their Genius membership. Being a Genius Member includes extra perks such as special deals, free downloadable city maps and discounts on attractions.

When you become a Genius Member you can refer and earn back up to £15 on your next booking.

Chances are you will meet other travellers who also use Booking.com so it’s definitely worth suggesting that you exchange booking links.

For each booking and completed stay through your link you will redeem £15 deposited straight back into your bank account as part of their rewards scheme.

The traveller who books through your link will also receive the same and redeem £15 back into their accounts too.

….and vice versa if you book through their links. (£15 each)

I hope that makes sense.

I booked a €5 hostel stay during a stop over between Ljubljana, Slovenia and Prague, Czech Republic through a link one of my traveller friends sent me, we both received £15 back after I completed my stay. I was £10 up and with that it covered my 3 nights in Bratislava, Slovakia at a later date. Mini win!

Although it doesn’t sound much, every penny counts for the budget minded and it will certainly add up when trying to extend your stay.

In total I have accumulated £60 in Booking.com cash back rewards which easily covered my 2 weeks hostel accomodation in Odesa, Ukraine (Which was a steal at £4 a night – N1 Hostel)

Agoda

An alternative to Booking.com and also my secret weapon, Agoda. Agoda often holds daily flash sales on accommodation with discounts of up to 80% off. In few cases I have even found the same hostels on Agoda to be anything between €5 and €20 cheaper than Booking.com or Hostelworld.

Below is just a small example but it’s a no brainer really.

Paris – 1st to 2nd December – Booking.com

Paris – 1st to 2nd December – Agoda

Tip* If possible try to book a hostel which includes free breakfast. If not add this option to your filters and compare any additional cost as sometimes just adding the breakfast option can ramp up the prices. Some hostels even charge up to €7 a day for breakfast.

3. Transport

Omio

My one stop for all train, coach and flight comparisons.

All you do is input your current destination, where you would like to go on X date and it will do all the leg work for you. Giving you an extensive list of options, times and prices.

Another added perk is that it tells you the duration of travel so you can plan accordingly. I always aim for a 1/2pm arrival so when I reach my hostel I’m not hanging around for check-in, even though most hostels let you store your bags beforehand. Plus there’s nothing worse than getting lost at night in an unfamiliar destination.

You may find a coach which is €1.50 more but gets you there 2 hours earlier, the time and choice is yours.

Flixbus

Flixbus offers super affordable coach travel through an extensive network across Europe. They’re clean, comfortable and equipped with free WiFi, charging outlets and onboard WC. This is the cheapest way to get around Europe and least stressful as the hassle is all done for you.

Regiojet

Another budget coach provider, again similar to Flixbus but with added freebies such as WiFi, bottled water and magazines on board.

Night Coaches

Both Regiojet and Flixbus amongst other train providers offer night travel, so if you want to save even further on hostels, just grab your neck pillow and sleep throughout the journey, by the time you arrive all you need to think about is breakfast in a new destination. 😊 Most stations will be equipped with ATMs and currency exchange kiosks.

Tip* Be sure to browse the flyers scattered around hostels and train/bus stations. I found these 10% off Flixbus coupons at my hostel in Italy so I grabbed a few. All you do is input the discount code before paying on the Flixbus app and you’ve saved yourself a few €.

A small saving… but pays for a couple of beers right? 😉

I usually save these for longer more costly coach rides to really maximise the discount.

4. Extending your stay

Whilst bagging a great deal online is the way to go, what most hostels don’t tell you is that if you check the prices on their websites and find a cheaper deal elsewhere, the hostel/reception will match that price so do ask.

Better still if you get to know the staff and make a great impression, they may even throw you in a freebie breakfast. 😉

Tip* Its always a good idea to ask at reception first, I’ve often found that by asking about extending my stay the staff do really help to get you the best deal.

I just wanted to pint out that Whole Wide World Hostel and Bar in Zagreb, Croatia offer many incentives to bag yourself discounted and even free stays at their hostel, even arriving on Australia day and singing the national anthem upon entry (The owner Cracker is Australian) Or turning up whilst wearing your underpants on top of your outfit.

Infact here is a list of My favourite hostels in Europe You’re welcome.

5. Food and drink

When researching your hostel of choice do try to find out if they have an equipped kitchen, the usual like electric oven, microwave, toaster and kettle.

If you really want to stretch the cash, go grocery shopping and cook your own meals. I know this sounds like a hassle but it is a fantastic way to meet and chat to other travellers whilst trying new food.

Definitely invest in a flask suitable for both hot and cold beverages.

Now I’m not saying not to ever eat out or try local dishes, I fully encourage it. Just try not to get carried away with eating out as it really does add up.

I was surprised to find out how cheap Sushi is in Berlin so I treated myself on night, this platter including miso soup and a ginger ale cost me €8.99

*Tip – Another piece of advice is to try branch away from the tourist traps and popular eateries scattered around famous attractions, these places definitely ramp up the price and sometimes it’s not always the best quality.

Have you ever walked down a popular plaza or square and been collared by promoters trying to get you to visit their restaurant? Annoying right?

Instead try to branch out a little further and move a few streets back, try to scope out where the locals go. The food, atmosphere and overall quality I can assure will be much better.

Tip* Remember many cafes will add an extra ‘tourist tax’ to your meal as well as expect tips, just a thought.

In some cases you can even replicate a local dish buy buying and cooking the dish yourself, for a fraction of the price. That’s if you haven’t already gotten tired of eating pasta that is.

This applies to alcohol too! Buying beer in the supermarkets will save you a small fortune. Particularly in Italy and Norway.

However the further East you travel you will be surprised at just how cheap alcohol is in Poland and Slovakia.

Low cost/Discount supermarkets

For the most part they sell exactly the same products as most premium stores, it’s essentially the ‘name’ you’re paying for.

In the UK a 4 pack of Heinz baked beans can cost up to £3 at ASDA but you can get 3 for a £1 at Poundland. The same can apply in mainland Europe.

Here are a list if a few discount supermarkets;

Aldi/Hofer – Can be found scattered throughout Europe, particularly in Germany and Austria

Lidl – The UK and Mainland Europe

Rema 1000 – These can be spotted around Norway and Denmark.

Tutti 99c Store – Italy, they also stock a pretty decent selection of toiletries so stock up on toothpaste, sanitary pads/tampons too.

Of course these are just few.

6. Freebies

Always take advantage of the free events taking place in your area.

Travelling at Christmas? Visit the free Christmas markets around the city.

Sign up for a free walking tour (such as Sandemanns free walking tours) your guides will be full of local knowledge on where the best free (or cheap) spots are to eat, along with other local recommendations.

*Tip – My favourite app is called Freetour and we’ll basically rounds up all of the free and affordable guided tours in the area, it’s completely free and easy to navigate. Just download and select your desired tours by filling out a simple form. It literally takes a couple of minutes.

Here during a Sunday?

Did you know that in some cities such as Zagreb and Munich there is free entry to selected museums and sights on the first Sunday of every month?

You’re welcome. 😀

6. Be flexible

Keep your options open, is it cheaper to travel the next day? Is the hostel or hotel putting on a promotional offer on accommodation? Is there a free event coming up?

Tip* Try booking a Tuesday flight rather than a Friday flight, it’s generally cheaper to fly during the week rather on weekends.

7. Cash handling

When exchanging money, avoid the airport as you’re likely to get a bad deal. After all you are the target customer with no other option for exchanging. Airports will take advantage of this. Always check the exchange rates!!!

If you decide to withdraw from a bank or ATM be sure to take out larger amounts as they charge for transactions fees, sometimes up to €3.95 per withdrawal!

Tip* For the same reason as above, try to use your bank card as little as possible as this applies too.

Do a currency swap with hostel friends, it’s also a great opportunity to find out where people have been, where they are going and any solid tips. Just grab a calculator!

Tip* Do your research before you leave and order your currency in advance, you can do this online or through your local post office, travel agent or bank. Don’t get stuck at the airport or in the city without the correct currency, you will regret exchanging at the airport.

Revolut Card

Alternatively, get yourself a REVOLUT card before you travel, this little gem was an absolute lifesaver!!!

You can open new account in minutes.

Here are some features of the standard free account:

● You can transfer money back and forth between your regular bank accounts and Revolut card and costs nothing to do.

● You can split bills, add Google pay and even set up recurring payments

● If your Revolut card gets lost or stolen, you can block the card and transfer money directly from the app

● Revolut will notify you whenever you spend money and even convert the rate into your home currency, so you can really keep track of your spending

● You can spend abroad in overy 150 currencies with no extra charge

● Contactless is optional as you can change the setting in the app. (£30 max)

● You can withdraw upto $300 overall 30 day at no extra cost. Only afterwards is a small fee of 2% for each withdrawal there after.

● No hidden fees, No monthly fees and no nasty rates.

You can learn more about the Revolut card here.

😊

Tip* Do your research before you leave and order your currency in advance, you can do this online or through your local post office, travel agent or bank. Don’t get stuck at the airport or in the city without the correct currency, you will regret exchanging at the airport.

12. Travel in the low season

Travelling out of season (or booking for the low season) is the best way to snatch a bargain. When I travel I usually set out in early October, after the school holidays have ended but also before the Christmas season begins. Prices throughout the summer and any special holiday will always be rammed up.

Another advantage is that it is less touristy, museum entrance fees will drop and there will be fewer and smaller queues.

Tip* If possible book flights in advance and be mindful of weekends during the winter season, beds will sell out fast and prices will skyrocket! I experienced this problem in Prague where people were visiting for a party weekend and I struggled to find a hostel within my price range.

Branch out

Branch out a little further, the further you go into the Eastern Europe, the less crowded, cheaper and more underrated yet beautiful discoveries you will find.

Paris at Valentines and Munich at Christmas will forever be a popular choice (and expensive during these holidays) but I definitely recommend checking out other treasures such as Branson, Romania and Bratislava, Slovakia for a reduced price but just as fun.

Lastly – have fun, be safe and don’t forget to connect with me on social media. Instagram: Girlabouteurope

🗼

If you enjoyed this post or feel that I missed anything then please let me know. Be sure to chexk back as I’m always doing more to this list.

Don’t forget to like, share and add any tips of your own in the comments below.

Happy travels xo

How to bag yourself a Hostel job and travel longer

How to bag yourself a Hostel job and travel longer

I know what some of you are thinking… Hostels.

People’s thoughts on hostels will of course vary.

The first being the enthusiasts, the fun seekers, always on the hunt for a fun night out and a cheap place to crash the morning after.

The solo travellers looking to make friends and immerse themselves into the countries local lifestyle and culture.

The long-term travellers passing through looking to save a little cash on the side.

Lastly there’s the doubtfulls, the ones who simply shudder at the thought of sharing a dorm with strangers, envisioning hair riddled plug holes, loud snoring and drunken sex.

Hostels Girl ABOUT Europe budget travel

All I can say is don’t be fooled by the movie ‘Hostel’- embedding us with the false impression that all hostels are sleazy, dirty and dangerous.

In 99% of cases this simply isn’t true.

All is required of you is a little common sense and research. Scoping out the legitimacy of a place by checking out the reviews and chatting with other travellers.

But all this aside, I want to talk about hostels from a slightly different approach, having visited, lived and worked in hostels, I’ve compiled a list of 10 Reasons (from experience) why everybody should try working or volunteering at hostel at least once.

1. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to the travel and hospitality industry

Whether in your home country or abroad, bagging a job at a hostel really is a great way to introduce yourself to the world of travel and hospitality.
You will gain first hand experience on the basics of what this industry involves such as customer service, communication, organisation and on the job specific training such as reception/admin, housekeeping and tour guiding.

For most hostel jobs, particularly entry level roles, prior experience is not always a requirement as training is often given on the job.

However a few basic traits will get you far, if you have great people skills, know the basic functionalities of using a computer or don’t mind picking up a mop now and again, then you’re already there.

Tip* Always take the time to research the country you intend to visit/work beforehand, as work and visa rules will apply for certain visitors.

I would also research hostels in advance and contact accordingly.
A well thought out cover letter or even a speculative letter will really help you stand out. (This too can apply for any role) Chat with fellow travellers and look up local job boards in your desired area for open positions.

Ask around at the hostel, chat with the staff to learn how they did it, any advice is great advice.

Sign up for Workaway or Worldpackers and set up a personal profile with a little about you, your travel goals and where you plan to visit.

Do as you would when looking for a role back home. Research the country/location, the ‘company’ and role itself.

How to extend your travels

2. Heavily discounted or even Free Accommodation

Not every hostel will offer the same perks but that shouldn’t discourage you. Every experience counts and doesn’t have to be your ‘forever job’.

Some hostels may choose to offer accommodation in exchange for labour and can come forms such as;

a) Free accommodation in exchange for XYZ amount of hours of paid work + Free food/Staff discounts.

b) Free accommodation, food and staff discounts for volunteers and interns in exchange for temporary voluntary work.

c) No accommodation offered but paid work and in some cases staff discounts.

These are the most common cases I’ve come across when meeting other people who have worked/volunteered at hostels.

The last hostel I worked at didn’t include accommodation but it was a paid job and was offered a lot of perks.

My first hostel job however was a live in role which included pay, my accommodation was deducted from my pay check each week at a reduced rate.

Either way you think about it, each option does provide an opportunity to save money to an extent.

Even if there is no accommodation included, at least the money you are earning is paying for your stay which means you don’t have to touch your savings.

If you bag a paid job in exchange for free accommodation then your laughing!

If money isn’t an issue but you would still to help out, then volunteering is definitely a great way to go.

It’s really what you make of it. Either way your gaining new skills, making great new friends and bagging some great references.

Plus extending the duration of your travels! Win!

3. A very fair work and life balance

Unlike other travel and hospitality jobs (like Cruise Ships for example), you’re not stuck with the usual drudgery of a strict routine.
Shifts at the hostel will come in all varying lengths and hours, you may work breakfast service for 3 hours a day or maybe night reception over the weekend.

The hours I find at hostels are much more forgiving and still allow you time to have a life outside of work as well as down time to relax.

From my own experience of working on-board a cruise ship, do your homework!
If you’re looking for a well balanced work and social life on-board and an actual opportunity to travel, I wouldn’t bother… unless your up for working 12 hour days, 7 days a week for 6 to 9 months a year I wouldn’t recommend it.
Days off don’t exist in the world of the ordinary seaman and you literally get zero time to get off the ship and explore new places….. but I’ll save this for another post.

Work and life balance within the hostels are where it’s at and sometimes you don’t even need to go far, you’ll always be guaranteed days off and there’s always something going on such as parties, games nights and group tours which take place nearby.

4. It will open your mind.

When starting any new job at a hostel you really need to enter this world with an open mind.

You will meet such a diverse range of people, each traveller bringing their own unique perspectives on life, such as politics, religion and culture.

Everybody will have an opinion but it is crucial to approach everybody with respect.

You will learn so much I promise you!

5. It will open up new work opportunities and great references

The world is an open classroom.

The list is endless on the transferable skills you will learn… Communication, Customer Service, Time Management, Budget/Financial Planning, Organisational Skills, Multitasking, Languages.

This is just scratching the surface.

Eventually for those of us who do decide to return home you may worry if you’ll still be employable after taking so much time out after travelling.

The answer is YES.

You’ll be a much more well rounded and educated person for it. Showcase you’re awesomeness! (Don’t be cocky) Sell yourself and your achievements, talk about those volunteering projects you did, how you taught somebody a new language, learned how to cook etc.

Tip* By keeping your new and existing skills relevant with projects and temp work you can bag yourself some solid references to present to your potential employer when you get back.

Why you should work in a hostel

6. You will hear and see it all.

From drunks asleep in hallways to accidentally walking in on frisky backpackers in the toilets. Literally nothing will phase or shock you anymore. You will have seen and heard it all.

Not all nights are carnage but you will still look back and laugh about it afterwards and believe me you will have such a laugh with your colleagues about it too.

7. Languages

You will become the master of ordering beers in half a dozen languages. (and obligatory swear words)

You will meet people of all languages, some of which will ask you to help them with their English.

Alternatively you may be interested to brush up on your own language skills too, take advantage of this. The best place to learn a language is to immerse yourself in that country and engage with native speakers you meet.

(By the way if you’re reading this Carlos, I’m happy to transfer to Lisbon with you but you’ll have to help me with my Portuguese 😉) haha!

8. You will meet amazing people and make friends with colleagues and travellers from all over the world

I don’t even need to sell this point, it’s obvious! Amazing right?

9. Live like a local

By spending an extended amount of time in one place, this will really help you gain a feel for the location and lifestyle.

I’ve often met travellers who have bounced back and forth between staying and working in the same few hostels, just so they could stay and learn more about a place.

Becoming a home away from home tour guide, mastering maps by memory and impressing locals with your efforts and knowledge.

Eventually over time they have built close bonds and friendships with locals and even being invited over to their homes.

I’ll never forget my time spent in Hungary, I met with an old friend from Singapore who had recently moved to Budapest for university, we met and I was introduced to her friend who was a Hungarian native, she was so kind in inviting us round for dinner.

Cooking us traditional Hungarian goulash and enjoying a bottle of wine together whilst sitting on the apartment balcony. Memories.

I extended my stay at the nearby hostel I was staying in by offering to help with housekeeping in exchange for an extra couple of weeks.

10. You’ll learn to say goodbye but you’re okay with it.

People will come and go, some you you will miss, others not so much but the experiences and memories will stay with you and I can guarantee you will return home a completely different person. (In a good way)

Or… you could just keep going and move onto the next hostel. 😉

To sum up, you will see the world but more importantly see it differently too.

So what are your thoughts, would you consider working in a hostel?

Let me know in the comments below.

Happy and safe travels xo