At first I wanted to title this post Asia 2017 Hostel Evaluations but I realized that I wasn’t just going to be sleeping in hostels. There were some locations that I would be traveling that did not have the typical hostels that I would have for most of the trip. When I planned the section of the trip using the car to see the Great Ocean Road I realized that hostels for that period of the trip were virtually nonexistent along the way. This is going to be a really long post that will grow as I move around.
So what’s the point of this post. Food for thought. I’m going to comment on some of the amenities, features and what I consider to be drawbacks of properties where I stayed on my 2017 trip. You’ll get my perspectives. Try to put them into perspective as you might see them and judge them under your own values and criteria.
YHA Auckland City Backpackers: YHA is a designation for Youth Hostel Association, a subset of a group of some “70 National Youth Hostel Associations in more than 80 countries which have over 4,000 affiliated hostels around the world’ according to Wikipedia. I like to refer to these accommodations as “typical institutional” hostels although this term can be misleading in some instances and spot on in others. The Auckland hostel tends to be institutional yet in a good way. I liked the security. It took a keycard to even get into the building past the reception area. It took a keycard to get into the hallway where my room as located and it took a keycard to get into the room. The door shut automatically behind me when I entered the room. Each bed had a large locker where I could use my own lock to secure the locker. The locker had a shelf with an electrical outlet on it so that I could charge my electronic devices securely overnight or at any time during the day. The beds were bunk beds that appeared to have been made by a fanatical structural engineer. They hardly moved whenever someone got into or out of the bunk above me. I’ve never seen a bunk bed like it. The bed also came with a shelf, a nightlight and an electrical outlet. It was made out of steel and must have weighed hundreds of pounds. I loved this bed. I also liked the fact that the washbasin, shower and toilet were located outside of the hall where the rooms were located. The bathrooms were very clean. I wasn’t particularly fond of the location of the hostel until I realized that it was only a 10 minute bus ride into the heart of Auckland and that ride only cost me about 35 cents in U.S. money each time I took it. I liked the kitchen area. It was big and roomy with several sinks and cooking burners. It had lots of pots, pans and utensils. It had plenty of everything, actually, including refrigerators and shelves for food storage. It had lots of tables and chairs in the common areas although the common areas weren’t terribly large when compared to other hostels I stayed at during this trip. I liked the fact that the common areas were accessible 24 hours a day. There are some hostels that shut down the common areas during the early morning hours for one reason or another which makes it tough on people like me who tend to get up really, really early. I liked the fact that this hostel was located in an area with lots of cheap sushi joints. That was great for me as I like sushi. There were also plenty of markets where groceries could be obtained but the prices were generally high. Would I stay at this hostel again? Absolutely. It cost me about $24 USD a night. for two nights.
Rotorua YHA: It was very similar to the Auckland hostel. The bed wasn’t nearly as good. It was cheap and it moved every time an occupant moved. No shelf, outlet or night light. The storage locker was the same great one I had in Auckland. The location was good but that’s because Rotorua is so small that any location is good. The kitchen and common areas where great. The problem was that they were not available from 1:00 AM until 6:30 AM. I got up at my usual 4:00 AM and tried to get in them but someone had rigged up a contraption to keep them from opening. Apparently, I made enough noise trying to get inside to wake up the guy who was inside the common area. He came out and told me that I couldn’t come in as he was cleaning. I had trouble understanding how he did all that cleaning in total darkness but I didn’t say anything as I didn’t want to piss him off and blow any chance I had in getting into the area. In the end he was a total jerk and wouldn’t let me in. I found a couple of chairs in a hall where I could set up a make-shift desk for working on my computer. I checked back a couple of times and did see him doing some cleaning so I guess he wasn’t totally ripping-off the hostel. The hostel cost me $20 for one night. Would I stay there again? Maybe. But I would definitely check out other options. Just realize that getting up at 4:00 AM isn’t a problem that most people have. For most people this would be a great place to stay. Unless you need breakfast before 6:30 AM.
Rotorua overnight bus: I caught the overnight bus from Rotorua to Wellington. It left Rotorua around 11:00 Pm and get into Wellington about 7:15 AM. I slept on the bus but not very well. Actually, it was terrible. I take overnight buses because it maximizes my time. I sleep and travel at he same time. It does, however, come with some costs. The sleep I get is usually terrible. It’s uncomfortable. Sometimes the us can be too cold. Or too hot. Using overnight buses is not something I recommend in any way. This bus trip was not the best or worse overnight bus experience I have ever had. Overnight bus trips (as well as overnight train and plane trips) do save money. I did not have to pay for a place to sleep. The bus cost me $1 AUD or about 70-75 U.S. cents. Will I ever take an overnight bus again? Sure. But I won’t be doing it everyday. You can be absolutely certain of that.
Wellington YHA: Another typical New Zealand YHA. I say that in the nicest of ways. I liked them. A lot. Except for my time as a room prisoner in Rotorua. They all seemed very similar in many respects. The Wellington hostel was much like the others. Great kitchen and common areas. It used a keycard to get into the rooms. The bathrooms were clean. There was 24-hour access to all of the areas. There was free Wi-Fi, like all the other new Zealand hostels. The location wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. Wellington isn’t small but it isn’t big either. Also, the public transportation system isn’t nearly as good or as cheap as Auckland. This is meaningful. The cost of a day pass for Wellington public transportation was about $7, a good price, and the bus routes are reasonably simple from the YHA. Bus 14 goes to the Cable Car and downtown and Route 20 goes up to Victoria Peak as well as the Cable Car. Both routes are accessible a couple of blocks from the hostel. The cost for the Wellington hostel was $22 per night for two nights. Would I stay there again? Yes.
Te Anau Lakefront Backpackers: It had a great location of the lake. It was a shame I didn’t really like the place. There wasn’t really a lot wrong with it. My biggest problem was that I had been staing at some really good hostels YHA hostels in New Zealand. I would have book ed the YHA hostel in Te Anau had I been more in tune with what I wanted to do a bit earlier in the trip. Going to Te Anau instead of Queenstown was more of a last minute change and the YHA hostel was booked. Sometimes I need to face it. I’m kind of an institutional hostel kind of guy. The Lakefront Backpackers was clean but the kitchen was really small and the Internet was terrible. I’m being kind when I call it terrible. I would try somewhere else just to see if I could get better Internet. The hostel wasn’t as bad as I let on but the space available for the number of people staying there was bad. When I was used to having outlets and shelves on the beds and security lockers in the room, it’s hard to go back to none. When I’ve got a kitchen with 6 sinks and a dozen burners to cook with it’s hard to go back to one sink and 4 burners. Would I stay here again? Not unless it was all I could find. I think I’d try something else, especially the YHA hostel. The cost was $22.12 USD per night for two nights.
Queenstown Absoloot Value Accommodation: It had an incredible location. Unfortunately, it was a horrible location for a car, which is what I arrived with. I had to ditch the car a day early at the airport and I didn’t get a refund. While I liked the location, the rest of the hostel wasn’t as good. The elevator was broken and I’d bet it had been broken for weeks or months. The kitchen was tiny. The rooms were tiny and the ensuite bathroom may have been good for some but I prefer bathroom facilities that are more public. That gives me a better chance for access to a toilet or a shower when I want one. I know that not everyone will feel the same way I do. Would I stay there again? I think I’d explore other options first. One night cost me $24.44 USD.
Sydney Railway Station YHA: It’s a big hostel. I would guess capacity is around 300 people. The location is at the Central Railway Station meaning that transportation is only a stroll away. It was institutional but, due to it’s size and the fact that it is in Sydney, it was a loud hostel in the common area late at night. The kitchen was okay and the bathrooms were laid out well but the number of people at the hostel tended to leave it a little more trashy than a smaller hostel would be. The staff were okay but they couldn’t tell me where a McDonald’s or a good supermarket were located. Actually, they couldn’t tell me a whole lot else either. I was able to find both easily on my first day there so I know this information wasn’t Top Secret. The staff weren’t rude or anything, they just weren’t helpful. The Wi-Fi was really, really bad. They had a premium version that cost $5 a day extra but I didn’t see it being worthwhile. I figured I could score some free McDonald’s Wi-Fi as it was only a short walk away. I also found that, if I got up early in the morning I could get some pretty good response out of the Wi-Fi before everyone else got on it. It cost me $113.38 for four nights or 28.35 a night. Australian hostels are relatively expensive during their summer period, particularly hostels in larger cities. Then again, that number is only slightly over $20 USD per night. That makes it sound a little better. All things considered, the Sidney hostel was not bad.
Melbourne Central YHA: This was, by far the best hostel that I stayed in so far during my time in New Zealand and Australia. What was interesting is that it wasn’t the hostel that was so much better, it was Melbourne. Melbourne has a free tram area and there was a tram stop 20 feet outside of the front door of the hostel. The tram system made it so easy to get around Melbourne. Plus, the town was laid out well. Whatever there was to see was very, very accessible. It took me a good 15 minutes to go from the hostel in Sydney and get on a train. Then it took me another 10-20 minutes to actually get to my final destination. Melbourne took half that amount of time and it was so easy. It’s not that the transportation in Sydney was so bad, it’s just that the transportation system in Melbourne is so good. As far as the physical facilities were concerned the ones in Melbourne were a tocuh below the ones in Sydney with the exception of the showers. The showers in Melbourne were laid out better. Sidney had a better common area and kitchen. Melbourne had a better roof-top terrace. Sydney was closer to a McDonald’s but the trams in Melbourne could take me to dozens of restaurants very quickly, much more quickly than the transportation in Sydney. My Melbourne cost was about $48 AUD for 2 nights or $24 AUD per night or about $18 USD per night.The Melbourne hostel had a smaller common area but the crowd at the Melbourne hostel was a lot more controlled than the Sydney crowd. All the loud, obnoxious behavior in Sydney made the more laid-back atmosphere of the Melbourne hostel’s common area more attractive and appealing.