For all of my travelling life I’ve always stayed in hostels. The big ones, the small ones, the lush ones, the grotty ones, the chains and the independants. Hostels are cheap (-er than hotels), you normally get some kind of deal that includes a variety of meals or some other such incentive such as free wifi or city tours, and they come with everything you need for a comfortable stay. Hostels are also a great way to meet people, especially if you are travelling alone. So yes, I’ve always set up camp in a hostel dorm wherever I happen to be in the world. That is, until now.
This year I decided to try something a little different. I knew that I’d be travelling with some of my best friends the whole time, and we figured it might be nice to have a space that we could call our own, somewhere we could be as messy and noisy as we liked, cook meals in the middle of the night (without having to wash up someone else’s mess first), and never be woken up by annoying dorm mates. After much deliberation and cost comparison, we made the decision to rent apartments instead of stay in hostel as we hop all over the world.
So far it’s been a pretty great decision. We started off with an awesome apartment in Brooklyn where we stayed for a few nights before heading to Camp Sloane for the summer. And at the end of the summer we went back to the same apartment because the owner was lovely enough to give us ‘returners discount’! The apartment came with plenty of beds, a fully equipped kitchen, free hi-speed wifi and cable tv, as well as an awesome wooden floor to skate up and down on. While it was a little way out of the city (about 30 minutes on the subway), it was only a 15 minute cab ride to the airport and we saved a heap of cash compared to what we would have spent had we stayed in one of NYC’s (fairly pricey) hostels.
After NYC we headed to Los Angeles where we used Airbnb to find a great little apartment right next to the beach in Santa Monica, and just 2 blocks from the awesome shopping mecca that is 3rd Street Promenade. This place had a security code to get into the building and then we just had our own key to get into our apartment. There was even a maid that came and cleaned and changed our towels…almost like hotel living.
Then when we landed in Sydney, we once again utilised the awesomeness that is Airbnb to find ourselves a pretty sweet studio apartment (read: teeny weeny) in Surry Hills, a quirky area of the city about 10 minutes walk away from Central Station. Airbnb is a great way to find yourself somewhere to stay as, while it can be a little on the pricey side depending on where you’re staying, the apartments all come with everything you need, from bedding to wifi to kitchenware. And there are no bills or hidden costs!.
One of the main upsides to renting an apartment instead of staying in a hostel is the freedom. Freedom to come and go as you please without fear of waking your room mates up; freedom to leave your bags and clothes everywhere; freedom to unpack your wash bag and leave your shampoo in the shower; freedom to have dance parties in your underwear; freedom to walk around in your towel; freedom to cook when you like (many hostels close their kitchens at midnight which is a massive annoyance when you want drunk toast at 3am!) and freedom to just enjoy yourself without worrying what the next person who comes into your dorm is going to be like.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an ‘I hate hostels’ post. It’s nothing of the sort. I actually kinda love hostels. I love the atmosphere and the fact that you are surrounded by people just like you, travellers looking to explore their surroundings and meet new people. I love that you can make friends with someone as soon as you step into your room just by saying ‘hello’. I love that each and every hostel has its own little quirks and offers to make your stay that little bit better. I love that hostels have great facilities such as laundry and movie rooms and I love that you never know what you’re going to find until you arrive.
I don’t know whether it’s because I’m that little bit older, or that little bit wiser (you only ever stay in a bad hostel once before you learn your lesson), or just looking for a bit of a change, but living out of a bag in a hostel dorm just didn’t seem like the dream this time around. So now here I am, writing this post from my new apartment in Darlinghurst, Sydney, an apartment that myself and two friends have signed a lease on (I know, who am I?!) and will be living in until mid-January. Maybe after that I’ll head back to the backpacker hostel way of life, but for now I’m pretty happy with my kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms and lounge. So much room for activities!
Have you stayed in both hostels and apartments? What’s your verdict? What do you prefer and why?