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The dirty truth: hostels

March 12, 2010

Cairns, Australia:

A few people have emailed recently asking where to stay in Australia and, obviously, I can only speak about my own experiences so I’m laying it out for you. Each experience is different and it’s completely subjective, but here’s what I liked and loathed:

In Melbourne, Nomads Backpackers (a chain you see around Oz) was a decent choice at AUD $28 a night. Tiny kitchen and a loud bar area but the rooms and bathrooms were clean. Nice rooftop terrace for sunbathing and located just a couple of blocks from Queen Victoria Market.

Moving up to Sydney, we stayed at Maze Backpackers. It has a fantastic location but little else going for it — very dirty rooms, bathrooms and kitchen and unfriendly/indifferent staff. Lots of nightly activities, though, like quiz night and bar specials. A triple was AUD $20 a person.

Next up was Byron Bay and Arts Factory, about which Sandy and I have a difference of opinion. She thought it was funky and laid-back; I thought it was absolutely disgusting with not nearly as much offered as advertised. The best night was a talent show but other than that, there’s nothing to do at night besides go out drinking. Most expensive place at AUD $38 a night — not worth it.

A few hours north to Brisbane where we stayed at City Backpackers, one of the nicest hostels I’ve been to. Huge kitchen, free Internet, great movie room screening films all day (some bad selections, but c’est la vie). Located close to a mall and grocery store and 20 minutes’ walk from downtown Brisbane. AUD $26 a night.

Hervey Bay’s Next Backpackers might have been the best of the bunch, mainly because it wasn’t crowded at all. The staff was helpful, knowledgable and friendly; 24-hour cinema playing movies on-demand; spacious, clean bedrooms. Not much to do in town itself but a great place to stay while visiting Fraser Island. The price was right at AUD $20.

Magnums in Airlie Beach came highly recommended by several people but those people must have some, um, interesting standards. The most disgusting kitchen I’ve ever seen — not the fault of the staff, but terrible guests — and cramped, smelly rooms. Guess that’s what you get for AUD $15.50 but then again…

We’re in Cairns now and paying AUD $15 for a 4-share room at Njoy. Not as popular as other hostels but a nice hidden place — quiet at night, exceptionally clean, well-stocked kitchen, great staff. A 10-minute walk from downtown.

Looking into hostels for New Zealand now. Prices seem to be consistent with Australia so my biggest piece of advice is: do your research before you go. Use Trip Advisor, Hostel Bookers and word of mouth. It pays off in the end.

Where’s the nicest place you’ve ever stayed? The worst?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2010 9:20 pm

    Australia & NZ are the only places I’ve actually stayed in hotels because my fiance and I opted for cheap hotels in Europe (by the time we paid for both of us at hostels, it was pretty close in price). Most of the places I stayed in Aus. and NZ were not bad but there was actually a place I think in Hervey Bay that I stayed that was SOOOOO terrible. I literally slept with my purse like a teddy bear because I was scared haha. I can’t really remember names of anywhere I stayed but everywhere else was pretty much fine. You get what you pay for right?

  2. March 13, 2010 3:11 am

    Really useful, thanks. I hope you’ll consider doing a similar write-up for New Zealand.

  3. Danielle permalink
    March 13, 2010 9:53 am

    My friend was just telling me about how she’s going to backback through Europe and she’s staying in hostels. I had no idea what she was talking about- thanks for the description…it doesn’t sound too great lol. But i guess it’s worth the experience!

  4. March 13, 2010 12:06 pm

    duly noted! now i need a plane ticket there..

  5. March 13, 2010 1:17 pm

    Worst guesthouse experience ever: realizing that bedbugs are crawling all over your travelmate’s bed, about ten minutes before the city shuts down for the night. Frantic run about town looking for an open guesthouse ensues. Poor Jeanette. Vientiane, Laos, I shake my fist at you.

  6. March 13, 2010 9:55 pm

    Nicest: The Hana Hotel in Hana, Maui Very $$$ but worth it.

    Worst: Toss up – the Koala Hostle in Airlie Beach or my “Wicked” camper van in New Zealand.

  7. March 15, 2010 8:38 am

    I’ve never stayed in a hostel only in hotels or on cruise ships. I think the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at was a Sheraton Suites in Orlando that I paid $55 for the night for because I booked through Hotwire.

  8. March 16, 2010 8:38 pm

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