I’ve stayed at 3 Paris hostels, all in different neighborhoods.
My first hostel was in Montmartre. It was at the bottom of the hill, 2 minutes from either the Anvers metro station and the Sacre Coeur. It was a nice hostel with a great staff, close enough to cafes, souvenir shops, and the Moulin Rouge, but I didn’t end up liking that part of town.
That’s not to say Montmartre isn’t cool. The streets are tight, the hipster cafes serve Bubble Tea, and there’s a wall that has been painted with over 100 translations of “I Love You.” It’s old, the streets are a little dirty, but the buildings bleed with history. However, I never felt safe walking around, especially at night.
My second hostel was near La Place de la Bastille. I didn’t end up exploring that part of town too much – Paris was a pitstop on the way to Budapest. We threw our stuff in the room, darted to the Musée D’Orsay, and ate pre-made sandwiches in the kitchen/common room. The next day we were off. The hostel came with a free breakfast that wasn’t too bad. It was a large place, with over 100 rooms. Also, there was no soap. Anywhere. Now I always bring my own.
The last hostel I stayed in was right across from Gare du Nord. It wasn’t exactly the best area, but still better than Montmartre. And, better yet, it was right across from the metro. This time, I ended up exploring the parts of Pairs I enjoyed the most. And did a lot of shopping. Way to much shopping.
But hostels? Aren’t hostels weird??
I have quite a few hostel stories and strange encounters up my sleeve, but this most recent one has to be my favorite.
Sometime around my fourth or fifth night, I woke up to something hitting the floor. Something specifically being a body. Still half asleep, I reached out from the bottom bunk (I never get the bottom bunk, but this time I was very glad I did) and brushed an arm groggily. “You okay?”
The girl on the floor mumbled to herself and pushed me away. I didn’t really recognize her – maybe the girl in the bed above mine had checked out. Or maybe she was embarrassed from slipping off the ladder and landing on her butt. I would have been too. She stood up and I rolled over. I was already asleep again before I had time to think about what had happened. Only, I didn’t stay asleep for very long.
Hushed voices grew louder, so loud I took out my earplugs. I groaned and reached for my phone. It was 4:30am.
“What are you doing here?” Bedsheets shuffled and the bed above mine creaked.
“This is my bed.”
“No, this is my bed.” More shuffling.
“No! Get out of my bed!”
No way. Was I still dreaming? Someone was trying to climb into a bed that another person had been sleeping in? My roommate, the one I thought probably checked out, said, “Are you lost?”
The other girl responded with a pitiful yes and I realized she hadn’t slipped off the ladder because she just misplaced her footing. She was drunk. So drunk, she couldn’t even realize she was in the wrong room. They stumbled down the ladder together and the girl fell again, right across my legs. I sat up.
My real roommate left to inform the reception desk while the drunk girl paced the room. We calmed her down, trying to get relatively reasonable answers out of her. Her name was Callee – with two ees, as she told us three times. Not a y. Not an i. Calleeeeeee. She continued to pace and wobble. She was from Canada. I asked what city. Ontario . . .
Curtains scraped against metal as the rest of the room woke up. “Move that – ” she pointed towards the backpack at the end of my bed “move that shit and – and I’ll just – I can be right there.”
I didn’t miss a beat. “Where’s my shit going to sleep then?”
Callee huffed like that was a legit reason for her not to crash there. I tried to keep her concentration on anything but crawling into the other girl’s bed, where hers must have been in her real room, but I’m definitely not a miracle worker. She weaved her way dangerously up the ladder, ignoring our protests, and collapsed onto the top bunk.
I turned to my friend on the other side of the room, lowering my voice to a whisper.
“Where are her pants?”
The story ends on a somewhat good note. The receptionist coaxed her down and dragged her out of the room to find her any empty bed with a “come on, pick up your feet, I’ve been helping your drunk ass all night.”
The door shut and it was finally silent again. I turned to my bunkmate. “You handled that really well.”
“I’m used to it. I work with children.”
We laughed and went back to bed.
Hostels are great; I love them. And I’ll continue to stay in hostels. It’s cheaper and, if you think about it, just like sharing a room with your roommate (or 10) back at university. It’s a great way to meet so many wonderful travelers. I’ve made friends in my rooms, at the bar, in the kitchen . . . I’ve stayed in mixed rooms, female dorms, rooms with adjoining bathrooms, and dorms with the beds pressed up right against each other . . .
There’s a bad stigma against hostels. Haven’t you seen that movie?! Aren’t you afraid you’re gonna die?!? What if someone steals your stuff? What if you share a room with someone who turns out to be creepy?
Not every night was, or will be, as eventful. I usually sleep pretty well. While theft is always a possibility, hostels have lockers and most of the the people headed through hostels are travelers just like yourself. No one wants extra shit to carry around. Backpacks are heavy enough. Just be smart about your stuff.
Many hostels also have age requirements and/or limitations. Female dorms tend to be a bit more expensive (by a few dollars, euros, forints – whatever you use), but can be worth the piece of mind if you’re a solo female traveler or just new to the game. If you have a problem with the room or a roommate, bring it up with reception and they will always find a solution. Plus, female dorms tend to smell better than the mixed rooms.
Do Your Research
Search for the best locations. Read reviews. Read the reviews on the website, then read the reviews on Hostelworld, and then read the reviews on TripAdvisor. Calculate how you’re going to get to and from the hostel (can you walk, or will you have to take a taxi?) Usually, I’ll start with Hostelworld and pick from the ones with the best reviews. Then I’ll see which one is closest to the public transit I’ll be using.
I’ve learned to take the reviews with a grain of salt – I’ve had great experiences at places people have hated, but they do give you that traveler’s perspective.
Book Online Directly
Booking online through the hostel’s own website tends to be cheaper. Even a full night’s stay cheaper. And sometimes they offer included breakfast when you book directly. Heck yeah!! Free food!!
Don’t Be Afraid to Go to The Bar Alone
Now, I’m not saying go get wasted by yourself but don’t stop yourself from heading down to that bar and getting a drink or two. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you as you try desperately to hail down the busy bartender. Who knows, they might be nice.
*I don’t go out to the local bars on my own. If I do go out, it’s with a group – sometimes a group that I’ve just met. Choosing a hostel with a bar usually gives you access to cheaper drinks, while being surrounded with other travelers. Plus, the atmosphere in the entire hostel tends to be more relaxed.
Say hello to your roommates and the people you pass in the halls. I’ve had many awkward conversations that just kind of fell through, but I’ve also met some pretty amazing people. Once you get used to the flow, you’ll realize pretty quickly when it does and doesn’t click.
Once I had a girl tell me “when we go here . . . ” or “that’s a cool place we can see tomorrow . . . ” before I even knew her name. I remembered thinking – oh, okay, I guess we’re going places now. And we did. And we had a blast.
In the End, You Do You
Hostels are great because you can travel alone without ever actually being alone. Sure, your mid-afternoon nap probably won’t go uninterrupted, but who wants to stay inside when there’s a whole city out there to explore?
What do you think of hostels? Have you ever stayed in one?