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Staying in a hostel on vacation can save you a lot of money, but will it dampen your experience? The key is to stay in a GOOD hostel in Europe! The first time I booked a hostel in Europe, I wasn’t sure what it would be like as I had only stayed in hotels. Below you’ll find a number of reviews on hostels throughout Europe, specifically in Dublin, London, Paris, and Stow on the Wold accommodations (a town in the Cotswolds). I’m here to tell you all about what European hostels are like, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And of course, to figure out, should you stay in a hostel in the first place?
Youth Hostel Dublin, Ireland: Generator Hostel
While in Dublin I stayed at the Generator Hostel, this place was a real treat! I’d give it an A-, only because the wifi was limited in the rooms and I could hear the music from downstairs late at night. The beds were comfy, security was top-notch, and it was in a prime location in Dublin’s city center! All the things you should look for when picking a hostel. The breakfast wasn’t much to write home about but there’s a grocery store right across the way as well as a few cafes so you’re not short on options.
I booked a bed in the female suite at the Generator Hostel and met some amazing ladies there. Some were backpacking thru Ireland, some just on a solo trip like myself. We wound up becoming a sort of band of travelers, which made the trip even better! Not that I can, or the hostel, guarantee that you’ll get along as swimmingly as I did with my hostel mates, but there’s always a chance. Tip, Brazen Head is an excellent place to eat nearby! Good food and cheap!
Looking for things to do in Dublin?: Check out How to Spend 2 Days in Dublin for Cheap
Youth Hostel London: YHA London Central Hostel
If you’re looking for a hostel in London look no further than the YHA London Central Hostel! This place is the Ritz Carlton of European hostels and cheap to boot! I give it an A+! The only thing I disliked is that the wifi didn’t work in most of the rooms, but it did work in the main lounge. I stayed in a female suite here as well. The beds at YHA London Central Hostel are comfy, the room was clean, and there’s plenty of activities for visitors. Everything from pub crawls to walking tours are available.
My favorite thing about it was that they served pretty good breakfast and pizza; they also do drinks. Make sure to ask about discounts on London attractions, I saved a few pounds that way. It’s incredibly close to everything as well, guess I should have known that by the name! I walked nearly everywhere. The picture above is of the main room on the ground floor. Security is the top priority here! YHA London Central Hostel is located in London’s media area so if you’re into film and television like I am it’s an added bonus. I would definitely recommend a YHA hostel, as they are the best hostels in London and definitely my favorite hostel in Europe.
Looking for things to do in London?: Check out Your Essential Itinerary for 2 Days in London
Youth Hostel Paris: Young & Happy Hostel
Young & Happy was a nightmare hostel by comparison of the previous two. Unlike it’s name, it was anything but. I basically booked it because it sounded like a halfway decent place and had a decent location. None of the places I researched sounded like a winner. (Edit: I have since searched out of curiosity and it seems like there are now more options available than when I went. So if you’re looking for a cheap hostel in Paris I’d advise not picking this one.) This time I stayed in a private room since my Aunt requested it. To begin, the walls are paper-thin, you can and will hear everything. Hopefully, you’ll be lucky enough to have quite neighbors, unlike me.
There is a small spiral staircase to the rooms, no elevator so be careful going up and down. This is more common for European hostels and hotels as a general note. The showers have one button, on, so if it’s hot, it’s hot, if it’s cold, it’s cold. There was a night that they ran out of toilet paper, not fun. The bathrooms and showers were pretty filthy from everyone tracking in dirt from their shoes, which is understandable. But they should have someone checking the bathrooms at a regular interval to clean up and maintain the bathrooms.
Our room faced the street, which was nice for a view, but not so nice when the glass didn’t muffle any of the sounds. On my last night at this nightmare hostel, the fire alarm went off at 12:15 am! Ugh! On a small good note, the staff was nice and they did include free breakfast, the only hostel I stayed at during this trip that did. However, management needs to put some money into this place to improve necessities. Of all the hostels in Europe I’ve ever stayed at, it was the worst. So again, if you’re looking for a cheap or backpacker hostel in Paris, France, look somewhere else.
Looking for things to do in Paris?: Check out Your Itinerary for a Weekend in Paris, The City of Lights
I was in England this past June for a friend’s wedding. The wedding took place in a gorgeous little English town called Stow on the Wold, in the Cotswolds. Really picturesque, like something out of a fairytale. During the few days I was in town for the wedding I stayed at the YHA Stow hostel (edit: which is now permanently closed).
Cotswolds Hostel: Stow on the Wold Accommodation
I had chosen YHA as my Stow on the Wold accommodation because I had adored their London location, and I still do, so what I’m about to say is solely about the service at the YHA Stow location.
I had checked in the night before the wedding. My friend, the bride, had even dropped off a welcome bag for me that was waiting at the front desk. So the lady at the front desk knew full well I was there for a wedding. I checked in with no issues. Received a key to the room, my room number, and a front door code. I even filled out a card with all my contact info that’s required at YHA locations. I’ve filled it out when I’ve stayed at their other locations as well. I went out for dinner and returned back to the hostel later that night. Punched in the front door code and went up to my room on the top floor. Had a great nights sleep in their bed.
The next day I got dressed for the wedding. The room was big enough that I was able to spread out and lay out everything I needed to get ready. There was hardly anyone there so it didn’t matter that I took up more space. Getting ready a little too quickly, I sat downstairs in the lobby to connect to the wifi before I headed out. I even said goodbye to the front desk lady on my way out. I attended the wedding and had a marvelous time. After a long night of celebrating the bride and groom, I got back to the YHA Stow on the Wold hostel around 2 am. And here is where the trouble begins…
A Nightmare Hostel
I punched in the front door code. Red light. I tried again, figuring I punched it in incorrectly. Red light. Again I tried, it was dark, maybe I hit the wrong number? Red light. After a few more tries I checked around the door for an emergency contact number. Nothing. I found zero helpful information on their door. Nothing for emergencies. I checked my phone for a voicemail or email with a new code. Nothing. I had filled out the card. If the code had changed I should have gotten a message right? Wrong.
Finding Stow on the Wold Accommodation
Luckily, I had a friend staying down the street that was nice enough to let me sleep on their couch. They had rented an apartment for the duration of the wedding. Thank goodness! Had I not known someone in town I would have been sleeping against the hostel door, that would have been my Stow on the Wold accommodation. Would have been extraordinarily fun in a dress and heels in the wet and cold.
The next morning I went to talk to someone at the YHA Stow on the Wold hostel about the situation. I went in with a cool head, though honestly, I was incredibly frustrated and upset. The same front desk lady that had checked me in was there. I told her the situation to which she replied that the code changes on Friday and Sunday nights. The wedding was on a Friday. I had not been informed of this. I understand the need to change the code for safety but to not inform your guests is careless. She said that they have a sign on the back of the door. I did go check this sign after my conversation with her. It is a small sign that anyone could have easily missed but why wasn’t I told this when I checked in?
Keep Your Guests in the Know
She said ‘they could not keep up with that.’ Can’t keep up with letting your guests know that the front door to the hostel they paid money to stay in would change its code?!? Ridiculous! It’s a hostel, this Stow on the Wold accommodation is not the Ritz, so I understand when there’s not a bar of chocolate on my pillow but not making sure your paying guests have access is unacceptable. She said she tried to call me but the call didn’t go through. It should be noted that I do not control the phone company so that can’t be my fault.
I had also listed my email address on that card I filled out when I checked in so there was another way to get a hold of me. I know they have access to email because I asked if they could print my boarding card and they told me to email it to them. To put a cherry on top of all that, the front desk lady even mentioned that when she saw me leaving that she thought to herself ‘oh I hope she has the code.’ Well, say something lady!
In Review of YHA Stow on the Wold
After this incident, I informed an employee of YHA I had been in contact with for my stay in London and Stratford-Upon-Avon (which were lovely by the way). She was understanding and sympathetic to my situation. Even going as far to talk to the manager of the YHA Stow location and refunding my night. I believe this was all a case of mismanagement on the part of YHA Stow on the Wold. So I would love to say that I still highly recommend YHA, just not this location.
Looking for something to do in the Cotswolds?: Check out Discover JRR Tolkien’s Mythic Trees in Avebury, England or Visiting Stonehenge and the Pandorica of Doctor Who
A Review of European Hostels
So, did I answer your question? Should you stay in a European hostel? Really it all relies on the individual place for me. Which is exactly like picking a hotel, some are good, some are bad. Obviously, the good hostels in Dublin (Generator) and London (YHA London Central Hostel) I had much better experiences in. The bad hostels in France (Young & Happy) and the Cotswolds (YHA Stow on the Wold), not so much. So make sure to thoroughly research a hostel before booking. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below