Why I stayed at the YHA
Maybe it’s the “youth” factor that puts some people off, but after staying in a couple of YHA hostels this year, I’m a convert to this form of budget travelling despite the fact the y-word no longer applies to me.
Until recent years, my image of youth hostelling was stuck in the 1970s. In fact, I’d tried it back then when backpacking in the UK and not been a fan. But times have changed, and that venerable institution the Youth Hostels Association (established in the 1930s) has been clever enough to change with them.
Not only do you no longer have to share a room with half a dozen strangers (unless you want to), but there’s also no imperative to cook for yourself every night, and the facilities in some YHA establishments rival hotels – I’m talking swimming pools, rooftop bars, and cinema lounges. Locations are generally excellent, and some of the YHA’s more than 70 hostels around Australia are in some pretty interesting buildings, from converted train carriages in Sydney to the 1850s Fremantle Prison YHA, which is the only accommodation in Western Australia with UNESCO World Heritage Status.
Last week I stayed in a “penthouse” suite on the rooftop of the Melbourne Central YHA, and the image at the top of this page is of my room there. Not bad for a youth hostel, I reckon!
There are three penthouses at this hostel, private double rooms with ensuites and a small kitchen/luggage area too. The rooms open onto the rooftop terrace, where there are barbecues, chairs and tables…perfect for summer evenings but not so great last week in mid-winter. Despite that, on a sunny afternoon when I checked in, it was being well-used by two young women practicing their Bollywood dance moves! And if you’re thinking about late-night revellers keeping you awake, don’t worry, it’s closed at 10pm.
The days of lugging around a sleeping bag or sheet are gone. Here, all linen is provided and my private room also came with towels, soap and shampoo, a hairdryer, safe, coffee machine (and pods) and a small fridge. Just like a hotel room, but much cheaper than most, at $114 for the night (mid-week rate). Add to that a location on Flinders Street, handy to Southern Cross Station, the Yarra, and plenty of other Melbourne attractions and what more could you want?
Earlier this year, my partner Glen and I stayed at the Adelaide Central YHA, another rather trendy place in a great location. It’s easy to spot as one wall is adorned with a huge mural. We had a family room (double and bunks), which had a small balcony overlooking leafy Light Square, which was more than enough room for the two of us.
One of the great things about this hostel, especially for those on a tight budget, is the “freebies” offered, including free pancakes for breakfast each morning. After a big day out, we also opted to dine in, buying vouchers for the $5 hostel dinner offered three nights a week. Everyone was helping themselves from the big pots of spaghetti bolognese – and it wasn’t bad!
Most of YHA’s 70 hostels around Australia offer free wi-fi, and some have extras like use of bikes, walking tours, pub nights and other activities for those who want to make new friends.
YHA is also part of the world’s largest budget accommodation network, Hostelling International (HI), which has more than 3500 hostels in 60 countries. I’ve written elsewhere about the benefits of staying in a hostel in Europe, and this year’s experiences in Australian hostels have only confirmed my belief that mixing it up between the luxe and the low-budget is the way to travel. No matter what your age, you should try it!
A Glass Half Full stayed as a guest of YHA Australia.
9 Responses to “Why I stayed at the YHA”
Nice to be reacquainted with the YHA again and your post convinced me to return to inexpensive Hostelling. I have some wild memories of my past life staying in such establishments. Do you still have to belong, be a member to gain access?
Ah…another convert. How wonderful! No, you don’t have to be a YHA member any more – but if you are, you get slightly cheaper rates. Anyone can pay the full rates and book online, just like a hotel.
We have stayed at the YHA in Wellington on a couple of occasions, when it’s been busy and all other reasonably priced accommodation was sold out. Being budget-conscious sorts, we prefer to price down rather than up! Haha.
A very wise practice!
Great post :)
I like staying in hostels — as long as they’re not the noisy/party type. I’ve had good experiences in many. I think Dublin was the only one that might have been a mistake. A bunk in a room full of strangers, sleeping with my suitcase next to me, listening to drunks yell to each other down the street after the pubs closed…
Good thing it was only about $12.
Oh yes, I hear you! I think that was one of the reasons in my early days of travelling that I was put off by hostels. But I think most of them have changed quite a lot in recent years…and private rooms are one of the best changes, I think! I’m way past sharing with strangers!
What a difference to the dreadful, high-rise, congested, dirty hostels I stayed in when I backpacked through Europe in 1986. Paris was pretty bad on the hostel front, and I did change rooms but it still didn’t keep me from fleeing to Nice on the overnight train, where my real journey began. And when travelling through Ireland with my friend, we stopped in Cork but decided not to bathe at all after looking at the showers in the basement there.
It all made for great memories though, and something the generation of people now, connected to the world in their hands, would probably never have to endure.
The changes that have been made to hostels – all over the world, I expect – have ensured their survival, I think. Even young backpackers expect certain standards these days, and it’s also helped to throw the doors open to all age groups, from families to older people. Some of those memories are best forgotten!