I have a germaphobia or two.
A few years ago, we took a trip to Peru with some friends to hike Manchu Pichu. We rented sleeping bags, and the thought of sleeping in a rented sleeping bag, made my skin crawl. The solution was the purchase of a silk sleeping bag liner, (affectionally known as the Body Condom) which would provide a guard and prevent direct contact between me and the sleeping bag.
When packing for our trip, one of the first things identified on the packing list, was the silk sleeping bag liner, as you never know when you might need it! And just over a week into our trip was my first opportunity (and definitely not the last) to use the my body condom, in Bergen, Norwary during our first hostel experience.
Due to the fact that Norway is quite expensive and our lack of prior planning, we ended up booking a hostel upon our arrival into Bergen. The Montana hostel was a 15 minute bus ride from city center. It would be a step up over a college dorm, in that we had a double room (bunk-beds) with a en-suite bathroom. However, it was still well over our planned nightly budget! (Not to mention that bed linens and towels cost extra!) One could hope it was worth the price.
Staying in a hostel has always ranked pretty low on my list of life experiences. I have some preconceived notions associated to the quality of the accommodations, and really never had a desire to give them a try. Between my germphobia and my experience with lower cost lodging options, honestly, I would prefer to pay a little extra a night for my own peace of mind. Unfortunately, there were limited options for upgrading our accommodations in Bergen, and those that were available were at a premium price.
The Bergen hostel left me desiring better lodging arrangements. Between the bunk beds, small desk, two chairs, small closet, and small bathroom, there was not hardly room for 2 people to stand, let alone move about. I was slightly grossed out…I would definitely be using my shower shoes, ensuring I had shoes on at all times, and using my body condom at this location! This really was not my idea of vacation accommodations. The only bonus is that our room was close enough to the main lobby that we could pick up the wifi in our room. Needless to say, my body condom came in handy during our 4 night stay!
After the first experience at the Montana Hostel in Bergen, it is amazing that we made a booking to stay in another. From Bergen we went to Balestrand, Norway, on the Sognefjord, and elected to stay in another hostel. We quickly learned that not all hostels are created equal. We were pleasantly surprised at the accommodations at the Balestrand Hostel. Again we had a double ensuite room. It felt more like a hotel rather than a hostel. It was clean, spacious, conveniently located, included breakfast, and was at the right price.
So we were batting .500. Our next hostel stay was in Helsinki, Finland. The Academia Hostel provides seasonal accommodations. During the school year it is home to university students. We were able reserve a double en suite room. The room was spacious and had a small refrigerator, sink and stove top. Although the kitchenware was quite sparse, we enjoyed the flexibility of being able to prepare our own meals. Overall, the hostel met our needs and was very budget friendly.
When planning our time in Scotland, we choose to follow our friend Kevin’s advise and make a counter clockwise loop starting and ending in Edinburgh, through the highlands and out to the islands of Skye and Mull. We found lodging accommodations in the highlands near Grantown on Spey to be difficult to book on short notice. However, we were able to find a couple of hostels that had limited (one night) availability, that would allow us to explore the Cairngorms region.
On the south end of Aveimore, tucked back away from the road is the Aviemore Hostel. The hostel had a two bed room available with a community bathroom. The thought of having to go across the hall to go to the bathroom or shower, makes me cringe. Let’s just say, I was happy to spend time outside of the room in the town and had only a minor meltdown when preparing for my shower. The price was right (and bed linens and towels were included in the price) and once again my body condom was a saving grace. In the end, I was thankful that it was only one night.
Next we moved onto the Hill House in Inverness. The hostel proudly boasts that they are a five star hostel. Although difficult to find using a GPS, the location was nice. It was located in a neighborhood about a mile walk from the city center. The accommodations were modern and clean; it felt more like a bed and breakfast than a hostel. We had a twin room, with a private bathroom (we think) that was located just down the hall.
In general, I have found that the online reviews and comments of the hostel will give you a pretty good idea of what you can expect on arrival. Additionally, we have found that if you plan to stay in hostels, that purchasing the hostel membership will end up benefiting you in the end. The yearly membership is a nominal fee and provides you 10% off at the participating hostels. In the end, after our first 4 night stay in Bergen, our savings had covered our membership costs.
We had some good experiences and not so great experiences with hostels thus far. However, I have learned to be a bit more open. It is more about the sights and experiences of the cities, and less about the accommodations. In the end, I have to continue to remind myself that it is not permanent, it is only a night or two and then we will move on…and hopefully the next place will be better!