First day backpacking…The worst and Best hostel in the world in 24 hours! You live and learn!

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Well, you live and learn they say! Here we are, setting off on the journey of a life time, flying into Milan to complete the European leg of our backpacking adventure. Like any new backpackers we decided to book our accommodation for our first stop in advance to make sure we are prepared and can settle in to this new way of travelling and new way of life a little easier. I set Shorty on the task of looking for a suitable hostel for the 4 nights we will be in the city. We wanted to make sure we saw it but also that we could move on relatively quickly as it appeared like it could be an expensive start. So it turns out that there was a weird price fluctuation and the hostels we were looking at were cheap for the first 2 nights and then rocketed up to 5 times as much for the remaining stay (this was because of the Milan design festival). So we opted for 2 nights in the place Shorty found…hostel Sofia. And then managed to find a hotel room a little out of the centre for the other 2 nights. Well, that is before we saw our first hostel and decided one night was enough!! 

It’s 4 am and we are sat in the “lobby”

First day backpacking...The worst and Best hostel in the world in 24 hours! You live and learn!, hostel sofia milan, milano, italy, ostello bello, best hostels in the world, worst hostels, backpacking, accommodation, backpacking tips, travelling, traveling, travel stories, uk to new zealand,

So here we are. It’s 4 am and we have had a long day saying our goodbyes and travelling over to Milan. Our bags felt heavy and we were unsure how to get to our hostel. We decided to take a taxi instead of risking walking around with our huge backpacks at night. Only 10 euros, not a bad start! We pulled up at Viale Abruzzi 70 and wondered where the hell the hostel even was. There were no signs? Just a dingy alleyway… Hmm. Not a brilliant start and never a great sign.

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           We wandered up and into what we presumed was the hostel without being questioned. We somehow found the receptionist who was rather rude and not at all helpful. After asking about lockers and getting some chatter back about there being 4 people in the room already so non were available I was already a little suspicious. No locker means no security for us, nowhere to put our valuables during the day or when sleeping at night and either leaving them in what felt like a pretty insecure hostel or carrying a laptop around a city all day. Neither is ideal.

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We were shown to our room to find 7 beds tightly packed into a tiny room. Firstly it was advertised as a 6 bed dorm and secondly there is only 4 lockers. It feels like the other beds have been squeezed in. Now I don’t mind dorms at all. But when there is literally a row of 4 beds with around 2 inches between I think it pushes the limits of personal space… I could smell the alcohol on the breath of the man in the bed … Between us! The toilet had no seat or toilet roll and the receptionist at one point came in at 1 am, stripped the bed in the corner and walked off with a laptop on the side. Now this was either him clearing a guests bed and taking their shit..or this weird guy is in here with us… but he never returned, so who knows! We were itchy in the beds and to say we had no choice but to pay 3 Euros for linen, they didn’t seem clean at all. The “kitchen” was just a hall way with some chairs, a fridge and a microwave! Shocking! 

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So. Why did Shorty choose this hostel?

It was the cheapest! Lesson : Go for the cheapest place which has all the amenities you want, good reviews and also feels safe. In other words, the best you can afford rather than just the cheapest! On Hostel World for example anything under a 7 rating is probably a no go. Also, check that everything is as advertised before you pay! 

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It was late when we checked in and there wasn’t much we could do. We headed out for a pizza and decided to search for somewhere new for the night after. Not feeling safe or comfortable just isn’t worth saving a few euros. Not all hostels are like this and this has to be our only really bad experience in one after many years of using them. But it just goes to show how much doing your research is important. And also when you have to admit defeat and say enough is enough. Spend a little bit extra and feel right.

Also…don’t delegate these tasks to your husband!

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Feeling a lot better on the terrace of our new hostel!

We have been reading Nomadic Matt’s book on how to travel for $50 a day and it certainly is interesting. Funnily enough we read the section on hostels just before we headed out…but not before making this booking! Even the budget master himself recommended paying a few dollars extra for things like lockers, WIFI and somewhere with good reviews. After all, what’s the point if it’s not enjoyable!

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So, we ended up spending the majority of the night in the lobby using the WIFI (the hostels only good feature) to book a room in a good hostel for the night after. At this point we really wasn’t that bothered about price, we just wanted somewhere nice, secure and where we could get a good nights sleep after staying up pretty much the entire night.

Hindsight

In hindsight we should have probably at least just got ourselves a private room in a hostel for the first few nights anyway just to settle in, but being in this hell hole of a 6 person dorm really hit home hard! But here I am typing the rest of this post up sat in what I can only describe as the best hostel in the world. I’m not even being dramatic or over the top either! The staff are amazing, you get free breakfast and a buffet evening meal…they even cooked us some pasta just for us so it was veggie! They stored our valuables in a safe room for us all day before we could check in, there is ping pong, table football, a bar, tv, terrace with hammocks, Playstations, guitars on the walls to play…the Ostello Bello Grande is the place to be!

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It may have cost us a bit more, but that is the lesson here! Check the reviews and the features out, thousands of other travellers don’t lie! If you are staying in a dorm especially, then go for the best you can afford and make sure it has some security. But really, work it out too. We got a free breakfast, tea, coffee and juice whenever we wanted it, pastries and cakes to take out with us in the day and an evening meal, the cost of that is the difference between the other place and this!

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Luckily the shocking start to our trip has been totally switched around today by the wonderful people and atmosphere of this hostel and a great day exploring the Duomo and the San Siro (Football stadium!!) of beautiful Milan! We only had to spend a night in the first hostel and we learnt an important lesson very early on!!

First day backpacking...The worst and Best hostel in the world in 24 hours! You live and learn!, hostel sofia milan, milano, italy, ostello bello, best hostels in the world, worst hostels, backpacking, accommodation, backpacking tips, travelling, traveling, travel stories, uk to new zealand,

I’m just glad to have a toilet seat for the evening!! ha ha

But seriously, we still love hostels and Ostello Bello Grande is exactly why, the great people, facilities and atmosphere that you just don’t get in a hotel!

What’s your best and worst hostel and what travel lessons have you learnt the hard way?!

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Nicola Hilditch-Short

Nic is one half of the Roaming Renegades, a passionate traveller, climber, adventurer, photographer and artist who has a B.A in Fine Art and M.A in Design & Art Direction.