Packing hacks that will turn every girl’s nightmare into fun


There’s more than one hack you can use to store your jewelry better during your travel. Depending on the nature or the length of your trip, there are different tips you could use to keep your jewelry safe and arranged.

  • One option is putting it between two sheets of plastic wrap so it won’t move around and tangle inside your luggage.
Wrapping jewelry via Kathleen Kamphausen

Wrapping jewelry via Kathleen Kamphausen

  • Losing small earrings is a pain in the ass. Buttons, on the other hand, are large enough not to get lost. Keeping the earrings together on a button doesn’t only prevent losing the pair, but it also helps you not to lose one earring from the other. Honestly, how many times have you only found one unmatched earring and how annoying is this?

Earrings on button holes via Kathleen Kamphausen

  • And if you’re simply out of buttons, old pill containers will also do the job, as well as will old balm containers.

Pill containers for earrings via

Packing hacks via

  • Just like one of the earrings magically disappears sometimes, the necklace manages to twist and gets knotted in ways Poppeye the Sailor Man himself wouldn’t imagine. To avoid this kind of situation, use a straw to keep your necklace straight.  If you’re tired of getting your jewelry all bundled up, here’s an easy solution.

Thread your necklaces through straws via

Packing hacks for women via

  • After you’ve done all this, the best place to put the straws and the buttons is an oven mitt. After placing them inside (perfectly safe from being lost or getting knotted, you can wrap it up and then use it as a bracelet holder.
Oven mitt as bracelet holder via Sonia's Travels

Oven mitt as bracelet holder via Sonia’s Travels


Because no woman ever leaves her home without looking as if she’s about to meet her worst enemy, cosmetics will always be part of our luggage, whether we’d like to admit it or nor. But we can do this intelligently as well.

  • For instance, instead of carrying the entire collection of shampoos and creams and body lotions, empty pill bottles may come in handy. Depending on the length of your trip, it’s really easier to put cosmetics in small containers.
Cosmetics in pill bottles via

Cosmetics in pill bottles via

  • And if you’re done with your cosmetics and still have some spare empty pill bottles, you can use them for Q-tips as well.

Q-tips in pill bottles via

  • As about your toiletries, because they’ve somehow managed to leak and spread on your finest clothes, the best solution is to put some plastic wrap over the opening.

Plastic wrap -the problem solver via

  • Another perfect solution for storing make up of any kind (from foundation to eyeshadow) is by putting it in old contact lens containers. This way, you’ll only take with you the necessary for your trip instead of just leaving with your entire cosmetics collection.

Contact lens container comes in handy via

Image via

  • But if your trip isn’t going to be long enough for you to even need these, you can always coat the ends of cotton swabs in your favorite shades of eyeshadow, and then put them in a plastic sandwich bag.

Q-tips via Kathleen Kamphausen

  • Don’t break the make up products! Especially the ones with mirrors, such as the powder. Instead, add a cotton pad or a cotton ball inside the compact before packing it. Make sure your make up is going to look as good as you are.

Cotton pads get the job done via

  All the other sorceries

  • The flat iron can easily be placed in a potholder. This way, even if it’s still warm and you’re in a hurry, there will be no harm done. This hack is especially good if you’re going on a trip where you know you won’t be having too much time in between different events.

The flatiron solution via

  • There’s always a lottery whether your perfume bottle is going to be intact or not, and in order to avoid a Schroedinger’s cat experiment with every trip you take, our advice is to put the bottles inside socks to prevent them from breaking.

Perfume keeps you classy via Kathleen Kamphausen


  • Again, depending on the nature of your trip, you may be compelled to take a razor with you, regardless of your fancy shaving methods at home. In this case, a binder clip will prevent it from ruining the razor heads.

Razor problem, solved! via

  • Shoes can be easily covered with a shower cap. Yes, we know, you wouldn’t pack  your dirty shoes in the luggage, but the real question is if you’ll have the necessary time to clean them spotless every time. And even if you do, come caution never killed anyone.

Shoes are also safe via Kathleen Kamphausen

  • And if you’re looking for packing-ception, you can even store socks and all kinds of small cosmetics inside your shoes, in case you’re in a need for even more space.

Be practical via Kathleen Kamphausen

  • Because some of us really care a lot about being clean no matter what, a good idea would be to protect your delicates from the rest of the items in your luggage by putting them inside a little cloth bag that you’ve got from a pair of shoes or a new purse.

Cloth bag magic via

  • The hair pins are always hard to find and they’ve also got their own way of disappearing when you most need them – especially when it’s extremely windy outside or in the mornings when your hair just won’t stau the way you want it to. But an empty Tic-Tac container solves this problem too.

Image via

How to spot an eco friendly hostel

To some people, their principles and moral values come above everything – which is  why for some, an eco-friendly hostel is the only way to go. While many hostels claim they’re eco-friendly, very few actually have the facts to back that up… more often than not, it’s just a PR stunt. We believe it’s important to be able to spot the difference.

You’ll learn that once you get to see the hostel, it’s pretty easy to say if it is eco-friendly or not, since most of the signs don’t require special knowledge and training, but just a little more attention to details than you’d usually give.

1. Recycling

Beds and mattresses can be recycled as easily as anything else. The economic advantage may seem irrelevant at first, but hostel owners quickly discover the difference. It takes over 20 years for mattress to decompose, and there are all kinds of industry businesses in Europe as well as the United States of America which issues, assuring old bad and mattresses 100% recycled. The kind of hostel using this tip is easy to spot, mainly because of the spotless mattresses as a result of their replacement not being an economic problem anymore.

Image via Wiki Commons.

Linen reuse programs are another way of recycling and yet another criterion on spotting eco friendly hostels. Instead of immediately changing the towels, the staff will have plates informing you on the operational program of taking an ecologic chance. This way, you’ll have the opportunity of hanging up your towel after using it instead of consuming extra water and energy for having it washed on a daily basis.

Of course. recycling spaces for paper, metal and plastic are always a pleasant sight common room, and even in the dorms if the hostel is big enough. The kitchen, guest rooms and any other place should be provided with recycling baskets for newspapers, white paper, glass, aluminum, cardboard or plastic. The bins in public areas should be noticeable enough to make the process as easy as possible. Most of the people using such recycling bins use products from recycled materials as well, so this is something else that makes it even easier to spot. Recycled paper products are among the most common, either unbleached or bleached using a chlorine-free process.

2. Saving energy and water

Water usage can be reduced in many ways, and it’s not very complicated to spot a hostel where the staff behaves with ecologic responsibility. Some of the signs are the low flow shower head, or the sink aerators. Toilets can have low flow devices as well, or even toilet tank fill diverters.

The type of light bulbs a hostel uses is a clear indication of commitment to eco-friendliness… or the lack of it. Image via Fox News.

LED light bulbs are perhaps the easiest eco friendly mark a hostel can have. The carbon footprint is the lowest there is, they last between five and even twenty times longer than the normal ones and really safe. Along with these LED lights (which you’ll find used on the EXIT signs as well), there are usually sensors in the common places that aren’t that frequently crossed. The heating and air conditioning is always turned off when the common spaces aren’t populated, and the drapes are closed during the summer months.

Eco friendly hostels use daylight as much as possible: on the lobby, kitchen, living room, and some places even have skylights installed all over the place to make the rooms brighter. Energy star appliances are regularly used here, and you’ll find that there’s a constant care for combining usefulness with just a sign of caring. For instance, the washing machines, otherwise just devices to get a job done, can speak a lot of the staff’s priorities. A newer model which consumes both less water and energy should always be more appreciated than an old crock trying to do things right just one more time.

Some eco-hostels shut down lights everywhere, only allowing the bed lamps to be opened. I’m not really sure how I feel about this. Sure it saves light and you can label it as eco-friendly, but one can’t stop but wonder if this is actually just a way to save some money.

3. Cutting costs

Buying in bulk. If someone from the staff comes home with a car full of all kinds of products, you should know that they may be saving money actually. Buying in bulk saves extra trips and even money, if there are en-gross products among the things they bought. Organic, fair trade products will always be among the things that someone preoccupied of eco friendly issues would buy. From bedding and guest robes or hair and body care to non-toxic cleaners, sanitizers and paints or pesticides.

4. The outside

Image via Kyoto Hostel.

A good eco-hostel will always provide the opportunity for the travelers to use green transportation, by having bicycles hich can be rented for a small price every day. This way, not only does the hostel stay eco, but the travelers get to be more close to the nature during their stay as well.

Especially during the summer, nothing yells ‘eco preoccupied’ more than garden dining. There are many ways in which hostels can transform their courtyards into certified green restaurants. Instead of buying organic, locally grown food, the staff sometimes prefer to employ one or two other people from spring to autumn to plant an organic garden from which all the food will be made for the travelers. If you’re familiar with plants, drought resistant native plants are usually used in the garden, in order to assure the minimum of materials that need to be consumed for their maintenance.

So, hopefully I’ve made it a bit easier to figure out if a hostel is really green or not. Of course there are exceptions to the rule and there are many elements I could have still added, but I think that these are the main elements. What do you think? Did I miss anything? What are your favorite eco-friendly hostels?

Hostel of the week: We love F Tourists, Portugal

Cozy place via

Cozy place via

If this hostel would be a beer, it would definitely be Carlsberg. It’s voted as one of the most loved hostels by tourists in 2014 and after just a couple of minutes there you’ll have no questions left to ask.

Website | Facebook

Common room via

The atmosphere. First, chances are that you’ll keep in touch with the staff even after you’re back home. Same thinking says that you don’t simply come here and stay just once. Every single time you’ll be in Portugal you’ll be returning to this place over and over again, just to find it even better than you left it. The building is almost 3 centuries old and it’s been entirely refurbished to assure the classiest atmosphere and the best of comfort you’ll get in the entire Portugal. There’s no need to mention how clean and spotless this place is, the reputation says it all.

Dorm room via

Dorm room via

But there’s nothing like opening your window widely in the morning to take a breath of fresh air and gaze at the iconic Sao Jorje Castle while covered in the colored bed sheets, with a cup of tea in your hands. The breakfast is delicious, by the time you’ve come to the common room it’s already been taken care of. From hair dryers to airport transfer, Portuguese food, day planning, comfy cushions, colored carpets and walking tours, there are very few things that this hostel doesn’t put at your service. A Mustang is one of them.

Double-Private via

Double-Private via

It’s said that it takes over 30 days for the human brain to form a habit. Here, this theory’s just a myth. You’ll find yourself stopping to have a chat with the staff before stepping out on the streets of Baixa every morning. People are going to help you plan your trips, give you insightful tips and even talk about the activities for the evening.

Reception via

Reception via

The hostel provides two separate common areas, so regardless of your moods and needs you’ll find just the perfect place to fit in. You can watch a motive or read a book. And the best part is that you don’t even have to have one with you, because the hostel has got its own library, for bohemian travelers who just wouldn’t feel complete without turning some pages every day.

Beautiful, bohemian room via

Beautiful, bohemian room via

And probably the best thing about this place isn’t even the ridiculously small price. It’s that at the end of a long day, after you’ve been roaming around and you come home tired for the night’s activities, you’re going to feel like home: you’ll be handed an iPad to post your impressions on Facebook, someone’s going to make you a hot cup of tea to unwind and relax. Your batteries are going to be charged in the cutest ways you’ve imagined. The lounge bar has daily activity, and a complete service with a cushy atmosphere. It’s the kind of place where you can enjoy the pulse of Lisbon in a natural, effortless way.

Common area via

And before you check out, make sure you write your memories on the roof. Since you’ll definitely remember your stay at We Love F****** Tourists, it’s only polite to help the hostel remember of you as well, so that the reunion will be sweeter. I don’t think the hostel has got a motto – in all fairness, it doesn’t need one. But if it did, I wish it were: ‘Enter those who want, leave those who can!

Reasons why January is THE month for traveling and staying at a hostel

December is an awesome month to travel, but if budget traveling is your thing - then January's the month to go. Image via Grosen Hain

December is an awesome month to travel, but if budget traveling is your thing – then January’s the month to go. Image via Grosen Hain

We all know why December’s a good month for traveling. Christmas is the international symbol for family time, but that doesn’t necessarily mean staying at home. New Year comes with even more desire for exploration. Even though the resolutions are nothing but clichés most of the time and they don’t last much, a traveler would never deny himself the pleasure of another fantastic journey. If not for the sake of new promises, at least because there are lots of reasons why January is, in fact, the one month of the year we should be taking seriously into consideration when planning trips. Here’s why:

The prices

This is the main reason – everything is so cheap in January! People are often afraid to recommend so-called dead periods as great times to travel, but we should reconsider this statement, and start thinking outside the box – the economic benefits are huge.

Image via Five Dollar Travel.

The air travel industry recognizes a period as ‘dead’ due to the lack or small number of flights taking place. And as basic capitalism knowledge would suggest, this is also the time of the year when some of the most consistent discounts are offered. All you have to do is wait until the beginning of January when the discounts will boom and book your ticket then. December is one of the most expensive months to travel, because of the peak season, reason for which you won’t see any truly significant discounts until the beginning of January, when it’s best to act.

And if we’re speaking of industries, everything’s cheaper this time of year: from museums to theaters, concerts and even pubs, not to mention how affordable it becomes to even come shopping in a new country where you’ve always wanted to buy yourself a pair of boots from.

But it’s not just the travel companies who suffer of lack of customers during this time of year, the hostels are in the same situation as well. After a month as full as December, one would only expect the discrepancy to feel even more powerful that it would normally seem, which is why many hostels offer discounts as well. After cleaning the mess from the New Year’s party, the hostel staff often starts noticing the difference of atmosphere – instead of hundreds of people calling daily to ask for just another spare room, there is very rare activity in the empty rooms.

Of course, most people don’t travel in January – and if you do, you’ll also have the luxury of avoiding the huge lines and crowded areas. You’ll be able to eat in whatever restaurant you want, you’ll enjoy peace and quiet, and you’ll be able to do things in your own way – no rush, no worries, just peace and quiet.

So, have we convinced you yet? There’s still a bit to go from this month, what are your travel plans for the start of the year?

Ridiculously Cheap European Hostels for your Winter Travels

Whether you like hostels because of the atmosphere, because you like meeting new people or for whatever other reason, the fact that hostels are cheaper is also a welcome advantage. But while that’s true for the entire year round, it’s even more so in the off season. Here is a list of ridiculously cheap (and awesome) hostels you can choose for your autumn and winter travels:

Czech Republic, Prague

PLUS Prague Hostel (2.5 euro / $3.1).

Prague is an amazing city – be sure to plan a trip there if you haven’t already. Image credits: NY Times.

Seriously, you can stay in Prague, in the heart of Europe for $3. How awesome is that?! The offer is available in the 12 people room for a maximum stay of 3 nights however, and you can also opt for breakfast for a price of 5 euro – two times more than for the room.

The price is so low that I had to double check to see if it’s right. Oh, and if you’re thinking the hostel is clearly lower quality because of the price, well, think again! It has a really good rating of 87% on Hostel Bookers, and the reviews I’ve read were pretty good.

Apparently, the only thing people aren’t especially satisfied with is the fact that even though the hostel is big and has many visitors, there’s no big area to socialize.

Czech Inn (4 euro / $5)

Apparently, the offer is available only for the 8 bed male-only dorm. There is also a huge 36 bed dorm which costs 50% more (for whatever reason). The maximum stay they allow is 7 days, and there is a minimum period of 2 days between check out and check in – I can only imagine that because it’s so cheap, people actually use it to live there, or at least spend lots of time there.

Miss Sophie’s (4 euro / $5)

The same price, but again, the offer is available only for guys, this time in an 18 bed dorm. If you want to spend time in the mixed room, the fee is more than double at 9 euro.

What I found interesting is that this hotel has a rating of 91% over at Hostel Bookers, so again, it’s likely top quality (though that type of reviews can often be misleading).

Sir Toby’s (4 euro / $5)

I don’t know who Toby is, but he’d likely get along with Miss Sophie, because the price is identical. Again, the offer is available only for guys, but the good news is that the 12 mixed or female dorm in the hostel is much cheaper, at under 7 euro.

You’ll have to catch a tram to get downtown fast, but there are plenty of sights and marketplaces in the neighborhood to make for a nice yet lengthy walk.

Poland, Krakow

Benedict Hostel (3.8 eur / $4.7)

Krakow – a truly beautiful city. Image credits: Sumfinity.

It’s not just the Czechs who offer incredibly low prices for hostels. Krakow is an amazing city with a vibrant life and lots of history – and they’re really determined to bring travelers there. So determined that you can stay in an awesome hostel like Benedict for under 4 euro!

Oh, and no more “males only” like in Prague – the offer is available for both the 9 and 6 bed dorm in shared rooms. The location is also good, a mere 5 minute walk from the city center. The only thing you should be careful with is that they don’t accept credit cards.

Atlantis Hostel (5 euro / $6.24)

I told myself I won’t be including any hostels with prices of 5 euro. Yep, that’s pretty much where we draw the “ridiculously cheap” line, and the Atlantis hostel just barely fit in. You get to sleep in the 10 bed mixed dorm. I really like their by-line:

Hostel Atlantis, with one of the lowest prices in the centre of Krakow, guarantees comfortable conditions, safety, an ideal location, and the friendly services of our young receptionist team.

Do you need anything else? Probably not. So why pay more?

Yeah, pretty good point there.

Dizzy Daisy Hostel (4.8 euro / $6)

The Dizzy Daisy is one of the first hostels in Krakow, and to this day, it has maintained its youthful and pleasant spirit. I’ve actually been here, and it was really nice. They offer free tea and apples, as well as other snacks they might have available. The courtyard is also really nice, and all in all, it’s a great value for the money.

Hi 5 Hostel, Budapest (4.8 euro / $6)

The Hi 5 Hostel is a great place to have fun and meet new people. They often do drinking parties, pub crawls… drinking crawls… you get it.

There will be music, there will be drinking and people just having a general great time!

I dislike the fact that they mention that the hostel is not for people over 30.

Interview with Petra, from the Gracia City Hostel in Barcelona, Spain

OK, let’s just face it – we just can’t get enough of Barcelona! After talking to Luis and reviewing the Gracia City Hostel, now it’s time to hear a different opinion from the same hostel. We’re talking to Petra!


Travel-Hostel:First of all, tell us a bit about yourself, the staff, and the mix of cultures from the hostel.

Petra: My name is Petra ; I’m from Slovakia and I’m working in Gràcia City Hostel as a Online Marketing Coordinator, but often cover reception shifts at the hostel as well. In our hostel we have nice variety of people working. The general manager Luis is from Mexico, other colleagues Fran & Dunia are from Spain; Francis from Dominican Republic; Alexis from Canada. Between all of us we speak Catalan, Spanish, English, French; Lebanese; Polish; Czech and Slovak.

TH: How would you describe a regular work day?

P: My regular day in office is to ensure that we have good online presence on the internet. That meets we booking website that offers our hostel is micromanaged directly by us. There are always some problems because many reservation sites are not configured to serve hostel, so we have to search ways how to overcome these obstacles. Then it is matter of promotions, promotions and promotions.

While in hostel it is different. When working at the reception my main responsibility is to ensure that our guest feel like at home. We have duty to make their holidays really enjoyable. Apart of making check-ins and check-out, we chat with guests, give them advises and recommendations for Barcelona. We organize night outs or dinners, so they feel and enjoy Catalan hospitality. We are very lucky because almost all our guests are nice, friendly, easy-going people. Of course from time to time some problem will occur, but we try to resolve it asap in the most professional way.

Barcelona - a city dancing between modern buildings and artsy designs.

Barcelona – a city dancing between modern buildings and artsy designs.

TH: Wow, that sounds like a lot of work! But it’s worth it! Having visited your hostel I can easily say it’s one of the most pleasant I’ve ever visited. Speaking of, what makes your place different from a hotel? Is it the spirit/concept, or just  because it’s cheaper?

P: Actually our hostel is not among the cheapest, so we are definitely not trying to compete on price. We like to offer our customer value to their holidays. Our catch phrase is Barcelona’s Life Experience, because we would like our guests to experience the real feel of Barcelona. You know almost as if you were visiting your friend abroad and he/she will take you around, you will have totally different experience than if you were exploring the city as a tourist. That’s what we try to offer to our guests.

TH: People in your city –do  they usually go to alternatives to hotels or hotels? And why do you think this happens?

P: I think that hostels are becoming stronger and more popular. Many people find hotel environment sterile and boring. Whereas hostel has the social factor. For that reason many more people are not interested to stay in hostels as oppose to hotels (price is also factor). You can always say that in hostel one has to compromise its privacy, but it’s not like that. Probably all hostel would also offer private rooms as well. So to summarize there is no good reason to not stay in a hostel.

TH: Whenever you go to a new city, you always find out some things only after you get there. Could you tell us your best insider tips for anyone who comes and visits the city?


Sagrada Familia. Image via Arch Daily.

Sagrada Familia. Image via Arch Daily.

P: First of all, when people are booking their stay in Barcelona, they look for accommodation in city center ( whatever that means). However in Barcelona it is better to stay outside of city center. Why? Because most of touristic attractions are not in city center. For Example the most famous attraction of Barcelona – La Sagrada Familia is in district of Gràcia as well as Park Güell. So first advise is don’t book hotel or hostel is center you just spend more money and you’ll be far from things. And if someone worries that there is no night life outside of center, is wrong. Gràcia is full of life and one of the best clubs in Barcelona are in Eixample or Poblenou (so again no city center).

TH: Could you estimate (on the spot, just estimate) an average 7 day trip to Barcelona?

P: First day: La Sagrada Familia & Park Güell; at night tapas dinner at Gràcia
Second day: Free Walking tour in downtown, La Boqueria in afternoon relax in Barcelonetta beach.
Third day: Walk through Passeig de Gràcia, maybe some shopping in fancy boutiques; visit La Pedrera or Casa Battlò. At night Sala Apolo Cannibal Sound System fiesta.
Fourth day: full day relax on the beach of Sitges, in the evening enjoying the best seafood in Barcelona in La Paradeta restaurant.
Fifth day: I would go outside of Barcelona to Monserrat.
Sixth day: If this is Saturday, I would start at Raval, there is small artisanal market and I would have the best mint tea with baklava in Barcelona. In afternoon I would join the Boat Party at the port. In the evening I would find some music event (there are so many).
Last day: Take a cable cabin on the top of Montjüic hill just browse around and enjoy the views and peace of this place. Once you arrive almost on the bottom you’ll reach Castell de Monjüic and Plaça Espanya. If you go there by night you can enjoy magic fountain performance.

Montjuic Castle - a sight not to be missed in Barcelona.

Montjuic Castle – a sight not to be missed in Barcelona.

TH: Awesome! That’s quite a detailed trip, there’s still some things I haven’t check out from that list, I’ll be sure to do it next time. Now, could you tell me a bit about your experiences – the people you meet, the best and worst experience. What is it that you learned, do you happen to have any advice for travelers or for other hostel managers based on your experiences?

P: So far I have had great experience in hostel. People are nice and kind, friendly and fun. Perhaps the worst experience was a guy that was too confident that forgot to respect others, but other that that. In hostels respect for others is the most important because you have to share your life with others at least for that short period of time.

TH: Do you happen to have any information about fake reviews (because apparently that’s a thing)?

P: I don’t think that we have received any fake reviews and we would occasionally have real review where our guests just lie for some reason.

TH: What do you like to do on vacation and why?

P: Relaaaaaax  Enjoying beautiful weather and nature. Going for walks in beach or woods. Since I live in big city, for me the best vacation is for me disconnect with civilization.

TH: OK Petra, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, and have a great summer!

Interview Jose, Safestay Hostel


SafeStay Hostel, London.

Today, we’re going to majestic London – the biggest and most crowded European city. Some might also say the most beautiful, but that’s a highly competitive award – so we’ll just call it one of the most beautiful. London is a dazzling mix of history, charm, and craziness – all sprinkled with a touch of whiskey, and a lot of beer. Today, we’re talking to Jose, from the SafeStay Hostel in London (Facebook). Travel Hostel: First of all, tell us a bit about yourself, the staff, how’s the hostel, the cultural mix, how’s it going?

Jose: Safestay is one of the newer hostels in London and we really pride ourselves on our high standards. There are staff at Safestay from all over the world – as far away as Columbia, New Zealand and Canada; there are staff from all over Europe – Czech Republic, Poland, Spain and Italy… We even have some Londoners! The huge mix of culture and all the different languages you will hear along the corridors really make things interesting.

TH: Well that’s nice to here – I sure love me some intercultural flavors! How would you describe a regular day of the life – what you do, the different things and situations you get in contact with,  what kinds of problems can there be, what are the advantages, what you like and what you don’t like about what you do?

J: No two days are the same which definitely makes the job a lot more enjoyable, but can also make it hard work. My job as Reception Manager is mostly customer based so it’s about greeting the guests, checking them in, answering any questions they have and generally making them feel welcome. You also have to deal with complaints, sometimes you can get guests who have a lot higher expectations than even the best hostels can offer for the amount they are paying and this can be difficult. We get all sorts of people staying at the hostel from large groups of chaos causing school children to small groups who are in London for an event or weekend away; individuals who are traveling around Europe from distant countries and those who have moved to London to find work and a place to live. You get to meet some really interesting people – both professionally and socially when you are working in the hostel. I have had the opportunity to go on some really cool tours and attend some great events which I wouldn’t have been able to if I wasn’t in the job that I’m in.


SafeStay Hostel, London.

TH: Indeed, form what we’ve talked to other hostel workers, that seems to be the blessing and the curse of hostels: no two days are alike. But let’s talk about hostels in general. What makes a hostel a hostel, as opposed to say a hotel?

J: Aside from being cheaper and sharing your room with up to 7 other people, the whole atmosphere is different than a hotel. It is about being more than just a bed to sleep in – people come to hostels to meet other travellers and get advice and inspiration. The staff all love to travel and know a lot about the city so they are always able to help the guests out. The whole atmosphere is a lot more personal and a lot friendlier than a hotel. This doesn’t mean that cleanliness is compromised though – the housekeepers work hard to keep the place sparkling!

TH: People in your city – do they usually go to alternatives to hotels or hotels? And why do you think this happens?

J: There are lots and lots of hotels and hostels in London so these would definitely be the most popular types of accommodation. I do think that the number people who would consider couchsurfing or booking entire properties through sites like Airbnb is increasing though. I would say that this is mainly due to cost, value for money and convenience.

london food

There are lots of quirky delicious places to eat in London – don’t eat at chain restaurants.

TH: Whenever you go to a new city, you always find out some things only after you get there. Could you tell us your best insider tips for anyone who comes and visits the city?

J: Stay off the Underground as much as you can. Most of the main tourist attractions are within walking distance from each other and London is a great city to be ‘lost’ in – you never know what you will find around the corner. There are also really great bus routes so stay above the ground as much as you can and see the city. Avoid eating at chain restaurants that are found all over the world. London is full of quirky eating places, pop up restaurants and markets selling a huge variety of street food. You get a whole lot more for your money and the food tastes delicious!

TH: Estimate (on the spot, just estimate) an average 7 day trip to your city.

J: Day One – Go on one of the Free Walking Tours – it is a great way to help you find your way around and work out which sights you would like to go back to. Get cheap theatre tickets in Leicester Square and go to see one of the amazing shows on each night.

No trip to London will be complete without a visit to the Tower of London.

No trip to London will be complete without a visit to the Tower of London.

Day Two – Stretch your budget a bit and go to one of the main tourist attractions. Marvel at the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London; check out the views at the View from the Shard; or see what life is like for the Queen when Buckingham Palace opens its doors for the summer. Unwind with a pint of traditional ale and a plate of fish and chips in a pub near the Borough Market.

Day Three – Hit the markets. Depending on which day of the week it is you can visit Portabello Road, Borough Market, the Columbia Road Flower Market and many more.

Day Four – Soak up some history at the British Museum. Otherwise visit one of London’s many other free museums and galleries – the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are all free!

portobello road

Portobello Road is definitely a destination not to be missed.

Day Five – Take a day trip out of the city. Stonehenge, Oxford and Windsor are all great places to visit if you want to escape the rush of London.

Day Six – Take a cruise on the river from Greenwich down to the London Eye – you get a completely different view of London and there’s no traffic!

Day Seven – Relax in one of London’s green spaces – Greenwich Park, Hyde Park or Regents Park for example. Do some last minute souvenir shopping and get those postcards sent.

TH: That’s really a nice guide – and interestingly enough, I followed almost the exact trail when I visited London! I really recommend it, lots of insider tips there! Now, tell us a bit about your personal experiences at the hostel. Any positive or negative ones that stand out?

J: I am lucky to not have had too many bad experiences. It’s always horrible when a guest is upset or is having a bad time on their travels. The best experiences are when you know you have really helped someone – positive feedback after recommending them your favourite place to eat; getting them a deal they wouldn’t have found themselves or just generally making their time in London better. The people you meet in hostels are some of the best you will find anywhere – I have made lifelong friends all over the world. My advice for hostel managers is for them to travel themselves (staying in hostels) – you get a much better idea of what your guests are looking for.

TH:  Do you happen to have any information about fake reviews (because apparently that’s a thing)?

I haven’t had many problems with fake reviews but I have heard stories about them. I’ve seen people who have left bad reviews due to personal issues or guests that have broken hostel rules and then taken out their frustration in the form of really negative comments online. I have also heard of hostels who post fake positive reviews in order to boost their ratings. You can normally tell the fake ones though – not only are they different from the rest but they are either unbelievably bad or just too good to be true.

TH:  What do you like to do on vacation and why?

J: When I go on holiday I like to travel, get off the beaten track a bit – find the places that tourists don’t always go to. I love history and culture so I am always really interested in finding out as much as I can about the country I am in and the people who live there. And sometimes, I just want to relax 🙂

Aww yes! Thank you Jose, for one of the most enjoyable and insightful interviews I’ve ever done!

How to work at hostel in Europe and travel for free

What is it about?

We’ve all been there: you’re falling for a country so much that you’d like to spend the entire summer there (or winter). Here, I will provide a solution to your problem: working at a hostel. You not only get to live in a country and make a decent living, but you also get to meet lots of new cool people, and at the same time, you’re connected to all the touristic events. What’s not to like?

There are lots of people, especially working in hostels, who used to be travelers and then happened to have a crush on some place and remained there. The good news is that there’s an ascending market for jobs in hostels because of the increasing number of people who ask for this kind of service. It’s partly why there are niche hostels, from the very popular party ones to chill-out-hippie and family hostels. Truth is, Europe’s starting to appreciate this kind of accommodation more and more and this translates to more jobs for those who’ve always dreamed of wandering through mother Europe. The ‘deal’  we’re talking about is just as simple as this: search for a hostel in need of more staff, pack, go there and either volunteer (just food and accommodation) or ask for a paid position. Either way, visit for free.

How to make this come true?

First of all, start with the beginning: search on the online platforms. The trick is, and this applies particularly to very famous destinations, there’s a big chance for the hostels in the biggest cities to have listed their working opportunities. Some of the most popular sites to begin your search are HostelWorld, Hostelbookers, Of course, this depends on the competition. If you’re interested in a big city but you’re not looking for work in the peak season, you may not find the offers online. The early summer is the best period to look for hostel jobs, but you can do it sometime else as well.

Either way, if you didn’t find a hostel looking to complete their staff where you want to go, the best solution generator is The European Union Federation of Youth Hostels Associations. According to this institution, the best alternative is looking for individual hostels for summer jobs opportunities, since there is no central database. Among the reasons for which they’re suggesting this, is the fact that some of the hostels which didn’t post their offers online may offer you better opportunities than the ones that did.

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So what you should do is just look for hostels and call or email them personally. This way, you communicate that you’re actually interested and this is not just some Sunday idea. And since you’re already perceived as being serious, it wouldn’t kill to let them know a little about your previous experience in anything that’s related to the field, from waitressing to cleaning or customer service. Heck, just tell them you’re willing to work and learn, hostel staff are generally travelers, and they appreciate honesty.

Another thing to be taken into consideration is speaking the language – if not fluently, at least conversationally decent. English is a must, especially if you want to work at reception, but it’s preferred for you to have some knowledge of their own language. It’s both a sign of interest in their culture and a necessity as an employee.

As about the specifics, there are some countries regarding to which you’ll have to ask for information at your consulate or embassy, but it’s really nothing serious to worry about. The procedure isn’t as complicated as it may sound. But there are some glitches. For instance, Switzerland doesn’t allow visitors to volunteer, England and France only allow the visitors to volunteer for a period of 90 days, after which there are visa and special work requirements.

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But supposing you found a hostel, before accepting an offer try to research some of their life-style specifics, along with the costs that come with those. For instance, the tourism related figures and the cost of living are very important. Traveling through volunteering in a hostel isn’t that much about poetry and if you don’t do the right things at first it will be hard to enjoy it. And since this kind of beats the point of going abroad, don’t let yourself put off by this little research you have to do. After all, it’s your dream we’re talking about and it would better be worth some effort.

What to do?

About the types of jobs, there’s really a variety of things you can choose from. Depending on your personal and professional experience, you can be anything from cashier to reservation desk officer or waiter. Since most of the hostels won’t pay if you ask to volunteer, you may be required to work part-time in your alternating days. But it’s not necessary.

For instance, if you’re accustomed to the service sector, you can ask for a paid job and even for a management position. Of course, this way the procedure would have to be a little more professional before you actually get to have the job. For managing positions, it’s really necessary to have some prior experience with hostels, otherwise nobody would hire someone who’s unqualified. You have to show some perspective of how the hostel is run and to understand the key aspects of the job.

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Even if you don’t find the kind of offer you think is best suited for you, you can accept a post on the reception for a couple of months, starting from the premise that they’ll promote you once they see your experience. For many of the hostel owners, it’s hard to tell who’s good for the position and who’s just good with words, so you have to give them time. Plus, it’s the traveling experience you’re looking for, isn’t it?

Where am I going?

If there’s no special place you’re looking for and you haven’t decided where but you know you want to, here are some possibilities.

Eastern Europe. Romania, Bulgaria, Poland or Ukraine are not very old on the hostel scene so they won’t be very eager to pay you. But if you’re willing to volunteer, you’ll have some amazing experiences. They’re pretty open to new cultures and they love tourists. Not just the mix of cultures, but the chance to make a foreigner speak nicely of their country is one of the best things they could think of. It’s not just the image they’re talking about (essentially because media’s not very easy on them), but it’s the experience. So yes -they may not be able to literally pay you, but they’ll be as hospitable and sweet as they know to. The countries are also quite cheap, so that may make up for the lack of salary


– As about the ex-Yugoslavia and Greece, there’s a good chance you won’t find any opportunities here. They’re more bitter than the rest, but once you’ve got a job there you’re going to be treated with respect. Turkey is another possible destination. Due to their growing tourism you’ll most certainly be accepted to volunteer, but you shouldn’t expect to be paid properly, and your role there will be just to make sure the hostel’s cut multicultural environment off their must-have list. You’ll be treated nicely, they’re good fellas, but you won’t make profit. The good news is for most of these countries you don’t have to worry too much, since they’re not the most wealthy nations in the EU, the prices are decent and you won’t be spending much.


Western Europe. Here’s where there are most of your chances to get a paid position. Of course, most of the hostels offer the possibility to volunteer, but if you’re going for a longer period of time, you should ask for the paid one. Of course, saving up some money from this business is quite an impossible mission. But you’ll have the possibility to see the country, visit the most amazing places and not starve in a carton box while at it. As about any country between Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal or Italy, if you happen to speak their official language and have some experience in the filed, they’ll be more than welcome to hire you for good. If you don’t speak the language, there’s still hope! If you’re a native English speaker (or at least speak it fluently), there’s a good chance you might get a job, especially in a multicultural environment.

Still in doubt? Basic Pros and Cons

Pro: You’ll meet wonderful people, from different environment and cultures and it will be just pure bliss to share stories and experiences.

Con: You may not always have time to talk to them as much as you’d like to, because of your job. Also, some of them may not be interested to talk to the employees, depending on how smug they are.

Pro: You get to visit as much as you wish in your free time outside your shifts. And the costs are less because you don’t have to pay for food and accommodation.

Con: If it’s peak season, there’s a good chance you’ll be working more than you’d expect.

Pro: You can offer people invitation to your country and even get some yourself, this way starting a small network of people who visit each others’ countries. Or just have some meaningful contact with different individuals.

Oh, and the biggest one of all: You get to spend time in that city you love so much, and live an enriching experience which you will carry along forever.


Interview with Irina from Oasis Hostel in Granada, Spain

This summer may be hot (thanks, global warming), but it’s never hot enough until you head on to sunny Spain! Granada is located in the southern part of the country, and it’s known for its warm people, Moorish influences, and delicious food. Today we’ll be talking to Irina, who came to Granada all the way from Latvia!

irina grnada hostel oasis

Travel-Hostel: Hi and thanks for chatting with us! First of all, tell us a bit about yourself, the hostel, the cultural mix and how the Oasis Hostel [Facebook] works.

Irina: Hi there! Right now Oasis staff is a great mix of people from all the world: we only have few Spanish guys,all the rest are from all over Europe, including such a secluded and lost as Latvia (myself) haha. We are so different and maybe that’s what keeps us going 🙂 There is a bit of everything.

TH: From my experience, these are the best hostels, where everything is like a fuit salad 🙂 How would you describe a regular day of the life – what you do, the different things and situations you get in contact with, what kinds of problems you run in to?

Irina: I am running the reception work so my day normally starts with a cup of coffee and a quick check of everything what has happened the night before and organizing the hostel work for the next day.

Describing it in few words it is very dynamic and crazy 😉 Anything can happen, but we always hold on to keep calm in any situation.

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TH: What makes your place different from a hotel? Is it the spirit/concept, or just because it’s cheaper? And what would be these differences?

Irina: The key word is atmosphere. I really think “Oasis” is famous for it. I have stayed in a lot of hotels and despite the fact that the rooms are more comfy and quiet, the lack of atmosphere and sympathy makes hostels look a better option to me . It is also great for a solo traveler to get to know people and have fun– no hotels would provide you this!

TH: People in your city –do they usually go to alternatives to hotels or hotels? And why do you think this happens?

Irina: I ́d say is 50/50. Elder people or couples would go to the hotels while the young people prefer hostels. Granada is an amazing city where you can find absolutely everything you need.

TH: Whenever you go to a new city, you always find out some things only after you get there. Could you tell us your best insider tips for anyone who comes and visits the city?

Irina: My tip would be : “Don ́t be afraid to come to the desk and ask for any information or tip, even if you think you questions may sound silly!” Who knows, maybe you will get to experience something you would never guessed or find on internet or in a tourist guide 😉 Let the locals share their favourite things with you!

TH: Estimate (on the spot, just estimate) an average 7 day trip to your city.

Irina: Granada is an amazing city. A lot of tourists come thinking they only going to spend one night here and end up staying 1 or even 2 weeks. First of all, the Alhambra of course – our most famous palace , the gem of Andalucia. Museums, caves, flamenco shows – this is just a short list of what you can do here.

Alhambra is the most famous castle in Spain - and one of the most famous in Europe. It's often called the Jewel of Andalucia. Image via Planetware

Alhambra is the most famous castle in Spain – and one of the most famous in Europe. It’s often called the Jewel of Andalucia. Image via Planetware

We have ski resort Sierra Nevada 40 min drive from the center and beaches less than 1 hour away. What more can you ask for? And don’t forget about FREE tapas in any restaurant (that’s also a big reason for people to stay longer hahaha).

TH: Well let me tell you – skiing is not something I’d have expected in southern Spain! 🙂 Tell us about your experiences – the people you meet, the best and worst experience. What is it that you learned, do you happen to have any advice for travelers or for other hostel managers based on your experiences?

Irina: I learned to be very patient. People all are different, we are lucky enough, most of our guests are great. For me, the worst thing is being disrespectful and having rude behaviour. Unfortunately, some people do not respect other travellers and act like if it was their house ( in a bad way). Drunks are another issue, but we try to control them and close bar at a reasonable time haha ;)) My advice for other managers would be: be patient! and for the guests: respect your fellow travellers and make the place and everyone in there happy!

TH: Do you happen to have any information about fake reviews (because apparently that’s a thing)?

Irina: Mmm… I heard that some newly opened hostels that still dont have any reviews write good ones for themselves… Well, I can only say I’m glad we do not have to do that.

TH:  Yep, it’s quite a nasty practice, and unfortunately, it seems to be spreading more and more. So, to conclude things, tell me what do you like to do on vacation and why?

Irina: Hahah obviously to travel!

Zagreb: A Travel Guide from local Hostel Manager

If you’re a seasoned traveler, then you already know that the best trip advisers are often locals, and particularly people who work in hostels and are themselves travelers. A short while ago, we had a very interesting interview with Goran from the Chill Out Hostel in Zagreb. I really recommend reading the interview, lots of valuable insight there. But among other things, Goran mentioned what are the best things to see and to in Zagreb – in other words, he shared a small travel guide with us. Here’s what he suggests:

Nature Park Medvednica. Altar of the Homeland

The ‘Bear Mountain’ (Medvednica) is just north of Zagreb. Its highest peak is over 1,000 meteres height and hiking is definitely one of the best ways of spending holidays here. Even if your visit to Croatia is no longer than a few days, you shouldn’t miss this destination. It offers you everything from peace of mind to a spectacular landscape. And there’s the castle – an imposing construction from the 13th century, guarded today by a natural spell made of rabbits, deers, woodpeckers and rich vegetation perfect to run away to on a torrid summer day.

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The sculpture in this medieval city, The Altar of the Homeland, along with the entire atmosphere surrounding the place, gives you the impression that you’re witnessing the entire history of the castle – a few minutes of silence and you’ll almost hear the knights on the horses returning home from the battlefields. Near this spectacular, almost mystical place, there’s a monument devoted to the soldiers who fought for the country’s independence.

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Jarun & Bundek lakes

Jarun is the absolute heaven in Croatia for water sports lovers: fishing and chilling out while admiring the surroundings, sailing like the pirates of old times or just swimming. Speaking of pirates, there’s an entire tradition in Jarun – when, in June, the blue flag is seen rising, it’s the sign of opening the swimming season: the clean, safe and gorgeous beaches are ready to welcome and accommodate all the visitors.

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Sand volleyball and handball can be played, and even a softball field. Just everything to make sure that no one will ever leave these lands otherwise than happy, peaceful and well rested. And although there’s much to this destination than sports, table tennis and mini-golf are always an option here. As about the rest of it, the lakes are a perfect destination for any holiday. The spectrum of services is so wide that the locals literally don’t remember anyone ever complaining about the conditions or services. Ask locals from Croatia, just like we did, this is a place you shouldn’t miss visiting.

Bundek, just like Jarun, is the kind of place where you head to after a long time of waiting for a holiday to happen. Although this is almost exclusively a summer destination, the swimming season didn’t hear any complaints here either.  A skateboard park is also functional since the beginning of this summer – and you should know that roller blades, skates, and bikes are one national popular way of spending time in Croatia.

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Photo Credits: Davorka F.

Getting there is easy; since Zagreb has got a very well managed network of buses, there’s no problem in using public transportation – it’s safe, it’s comfortable and it’s cheap. Just south of the main railway station of the city, there’s the main local terminus for public transportation and everything you need will be on the timetable.

Mirogoj Cemetery

It’s on the slopes of Medvednica mountain, so after visiting the Altar of the Homeland  you could as well stop by. Paying homage to the loved ones is sacred in Croatia and this cemetery will only show this statement is true. There’s an old Chinese saying – if you want to know a people walk their cemeteries. According to it, the Croats are some of the most culturally attached, emotionally involved in their history people there are. The place is not opulent, but it does state the eternal respect for the deceased.

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Rich ivy covering the architectural beauty of the monument, and lime-green cupolas to complete the shades of green make it look like an old, yet respected building, holding the cultural majesty of the country. Visiting this place is really a unique experience, the cemetery is not only beautiful – if the word would ever be appropriate in such a context, but the entire experience stands between solemn and impressive.

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Maksimir Park & Zoo

It’s almost two centuries old and its cultural heritage would be a huge asset even for the most popular countries in the world. Only a 5 minutes tram ride separates the town center from the park, and walking the Maksimir forest is one of the favorite local activities. The park’s so popular that there are numerous laws protecting it from any possible harm, so that the visitors along with the locals would experience its magnificence as much.

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The Zoo is as spectacular as the forest and the best thing that recommends it is the natural state of things – the breezy, debonair atmosphere. There’s plenty of space for the animals as well as for the visitors, so you could take an entire day (or at least half of it) to walk through this place.

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The museum of broken relationships

It should be an example of exhibits and ornaments, accessibility and dynamism, with a nice, bourgeois café where you can rest while talking about the wonders of sight. It’s not only for girls, it’s innovative but it’s depressing even for the happiest of us. The stories aren’t plain, sobby break-up stories for adolescents, but rather serious experiences. Some moving, some funny, but detritus from  varied range of perspectives, speaking of broken love stories from all around the globe.

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Pgoto Credits:

The theme around which the concept of the museum gravitates is related to a range of objects which are associated with separation. What makes them reliable is the fact that the stories behind every exhibit are so strange and different, that the theme hardly corresponds to all the items. It’s not only fascinating, but it’s a landmark of the place and this makes it a must for every single tourist in Zagreb.

Hrelić market on Sundays

It’s clearly not the typical touristic place to go. Although, if you want to learn about the culture, the people, their interactions and get some cheap, awesome things to go home with it’s definitely something to attend. It’s good fun especially if you’ve got no problem with waking up early in the morning, because otherwise you’ll miss the best stuff. And the objects often come with their stories, so this is the kind of culturally meaningful social interaction anyone should wish to have.


Photo Credits: S. Rastsmith

This nice inter-cultural interaction is also facilitated by the public transport. A direct bus line from the Main Railway Station bus terminal should get you there with absolutely no problem, and although the flea market is not easily comparable with the ones you see in Western Europe, it’s such a dynamic place with a lot of attitude.