All posts by Livia Rusu

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

Jewelry

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 mashable.com

Packing hacks via cosmopolitan.com

  • 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 esa-ltd.co.uk

Packing hacks for women via cbc.ca

  • 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

Cosmetics

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 maddeeshawbeautyblog.blogspot.com

Cosmetics in pill bottles via maddeeshawbeautyblog.blogspot.com

  • 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 maddeeshawbeautyblog.blogspot.com

  • 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 cbc.ca

  • 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 cbc.ca

Image via cosmopolitan.com

  • 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 cosmopolitan.com

  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 yourcreativejuices.blogspot.com

  • 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 mshcdn.com

  • 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 cosmopolitan.com

  • 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 beautyblondie.com

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 imagens5.publico.pt

Cozy place via imagens5.publico.pt

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 bstatic.com

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 weloveftourists.com

Dorm room via weloveftourists.com

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 weloveftourists.com

Double-Private via weloveftourists.com

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 bstatic.com

Reception via bstatic.com

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 weloveftourists.com

Beautiful, bohemian room via weloveftourists.com

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 turismo.pt

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?

Interview Jose, Safestay Hostel

safestay

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-Elephant-and-Castle-London

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, Booking.com. 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.

Photo Credits: the-working-traveller.com

Photo Credits: the-working-traveller.com

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.

Photo Credits: 3.bp.blogspot.com

Photo Credits: 3.bp.blogspot.com

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.

Photo Credits: thesinginglamb.com

Photo Credits: thesinginglamb.com

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.

 

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.

Photo Credits: pp-medvednica.hr

Photo Credits: pp-medvednica.hr

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.

Photo Credits: borisfrkovic.blog.com

Photo Credits: borisfrkovic.blog.com

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.

Photo Credits: photobucket.com

Photo Credits: photobucket.com

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.

Photo Credits: pticica.com

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.

Photo Credits: zagrebtours.com

Photo Credits: zagrebtours.com

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.

Photo Credits: traveledearth.com

Photo Credits: traveledearth.com

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.

Photo Credits: panoramio.com

Photo Credits: panoramio.com

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.

Photo Credits: icroatiatravel.com

Photo Credits: icroatiatravel.com

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.

Pgoto Credits: nousecryingoverspiltyouth.wordpress.com

Pgoto Credits: nousecryingoverspiltyouth.wordpress.com

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.

 

Partying at a hostel 101: the DOs and DON’Ts

 

The worst parties are the ones where all you do is drink.

 

BEFORE THE FUN

First things first. If you’re planning on partying, the first step is choosing the right hostel. There are many ways of picking the right place according to what you want your holiday to be like. The first one’s reading hostel reviews and looking it up on the internet. The downside of this is that, depending on the site, there may also be misleading or downright false reviews sometimes. There’s a lot of information about hostels online, the only challenge is separating the good, accurate information.

On the other hand, there’s the second way of picking where to go – word of mouth. Ask your friends, or simply listen to their stories over a beer when they’re back from their holidays and you’ll get yourself a pretty nice list of party hostels in a year of two.

So, now you have a place to stay. Keep in mind that many hostels don’t really allow partying, so look for signs. Do the lights go out at 10 or 12? Are there any older people, or families with kids? Is it more like a student hostel, or like a home away from home kind of place? Look around you an keep an eye out, and when in doubt, just ask the staff.

It’s really important to start well. Before booking the room(s), make sure that you’re going in the right season You wouldn’t want to miss all the fun because you’re traveling in extra season. Planning is an important part of fun holidays, especially because there are other people involved – the more, the merrier. It usually pays off to arrange your vacation, if you can, on the local events and accommodation availability. So do plan your trip appropriately, even if it’s just for a few days.

Whenever you’re not sure who you’re going to find at the hostel when you arrive, you should take some friends with you just to make sure that you’re not going to end up drinking alone in your room.

Starting the fun

There are two major things to take into consideration whenever you wish to have fun: how not to bother people around you and how to make the most out of your stay. Since the limiting factor is usually other people, let’s start with that.

a) Don’t be too loud. Especially in the dorm. And especially after people have gone to sleep. Also, even if the hostel has a common room or a garden or something, make sure that you’re not making too much noise in the rooms.

Also, when coming back in the room, if people are sleeping, step out of the party mode. Sure you might want to talk some more with your new friends, but try to keep it down and respect the people who are sleeping there. Also, try not to kick stuff over in the room too much (I’m usually guilty of that one).

Something which also happens sometimes is snoring – try not to fall asleep on your back if you’re the snoring type.

Also, if you know you’re gonna arrive drunk, politely ask for the bottom bed – if you don’t have it. Explain the situation to your room mates, and they’ll likely change places with you.

You have to keep in mind that sex in a shared bedroom is not the best of ideas. Sure, you may want to express your newly found passion, but there are other places where you could head to.

b) Don’t leave a mess behind you. There are lots of things to be told about this one as well. Partying is messy, and hostels shouldn’t be messy. Even the world’s most popular party hostels hate travelers who are too messy and can’t be responsible after a night full of fun. To cut a long story short: clean after yourself. If you can’t do it in the night, at least do it first thing when you wake up.

Photo Credits: usahostel.com

c) Know when to stop. Clearly, you want to remember the party, so stop drinking whenever you feel you’re having enough fun – and if your answer to this is never, keep in mind that tomorrow night there’s another party to attend. Don’t try to make it all at once. The coolest thing about partying at hostels is meeting new people, from different cultures and backgrounds, not getting hammered (you can always do that at home or in the club, whatever).

d) When there’s no inspiration, play board games! They’re lovely if your whole idea of a party means staying on a round table, making yourself comfortable on the couch and joke over the most smallest thing until the next morning, over a glass of wine. They’re not the most popular activities in a hostel, but the purpose is to have fun with the people you’re playing. Also, if you just feel like taking a small break from the hardcore partying you’ve had in days before, board games are excellent for chilling an relaxing in pleasant company.

e) Engage with other travelers… You may feel like there’s not much to discuss with others, especially if you’re not a conversation starter like myself. So just start with small questions. What they do, what they like, how they feel about the city and so on.

f) … and to the staff! Keep in mind, hostel staff is not like a hotel staff – they’re almost certainly travelers just like you, and would love a little relaxation and meaningful conversation. Or a random conversation and a beer, that works too. Nobody goes into the hostel business to make money (or at least these unfortunate cases are very rare). They start a hostel because they love traveling, they love travelers, and they want to make a living from it. Seriously, some of the best people I’ve ever met while traveling were hostel staff!

g) Party outside the hostel! Some hostels have a bar, or a garden or a designated place for hanging around and having fun – but not all of them. You may also want to change the environment a bit, and the great advantage of partying outside the hostel is the possibility to meet fun locals. So ask your friends (and some of the staff, when they’re off shift) to join you. No planning required, just walk on the street and ask locals where are the nice partying places – there’s no telling what you will find. From local myths to urban curiosities, student bars and much more, just open your mind an have fun!

In other words, try to do what you would in your home town and do follow the type of behavior you’d recommend yourself as a host – meeting people, trying the typically local drinks first, trying not to spend all the night drinking the local beverages, and feeling like yourself.

Of course, it’s much safer to go out with the hostel staff, because this way there’d be someone to keep you out of trouble (even in the biggest European cities there are problems in some districts regarding the criminality).

All in all, if you’re in love with the idea of partying because you think there’s more to it than drinking, try to be as diverse as you can in the activities you’re choosing for the night.

Best hostels in Sao Paulo for any type of traveler there is

Since the World Cup’s going on and there’s been a massive number of complaints about the conditions in which everything happens, we thought that it would be a good idea to separate the stereotype from the facts. Indeed, Brazil is a developing country, and while you may not like everything about it, you should know that if you’re planning on visiting it and you’re on a budget, there are a few select truly beautiful places that would make a great place to stay in. Telling you about some of them would only do this place justice.

Caution: we’re not saying Sao Paulo is heaven (it’s not impossible to say this, it’s just debatable), we’re only here to make you calm down and not cancel your plans.

Hostel We Design – Their motto is Simple is classy and it suits them well. They’re clean, tidy, they perfectly know what kind of image to send and they’re clearly aware of their potential. The design is a combination of minimalist with bohemian elements and accessories.

 

We Design

 

What kind of backpacker do I have to be? If you want to fit in just perfectly, you should be the kind of traveler who loves to have a good read at night after a busy day, who likes socializing and little chit chats, who would always prefer a board game and a glass of wine to a loud party in the club. The very clean and clear identity of this hostel makes it straight that they do like what they’re doing. And in order for the staff to be always happy and cheerful, you should be a nice guest – polite, willing to share experiences whenever you’ve got some free time without following them like a freak. Vila Mariana is a traditional, quiet neighborhood and you’ll only feel great here if you’re looking for living some genuinely local experiences, if you’re planning on observing their everyday life and understanding their style.

We Design

Four, six, seven or eight-bed dorms are your disposal here, there’s also a suite for the women who wouldn’t like to stay in mixed dorms. Living here would cost you approximately $40 a night, and this is not very expensive for someone who’s going to live the Brazilian life. You can also opt for a bed for two, but since this is a premium hostel, it’s going to cost you approximately $50 per night. Given that regardless of your room you’ll have a balcony where you can have your coffee in the morning while reading their papers or checking the press online (there’s free Wi Fi), this is well spent money if you’re not on a very tight budget.

Hostel Casa Club – Now let’s suppose you’re the party-hard, never-sleep, get-wasted-and-make-friends type of traveler. Sao Paulo’s got something just for you as well. Of course, the hostel’s in a different neighborhood, Vila Madalena.

The place is colorful, happy and always full of people. Of course, nobody takes the time to look at the hostel per se, because people here are really busy socializing. The kind of travelers who book beds here always know what they want: fun! Lots of fun and then repeat. There’s a reason why they call it hostel bar. But don’t be under the wrong impression – they’ve got lots of facilities here and it’s the kind of hostel perfect for backpackers on a budget.

Casa Club

There are always lots of events planned here, from concerts to parties and people get to know each other pretty well. Laundry services, lockers, a very pretty restaurant, night club, smoking zone, WiFi, breakfast, air conditioning, towels and linen – they’re all at your disposal as long as you’re willing to have some good quality fun.

A 16-bed dorm with private bathroom starts from $35, and one with 8 beds from $40. Also, a 6-bed female dorm is also $40, in case you’ve got such preferences. A 40-minutes drive distance from the airport is not this much, and there’s always the possibility, if you’re not short of money, of taking the approximately $50 taxi ride.

Casa Club

Great hostel staff, friendly, warm people – are going to make your stay even better. Don’t imagine the partying as something awfully wrong – it’s not. It’s the fun, natural kind of great mood you get to borrow from the locals who sometimes come here as well, because of the atmosphere.

As about during the day, you can relax and read something as well as you could go and explore the city – you’ll certainly find some local willing to show you their national pride, and we’re not even kidding! Brazil is a very beautiful country, full of specific details, great views and many things to explore.

Hey hostel is the great place for those of you who’ve always felt the bohemian spirit as a natural way of being. In other words, we’d like yo recommend you the coziest place you’ll find in whole Sao Paulo, let alone the friendliest and most colorful. It’s got everything that makes a hostel great in terms of facilities, from linen and fully equipped chicken to books at your disposal, free Wi Fi, DVDs with movies etc.

Hey Hostel

The lamps above every bed make it even more special. The entire experience here is somehow personal and has a lot to do with making the traveler feel, if not like home, like he belongs here. And what’s pretty amazing about this place is that they also succeed every single time. It is a new hostel and you can see this from the way it looks. It’s comfortable and it looks just like the perfect place to spend your holiday.

From $24 every night in case you’re willing to stay in a dorm with 12 beds, to $36 for a room with 6 beds, the hostel charges $40 a night for a room with 4 beds. It’s not only comfortable and cozy, it’s also cheap compared to the standards of the services.

Hey Hostel

 

Amazing hostels in Third World Countries

Even if you plan on making a trip that’s truly and literally off the beaten path, the odds are third world countries don’t pop up on top of the list. I’m not going to argue how culturally challenging they are (it’s more of a truism in fact), instead I’m going to show you some options that will both make you feel like you’re at a first world country’s hostel and give you the cultural experience you should be so eager to have.

1. Victoria Falls Backpackers. Facebook page.

Victoria Falls Backpackers is the best way to spend time in Zimbabwe. While the country’s pretty far from being on top of the popular destinations, this hostel really matches even the highest standards for any backpacker out there. You can arrange taxis and airport pick-ups if you decide to book in advance, and the facilities are really impressive (for anywhere in the world). From the platform you’ll see Mosi-Oa-Tunya (thunder smoke). You can then relax in the swimming pool or go to the adventure center, where there’s plenty of activities waiting to give you the best Zimbabwean adrenaline rush – from riding elephants to jumping off the bridge, there’s really not much that you cannot do here.

1The nightly fire’s going to make you wish you would have taken a couple of more days off, the self catering kitchen is not only spotless, but well equipped as well. As for the standard facilities that you usually find in hostels, they’re all at your service! Linen is provided, as well as laundry service, the hostel has a huge and very friendly lounge area, mosquito nets, bush café. The garden’s also truly stunning and well preserved, and the place is also children friendly, which means that a family trip would be just perfect in here!

The greatest advantage of the position of this hostel is being next to the national park that makes this country so famous, where you’d really like to spend a day or two wondering at things while roaming around the amazing raw beauty of this well kept reservation. Although it’s a little far from the capital city, it’s amazing how peaceful and silent everything is here – it’s the best time of your life, especially if you’re usually busy and not able to travel as much as you’d love to. Relaxing is the major concern of your host and when you’re back home all your batteries will have been recharged!

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2. Shemariah Guesthouse. Facebook page (inactive).

It may not be on top of the most popular hostels in the world, but it’s certainly one of the best in South Africa. It is, once more, unnecessary to argue the reasons for which you should visit this country, but what you’re about to find out instead is that the price is really attractive compared to most of the hostels or B&B’s you’ll find during your trips. Sipping your classy glass of wine in the gardens of the place is one of the most comforting things to do after a long day of visiting all kinds of touristic attractions, not to mention the marvel of the beautifully colored African birds.

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The breakfast’s included, the rooms are colorful, vividly arranged in order to give you as much energy to start your day with, and there’s not a single thing that should be changed or improved to make the whole place better. Truly fitting in the description of a home away from home, there’s something about this place, about its cleanliness and coziness that makes you feel less like a stranger when you’re probably not even on your continent anymore.

In case you’re not here by car, the hostel’s near Gautrain, the best national company to offer you travel services at good prices, so that you can enjoy your trip even better. This country’s one of the places where you should have no restrictions when visiting – there are lots of things to be discovered, especially culture-wise.

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3. Pakachere Backpackers and Creative Center in Malawi. Facebook Page.

This is not a place we recommend because of the conditions compared to the expectations of a third world state, but because it’s really fun to come here for anyone who’s creative! People here gather to talk about all kinds of stuff that make them forget about the daily issues they have to deal with, they sometimes paint or sing or simply have all kinds of fun and wicked conversations you wouldn’t miss for the world. You can barbecue here, make a camp fire and get to know the amazingly friendly people that are going to be eager to find things about you.

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What’s impressive is that the locals will never bother you with their questions and curiosities, even though they’ve got plenty! They’re creative, but fun and most of all – they’re polite and they would do anything to make you feel like home. You can go to the cyber-bar whenever you wish and keep in touch this way with your family and friends while you’re on the road, and – most importantly – you’ll make friends here! You’ll also be offered trips to Zomba with a local guide, but if you’re sociable enough there may be more than one companion with you everyday!

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