Friday Thoughts: The Ups & Downs of Staying in Hostels (Plus Tips For Your Next Stay!)

For the past few years, I’ve stayed in different hostels all over the Philippines, Southeast & East Asia. Staying in this kind of accommodation helped me change from being an introvert to the most social person I am now. It also helped me go out of my comfort zone & overcome my anxieties while travelling on my own.

Before anything else, let us see how a hostel is defined in a dictionary. Merriam Webster defines a hostel as an inexpensive lodging facility for usually young travellers that typically has dormitory-style sleeping arrangements & sometimes offers meals & planned activities. Oxford Dictionaries define it as an establishment which provides inexpensive food & lodging for a specific group of people, such as students, workers, or travellers.

Spin Designer Hostel‘s dormitory beds (El Nido, Palawan) 🛌

Both definitions mentioned inexpensive accommodation where young people / travellers stay while travelling. Yes, hostels cater mostly to young travellers, to people like us. Majority of the hostels offer dormitory or shared accommodation but there are also some who have private rooms at a little higher (but still cheap) rate.

In this post, I will elaborate more on the ups & downs of staying in hostels. I will also give tips when looking for a hostel or when you are already in a hostel. Hopefully after reading this post, you will consider staying in a hostel for your next trip.

Disclaimer: All points & tips below are based on personal experiences.

UPS

Affordable price

Hostel rates are way cheaper than that of hotels & serviced apartments. You only pay around 25% -30% of a hotel’s nightly rate. Imagine paying only ₱400 – ₱600 for a night stay in Coron compared to paying ₱3,500 per night in a fancy hotel both located in the same area.

My dormitory room in Glocal Nagoya Backpackers Hostel | A night’s stay costs ¥3,200 (weekend peak rate) – still cheaper compared to ¥12,000+ per night hotel room rate 🛌

For an affordable price, you get the same basic amenities which hotels provide you – a bed with pillow & sheets, luggage storage, free Wi-Fi, reading light & the list goes on.

You meet new people

Meeting a lot of people is probably my favorite advantage of staying in hostels. You meet these people in your dormitory rooms or in a hostel’s social / common areas. Most of the time, it just starts with a simple, “Hi, how are you?” or “Hi, where are you from?” & ends up having good new friends & awesome memories.

A simple card game turned ‘drinking’ card game with these people from all over the world | Location: NapPark Hostel @ Khao San, Bangkok (September 2016) *Credits to Danielle for the photo*

Most hostels have spacious communal lounges where people can sit down, talk to other people & exchange experiences & recommendations. A significant portion of the travelling population is composed of solo travellers; most of them are up for meeting new people & having good times with these new people.

Fun & cheaper activities

Met these people in a waterfall tour organized by The Siem Reap Hostel

Hostel owners are aware that they cater to people who travel on a budget thus offering cheaper & more fun activities. Day & island tours are sometimes cheaper when you book them through your hostels compared to booking them outside or in a travel agency. If your hostel doesn’t offer these activities, they usually recommend agencies where you can get these tours / activities for a cheaper rate.

You save money on food

Osaka Hana Hostel‘s communal kitchen, dining & lounge area

Some hostels (especially in Japan & Korea) have communal kitchens where you can prepare your food during your stay. It helps save money rather than going out & buy food in the restaurants / cafe. Some hostels also offer free, simple breakfast like coffee or tea plus toast, omelette & cereals. It may not be as fancy as the hotel’s breakfast buffet it sure helps you start your day right.

Local’s recommendations

Hostels employ locals which help the guests from check-in up to checkout. These local employees also help you have the most authentic experiences in a place by providing good food & activity recommendations. Sometimes, they even join you eat in these restaurants & try these activities.

Location

Hostels are centrally located in most cities & places. They are usually located a few minutes walk from train stations, bus stops & bus terminals. You don’t have to worry how to go to the airport to catch your next flight or to the bus terminal to make it to your overnight bus ride.

Security

Just like hotels, hostels have security systems installed throughout the property. This makes security surveillance a lot easier for the owner & staff. One big difference between these 2 accommodations is hostels do not allow outsiders to go inside the dormitory rooms. Visitors (non-guests) are only allowed up to the reception / waiting area.

DOWNS

No / lesser privacy

Staying in a dormitory room with up to 16 or 20 people means lesser or even no privacy. You basically share everything with your roommates. Each room provides lockers for your stuff. If you are a person who loves to leave everything outside of the bag, then hostels aren’t for you. Bathrooms & toilet are also shared with the other guests. There is also a high risk of theft where your belongings a can be stolen by anyone in the hostel.

Backpackers Hostel K’s House Kyoto‘s Common Bathroom

No control over your roommates

Sharing a room with different people means you do not have control over them. Generally, people staying in hostels are respectful to their roommates. There are just a few uncontrollable instances where unsolicited noise is created (for example: talking to another guest or fixing stuff / luggage) thus interrupting your sleep. There will also be people who snore loud or who move a lot while sleeping.

You also do not have control of how the room might smell due to a mixture of scents & body smells. Also, even if you don’t talk a lot, there will always be this one person or two who will engage you in a conversation.

Limited amenities / perks

Mad Monkey Hostel Boracay : one of the few hostels I’ve been to that has a swimming pool 🏊

Staying in affordable hostels equates to limited amenities. While most hostels offer free Wi-Fi access, breakfast choices can be really limited – mostly omelette, toasts & jam + coffee or tea. They do not have fancy swimming pools (some hostels have pools though) & fitness areas / gymnasiums which hotels have. They also do not have toiletries included in the rate & towel rental comes with a fee (in most hostels).

TIPS

Read online reviews

Before booking your stay, make sure to read online reviews of the hostels. Websites, such as Tripadvisor, Agoda, Booking.com & Hostelworld show reviews of people who stayed in these hostels. These reviews help a lot, especially in conditioning your mind on what to expect during your stay.

Book beds with privacy curtains

This is a personal preference, but I would still share it with everyone. Booking beds with curtains gives you the privacy you need. Hostels offer dormitory rooms for 4, 6, 8, 12, 16 & sometimes up to 22 people. Book a bed in a dormitory room with a bedroom configuration you are comfortable with.

Nappark Hostel‘s 22-bed dormitory room | Each bed has a pull-down blinds 

Bring padlocks, blindfolds, ear plugs, towels & toiletries

Hostels normally provide lockers without padlocks. Make sure to bring a padlock to safeguard all your stuff inside your locker. This will reduce the risk of having something stolen from you. Also, since you do not have control over your roommates (plus the noise they make), it helps to have ear plugs & blindfolds with you. Some hostels are generous enough to provide ear plugs for free, ask them upon check-in.

Given these hostels provide limited amenities, it helps to bring your own towels & toiletries. It also saves up the cost of renting a towel from reception & buying toiletries outside.

Respect your roommates

You expect your roommates to be quiet while you’re sleeping; make sure to be one when they are the ones asleep. Walk quietly when getting into the room late at night; fix your things quietly & make sure to be considerate enough with the other guests.

Socialize

Spin Designer Hostel‘s common lounge (El Nido, Palawan) 🛋️

Be friendly. It only takes a simple ‘hi’ to gain a new friend in a hostel. Make the most out of your stay by exchanging experiences & stories with fellow travellers. It’s the perfect time to know about other places, cultures & traditions. It’s also a good way to ask for recommendations on where to go next & what else to do. Make sure to share yours too! Who knows, you might just have unforgettable fun times with your new mates from your hostel.


Staying in hostels is fun. If you’re scared to stay in a hostel, I suggest that you go out of your comfort zone & give it a shot. You might just have the best memories while travelling. Forget about the fancy hotel beds & expensive rates, you’re definitely up for good times when you stay in hostels.

Good times in Nappark Hostel, Bangkok | Played beer pong with newfound friends before flying back to Manila 🍺

Have you thought of an additional point you can share to our readers? Have you tried staying in a hostel? How was your experience? Feel free to share some bits about your stay in the comments below. Anything you want to know about staying in hostels? You may send me an send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Thank you for reading & enjoy the weekend. 😃

Going Solo in Japan Series: FUKUOKA

After spending 3 days in Nagoya, 2 days in Hiroshima, 5 days in Kyoto & Osaka (including 2 separate day tours in Nara & Kobe), I took a 9.5-hour overnight bus ride to Fukuoka Prefecture’s capital city, Fukuoka.

Fukuoka is Kyushu Island’s most famous & populated city. This port city is Japan’s gateway & also the closest hub to mainland Asia. Just like any other Japanese city, it is characterized by developed infrastructure, modern transportation system & helpful & accommodating people. The city is also famous for beautiful cherry blossom sightings every spring season.

Beautiful sunny day in Ōhori Park 😍

I didn’t know about Fukuoka until I was searching for an affordable flight back to Manila. The city is not as famous as Tokyo & Osaka in the Philippine tourism market, but it’s definitely starting to gain attention in the past months. I spent the last 3 days of my 13-day Japan journey here. I will give more details below of how my stay went.

Trivia: Fukuoka is the birth place of tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen. It is also where my favorite Ichiran Ramen originated.

Accommodation

Just like my previous hostels for this trip, I stayed in Hana Hostel Group‘s local branch, Fukuoka Hana Hostel. The hostel is centrally located within the Nakasu-Kawabata Shopping Arcade. It is a 2-3 minute walk to the famous Canal City, 5 minutes walk to Nakasu-Kawabata subway station & about 15 minutes walk to Tenjin’s shopping area. The airport is 4 stops away (about 10 minutes ride) from the nearest subway station. Fukuoka’s main train station, JR Hakata Station, is 1 train stop away or about 15 minutes walk.

I stayed in a 3-bed male dormitory room with private shower & en-suite. Just like any other Hana Hostel branch, each bed includes its own reading light, pillow & sheets, curtains, curtains (for privacy), universal plug & a storage box (plus free Wi-Fi). I paid ¥2,800 per night (¥5,600 for 2 nights). It’s one of the cheapest rates I’ve seen during my stay. For those who do not want to stay in a dormitory room, they also have private rooms with affordable rates.

The staff were super nice & accommodating. They speak good English & they are always ready to help. The hostel stored my luggage before check in & after check out for free. It also has a spacious common area on the ground floor where you can meet other travelers. It also has a kitchen where guests can prepare their own food. I will definitely stay here again when I go back to Fukuoka.

Torii gates in Kushida Shrine grounds 😍

Tip: Fukuoka Hana Hostel accepts bookings up to 3 months before your desired stay. Make sure to book early as they as usually fully booked.

Going Around Fukuoka

Going around the city is easy. The subway system is not as confusing as that of Tokyo’s & Osaka’s. Fukuoka has only 3 subway lines – Kuko Line, Nanakuma Line & Hakozaki Line. Kuko Line is the main city line which starts in Fukuoka Airport Station, passes by Hakata, Nakasu-Kawabata, Tenjin, Ohorikoen, Nishijin up to Meinohama Station. Nanakuma Line starts in Tenjin-Minami Station & services up to Hashimoto Station while Hakozaki Station starts in Nakasu-Kawabata Station & ends in Kaizouka.

Saw this amazing view when I stepped out of Daizafu Station 😍

The city also has JR Lines connected to these subway stations making it possible to connect to nearby cities & towns. By the way, these subway & JR lines also accept IC cards. You can also go around the city by bus (one thing I didn’t try because I’m fond of subways).

Places to visit in Fukuoka

Fukuoka may not have a long list of places to visit but it definitely has some unique places to see. Let me tell you which places I went to in my short 3-day stay.

Ōhori Park

Ōhori Park’s famous pavilion in the middle of the lake

Locally known as Ōhori-kōen, Ōhori Park is Fukuoka’s most famous park located in the center of the city. It features a large pond with a walking path around it & in the middle. The park is an ideal place for strolling, jogging & relaxing. Entrance to the park is free.

You can also find Fukuoka Art Museum a meters walk from Ōhori Park. However, the museum is closed for renovation & won’t be open until March 2019. Later I found out that the Fukuoka Castle Ruins / Maizuru Park were only a few meters away from the park. Unfortunately, I missed out visiting this place.

Access: Ohorikoen Station

Fukuoka Yafuoku! Dome

Fukuoka Yafuoku! Dome from the outside

Fukuoka Yafuoku! Dome is the home of the locally famous Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks baseball team. The stadium can accommodate close to 40,000 spectators & is the world’s largest geodesic dome. It is also one of the popular places where local & international artists hold their concerts.

Access: 15 minutes walk from Tojinmachi & Nishijin Stations

Momochihama Seaside Park

This is a 1 kilometer stretch of man-made beach in the Seaside Momochi Waterfront. It is located a few meters walk from Fukuoka Tower. The beach was empty when I went there because it was almost winter & it’s too cold for people to swim.

Empty Momochi Beach on a cold but sunny autumn (almost winter) day

Access: 15 minutes walk from Tojinmachi & Nishijin Stations

Fukuoka Tower

View of Fukuoka Tower from the Seaside Momochi Waterfront 🗼

Fukuoka Tower is the city’s tallest building, also Japan’s tallest seaside building. It stands 234 m high & is located by the Momochihama Beach. Entrance to the building’s observatory costs ¥800. They offer 20% discount to foreigners who will show their passports.

Access: 15 minutes walk from Tojinmachi & Nishijin Stations

Robosquare

Robosqaure is robot showroom located a few meters walk from Fukuoka Tower. It is a place where you can interact & play with robots. I met a few interesting robots acts like humans. I also met a very cute dog robot who knows how to react for every hand gesture you make. There is also a shop where you can purchase & take home these robots.

One of the many robots you can play with in Robosquare 🤖

The showroom is located in the 2nd floor of the TV Nishi Nippon Building. Admission is free. As someone from the Philippines, I really enjoyed interacting / playing with the robots. It’s a must visit for kids & kids-at-heart.

Access: 15 minutes walk from Tojinmachi & Nishijin Stations

Tenjin

Dubbed as Fukuoka’s downtown, Tenjin is the city’s shopping, dining & entertainment hub. This is the place to go to if you want to shop for new clothes, dine in fancy restaurants, drink in bars & party in clubs.

Bake Cheese Tart is a must-try! 😋

Aside from the upscale department stores & shopping malls, it also has an underground shopping area which connects 2 subway stations & various buildings. This place is called Tenjin Chikagai. I think this underground shopping strip is a must-see place in Fukuoka. This is also where I found Bake Cheese Tart, the famous cheese tart chain that originated in Hokkaido.

Access: Tenjin & Tenjin-Minami Stations

Canal City – Hakata

A not-so-busy street of Fukuoka on my way to Canal City

Canal City is a large shopping & entertainment complex in Hakata. Characterized by more than 200 shops & restaurants, the 5 storey structure has a canal running through the complex premises. It also has 2 hotels in it.

What I found interesting in this shopping complex is Ramen Stadium on its fifth floor. This place has more or less 8 ramen restaurants coming from different places in Japan. If you’re a person who’s into ramen, then you should visit Canal City, particularly the ramen stadium.

Access: 10 minutes walk from Nakasu-Kawabata Station & 15 minutes walk from Hakata Station

Yatai

Yatai is a small mobile food stall found in random streets in Japan. These stalls are set up late afternoon / early evening & are packed up usually after midnight. These mobile restaurants serve almost all kinds of food – from ramen, to hotpots & grilled skewers. They also serve sake & alcholic drinks.

Post-drink snack in a yatai with YS, a friend I met in the hostel 🍢

These stalls are scattered all over Fukuoka, but you can find most of them in Nakasu Area. I went to one of these stalls with YS, the friend I met in the hostel for almost midnight snack. The food we had was really good!

Tōchō-ji Temple

Beautiful colors outside Tōchō-ji Temple🍂

The Tōchō-ji Temple is one of the central attractions in Hakata, Fukuoka. It is the Buddhist temple that houses the great statue called Fukuoka Daibutsu. This 10 m sitting Buddha wooden statue was carved for a few years.

Cameras were not allowed inside the hall so I was not able to take a photo of it. The status was really huge; it’s definitely a must-see when in Hakata & Fukuoka.

Access: 2 minutes walk from Gion Station

Kushida Shrine

Fukuoka’s famous Kushida Shrine ⛩️

Kushida Shrine is a Shinto Shrine located in Hakata Ward. Every July, a big festival called Hakata Gion Yamakasa, is celebrated. All the events & activities held at the festival is centered on this shrine.

Access: 5 minutes walk from Nakasu-Kawabata & Gion Stations

Dazaifu Tenman-gū Shrine

Entrance to the main shrine ⛩️

Dazaifu Tenman-gū Shrine is a Shinto shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, an important figure during the Heian Period. The shrine was built over Michizane’s grave. There are other structures & places located in the area; that includes the Dazaifu Tenman-gū Museum, Kanko Historical Museum & the Kyushu National Museum.

Entrance to the shrine grounds is free; but the museums charge a few yens.

Crowded Dazaifu Tenman-gū main shrine ⛩️

Access: From Tenjin Station, take the Nishitetsu-Tenjin-Omuta Line train towards Nishitetsu-Yanagawa. Get off at Nishitetsu-Futsukaichi Station & transfer to the Nishitetsu-Dazaifu Line towards Dazaifu. From Dazaifu Station, head right. Follow the crowd & walk for 5-7 minutes to the shrine.


Aaannd this concludes the Going Solo in Japan Series. It’s definitely a trip for the books – solo travelling at its finest. If you haven’t read the previous blogs in this series, just check the following posts: Nagoya, Hiroshima, Kyoto & Osaka & Nara & Kobe. I also blogged about how I managed to overcome the ₱50,000 x 13 days & 7 cities challenge for this trip. Flying to Japan soon? I’ve also blogged about my previous trip to Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka & I made a 4-step guide on how to apply for your Japan tourist visa.

One last photo about Fukuoka! Empty Momochi beach 🏖️ 

Japan will always be one of my favorite countries. I have visited the country for 2 years in a row & I am looking forward to my third, fourth & upcoming visits. It’s a country I won’t get tired of coming back. 💗

Is there something you want to know more about Fukuoka or anything you want to ask about the places mentioned above? Is there topic / content you want to see in this blog in the future? Feel free to comment below or send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) 🇯🇵 😃

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC Re & HTC One M8.

Throwback Thursday Treat: 2014 Birthday in El Nido Photoblog

About a month ago, I showed you how my first El Nido trip in 2014 went. My friends & I visited paradise for 4 days & 3 nights – enjoyed the sunset in Las Cabanas, swam in different beaches & lagoons, visited different caves & coves & relaxed in the beautiful & quiet islands in Bacuit Bay.

I had so much fun in El Nido that time up to the point I decided to spend my birthday there. August 2014, I flew to Puerto Princesa with my friend Julie, then took a 5-hour trip to El Nido. We went to Nacpan Beach on our first day, then took Tour A (Lagoons & Beaches) again the following day & Tour B (Caves & Coves) again on our third day.

We stayed in Casa Cecilia & I asked them to arrange all our tours & transfers. I will not talk much in this post (because everything was almost the same as that of the first El Nido trip) but I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Enjoy the photos! 😎

Flying over Metro Manila ✈️

Stopover in Roxas, Palawan

Hello El Nido! 😍

Our first time in Nacpan Beach! 😍

More of Nacpan Beach! We loved how deserted this place when we were there.

El Nido Bay in the morning – before Tour A

Seven Commando Beach – we were the only tour group in the beach that time

The world-famous Big Lagoon in Miniloc Island 😍

Inside Big Lagoon. Such a beautiful place 😍

With my travel buddy / companion – Julie

Perfect weather during my birthday 😍

With our new friend Dianne who also celebrated her birthday that day! 😎

Tour B – Snake Island

View from the other side of Snake Island

Para-paradise 😍 Definitely my favorite island!

Can’t get enough of Pinagbuyutan Island 😍

Goodbye El Nido! Thanks for the fun birthday weekend. 😍

After 2 visits, El Nido easily became one of top 3 places I’ve been to. The beaches & islands are really beautiful. The town is just small but simple & laid back. The people are super duper nice. I’m glad that the place is getting so much attention now but I hope the locals do their best to preserve the cleanliness & the beauty of the place.

Have you been to El Nido? How did you find the town, the beaches & the islands? Is it a place which you’ll recommend to your friends? Do you want to know something about El Nido? Make sure to leave a comment below or send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC One M8.