Hostels in Australia – living in one

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Arriving at Manchester airport, everything I owned on my back, saying my goodbyes to the family, then to turn round and walk through the doors of the terminal, facing the unknown alone….. Hands down the scariest thing I have ever done!! One stop off, 30 hours and 10,000 miles later I arrived at my hostel in Leedervill Perth. Absolutely no idea what to expect of the hostels in Australia or anything of Australia for that matter.

Booking in at reception and walking through the lounge area, everyone looking at you as if you’re the geeky new kid at school. These veterans could spot I was a rookie from miles away… Intimidating. Very intimidating. The one saving grace I had was that I’d not been a tight arse and booked I had a single room for my first week. A place to have a much-needed “Sit in the corner, legs tucked up rocking myself” kind of meltdown. Why did I leave? What have I done? What am I going to do now?

I think most people who leave everything behind and hit the road alone will have a time at the beginning like this on their journey… Character building eh!? So Let’s have a look at what to expect after you’ve spent 3 days in you’re private room rocking and pluck up the courage to see what its all about….



What kind of hostels are out there!?

Hostels come in all shapes and sizes, from small ex-motel style 6 dorm roomers that have a capacity of about 40, to the 50 room beasts that have enough beds for more like 400 intrepid souls. There’s normally pool tables, bars, washing machines and driers (at a cost per use, $3 a wash) WIFI (again cost per hour $5 per hour being the norm) some even have swimming pools. If you’re travelling in a campervan, some hostels will let you stay on their car park in your van for around $15 a night. The majority of all hostels fall into two main categories;

  • The city hostel: Head to any major city and you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to hostel accommodation, beds range from around $20 per night for the cheapest, although somewhere around $28 would bepeople getting drunk average in a 12 bed dorm… Pretty crowded and probably plenty of snoring to keep you awake at night. To get your own private room, $55 per night is what it is going to cost ya!!!
  • I only spent a few weeks here and there in city hostels, but in my experience its really easy to make lots of friends, seen as most of the hostels are quite large with a couple hundred people staying at any one time, its pretty hard not to. Also, being in the cities, armed with all these new comrades, the bank balance is going to nose dive if like me you’re weak and soon as anyone mentions hitting the bars, you’re the first digging to the bottom of the backpack to retrieve your dancing shoes. Wages don’t last long at $20 a pint!!!

 

  • The working hostel: Now these are where I spent the majority of my time, for two reasons.
  • One: They are a little cheaper, most of them cost around $150 per week for a dorm room bed while a private room may cost you an extra $20 for the week. Sometimes this even covers the cost of getting to work i.e borrowed car plus fuel.
  • Two: People who frequent working hostels are normally there to get their 88 days done, so stick around much longer. This gives you all a lot more time to get to know each other and become real friends. You even work the same jobs, so no matter how crappy some farm work maybe you will be there with maybe 5 of your friends from the hostel.
  • Working hostels are normally in small towns or sometimes pretty isolated so the weekends can’t consist of going out round town and blowing $250 in a night, more like go halves with your mate on a $15 box of goon and play “goon pong” until you don’t know your own name. Get a well-paid farm job and you can save a lot of money in a working hostel! I spent 4 months in one hostel, not for the money but just because the people I lived with were the best bunch of people I’ve ever met… A proper family. When I eventually left for another hostel which had better paying jobs I soon returned because… Well, money can’t buy atmosphere, banter and the friendships I made.


Rules

All hostels have different rules, some are very lax and as long as your room-mates aren’t complaining then you’ll be fine. Others however are quite strict, (normally the city ones) ignore the rules and you could find yourself, backpack on, stood out in the rain with nowhere to go at a moments notice. Some common rules are:

  • be quiet after such a time, so no coming home steamin’, singing your football teams chants.
  • If there is a hostel bar, this normally means you are not allowed to bring your own, much cheaper beer in. Sometimes a good idea to book into a hostel that doesn’t have a bar for this reason.
  • Don’t get caught trying to fiddle the washing machine – i.e two lollipop sticks in the coin slider trick!
  • Goes without saying, no fighting or breaking hostel property.


What about my things when I’m not in the room

Pretty much all city hostels have lockers that you can use (again at extra cost) to store things like laptops, passports, money etc… Clothes and cheaper items that won’t all fit in the locker just have to be left in the dorm room and well yeah every day some of it could go missing as when your at work up to 30 people could pass through your dorm room. It’s not so good but, well what can you do!? In all fairness though, I never once heard of anything going missing at all.

In the working hostels, a lot don’t even have any lockers to rent. As discussed earlier, when people tend to stay in one hostel for a long while, as cliche as it may sound you get a sense of being like family and no one would steal from another. Everyone lends their laptops to each other without a second thought. The hostel I spent 4 months in didn’t even have locks on the doors, no one who turned up to stay was happy about this at first but ask them a week later and its like they’d always lived like that. It just didn’t matter. At first everyone worries about their gear when they’re out of the hostel but at the end of the day you’ve just got to let it go and hope for the best.



Living with strangers

Now this at first for me was hard to deal with in many ways. I was never the most confident person, maybe that’s one of the reasons I took the leap of faith in travelling to Australia, force myself to work on my people skills…. I’d say it worked. When you sleep in a room with 10 other people and share communal bathrooms and kitchens, you’ve got to talk to people and learn to get along, no more being shy, you’ve just got to go for it and get stuck in! Bit of a sink or swim scenario.

Sharing a room with 10 other people has its drawbacks, for a start everyone starts work at different times, some work nights so trying to keep quiet for others and being woken up by others means getting enough sleep can be hard at times. There’s also guaranteed at least one person that sounds like an adult Buffalo sleeping, or is that one person you!? Bunk beds in their very nature don’t help matters, every time someone goes to climb on the top bunk you get woken up by the feeling of being laid on a lilo while scaling 2ft waves. These are all just things you’ll get used to very quickly.


 


Can I get free accommodation

There is a way you can get free accommodation. Basically, most hostels employ backpackers to man the reception, normally the graveyard shift. Do 2-3 hours per day on reception or cleaning rooms for free accommodation. Hostels will advertise work for a bed on gumtree or in their own reception. It’s worth a ring round local hostels and ask if they have any jobs you could do for them.

Doing these types of jobs for accommodation is a great way to save some money, especially if you are between jobs and times are hard but they also have their down sides.

For example, cleaning dorms and changing beds must be done at scheduled time slots normally when people have booked out and before the next guest books in. This can make it hard to fit in proper paid jobs elsewhere.

Doing the “graveyard shift” means you’ll be up late which means getting up at 7am for your proper job will be a disaster if you’ve only got to bed at 3am. As we say in England… “You’ll be hanging out of your arse”. Not to mention, while you’re stuck on reception on a Friday night, hating life,  knowing all of your hostel comrades are already pretty drunk on there way out to the pubs and clubs… DISASTER!!!


 


Final thoughts

Living in close quarters with many other strangers has it’s ups and downs. One big plus is that it will force you to become a social extrovert and you’ll meet some of the craziest, funniest and most amazing people from all over the world. So don’t worry about the bad bits and just go for it, hostel life was some of the best times of my life especially the working hostels.

 

 

 

 

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