Here are the pros n' cons of staying in an Irish hostel, from the perspective of one mom and her American teen, both new to shared accommodations.
Have you ever been on a family trip, stayed up late, and been told it’s time for lights out? I have, and for the most part, it’s been from a concerned older relative. But on the first night of my vacation in Ireland with my mother and 16-year-old cousin Nicklaus in our hostel in Kilkenny, the request for me to go to bed (or at least turn off the lights) was from a young couple sharing our mixed-dorm room.
Since it had been a long day on a plane, followed by a bus, followed by getting lost on the way to the hostel — and we were tired — we complied with the request. It was just another foreign experience that came with being in a foreign country.
Kilkenny Tourist Hostel
We stayed two nights at the Kilkenny Tourist Hostel (35 Parliament Street Kilkenny City, Ireland, 353/56/7763541 or 353/56/23397; i[email protected]). It had a wonderful exterior that made me think we were walking out of a painting or a postcard, with ivy climbing up the front of the building and a cheery dÃ©cor. The inside was welcoming, lined with bulletin boards loaded with flyers and calendars inviting us to try this and explore that. There was a sitting room with couches and chairs where visitors could read travel guides, leftover novels, children’s books, and odd assortments of magazines. There was a guest book where guests left tips about the town—which I read and found interesting and helpful. There was a Rolodex with index cards, of a word, for instance “Kilkenny Castle,” and details about it.
The kitchen was free for us to roam. When our more adventurous roommates and hostel-mates cooked their meals, their seasonings sent flavorful aromas throughout the first floor.
The dorm rooms were less appealing. They were simple. Ours was a six-person, mixed-person dorm. It contained three bunk beds, a chair, a trashcan, a recycling receptacle and a window. The bedding was provided for us, as were towels (some hostels charge a Euro for such amenities). The Kilkenny Hostel’s water closet and showering room were equally simple and since I have no basis for comparison to other Irish accommodations, I will say they reminded me of Two-Star hotels where I have stayed in France. The showers had less water pressure than I am used to and the water closet was small. In general though, the hostel was clean and quiet, which was all we really required. We didn’t come to Ireland to watch television or to play videogames.
For us, the hostel was especially convenient because it was within easy ambling range of all the sites we wanted to see in Kilkenny, and within walking distance of where we caught our bus, which was important because we were traveling without a car, and we were told taxis in Ireland are unreliable. The hostel does laundry for 5 Euros and allowed us to store our luggage there after check-out on our last day of touring.
In all, I would say we got what we paid for, in the best possible meaning. We paid 16 Euros a night, per person, and considering that the Michelin Green Guide for Ireland recommended that we allow Euros 45-50 per night for a budget accommodation, we knew we had found a good deal.
Dublin International Hostel
Our next hostel experience was at the Dublin International Hostel (61 Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7, Ireland, 353/1-8304555; [email protected]). This hostel was larger and less homey-feeling than the first one. They charged 1.25 Euros for our towels (bedding was free), and an additional Euro to store our valuables (we had acquired Waterford Crystal along the way — our splurge after sleeping cheap). They did, however, provide a complimentary breakfast consisting of juice, coffee, tea, toast and cold cereal.
When we arrived at this hostel it was after 11pm, and some of the girls we were sharing a room with were already asleep, so my mom and I had to unpack and get ready for bed in the dark. This hostel also did not have unisex dorm rooms for groups under 6 people, so my cousin Nicklaus had to sleep with a room full of strangers. Hostelling is definitely not for the shy type. They also require families with children under the age of 18 to stay in private rooms, and anyone under 18 is not allowed in the shared accommodations unless they are part of a group.
This time, the showers were even weaker. The water was warmer than the previous ones, but in Dublin, the showers would run for a minute, and then shut off.
This hostel was not in as a convenient location as the other one was, in relation to the prime tourist sites and bus stops. We had to walk about 10 minutes to get to the sites we wanted to see. This was not an entirely bad thing though, because we got to see more of the city this way.
The people at the hostel did help us book a reliable taxi so we could drive to our early flight at Dublin International Airport. And our Waterford Crystal survived our stay in the hostel, as did we. This hostel was 20 Euros a night per person, but the Green Guide recommended a budget accommodation in Dublin that was Euros 50-65 per person per night, so we felt we had found an even better deal.
Mary’s Hostel Survival Tips
Here are my thoughts on how to avoid a Hostile Environment.
1. Pack flipflops or shower shoes. Bare feet are not meant for shared showers.
2. Pack earplugs and an eye mask in case you have loud early-rising or late-entering roommates.
3. Don’t leave valuables unattended.
4. Try to make friends with your roommates. Sometimes they come from as interesting places as the place you’re visiting.
5. If you are used to evening entertainment, bring a game or cards to replace your television-watching habit.
Keep in mind that hostelling is not for everyone, all the time. Here are my tips on when Not to Hostel.
1. When traveling with children under the age of 3 or 4. I cannot imagine staying in a hostel with an un-potty-trained child. I am not saying it cannot be done; I just would not want to have to worry about the issue of privacy.
2. When you are going to spend more than sleeping hours in the accommodation. Hostels are not really a place where you laze around.
3. When you are on a romantic vacation. Strangers do not want to deal with public displays of affection.
How to Make the Most of Hostelling
1. Travel in a large group so that there are enough of you to fill an entire room. If it’s your brother whose snoring is keeping you awake, you can always kick him awake.
2. Ask the hostel staff for recommendations. They usually have as good recommendations as travel guides, but they know more up-to-date information.
3. Take advantage of their free laundry or free breakfast, or whatever they offer, because the next place you stay might not offer it.
4. Take a chance at meeting someone new; you may learn something that you didn’t expect.
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