When I was planning my trip to Poland and Ukraine I wanted to make everything as cheap as possible. I picked the cheapest flight, I went on the cheapest tours and I picked the cheapest places to sleep. I have read about other people staying in hostels, and that they can be much cheaper than hotels or even AirBnb, so I figured I would give it a try.
My first hostel was Kiev Central Station Hostel, located about a 6 minute drive or a 21 minute walk away from Central Railway Station. If you visit this hostel I would recommend either getting a ride from a bonafide taxi driver or just walking the distance.
One of the problems with Kyiv is the number of unofficial taxi drivers in the city. They hang around the airport and train stations like buzzards, charge ridiculous rates and, at least in my experience, speak zero English and deliberately get lost. I was warned about the taxi drivers at the airport but not the ones at the train station, so I took a chance and got burned. My driver took me as far south as the Central Bus Station and then back north again, which cost me 1,900 Hryvnia, or about $100, when it should have only been a 6 minute drive. For a less experienced traveler the experience would have been harrowing, especially when the taxi driver refused to respond to my requests to "Stop and let me out" after driving me around for over half an hour.
Being as that was my first experience of Ukraine, I wasn't sure what to expect of the hostel, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Kiev Central Station Hostel is located on the fifth and sixth floor of an apartment building. The door to the building is open 24 hours a day, but the door to the hostel is locked with a passcode. One of the nights I arrived back at the hostel the door to the building was closed and I was stuck outside. Only after one of the residents of the apartment building came home was I able to get inside. I'm not sure what I would have done had they not come home, so if I ever stay at a hostel again, this is one of the first things I will ask about.
The host running the hostel was very sweet and spoke the best English out of anybody I met in Ukraine. She showed me the commons area, the kitchen area, and the rooms upstairs. They had six different rooms: a room with twelve beds, a room with six beds, a room with four beds, a women's only room, a private triple and a private double. There were also two bathrooms and three showers, but only one of the bathrooms and two of the showers had hot water. The toilet paper was also just brown paper towel, but I found that to be consistent throughout Ukraine as they used the same stuff at the hotel in Pripyat.
I chose the room with six beds, but of the three nights I spent there I only shared it with somebody for one night. The first night I fell asleep on my bed sometime around four in the afternoon and woke up to two people in my room, chatting with each other. When I got up one of them had already went to the washroom, and I got talking to the other one. His name is David and he's a German travel blogger, and he had just started traveling around the world. That day he had gone to Chernobyl so he told me what to expect while I was there. You can read about his experience, but he writes in German so if you aren't fluent, you might have some problem reading it.
Before coming to Ukraine, David was in Belarus, which is the last country in Europe to have a dictatorship, and Transnistria, a country that is only somewhat recognized by the international community (it's between the countries of Ukraine and Romania). Transnistria is was formed after the USSR collapsed, and still has ties to the former Soviet Union, with streets named Lenin Street and Karl Marx Street. Their flag also has the Soviet hammer and sickle on it. Transnistria also has their own currency, which is recognized nowhere else in the world. It looks fake, so it's something you're going to need to see to believe.
The nightly rate varies on what kind of room you get, but it ranges from €6 to €18 a night, which is about $8.50 to $26 CAD. My room was only €7 ($10) and I spent four nights there. Try to find a hotel that only charges $10 a night!
The hostel prides itself as being a hostel for young people. They listen to music all the time, there are beer bottles throughout the commons area and children are not allowed to stay there. The website recommends if you are over 40, you might want to consider staying somewhere else, but I went there before the season really picked up and I had as much privacy as I would in a hotel.
Kiev Central Station Hostel also does things as a community, such as group BBQs, movie nights and tours to some locations such as local World War II Soviet bunkers, an AK-47 shooting range and an aviation museum. They also have affiliations with some tour companies, so you can get a complete tour of this incredible city if that's something you're interested in.
The hostel is also close to many restaurants, with one being right next door. I never had time to visit it but I did visit the confectionery right next to it, which offered a variety of fruits, meats, vegetables and drinks. There was also a currency exchange there, which came in handy after my taxi ride drained my wallet.
I didn't have much time in Kyiv so I didn't get to lounge around the commons and meet people, or take part in any of their tours, but it was nice to know the options were available. The only problems I had was getting to the hostel, and once somebody walked in on me in the bathroom while I was brushing my teeth. The doors to the rooms are wooden, but some of the doors to the bathrooms are plastic, so as a male I didn't have a problem with it, but a female might.
All in all, I really enjoyed staying at the hostel. I met some interesting people, learned some pretty cool things, had somewhere safe to sleep and saved some money. If I return to Kyiv I will probably stay here again.
Have you ever stayed in a hostel? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
Last year I put together 50 Images That Showcase Regina, and it was very successful. However, I did that article early into the year and missed out on some pictures I would take later, so I decided to do it again this year. These pictures were all taken either in late 2015 or in 2016.
If you guys enjoy this article as much as you liked the last one, I might start making this an annual thing.
Some of you may recognize a few of these pictures from earlier in the year, but there should be a few here that none of you have ever seen before.
A few months ago I entered a contest for a trip for two to visit Philadelphia on Two Bad Tourists. Normally contests like this are limited to United States residents so when I saw this one was open to Canadians I jumped at the chance. I've never won something like this before, so I actually forgot about it until I got the emailing saying I had won. Two Bad Tourists then worked alongside Visit Philly to organise the trip for me and my mother to explore Philadelphia for three days. Visit Philly paid for our flights, hotels and gave us a VIP Pass to experience the city to our heart's content. It is thanks to them that this trip is possible.
Several movies and television shows have tried to capture the essence of Philadelphia over the years – from the boxing Blockbuster Rocky, to the paranormal thriller The Sixth Sense, to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and even Boy Meets World – but each described the city differently. There is no easy way to approach a city as dynamic as The City of Brotherly Love. With countless layers of art, history, religion and the paranormal, Philadelphia is a city unlike any other throughout the United States.
One thing that surprised me the most about Philadelphia was the history. The city was founded and designed by William Penn, who is also the state of Pennsylvania's namesake. Born in London, England in 1644 he lived through The Great Fire of 1666 and The Great Plague of London from 1665-1666. Both events shaped Penn's life so he designed the city to be strictly stone buildings (to stop fires from spreading) and to have plenty of space between the buildings (as to prevent illness from spreading). This led to the older areas of the city to have winding corridors between old stone walls.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.