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.
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I don't often take blog requests, but a friend approached me recently and asked about Venice. He's traveling to Italy for a wedding this summer and is stopping in Venice for few days. He asked me if I knew what he could do in the Floating City, so I racked up a list of ten things for him to see.
Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if I missed anything, what your favorite thing to see in Venice was, or if you plan to go visit Venice after reading this!
Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
The following is a guest article by Sally Elbassir, the owner and food taster of Passport and Plates, originally titled "The Tapas, Taverns and History of Madrid: A Food Tour". Be sure to drop by her blog for culinary treats from around the world!
I've always been a foodie. Long before the term "foodie" ever existed, I was that kid who was always eager to try something new.
Things haven't changed much in the last couple of decades. My palate has expanded, and I discovered that my dream job does exist; it just happens to be occupied by Anthony Bourdain. Now I satisfy my foodie obsession by writing on Yelp, and on my blog... there's plenty more where that came from.