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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Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!
It took a while, but summer has finally arrived! With any city, these three precious months of summer bring their fair share of activities, and Regina is no different. There is a lot to do in Regina so let me know in the comments if I missed anything!
This should be obvious for anybody living in Regina, but for tourists Wascana Park offers a plethora of activities. From fireworks on Canada Day to festivals to just enjoying a quiet stroll, there are countless things to do in the park. Being three times larger than Central Park in New York, the park is full of pathways, bridges, tunnels and islands for you to explore. Self-guiding walking tours are also available, which showcase the monuments, statues, architecture, history and natural flora and fauna that is in the region. Sections of the park are protected for wildlife so you may see foxes, rabbits, raccoons, weasels, beavers, turtles and, if you're lucky, goats. There's also a swimming pool, bird sanctuary, a habitat conservation area and marina. Speaking of the Marina…
Wascana Park is beautiful from the land, but it is even more gorgeous from the water. Imagine floating in the heart of the city, surrounded by nothing but the silence of water. Motor boats aren't commonly found on the lake, so renting a canoe with a loved one can be a personal and private experience. If you're more of a physical person you can also rent a kayak or try stand-up paddle boarding, which recently opened up thanks to Queen City Sup. The marina is also home to the Willow on Wascana, a beautiful outdoor lakeside restaurant. If you're into brunches or wine tasting, or just enjoying eating outdoors, this is a place you must visit!
Frank Albo is known to many as "The Dan Brown of Canada". He gained this informal title through his many decades of research, interviews and investigations into the secrets of the Manitoba Legislature. Through his work, he claims that Winnipeg was meant to have a much larger role in Canada – going so far to say that it was to be the "Jerusalem of the New World".
It may sound odd, but there are a lot of strange motifs within the Manitoba Legislature that otherwise wouldn't make sense. These include being the exact dimensions of King Solomon's Temple, having medusas and demons guarding the entrances, and a "black star" of sacrifice beneath the rotunda. Stranger still is that none of these symbols are in the visually similar Saskatchewan Legislature which was constructed about the same time and for the same purpose. For some reason, the Manitoba Legislature was uniquely created in this manner.
Albo's research has not only gotten a lot of attention in Canada, but international attention too. One of these people was His Excellency Konstantin Zhigalov, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan. While visiting Winnipeg in 2014, Zhigalov attended Albo's tour. After it concluded, Zhigalov pulled Albo aside and invited him to the capital of Kazakhstan. The request was peculiar, but the moment Albo arrived, he knew exactly why he was chosen.