I want to travel the world. And I’m slowly but surely starting to do so. I recently went on my first overseas trip to Portugal and it was amazing. However, I also have student loans and I’m not raking in 6 figures (yet!). So I have to plan and budget accordingly in order to do what I love: travel.
For me and many others, hostels are the way to be able to save money while traveling. Accommodations are often the biggest killer for travelers. It can be your biggest expense, more than flights, food and activities combined. Luckily we live in a world with more options. There are Airbnb’s, which you can get for great deals, especially in Europe. However, even that can be out of your price range. Thus, I decided to dabble into the world of hostels for the first time. If you’d like to know about what to expect, keep reading.
The hostel that kicked off my hostel staying experience was Selina Porto.
Address: R. Das Oliveiras nº 61, 4050-449 Porto, Portugal
Phone Number: +351 22 013 5302
Price: $27-$34 USD (15 to 4 bed dorms)
I used HostelWorld to find what hostel I was going to stay in. On HostelWorld you can sort by price, rating, distance and property type (they also show hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc.) Like most people who are staying in hostels, price is a major component. However, location and rating were both extremely high on my list. There were cheaper options than Selina in Porto. But Selinaw as in a good location and ranked an 8.8 overall.
The overall ranking of each accommodation is compiled from the individual rankings of things like location, cleanliness, staff, atmosphere and more. What I kept my eye out for was location and cleanliness. As a novice traveler, I didn’t want to stay somewhere where I’d have to travel to get to the main attractions. Additionally, I have an irrational fear of bugs and rodents so cleanliness was huge. I personally didn’t want to stay anywhere with a cleanliness rating less than 8.
More on HostelWorld
With HostelWorld you can book through the site. Do note that some Hostels, such as the one I stayed at in Lisbon, offer discounts if you book straight through their website. But this time I went through this app. I spent days reading reviews, looking at the photos and more. Most hostels give you options to stay in different rooms. The rooms can vary by gender and/or how many beds. Selina Porto had up to 15 beds in a mixed dorm, which was the cheapest. Or a 4 bedroom female only dorm which was the most expensive.
I know for many people staying in hostels seems scary. But especially for female travelers, and even more so if you’re doing it solo like I did. It sucks but many times the female-only dorms are more expensive. But I didn’t have any bad experiences. Sure, it was a tad awkward at times, but overall not bad.
Many hostels do have private rooms. This could be beneficial for travelers who want a more social environment that comes with staying in a hostel through common areas and activities for example. But they also want privacy. However I wouldn’t opt for those options because from what I’ve seen they are often VERY pricey. Like the price of a hotel or more. I’d rather just get an Airbnb rather than pay over $100 for a private hostel room. But again, gauge what’s important to you.
HostelWorld has a new “Who’s Staying” feature. It shows you what countries people who will be at the hostel during your stay are from. I’m not sure how accurate it is, especially since it likely only has information on who booked through them. But it’s a cool feature nonetheless. HostelWorld will also show you what activities the hostel has, such as walking tours or pub crawls.
What was it like?
I had to wait a few hours before being able to check in. The room they gave me was great at first sight. I booked a 6 bed mixed (female and male) dorm. I was the first one there, so all the beds were made and the bathroom freshly cleaned. Some hostels allow you to choose your bed, but mine was assigned. They gave me a bottom bunk. All was seemingly okay, but then I saw one ant… then two… then five… and more. How the Selina Porto hostel is set up most of the dorms are in buildings that are outside. There are upper and lower levels, this was a lower level room.
Remember when I said I have an irrational fear of bugs? Yeah, the panic set in quickly. I knew I’d be uncomfortable, especially with a bottom bunk. So I asked for a different room. They weren’t able to place me in one of the upper level rooms but I did get switched to a room with a top bunk. When I got to it, I was the last person there. Everyone was either sleeping or gone. So I tried my best to be quiet, putting my things away in the locker in my bunk and in the room.
From what I’ve seen (minus the ants) the hostel was pretty clean. There was a small stain on the comforter in the first room. But it looked like it was washed, probably just couldn’t come out. But my bed/room that I ended up in was fine. No ants! Due to 5 others being in the room, their belongings were all over the room. Of course your overall experience will depend on the habits of your roommates. But they were fine. And a cleaning lady came everyday to clean the bathroom and take out the trash.
Meeting My Roommates
Although I was excited about the potential to connect with others and possibly make a friend or two, I kept my expectations low. Like with cleanliness, your experience with roommates will vary greatly time after time. It will also make a difference if people are traveling with a friend, because they may be less likely to socialize. That was my case.
Two girls, from Brazil I believe, were traveling together and didn’t talk much. Not rude necessarily, but they definitely kept to themselves. Two German boys were friends and while they were definitely social, they also did more things between the two of them, which is to be expected. Lastly, a Polish guy in my room was very quiet, perhaps shy, and didn’t talk much. Eventually the two Brazilian girls left and two other girls came in, one from Mexico and another German!
They were both super friendly, especially the Mexican girl who I was able to chat with in Spanish which was exciting!
As someone who isn’t extroverted, I tried my best at making little conversation. What’s great about hostels is that you likely already have many things in common with the other travelers. First off, you all like traveling. Start there. My default questions were where was someone from and what countries have been to. The conversation can develop from there if you’ve traveled to the same place, want to go to that place or are even from that place.
I’m lucky that my native language is English because it’s so commonly spoken. Even if others aren’t fluent in English, most travelers know some. I’ve noticed it’s often the default language when people don’t have the same mother tongue. In the hostel the German travelers spoke really good English. The Brazilian girls didn’t speak much, perhaps another reason why they kept to themselves. But I’d say, learn a few phrases in the language of the country you’ll be in and knowing very basic English may help.
Check your hostel for a board that displays activities, usually somewhere in the check-in area. You can also check the hostel’s website for information or ask a staff member. Selina Porto didn’t do extremely well at making sure guests were informed of activities. I pretty much only heard about it through HostelWorld by checking on my own. Thus, I didn’t attend any. However I did spend a bit outside one night chatting with a bunch of Brazilians one night.
If your hostel isn’t great at advertising social activities, or just doesn’t have many, hang out in the common areas.
The Bathroom Situation
The bathroom situation was probably the most nerve wracking. Especially when staying in a mixed dorm. Would it be awkward? Would it clean? Again, your experience will differ depending on the hostel. At Selina Porto the bathroom was inside the room, shared between you and your roommates. It had a lock on the door, which is great. No stall to the toilet though, so only one person could be in there at a time.
Tip: If you’ll be showering in the morning, get all your things ready the night before. My roommates were late risers so I did this to try being as respectful as possible while still getting ready when I needed to.
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to using the bathroom knowing strangers are on the other side of the wall. And along with my fear of bugs, I also am a slight germaphobe and hate public bathrooms, and toilets in general. So yeah, not the greatest time in that sense. But for me it’s a sacrifice I have to make in order to travel and see the world when my budget is tight right now. So, I’ll deal with it.
I brought disinfecting wipes and also shower shoes. The shower shoes are a MUST in my opinion.
What I find kind of gross is that many places in Europe you’re not supposed to flush the toilet paper. Google whether or not the country you in allows it. Also, ask the hostel staff. In this hostel the bathroom garbage was teeny tiny so it filled up quickly and you either had to stuff the paper in (ew) or the papers were busting/falling out the can (ew). Luckily the bathroom was cleaned everyday and thus the garbage taken out.
Would I do it again?
The first night I had a mini-freakout and was so nervous and uncomfortable. But after a while it felt normal and comfortable (sans the bathroom). Selina Porto is a very cool hostel and I love the overall vibe and aesthetic of the hostel. My only regret is that I didn’t explore more of the grounds and I should’ve gotten out more! The staff were accommodating when I wanted to switch my room and the location was pretty good. Not a far walk from São Bento train station, which was great when I wanted to take day trips from Porto.
If you have any more questions about my hostel stay in general or about Selina Porto, leave a comment below or message me on Youtube or Instagram. I also stayed in a hostel in Lisbon, which I will detail in an upcoming post so stay tuned. My experience was quite different there. But all in all, I’d definitely stay in a hostel again. Portugal is known for having some of the best hostels for cheap prices. So if traveling there, definitely consider this option.
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