Do you think hostels are just for kids?
When you think about Sydney, what do you picture? The beautiful harbour and the famous opera house? The fantastic zoos and unique animals? Or do you just picture price tags, dollar signs, and credit cards? While Sydney may be one of the most expensive places in the world, but there's no need to spend a fortune on accommodations.
No need, of course, if you're willing to stay at a hostel! It's a challenge we were eager to take on at Sydney's BIG hostel on Elizabeth Street.
Aren't Hostels for Kids?
Dorm rooms are always a great option for inexpensive sleeping, but as a married couple in our 30's who are in the middle of a blogging trip, dorms aren't our first choice. We require more privacy, more peace and quiet, and we still want a few creature comforts, like our own bathroom and a bit of space to spread out our stuff. And I know we're not the only ones! More and more non-backpackers are seeking out value priced travel alternatives to help stretch their limited budgets. We were eager to see if hostels could still work for us - and the TurnipseedTravel community - by testing out the private en suite rooms at BIG.
Hunker Down in a Bunk!
Turns out the private room worked out perfectly for us! We had a double bed with a twin bunk up top (which was great when Ryan wanted to read late), an area for storing our bags and hanging our things, a small en-suite bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower, and a small flat screen TV. YES! A TV, in a hostel room! I never thought I would care about having a TV but it was great to quickly catch up on the news and pass the time when Ryan was doing the laundry.
I only had two complaints about the room. The springs on the bottom bunk bed were very noisy - every time I moved it sounded like I was trying to shake the bed apart! As well, directly outside our window was a large air exchange unit (or maybe it was an air conditioner). This didn't bother me so much but the window, both inside and out, was quite dirty. I didn't care about the view, but it was a bit of a mark against an otherwise spotless room.
Beyond The Bedroom - The Pros
The room was everything we wanted - clean, comfortable, and private. But rooms are only one part of the equation in a hostel. On the plus side, the hostel is in a good location, less than 5 minutes from the train station and about a 20-30 minute walk to the harbor. The front desk staff were always friendly, professional, and helpful. There was good security, which include interior cameras in the common areas. There was a lot of budget friendly travel info on the communal bulletin board. The luggage storage, laundry services, and rooftop patio were great amenities, as was the small but functional kitchen. Breakfast was very basic -not much more than toast and jam and instant coffee -but at least it was included in the price.
Beyond The Bedroom - The Cons
On the negative side, the common room was a bit blah. There was a large screen TV, which kept losing its signal and, when it did have reception, seemed permanently tuned to a show about the Playboy mansion. There were plenty of signs reminding people not to sleep on the couches, so its safe to assume that was a problem in the recent past. The internet, while free, was only available on the ground floor and it was spotty at best. As a result, the common room was chocked with people charging devices, trying to get a signal. It didn't make for a ton of conversation! The internet connection was so inconsistent that we were too frustrated to check email, let alone try to get some work done.
There were a few instances of disorganization, like when a schedule rooftop BBQ started 30 minutes late (leaving us to feel a bit foolish standing up there all alone). Some bathroom repairs and renovations on our floor meant there were tool boxes and supplies in the corridor, which is not unreasonable, but the (noisy) work continued on until well past 9:00 pm on one occasion, which was quite disruptive.
I very much got the impression that the BIG hostel had a lot of long term guests. From the job boards, to the posters reminding guests that not to be too casual with couches and dishes, to the signs in the elevator announcing who had received mail and who owed for another week's worth accommodations, there were many indicators that the hostel catered more to the long term traveler than those just passing through for a night or two. This community of long term hostelers can be great asset if you're looking to gain some insider info on the backpackers' scene but it can also bit intimidating, like you're walking into a college dorm where everyone knows everyone else.
With prices starting at $30 for a dorm bed and double private rooms at $110, the BIG hostel is not only affordable by Sydney standards but it also beats the prices of many other hostels in the area (where dorm beds are $50 and private rooms are $150 or more). For the cost of two dorm beds in other hostels you could have your own room, your own shower, even your own TV in a private room at BIG.
Is BIG Hostel Right For You?
I would recommend the the BIG hostel for long term travelers and I'd recommend the private rooms to travelling couples who are looking to combine the hostel atmosphere with the privacy and comfort of an en-suite room. I would, however, be hesitant to recommend BIG to a first time hosteler, especially for couples who are looking to make the transition from hotel to hostel for the first time. Between the sketchy internet, the charmless common room, and the high concentration of long time hostelers a first time hostel visitor might be more comfortable with a more polished, high end hostel to make the transition from a hotel.
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Sponsored accommodations were provided in exchange for my review. This did not affect my article and all opinions are my own.