You save money and meet locals - but is couchsurfing right for everyone? Guest author and world traveler Claudia weighs in.
Internationally acclaimed as a must for travelers on a tight budget and as great way to get an insider's perspective of the country visited, I decided to give couchsurfing a try for the first time when I left for my big trip across Latin America.
I heard some great stories, and was ready to find out what it was all about. I was ready for some bad experiences too, and those were not missed. Indeed, I have had my share of good and bad experiences, where the bad was so bad that I have even wondered if couchsurfing was for me at all!
Updated in 2021! Hostel Old Plovdiv has earned its reputation as Bulgaria's best hostel.
I fell in love with Hostel Old Plovdiv long before I ever went to Bulgaria. A glowing review from a friend piqued my curiosity and I couldn't read enough about this restored historic property with beautiful murals (some over 100 years old!) restored four-poster antique beds for the guests, and a common room that looks like an aristocrat's library. There was no contest - I could tell this was the place for me!
But once I arrived, I struggled with what I should write. It's so unique, it almost falls into the category of "you have to see it to believe it". But then I realized that what I loved best were the little touches, the things that any other hostel could do but rarely does. Phenomenal hostels are all one of a kind properties but they also all have a few things in common - things like this:
Look out England! London, Ontario is giving you a run for your money!
If I told you that one of the coolest, most chic, most stylish hotels I've ever stayed in - ever! - was in London, you wouldn't be surprised. Cool Britannia, right? But I'm not talking about London, England. I'm talking about London, Ontario, Canada!
London is a small-to-medium sized city in southern Ontario. The surrounding countryside is known for having charming inns and bed and breakfasts but my honest expectations for accommodations within the city itself were modest. I expected comfortable yet forgettable brand name hotels, but the Hotel Metro blew away my expectations. It easily cracked my top 5 list of the most stylish hotels I've ever been in.
This hotel is dreamy in more ways than one.
If I told you I stayed at the dreamiest hotel imaginable, what comes to mind? Frills and lace? Lots of pink bows and frou-frou design? The Dream Hotel in Mons is a travel lover's dream come true, but there's not a bow or frill in sight! Instead you get an incredibly unique property, an ultra chic design, and the perfect base for exploring the city of Mons. This character-full hotel is the ideal compliment to the European Capital of Culture!
Housed in a centuries old former convent and chapel, the exterior facade melts into the city-scape. Inside, however, things are nothing but modern and chic. There's such a great marriage of the old and new and I especially loved the funky detail like the cool main floor bar, the bright red murals, and the funky black printed carpets and walls in the hallways.
Updated 2021! We've never had a hotel quite like this one. Would you stay at the EasyHotel Victoria in London?
As we stood basking in the neon glow of the electric orange paint, key card in hand, I shot Ryan a sharp look. “Promise me”, I said, “Promise me that whatever’s behind this door you’ll give me your usual, cheerful ‘Oh, now this isn’t so bad!’”.
With a whoosh, we slid the key card through the slot and stepped into our hotel room. Ryan’s face fell. “Oh”, he said flatly, “This isn’t so bad?” And with that dubious and doubtful start we began the first of four days inside an EasyHotel, the EasyHotel Victoria in London.
Wondering how to evaluate a hotel? No two trips (or people) are the same, so this is what I look at when I look at how to evaluate a hotel, hostel, and more.
My passion for travel has taken me all over the world - and has seen me end up in all kinds of accommodations. From campground to glamp-ground, from one star hostels to five star hotels - I've seen and slept in them all!
It's not always easy to objectively evaluate a property. No two trips are alike and all properties are so unique. So how do I rate what's good, what's great, and what's gross? Figuring out how to evaluate a hotel is easier said than done.Here are the three things that form the foundation for my every evaluation: The Story, The Sleep, and The Value.
Legends, luxury, and John Lennon - all for the cost of a regular hotel suite!
Have you ever wanted to party like a rock star when you travel? Or live the life of a legend, sitting in the lap of luxury? Or follow in some of the most famous footsteps in the world? With a little luck, you can enjoy all three when you stay at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth and have a slumber party with John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
In late May, 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono arrived in Montreal following their first Bed-In for Peace in Amsterdam and a one day event in the Bahamas. The Fairmont wasn't their first choice of location but many other hotels had turned them down.
As it turns out, I think the Fairmont was the perfect choice and a little bit of that musical magic is still felt in the halls today. The four adjoining rooms of the Bed-In (now configured as one large suite) were used to record Give Peace A Chance and played host to likes of Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and dozens of other visitors.
The Omni Montreal Gets Mornings Right.
How much money do you think you need to spend for a hotel to wake you up each morning with a silver carafe of homemade hot chocolate and fresh orange juice? Turns out, not nearly as much as you think!
I had never stayed at an Omni brand hotel before I visited their property in Montreal and it couldn't have come at a better time. I was beginning to think that all hotels were basically just about the same and it was time to shake things up. So when the Omni staff offered to register me as a senior loyalty member in order to more fully experience the Omni brand, I was appreciative but not necessarily overly enthused. That is, until I heard about the breakfast drink program.
It's time to sound off on snoring
The first thing my father said about me after I was born was that my ears looked "interesting". Gee, thanks! Fortunately, my otolaryngologist disagrees and tells me my ears are both perfectly healthy and utterly unremarkable in appearance. But sometimes I wonder if my 'interesting' ears aren't hearing just a little too acutely, as it seems impossible to drown out the sounds around me and get some decent sleep when I travel.
I've slept in some mighty interesting locations and situations, all in the name of value travel, from 5 star resorts to the filth covered floor of the Nairobi airport. But some recent trips have been less than restful and I'm noticing that where I'm sleeping is less important than what I'm hearing.
In London, my favourite hostel became a nightmare when a dorm-mate snored so loudly she actually drowned out the police sirens coming from nearby Kings' Cross. On an overnight trip from Singapore to Sydney, the most luxurious flight of my life was almost ruined by a man who snored so loudly that his buzz saw cacophony boomed through my foam ear plugs, which I had covered with noise cancelling headphones, which were in turn playing loud music. I'm not exactly proud of this, but I may have, um, oh so gently kicked the man in the head. And still he snored on.
So how's a girl to find a good night's sleep in a noisy world?
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