Hostel Guide: Amsterdam

Thinking of taking a trip to the ‘Dam?

If you’re planning a trip around Europe then you’d be amiss to leave Amsterdam out.

Whilst this bustling city might well be crammed with tourists all-year round, it’s still an absolute must-visit destination with more than enough sights and attractions to fill a few days.

17 million tourists flocked to Amsterdam in 2016 and with numbers expecting to rise to 30 million by 2025, dozens of hostels have opened their doors in the last two decades hoping to capitalise on the millions of tourists needing a place to crash after a long day on their feet.

The following five hostels have been chosen for their style, service and locations:

Flying Pig Uptown Hostel

First up is a youth hostel that strictly enforces it’s under-35 policy, so if you’re a mature traveller you might have to look elsewhere! If you’re lucky enough to have youth on your side then this is a great choice for making friends and staying out late. Be warned – this is a rowdy hostel that will be packed full of party-animals, so get ready to socialise!


Although the beds might cost a little more in this eco-conscious hostel, you’ll guarantee that you’ll be sharing a dorm with like-minded people who appreciate their hip decor as much as saving the planet. Ecomama has all the facilities that you’d expect, including an indoor teepee that doubles as an indoor cinema.

Heart of Amsterdam

Whilst the Heart of Amsterdam might roll with it’s Hollywood theme on a budget, it’s ample amenities and decent breakfast more than make up for any questionable decor decisions. As the name suggests, the hostel is smack bang in the middle of the city with many of the main attractions just a short walk away.

Generator Hostel Amsterdam

It’s pretty hard to miss Generator’s Amsterdam location, what used to be a zoological university building now houses up to 564 guests at a time. This award winning hostel can be found on the eastern side of the city, adjacent to Oosterpark. Rooms are affordable and there are some great places to hang out in the evenings, from the chill-out lounge in a former lecture hall to a ‘secret’ late night bar in an old boiler room.

Stayokay Hostel Amsterdam Vondelpark

Rivalling the Generator for size, there are 536 beds to choose from at this massive hostel. Take your pick from 2 to 6-bed rooms or a handful of large dorms and enjoy the idyllic park location. Breakfast isn’t included but can be ordered at the hostel and with prices this cheap, it’s hardly much of a deterrent. Visit in the city to make the most of the bike hire and the glorious park locale.

Hostel Guide: Barcelona

Ask any seasoned traveller…

They’ll tell you that Barcelona is as high on their list of places to visit as London, Rome or Paris

Although it might have taken some time to build up the kind of reputation that those countries have had for a few decades; the raucous night life, zany architecture and bustling atmosphere has made this party city one not to miss on any Euro trip.

One of the less savoury reputations that the city has taken a few years to shake off is the number of dodgy, or straight up dangerous hostels that would regularly rip off or steal from hapless travellers with no other option. Things have changed somewhat since then, with the development of user-based review sites like Trip Advisor and providing a safe outlet for hassled travellers to express their frustrations.

This increased transparency has taken all the risk out of booking hostels and also led to the overall quality of Barcelona’s hostel industry to rise – which is good news for everyone!

These five hostels show how far the city has come in such a short space of time.

Practical, stylish and cool – these are travellers’ hostels for the 21st Century:

Sant Jordi Gracia

Clean cut lines, cool wooden flooring, beanbags and bikes. Sant Jordi Gracia epitomises the new era of traveller hostel and attracts just the kind of clientele you’d expect from a place who (rather bravely) covered the majority of it’s rooms and corridors in brilliant white paint.

Motivational messages run up the stairs, graffiti style artwork adorns the walls and you’ll probably end up wanting to stay there forever and set up a startup.

Bed&Bike Barcelona

There aren’t many hostels that are trusting enough to supply their guests with free bikes to hire, but that’s the kind of place that Bed&Bike is. Reviewers praise the calm environment in this relaxed hostel, as well as the close proximity to town.

A massive open space, filled with hip low-key furniture and textures, is one of this hostel’s other great features.

Generator Hostel Barcelona

This centrally located hostel/aparthotel hyrbid has something for everyone. There are spotless dorms for those on a shoestring and a penthouse apartment for travellers with deeper pockets.

Each room is decorated with it’s own distinctive, but unmistakably Spanish style and the front of house staff are rated amongst the best in the city.

St. Christopher Inn Barcelona 

Sparse minimalism meets sarky street art in this well-rated hostel. Dorm rooms are comfortable and well designed, but if you cough up a few extra quid for a double room you’ll likely not regret it.

In a central position, St Christopher’s benefits from it’s own restaurant on the bottom floor, perfect for a late night snack or getting a head start on your day out.

Sant Jordi Hostel Rock Palace

Although Sant Jordi Hostel Rock Palace might look like a standard hostel from the outside, appearances can be deceiving. Travellers praise the friendliness of the staff, as well as the generous rooftop pool which makes for an ideal spot for late-night drinks.

With drum kits, electric guitars and music memorabilia covering the walls, this place definitely has a theme – don’t expect to have a peaceful night’s sleep!

How Much Should I Plan My Gap Year?

It’s the eternal question that has plagued many a gap year student, English teacher and holiday maker.

The notion of ‘travelling’ has changed from what it used to be.

Before the backpacker explosion, the notion of taking a gap year as we know it today almost seemed unnecessarily extravagant. After all, our parents never had a chance to do such a thing, why on Earth should we be able to?

But that was exactly why so many teenagers. during the late 60s and 70s, started to travel more. In the wake of the austerity that had gripped the UK for decades after the Second World War, teenagers and young adults were finally beginning to assert their rights to roam the country and began envisioning a way to grow up that was markedly different to how their parents did so.

Instead of leaving school at 16 and entering straight into a job, the young person’s youth began to extend beyond their teens. As the world changed around them and communications grew, the world appeared to shrink and each corner of the globe seemed that much easier to grasp. It wasn’t until the cost of flights began to significantly drop that the gap year, as we know it today, became a more viable option for the mainstream masses.

By the time the 00s hit, despite a constant barrage of Global Recessions and Financial Crashes, more and more British kids were heading overseas to ‘find themselves’.

By this point, the travelling gap year had become less of a daring risk and more of a rite of passage.

Thanks to a slow but solid increase in young travellers trotting the globe, thousands of entrepreneurial individuals from all over the planet were beginning to catch on. Soon, hostels began popping up, inviting travellers to take a load off in shared dormitories for cut prices.

The standard of these hostels at the start were poor. After all, most of the would-be budget hoteliers were not trained for the world of customer service. Beds were left to fester, bathrooms struggled to compete with the standards of prison camps and thefts were common place. As with all fledgling industries, it would take time and healthy competition to raise the standard of these places.

As the Information Age hit its stride, websites began cropping up, providing travellers with an opportunity to review their stays, causing hoteliers to reconsider the way that they transacted their business.

For many, they had reached something of an impasse. Their current standard of treating customers brought in money and had the bonus of requiring little action on their parts. However, if they chose to continue this they risked creating a bad reputation for their business and potentially ruining their future incomes.

The end result of the constant push-pull relationship between online reviewers and hostel owners is symbolised by the current state of hostels that we now see today. Thanks to almost ten years of customer based invigilation – we can now safely research our night’s stay before our holiday has even began.

Whilst the pioneering gap year travellers of the 60s may well snort in derision at the lack of spontaneity inherent in preempting such a trip – we can all sleep a little safer knowing that we’re in a decent hostel.

Hostel Guide: Milano, Italy

Any trip to Italy is simply incomplete without a visit to Milan.

The city is one of the most populous in the country, with over 8 million Italians hustling and bustling throughout its twisting roads and towering skyscrapers.

Home to Italy’s Stock Exchange, you might want to pack a suit if you want to fit in with the sharply dressed businessmen and fashion designers that flock the concrete streets everyday. If you’d rather save some money then avoid the swanky areas and have a look at a few cultural things to see in Milan.

When the end of the day comes, you’ll need somewhere comfortable yet affordable to stay. Luckily, Milan has played host to travellers for decades and now boasts a truly competitive ecosystem of hostels and guesthouses, catering to all tastes.

These are our top 5 picks for Hostels in Milan:

Ostello Bello Grande

Although Ostello Bello’s little brother resides in a much more desirable location, in the centre of the city, Grande’s spacious communal areas, including peaceful rooftop garden and ultra-chic dining area, make this an absolute for any traveller looking for a comfortable break from the norm.

El Paso Milano

Just a short walk from Piazza Loreti – a transport hub for the city, this is a guesthouse that has been consistently rated for it’s cleanliness and helpful staff, The rooms are all tastefully furnished and you’re never far from a quick bus or train into the city – perfect for couples travelling.

Queen Hostel

Sometimes all you need from a hostel is a clean bed and a place to hang out. Queen Hostel is the latest establishment to adopt this simple credo, with an emphasis on creating clean, light areas for travellers to socialise. A particular highlight is the gorgeous open plan kitchen with complimentary board games!

New Generation Hostel Urban Navigli

There are 3 New Generation Hostels in Milan and they all uphold the same high standards for cleanliness and security. Whilst the decor may feel slightly too clinical at times, the beds are affordable priced and the locations are all fantastic, with Urban Navigli being a particular highlight.

Gogol’Ostello and  & Cafte Letterario

Whilst centrality might not be high on your agenda if you choose to stay at Gogol’Ostello, you will be rewarded by a comfortable night’s stay in one of the chicest new Hostels the city has to offer. Rustic Italian furniture blends with a modern colour scheme to create a truly unique place to stay.

Family Feelings

I don’t particularly care about anything and I’m quite lazy.

I think this a core problem for me.

I don’t really care about my family or friends, but they should know that I also don’t really care about myself, so it’s hardly an insult. I mean yeah, it’s no compliment. But life isn’t all compliments, so I don’t see how anyone can really complain about that.

My feelings

My sister.

My sister wants a lot of things, she’s really after stuff that girl. One week she wants some pair of shoes, then it’s concert tickets, then it’s a hat (that looks to me just like any old hat that you could buy anywhere, but, apparently, is a very special hat that you can only buy in one place and in that one special place it costs about two hundred British Stirling pounds).

My poor parents.

Last Christmas I got in touch with her before Christmas to see what she wanted for Christmas. She knows that I work a few days a week and am not a rich man. I’m not on the breadline but if I wanted any sort of lifestyle I would be.

I live a simple life and supplement that with a lot of drinking. But she goes off asking me for some fur gilet from some really rather fancy place down in London. That’s right a fur gilet. 


Yes. That’s what that is apparently.

Now, I have an opinion of myself, which is probably by a large margin quite inaccurate, that I try to stick to purchasing things which are essential, especially when it comes to big purchases. Of course, I spend money on alcohol, and that’s not essential. And I spend money on cigarettes, and they’re not essential. But, if you only buy those things, you realise that it means you can cope with not being able to buy anything more lasting.



A fur gilet is not an essential. So I refused. I got her a book that was reduced to 99p. She pretended to like it and I pretended to be happy.

That’s how family works.

To Be On The Road

“Living on the road is hard. Dying on the road is really hard. But leaving the road? Now that’s impossible”


A life on the road is always a fascinating life.

Those who truly live out there (out in the great ‘there’ that surrounds us all) necessarily have less regular routine and more regular unique experiences.

That is the blessing of the road, a blessing which some struggle with, but one I refuse to call a curse. It is a blessing; even when you are suffering – it is a blessing.

When you are lost and in pain and bleeding – it is a blessing. When you are alone and cold and scared – it is a blessing. When you don’t know how you’re going to get back to civilisation, and whether you even want too, it is a blessing. It is a blessing, now and forever, it is a blessing.


Many true road folk would rather die than retire from their nomadic purity.

To ‘go static’ in the vernacular of the road, to plant your feet down heavily and hang up your wandering boots, to turn your back on the wind and the rain and the sun and the glory and make your self still. To stop. To stop after a lifetime. To stand still and stop. That’s tough.


I travelled North Recently, up Yorkshire way.

I stopped in the rolling hills to pay a visit to a set of sited static caravans stashed away amongst the green. I was there to visit an old friend who had retired from the road, left it after being one of the most embedded road dogs I had ever met.

This guy embodied the damn road completely. He was the road. But no longer. He had decided that he wanted to try comfort, try routine. He wanted to see out his days static. And that is what he is doing.

I am envious of him in some ways, he is gaining a new perspective on life in his last days. Perhaps he is the one acting without fear by leaving the road. I suppose the true embodiment of the life I wish to lead is following your feelings and following your instincts, whether that leads you along the road or off it…

Hostel Hostel Kitchen Hostel


There’s no such thing as a good hostel without a good kitchen. A hostel needs a kitchen just like a human needs a brain, or a stomach or an iPad or something.


Without a kitchen, how can the people cook? Without a clean kitchen, how can people cook happily? Without a big kitchen, how can people cook together? Without a modern kitchen, how can people cook without some sort of old time skills or something?

Well, its rustic, but not ideal…

No, you need a bloody proper, bloody great, big bloody, proper good kitchen, with all the things that you need and all the things that can be made and all the things that can be put in a kitchen.

Apparently the place to start with is acquiring kitchen carcasses. They are not, as you might imagine, the dead bodies of brave kitchens that fought in the Kitchen-Bathroom War of Attrition that waged from the mid 1990s until the peace accords were signed in 2007. Neither are they kitchens who fell in the Great Kitchen-Bathroom-Living Room Triple Threat that took place at WWE’s ‘House Of Pain’ event in 2013.


No, they are like a kitchen unit but just the unit, no door or anything. Just the unit, just the bare bones. Get it? Kitchen carcass? Get it? Get it? Get it? Very clever!


If you buy great kitchen carcasses you can build great kitchen units. If you can build great kitchen units you can build a great kitchen. If you can build a great kitchen you can build a great hostel. If you can build a great hostel you can build a great community. And, most importantly, if we can build great communities we can build a great world.

So yeah, kitchen carcasses are kinda important.

Couch-Surfing, Airbnb And The Future Of Hostels

It used to be that for those travelling on the cheap there was only one game in town and that was the hostel.

Hostels stretched across the globe creating a cohesive if chaotic path through it all and for us all.

Whilst they would often be maligned and horror stories would always be shared of disgusting bathrooms, flea ridden beds and dodgy deals, the hostel reigned supreme and unchallenged and so could retain its defects without any fear that it would be punished for them.


That was always the deal, you took the rough with the smooth and when you turned up in a new town at a new hostel you just held your breath and hopped for the best.

Sure, sometimes you’d find that the hostel owner didn’t think that you really needed a working shower and liked to tickle sleeping customers with his naked feet, but sometimes you’d be welcomed with some warm food and a hot bath.

Whatever happened you always had the solidarity of your fellow travellers, a solidarity born of the fact that you had to accept this situation, that this was the deal that you accepted when you left your boring home and your boring life and your boring friends and your boring family (that all might have been quite comfortable and smelt pretty good) for a life of adventure and surprise. That was the backpackers wager, and it was a wager that defined us.


But, friends, things have changed.

First the information available to backpackers exploded with reviews being written and we many being empowered to actually know (to some extent) what kind of a place we where heading into. This meant awful hostels could only get away with it for so long before being found out by customer flow and sometimes regulatory authorities. Suddenly the relationship between backpacker and hostel was changing, and the very nature of backpacking was changing too…