Guide to Your First Hostel Stay

I stayed in my first hostel in Kyiv with my boyfriend, but recently had my first experience in a hostel while traveling solo in Rome. I enjoyed both stays immensely and will definitely give more hostels a chance in the future. There are a few questions you should ask yourself before you decide to stay in a hostel. How many people are you traveling with? What kind of accommodation experience do you want? Are you comfortable sharing a room with strangers? Are you a light sleeper? Is the cheapest option the best option? Other alternatives to hostels are hotels, Airbnb, homestays, and motels. Additionally, a private room in a hostel is usually more expensive than an Airbnb or hotel. If you want the social aspect of hostels with the privacy, then a private room makes sense. If you just want a private room and the best value for money, a hostel might not make sense.

Other factors to consider are location, dorms, and booking:

Make sure you research the area you want to stay in – for the good and the bad. One highly rated hostel in Rome is also on one of the more dangerous streets near the station. Since I was a lone female traveler, I chose not to stay at that hostel and chose to stay at another highly rated hostel on the other side of the station in a safer area. Granted, I based the safety of the area of extensive research of online reviews, but since I had never stayed in Rome before this was all I had to go off of. And it turned out, my hostel was in a safe neighbourhood and I never had any problems.

For dorms, I chose an all-female dorm (four beds) in Rome because I feel safer around women when I am alone than men. You may feel differently or the same, so it’s always good to check the room options a hostel has. In Kyiv, Conor and I stayed in a two-bed ‘private’ dorm. All hostels differ on what they provide, so shop around a bit to find what works best for you.

Finally, when booking, I suggest booking direct with the hostel. I do my research on sites like HostelWorld or, but when it’s time to book I reach out to the hostel directly to get the best rate. That may be unfair of me as I used HostelWorld for its resources to then not book through them, but the added fees add up for a budget traveler. Skips the fees, book direct.

Things you MUST bring if you want to have a good stay: Lock, Ear Plugs, Day Bag

Be courteous, but expect that it’s not a hotel: For example, don’t be that person who snoozes their alarm from 6am to 8am – it’s just rude. Make sure to cleanup after yourself in the bathrooms and kitchen, don’t be loud late at night, don’t turn the lights on early in the morning, etc. Most of this you already know, but it makes the stay so much better if you’re conscious of how your behaviour affects the other guests. Unfortunately, there are times when you get stuck in a room with a rude guest who snoozes their alarm, leaves puddles on the bathroom floor, or comes in at 3am yelling and stomping around. If it’s a short stay, try to take it in stride (maybe add eye mask to the list of things to bring just in case). If it’s a long stay and you’re really not happy – talk to the person (nicely), talk to your host, or pack up and find somewhere else to stay – whatever it takes for you to have a good holiday.

Last but certainly not least, be social. Besides the low rates, most people book hostels because they want to be social while traveling, have people to talk to, or have people to do things with. So hang out in the common rooms, talk to you roommates, and ask the host for recommendations. It can be awkward at first, but I found reading in the common room to be a good way to start. It allows you to be doing something if no one is in the common room and it allows you to just exist in the space while you work up the courage to talk to other travelers. This worked for me in Rome where I met two other Americans and we made plans for dinner. In Kyiv, the hostel was a bit more social with a bar so it was easy to approach people in that setting. Staying in a hostel is a great way to make friends who want to see the sights with you or do an excursion – while staying in a hostel in La Paz, Conor met a fellow traveler to climb a mountain with! People you meet in hostels can become friends you keep in touch with for a long time.

Dana’s Do’s:

  1. Do your research to find the best fit for you.
  2. Bring ear plugs!
  3. Hang out in the common rooms to make travel friends.

Two Days in Kiev, Ukraine

The Ukraine was never high on my list of top places I wanted to visit when I moved to England. I had always fantasized about the Colosseum in Rome, the Northern Lights in Iceland, and the Lourve in Paris. These are just a few examples of places that have been on my “bucket list” for a long time. Mostly due to pop culture, Eastern Europe hadn’t really crossed my mind. Then, I moved to England. From England, flights to Eastern Europe can be incredibly inexpensive. A whole new part of the world opened up to me for short weekend trips – Budapest, Prague, Vienna, etc.

Kiev didn’t cross my mind until Conor and I watched the first episode of Chernobyl, the HBO hit show. After the first episode, I was so intrigued by Chernobyl, the disaster, the story, the mass human movement that came after, as well as the surrounding areas that were affected. Immediately, Conor and I looked it up – you can, in fact, visit the Exclusion Zone (in which the Chernobyl powerplant is located) and it’s safe to do so. Over 60,000 tourists visit each year. We basically looked at each other and said “F*ck it, let’s go.” Neither of us had been to the Ukraine before and it was such a unique opportunity to witness first hand the power of humans to create, destroy, lie, and rebuild. Additionally, the more we researched Kiev, the more we wanted to visit. It seemed like a beautiful city, a mixture of incredible, splendid architecture from the Gothic period to the overbearing, intense soviet architecture.

We booked a two day Chernobyl tour bookended by two days in Kiev. I will leave the tour of Chernobyl for another post, but I will tell you about Kiev and the amazing experience we had.

We found roundtrips flights to Kiev in the middle of June for £60 each on EasyJet. We were only going for five days so we packed backpacks to travel lightly. Five days might seem long to travel with just a backpack, especially as a girl, but it can be done! I packed one pair of jeans and two long sleeves (for the tour we needed clothes that covered the whole body), one midi dress and one sundress – the weather was HOT while we were there. I packed my running shoes and sandals. Easy peasy if you plan ahead and don’t overpack (one of my biggest travel flaws).

For accommodation, we stayed in two different hostels. The first night we stayed in a hostel that would be close to the pick-up location for our tour the next day. This was located on the other side of the train tracks from the main part of Kiev. It was definitely more local and residential, which is why I am glad we switched to a different hostel for the days after our tour. The second hostel we stayed at was Dream Hostel in the center of downtown Kiev. It is marketed incredibly well online and has great reviews. I can attest to those positive reviews. Conor and I stayed in a private room, which was very clean and had everything we could need. The reception area was welcoming and helpful. There was also a cafe, bar, and outdoor seating area. The only downside in my opinion was that even though there seemed to be a lot of people staying there, it wasn’t too social. Conor and I only talked to one other person. Most seemed to be in groups traveling together, not really interested in making friends. We were only there for a short time though and not over the weekend, so it could be that during the week is a little slow. Overall, I would definitely recommend this hostel.

Since the pound goes very far in Kiev, Conor and I were able to go to a couple really nice meals for relatively cheap. There are definitely cheaper places to go to than we went to as well – we hit up a couple cafes during the day. But since it was a vacation, we splashed out a bit – and by that I mean we spent £50 total on a meal at the nicest hotel in town…rooftop sushi. It was so delicious and an incredible experience for super cheap compared to the equivalent in London. Moral of the story, you can travel to Kiev and spend almost no money and still have a great time, or you can spend a bit more money and also have a great time! Depends on your budget and what you’re looking for.

b-hush at the Intercontinental Hotel
After seeing the Chernobyl Museum, we stopped across the street at Dom No. 10.

Walking through Kiev was time consuming – the city is HUGE. And hilly. But I got more than enough steps in and I loved every second of it. There is always something new around the corner, and usually something very different from what you just saw. Kiev is a beautiful mix of old and new, having the feel of a Western European city yet proudly Eastern European. It was different from anything I’ve ever experienced, but it also felt slightly familiar. Yes, the language was a bit of a barrier, but most people spoke English from passable with hand gestures to as fluent as I am. Armed with Google Maps and a Ukraine SIM card, Conor and I were unstoppable tourists. We virtually ran into no problems, there’s even Uber in case you’re far from your hostel late at night! Overall, I would 100% recommend putting Kiev on your bucket list.

Below are some of the highlights from our sightseeing. I felt like we saw a lot, but there was still so much we didn’t see, so it’s not an exhaustive list but you should definitely add at least a couple of these to your itinerary.

St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral
Very Soviet train station
St. Sophia’s Cathedral
Independence Square
National Opera of Ukraine
A.V. Fomin Botanical Garden
St. Andrew’s Church
National Museum of the History of Ukraine
View from Volodymyrksa Hill

Dana’s Do’s:

  • Look for cheap flights and carry light to make the most of your budget.
  • Stay in a hostel for the social experience.
  • Take time to just wander the city – there’s something new around every corner.

A Gallery of More Pictures Because I Love Them All