Staying in Hostels
February 21, 2005 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Advice on staying in hostels in general, and Glasgow and Edinburgh in particular.

We still don’t know if we’re going to have a free place to stay in Edinburgh for our upcoming trip, and most likely won’t know for sure until a few days before we leave. We wanted to make reservations at a hostel with a good cancellation policy just in case. Neither of us has stayed in hostels before, so I’m not sure what kinds of questions I need to be asking (other than making sure there is no curfew). I’d prefer to stay in one that has private rooms, not dorm-style, but I don’t mind sharing a bathroom.
posted by amarynth to Travel & Transportation around United Kingdom (13 answers total)
For the Glaswegians: So far the cheapest place I’ve found that has twin or double rooms available is Bunkum, for 32 pounds per night for the both of us. I did make sure that there is no curfew. It’s at 26 Hillhead Street, Glasgow G12 8PY – Is that a good area for getting around Glasgow? We’ll be using taxis and public transportation. I’ll probably be making a reservation there today, since they won’t charge me until we get there and we’ll be able to cancel for no charge with 48 hours notice.

In Edinburgh, I’m still waiting to hear back from West End Hostel. It’s at 3 Clifton Terrace. I haven’t been able to find many reviews, though. It's about the same price -- 16 pounds per person per night for a double room.
posted by amarynth at 5:47 AM on February 21, 2005

I stayed at Bunkum in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago. It's about a ten-minute walk from the university metro station (uphill!). The folks who run the place are very friendly and the crowd at the hostel (although there wasn't much of a crowd at the end of January) was wonderful. I'm not sure if they have private rooms - I stayed in a dorm room. The bathrooms are a little bit sketchy but certainly kept clean. It's in the University district--full of neat shops and cafes--but not entirely near city centre attractions (which are minutes away on the cutest underground ever). Hope this helps!
posted by lumiere at 6:12 AM on February 21, 2005

Hillhead is in the west-end which is an ideal place to stay - it's one of the nicer looking parts of Glasgow and there are lots of good pubs and places to eat. You're close to the underground in any case. However, I stayed in a Hostel last year in Aviemore whilst doing some hill walking.

You'd have to point a gun at my head to get me to repeat the experience.
posted by john-paul at 6:18 AM on February 21, 2005

I stayed in hostels across the pond a few months ago - in Dublin and Belfast. You already know to ask the curfew question. It's not busy season, so you'll probably have good luck getting private rooms (or 4-8 person dorm rooms that aren't occupied by anyone else). Make sure you either bring or ask to rent a lock if the room has lockers for your belongings. They usually also don't provide towels for free, so bring a travel towel or extra money to wipe yourself dry with a dirty rag that hasn't been washed in the last dozen uses. ;) Often hostels don't even have hand soap in the bathrooms, either, so bring your own if you're into that hygiene thing. Have fun! I haven't been to Scotland since I went to the Edinburgh International Festival years ago. Highly recommended if you can score an extra free set of tickets in August, you lucky bastards.
posted by cactus at 6:26 AM on February 21, 2005

There was this question a few months ago about traveling to Glacier National Park in the USA (and staying in hostels along the way). I wrote a response there that I think provides good, general-purpose advice on staying in a hostel. I'll put it below for those who don't want to click through:

I've spent time in hostels in the U.K./Europe and Africa. They can range quite a bit, and especially in Europe you can often find hostels that are geared toward families. Others can be dingy, dirty, and feel very seedy. You should be able to find online reviews--or maybe even a published guide--once you have a tentative itinerary. You can sometimes get more private rooms for a higher rate, otherwise you'll be in a large room (probably with several sets of bunk beds).

You'll probably want to bring your own sheets/sleeping bag, and possibly a small pillow. You'll also want shower shoes, a container for toiletries, a padlock (you'll usually get some sort of locker space with your bed, which can often be padlocked for extra security), and a quick-drying towel (either a thin regular towel or you can get special towels geared for swimmers). Eye masks or ear plugs might be a good idea as well, as is a headlamp or small flashlight.

If you find well-reviewed places I'd say go for it--you'll save money and it can be an interesting, colorful experience.

posted by handful of rain at 6:39 AM on February 21, 2005

I've never been to Bunkum, but going by address alone you'll get around absolutely fine staying there, and it's a good area for boozing and having your tea.

There's a quite a few weegie MeFites now, so if you fancy a meetup give a yell.
posted by bonaldi at 7:56 AM on February 21, 2005

I've never been to the UK for more than three hours, but after hostelling in mainland Europe for two months I can't tout this site enough: The user reviews are usually spot-on, though the prices can be wrong sometimes. Don't book online, either - you should always call them. Most of these places don't put all their rooms up for online reservations for some reason, and talking to a live person is usually safer.

A sleep sheet would be good if you're backpacking, but if you're going to stay in a hostel with private rooms I really don't think you'll need it. Again, if you're in a private room you probably won't need them, but I would bring earplugs just in case. I know that in some of the hostels I stayed in, most of the time the only way to sleep without them was to drink yourself into a stupor.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:16 AM on February 21, 2005

Did not intend for that last paragraph to be bold. Sorry!
posted by zombiebunny at 8:21 AM on February 21, 2005

cactus: They usually also don't provide towels for free, so bring a travel towel or extra money to wipe yourself dry with

If they had that kind of money, why would they stay in a hostel?
posted by Capn at 8:29 AM on February 21, 2005

I stayed at the HI hostel in Glasgow, and it was cheap, but I stayed in dorm accommodations. I liked it very much.

Also, Glasgow is incredibly walkable, so the proximity to a subway stop isn't such a big deal (but take it anyway at least once--it's orange and goes in a circle, and somehow that always makes me giggle in a good way).
posted by dame at 10:37 AM on February 21, 2005

There are quite a few hostels in Glasgow; I'd recommend this one (see a picture here), which is (i) cheaper and (ii) in an even better location than the (very handily-sited) Bunkum. It overlooks Kelvingrove Park. In fact, on the image on that page, the hostel is part of the Park Circus area, directly to the right of the centre of the picture; indeed, the hostel is no more than 20 yards from the park itself.

Park Circus was designed by Charles Wilson and was built in the mid-19th century on a hill overlooking Kelvingrove Park (coincidentally, both the park itself and Park Circus are the main settings for Alasdair Gray's wonderful Poor Things), and since it's at the top of the park, you get amazing views – like this– over the whole of the west end of the city.

It's right next to the west end and the University; it's also a ten-minute walk from the city centre. (Though, as others have said, you should take the underground, for hilarious novelty value. Sadly, the trains are no longer orange – they've mostly reverted to the cream and claret livery they had when the underground was built back in 1896 – but they're still tiny and useful.)

It's on the same street that I lived on when I moved to Glasgow more than ten years ago; it's also just around the corner from my current abode. Oh, and I'll echo bonaldi's sentiments about a Glasgow MeFi meetup.
posted by Len at 3:40 PM on February 21, 2005

lumiere, thanks for the input on Bunkum. Given how small it is, I never imagined that a fellow mefite would have stayed there.

Len, I did look at Glasgow Youth Hostel, but it seemed like it only had dorms, not twin or double rooms. Do you know if they do have private rooms?

Today I called and made reservations for a twin room at Bunkum for 6 nights and a twin room at the West End Hostel for one night in the middle of the week. They both had good cancellation policies, so our plans our still flexible.

Thanks a lot for all of the advice, you guys. I can't wait for the trip!

We're be arriving March 18 and leaving on the 25. I'm definitely up for a Mefi meetup.
posted by amarynth at 4:37 PM on February 21, 2005

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