Hostels: not so hostel

Car sickness was in full swing as we traveled at extremely high speeds and then slammed to a stop, only followed by weaving to the left and punching the gas up Amsterdam Avenue. Finally, we came to screeching stop. As I fell out of the cab, I noticed that we had arrived at a grand, old, red brick building that stood about five stories tall. Techno music pulsed as people filtered in and out of the foyer with its front doors folded back, welcoming travelers. My companion and I had arrived, a little woozy, at The Hostelling International-New York and our first experience with a hostel, a place where travelers can stay for an affordable price.

No, the Empire State Building was not our hostel.

As we entered the colorful foyer with its two purple walls, a chalkboard wall with the week’s events and one Andy Warhol-esque wall with a model in black and white, tiled from roof to floor, the friendly staff welcomed us with a smile. The hostel made a traveler feel very safe. As a guest, you had to use your key to get into the rest of the lower level of the hostel which included a café, pool tables, a living room–complete with a TV, a patio and a computer room. The HI-New York did not offer free Internet but offered free Wi-Fi.

The hostel offered individual, private rooms, women and men dormitories, and co-ed dormitories, each of which rooms were six, eight or 12-bed, bedrooms. Prices ranged from $140 a night for the private rooms to $48 a night for the co-ed rooms. Our room, was secured with a credit card key entry, was a co-ed room with four bunk beds, and also offered lockers that we could secure our personal items in during the day. A guest would have to provide his or her own lock you can buy one at the front desk for an affordable $3. The beds had freshly washed linens folded at the end, along with a clean towel. Although the hostel is open to people of all ages, our roommates the first night included three women, in their early 20s, and two men. The hostel had guests that came from every inhabited continent and were polite and respectful of each other.  Depending on the time of year, and how many people you are traveling with, it is not very difficult to book a last minute stay. My traveling partner and I had to book our room just a week in advance and the HI-New York was very accommodating.

A picture of our room. It was actually a little bigger than it looks.

The HI-New York carried a college dorm-like feel, minus the constant drunk people and parties. Even the restrooms were separated by men and women. They were kept very clean and the showers were private stalls complete with a door that locked and, unlike some college showers, they didn’t blast you with cold water halfway through shampooing your hair.

The Hi-New York, located on Amsterdam Avenue and 103rd Street, was far enough uptown that the constant honking of angry cab drivers or the sirens of an ambulance did not wake you up at night. The hostel is one block from a subway station, Central Park, Columbia University, St. John’s Cathedral, a Starbucks and was also a short subway ride to Time Square and Rockefeller Center.

The night before we checked out, the front desk help offered to reserve a cab for our 4:30 a.m. departure so that we wouldn’t have to stand out in the dark trying to hale one.  As I boarded the plane, headed back to reality, I decided the HI-New York and its friendly staff had made my trip just that much more enjoyable.  With the easy 20 minute drive from La Guardia Airport, the hostel’s clean rooms and restrooms, the friendly staff and $48 a night fee, I’d recommend this to any college student wanting to explore the Big Apple.

To learn more about the HI-New York visit http://www.hinewyork.org/

-Jmac:)

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