Singapore, Travel Tips

The lowdown on staying at backpacker hostels

So, you want to save money and stay at a backpacker hotel. After all, you reason out — you are a seasoned traveler, there is nothing that will faze you and you will not part with your travel fund to pay for an overpriced hotel you’ll only be staying in to sleep.

This is my exact train of thought as I scour the hotel booking sites for an affordable place to stay in Singapore. It’s common knowledge that booking a place to stay in Singapore is not cheap, especially when you are a group of six trying to save a few bucks.

After a bit of searching in the internet, we finally agreed that we’d rather book in a back packer hostel. After all, we really didn’t have much requirements in a place: as long as it has a nice flushing toilet, it’s safe and relatively clean — we are all set. After much searching, we ended up booking Footprints Hostel, located in a quiet neighborhood in the fringes of Little India and about a ten minute walk to Bugis Junction.I obsessively read the reviews at Trip Advisor and concluded that the stay can’t be that bad since good reviews heavily out weight the bad reviews. The fact that a six-person room is going for SGD20 (PHP750) per person as opposed to the usual SGD160 for a 4 person bed in a 3-star hotel convinced us.

Booking the room was effortless and we only paid 10% deposit, with the rest to be settled in cash as soon as we arrived (read more on my TripAdvisor review).

The living room at Footprints Hostel -- all sots of peeps, you are not entitled to be snooty

The living room at Footprints Hostel — all sots of peeps, you are not entitled to be snooty

Anyway, after a four day staff at a backpacker hostel, I realized a few things:

1. Staying in a back packer hostel is best done when you are with friends, not with family – Friends, the type who loves traveling and is the no-frills-type, who will appreciate the all-nighter drinking sessions or the fact that you will be in close proximity with other travelers. It is the young types who will enjoy meeting new friends or likely acquaintances. Never bring two senior citizens who cower with the sight of various nationalities in a place where the United Nations is aptly represented.

2. Manage your expectations – the fact that you are paying SGD20 for a bed to sleep in a country where the same amount is expected to buy you a full meal at McDs means you shouldn’t expect service of the Ritz. Expect to find dust when you reach for your shoes under the bed, expect to find a bleary-eyed foreigner slumped on the ground floor terrace clearly with too much to drink, you will find used tissues on the edge of the toilet instead of the trash can. Looking for things that are clearly not in the horizon will only make your stay miserable – don’t look for TV in your rooms, don’t look for super clean areas and do not look for the ambience because it is not existent.

3. Open your mind – there’s a big chance that you’ll see an old man with his foot up the table, together with his half-eaten bowl of cereal while two peeps (who seemed not to have taken a bath in a very long time) huddled on the couch plotting their next trip, you will share your breakfast with a lot of people that will not look similar to how you look. If you are not comfortable dealing with people that are very different from you, I suggest you save money and book a nice hotel where you will have less opportunity to interact with other people. Or maybe, you can save your money and NOT travel at all.

4. Use the net to look for the best choice – Trip Advisor is helpful to find out if the hostels are good and safe. Remember, no amount of money saved is worth the bed bug bite.

So, will I stay again at a backpacker hostel? Definitely. I might even go back to Footprints. I guess the secret really i keeping an open mind and enjoying the experience.


Review: Taal Vista Hotel, Tagaytay City

My absence this past few days was because of the office Strategic Planning held in picturesque Tagaytay. For my non-Filipino readers, Tagaytay is a city located in the south of the Capital. Tagaytay is known for it’s cold climate (it’s up the mountains), delicious food (especially bulalo/stewed beef shank) and of course, the magnificent Taal Volcano, known for being a volcano within a lake within a volcano that is located in a larger lake. The Taal Volcano is also the world’s smallest active volcano and in spite the passing of the years, Taal and Tagaytay remained a favorite vacation spot of many Filipinos.

The Strategic Planning for this year was held in the historic Taal Vista Hotel. This hotel has been around since 1939 and is considered a legend already in the Taal area. A few years back, the hotel underwent a major renovation which brought back the shine and splendor of its amenities. The lobby was located at the English Tudor-style mansion which connects the new wing (the building) to the old wing (where we stayed).

The Old Wing showed hints of its age, yet it is well-maintained and clean that you wouldn’t mind putting up with the occasional hiccups, like a small bit of peeling paint very minor cracks in the bath tub area. Service was also good and prompt, which I think Taal Vista deserves great kudos for.

Room 311, Twin

Room 311, Twin

Access to the room is via key card and should you ever fail to close your door within 2 minutes upon opening, it will emit a high pitched sound, alerting that the door is open. I find this bit commendable since it puts extra emphasis on the guests’ safety.

The room had two twin beds and a well-stocked mini bar which I tried to ignore as much as I can. Of course, seeing a bottle of orange juice being sold at twice its price has a way of bumming the hell out of you. So, even if I was in the midst of pre-dinner hunger pangs, I decided to while away time snoozing on the comfy love seat beside my bed.

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I was one of the first people in our group to check in so I had a bit of a time enjoying the peace and quiet in the comfort of my room. I was happy fiddling with my iPhone in bed when I faintly heard a rustle behind the doors. This made my imagination work in overdrive. Office mates kept telling me that Taal Vista had its resident ghosts — which I am glad to report, seemed nothing but just an urban legend. Trust me. This is coming from a girl who spent majority of her stay locked up in the room, sometimes without the room mate, and heard/felt/seen nothing.

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Our comfort room is large, airy and stocked with toiletries. The only draw back was that we had to call for the plumber the next morning since our bath tub was not draining water properly. After we reported, maintenance was able to immediately sort the problem easily.

Food was also okay. I like the breakfast better because I felt like there was more selection for the breakfast buffet. Their sweet desserts was also okay, but pastries should be improved since all pastries we’ve eaten are either not moist enough or bland. It’s a shame considering how nice it looked.

lunch - starters

lunch – starters

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So if you have plans of visiting the Philippines, squeeze in a quick trip (maybe a night? or two?) to Tagaytay. If you’re up for it — Taal Vista Hotel has its own fireplace, usually surrounded by young preppy types catching on their social accounts while enjoying the camp fire.