Hostels in Review – “Back in the USSR Parts One & Two”

(that rhymed, serendipitously …)

These are reviews of backpacker hostels I stayed in during my two trips along the Western edge of what used to be the Soviet Union. Where I remembered to write a review for the booking site I used (usually Hostelworld, admittedly), I’ve included that at the start, including overall rating the site calculated. I generally stopped remembering to do that after a short while …

Remember that very often I only stay anywhere for one or two nights.

1) Cosyness Downtown Hostel, Bucharest, Romania
Date stayed: 30 April 2014
Length of stay: 1 Night

“Only there one night, but seemed very nice. Was in dorm in a separate area (with own common room) but everyone stayed in the main communal area. Staff very friendly, bordering on completely bonkers. Good comfy cushions to flop on. Kitchen slightly small but it’s a small hostel so not complaining. Easy to get to (a short stagger from the metro, and just off a major bus route anyway). On a quiet side-street.” (91%) – Hostelworld review.

Inside Bucharest Hostel
The main social area in the Cosyness Hostel. Comfortable but not very big.

Inside Bucharest Hostel
My dorm; functional and reasonably comfortable. Good wi-fi connection too!

Inside Bucharest Hostel
I didn’t actually spend any time in here, but this is the secondary social area, outside my dorm.

It’s a bit of a walk South of the city centre, but it’s a very straight main road so getting there isn’t a problem at all. It really was quite small – the living/social area can maybe fit 6-8 people, the kitchen is a petite room off the back, and the dorm I was in was in a separate building next door and up some stairs, although it did have its own social area. That said, the back garden area was pretty sizeable.

2) Magic Bus Hostel, Kiev, Ukraine
Date stayed: 7 May 2014
Length of stay: 2 Nights

“This is going to be a bit of a strange review. In principle this is a pretty cool, groovy, small hostel. Doesn’t look much from the outside (it’s on an upper floor of a city apartment building), but inside it’s warm, welcoming, and friendly. Is a couple of blocks from the metro but is near some decent cafes etc. It’s a very small hostel, but it seemed to have everything I needed. The only issue I had is that during my stay it felt like the staff outnumbered the backpackers!” (80%) – Hostelworld review

Inside Kiev Hostel
The main social area in the Magic Bus Hostel. This is probably the smallest hostel I’ve ever stayed in.

Inside Kiev Hostel
Decor in the hostel.

I suppose the last point in the brief review above ought to be caveated by the fact that virtually no-one seemed to want to come to Ukraine around the time I was visiting; even the airport was almost deserted upon my arrival.

The hostel was quite hard to find, although that might have been more my sheer incompetence rather than it not standing out. It was very small, occupying only one floor, and contains little more than a large dorm room, a small couple of sofas in the main corridor, and one of the funkiest bathroom sinks I’d ever seen. Since there appeared to be only one dorm room, and since I may have been the only backpacker staying, it felt like the staff used the other beds in the dorms for afternoon naps.

Inside Kiev Hostel
The funky bathroom sink, glittery and smooth.

At £3.49/night though, it’s one of the cheapest dorms I’ve ever stayed in.

3) Do Re Mi Hostel, Vilnius, Lithuania
Date stayed: 13 May 2014
Length of stay: 2 Nights

“Very relaxed hostel, large common area, large kitchen, plenty of space in the dorm room (I was in a 6-bed dorm in a room that others would have tried to fit 8 in). Very helpful staff, cute dog in the entrance way. Convenient for the Cathedral area and the shops on Gedimino, tho the opposite side of the city from the stations. Will definitely stay there again.” (94%) – Hostelworld review

Inside Vilnius Hostel
The large social room in the Do Re Mi Hostel. It’s a little quirky in decoration but I just felt the furniture was too small for the size of the room.

Inside Vilnius Hostel
I found the beds comfortable, if they looked just a little ‘functional’. Again, the room seemed too big for the size of the furniture.

The hostel felt huge! In fact, possibly too large, to the extent that the furniture looked more like it came out of a dolls’ house; doubly so given on my visit there weren’t too many other people staying, so everything just felt overly spacious and uncluttered. The lack of many other backpackers made the place even more quiet. It was a comfortable stay though.

It’s located in quite a grandiose-fronted building, very close to Lukiškės Square and government offices, in an area with lots of trees and parkland, which makes it feel quite affluent and safe. It’s just off the main street (Gedimino) and an easy & comfortable walk to both the river and the old town.

Inside Vilnius Hostel
The outside of the hostel. Just to the right was a small grassy area leading to Gedimino.

4) Hostel Euphoria, Tallinn, Estonia
Date stayed: 22 August 2014
Length of stay: 3 Nights

It’s not much to look at on the outside, being on an upper floor in an otherwise-unremarkable and quite grubby concrete building, and the entrance door is hidden away down a service driveway, but once inside it opens out into a nice interior. Both the main social area and the dorm I was in were very spacious – in fact the social area felt a little like a school assembly hall in terms of size. Lockers were a pretty decent size too.

Inside Tallinn Hostel
Although a large room, the beds themselves felt much more like they ‘belonged’ in it I thought. Plenty of space without feeling too lost.

The young staff were very welcoming, and didn’t even seem too surprised that I’d turned up barefoot, nicely subverting their ‘shoes-off’ policy. It was quite busy when I was there, and the clientele were a youthful crowd, but the place had more of a ‘festival’/’hippie-trail’ vibe than a ‘party’ one – late into the evening they were ‘jamming’ on musical instruments. There’s musical instruments, Indian/Nepalese-style colours and furnishings, and even shisha pipes available for hire.

Inside Tallinn Hostel
The main social room. The seats were all around the outside of the room, and as you can see, there’s what acts like a ‘stage’ at the far end.

It’s quite central, being just on the other side of the main road from Freedom Square, but felt very quiet and calm. In other cities, the road it’s on might feel dark and oppressive, but not here in Tallinn. I’d definitely consider staying in it again if I go back to Tallinn (which is likely as there’s lots of good beer! Lol!)

Inside Tallinn Hostel
The stairwell. This was one of the hostels I’ve stayed in over the world with a good appreciation of ‘wall art’.

5) Central Hostel, Riga, Latvia
Date stayed: 25 August 2014
Length of stay: 2 Nights

It’s 1.5km from St Peter’s Church, in the centre of Riga, and 650m from Riga Central railway station. Neither of these figures sound a lot, but for some reason it felt a lot further out than it ought to have done, in a residential/commercial, but not a ‘busy’ one. In addition, the road there felt like one of those quiet inner-city roads that lone female travellers are always cautioned to be wary of.

The building itself was a slightly odd-looking two-storey place with converted loft space, although the hostel occupies only the upper floor and loft. Although pleasant inside, it didn’t feel spacious. It’s a weird hostel; seems like lots of rooms in a kind of rabbit warren, but (unless I’m missing something) no real social area – there’s a couple of small rooms with a computer and a TV, and there’s a smallish kitchen, but nothing designed to encourage people to come together. My dorm was in the converted loft space, which was quite quaint with lots of wood everywhere rather than plastic/metal, although again not as spacious as many hostels I’ve stayed in. Facilities were modern, if maybe a little bland, and the bed was pretty comfortable, although the room was a little on the warm side.

Inside Riga Hostel
My dorm was pleasant enough, although a little more ‘cramped’ than the others in Eastern Europe.

I dunno, I guess where it was didn’t enthuse me, plus the fact of the three Baltic Capitals, I liked Riga the least, means I may have a slightly more negative view of it than I should. It was a perfectly acceptable hostel, just maybe it underwhelmed me.

Outside Riga Hostel
Pic taken outside the door of the hostel, looking away from the city centre. It’s not the most salubrious of surrounds, I have to say.

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