tips
* For the people who tend to always get lost. It's hereditary. I guarantee. I got it from my mama.

how to survive alone in a foreign country

I think up to this point, a lot of people are still shocked (my mum & boyfriend being the top of the list of people) that I managed to navigate around cities and travelled without wifi/without data /4G/3G/whatever form of phone internet connection. Judging from how I can get lost with google maps IN THE CITY I GREW UP IN.

I have to say, travelling alone was by far one of the most interesting, fun and special experiences i'll ever have in my life and my GREATEST takeaway from 2015.
Now when my dad and uncles talk about how the bag packed around Europe when they were younger, and how the scrimped and saved to afford a train ticket, I can relate.

tips to survive alone in a foreign country

After travelling for the most part of 2015, I have always wanted to share some of my tips especially for those who are afraid to take the plunge to travel alone or visit places alone.
This post has been in the works (and forgotten about oops)! For a while, and now its time to share!

Here are some easy ways to survive a solo travel, especially for those who, like me, tend to get lost one too many times, and are seriously dependent on WIFI. This is how you beat the odds!

THINK: You’re NOT Alone
When you think it often enough, somehow you end up convincing yourself that you're fine alone. Instead of thinking "What if i get pick pocketed in Paris, what if some one steals my phone in Italy what if I get lost in Portugal all on my own, what if..." think "If this happens, i'll just -inserts a way to solve the issue- after all, I'm not alone".
Tbh, bad things happen, no matter where you live, doesn't stop you from going to the grocery store on your own in your home town now does it? Sure some places are safer than others, and walking in a dark alley can be pretty scary, but just imagine all the people walking around alone in the city/town/place you're in.

You're not alone.
Just be brave, and you'll soon find out that the world isn't as dangerous as people make it out to be.

traditional mountain top house japan

PLAN: Pre-download Maps/Pre-plan your route
Well, in order to survive without wifi/internet connection on your phone (cause that is at least an additional $10 for every city = one good meal!) you need to preplan your routes. At least before you leave. Or make sure you know how to get back to your accomadation.
Citymaps2go, Citymapper, etc. there are tons of map apps out there that don't need wifi to operate pick one, familiarise yourself with it, and you're good to go. Citymaps2go is my fav.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I lost my phone, thank God that has never happened, but you can always double up with a physical map of the city if you want (I can't read physical maps, so I never use them, but I ALWAYS ALWAYS keep my phone secured).

Japan cut out trees on road trip
Japan road trip trees

DO: Talk To Locals/Other people
Don’t be afraid to talk to people even if you think they wouldn’t understand you. Trust me, people will find all ways to communicate or direct you even if you can't understand them. Once and old lady tried to guide me to the hostel I was staying at and we both spoke in completely different languages with a ton of hand gestures. It worked.
Don't be afraid to approach people. You'll find that there are a ton of friendly people in this world!

STAY: Choose hostels
This goes without staying. Stay in a place where people you meet LIVE in that city, and can give you tips on how to get around. I stayed in hostels during all my travels alone because
a) You meet people of the same demographic locals, students, people who have visited said city multiple times, etc.
b) It's way more affordable, and
c) You get to meet OTHER solo travellers and listen to their stories - by far the greatest thing that comes with travelling alone.

Country side and mountains view japan

PACK: LIGHT.
To be honest, the worst thing you can do to yourself is OVERPACK. Imagine being all alone and having one too many bags to carry whilst you are buying food and holding a tray trying to find a seat. Yeah. Nightmare. It happened to me once while I was halfway through Norway.
I wouldn't say I'm the best at packing light, but find all ways possible to ensure that your things all fit in one bag. Bag pack is the way to go, but if you're fashion conscious, fit everything in a small hand luggage. TRUST ME! IT'S POSSIBLE!

Image of japan at night traveling alone

After writing this post, I'm itching to book a flight and travel solo to another destination. Hopefully in Asia. I'm pretty sure traveling solo in Asia will be quite different from traveling alone in Europe, but either way, here's hoping my adventures (alone or with others) can continue in 2016.

I hope you found this useful, and do share some other tips you have down in the comments below!

How to Survive Alone In a Foreign Country Without WIFI

11 January 2016



I just completed my examinations 2 days ago, and now I'm all packed ready to fly to JAPAN!!
The excitement levels are high. VERY HIGH. I have always wanted to go to Japan, I can't actually believe I'm going. It's pretty insane.

I'm. Going. To. Japan. Oh my gosh. YOU CAN PROBABLY GUESS, IM A BUNDLE OF JOY EXCITEMENT, AND EVERYTHING POSITIVE RIGHT NOW! So I decided to write this post on 5 of my favourite things regarding traveling to new places!

1 | GETTING ON THE PLANE
I'm not too sure if I've ever mentioned this in my blog, but I hate airports. Apart from Changi Airport (sorry, not sorry? Oops!) I absolutely dislike them. BUT, When I finally get ON the plane, oh the feeling is incredible!
I don't even mind squeezing through the narrow lanes with my hand luggage, or having to hoist them up into the over head compartments, i'd gladly help my friends with their luggage. There is something about getting on the plane and into my seat that really excites me, it's like "We're going soon!"

2 | TAKING OFF
I think a lot of people have the fear of flying, but thankfully I don't have such anxiety, or any negative experiences of that nature. Which is why I ADORE taking planes and the moment the plane lifts off the ground. I feel something in my heart lift along with it. I love every part of taking off. The drive along the runway, the lift, the swirly tilting motions of the plane before it reaches it's desired cruising altitude. The feeling I get when flying, is something I can't get over.

flying above fluffy clouds, aeroplane in the sky
view of florence from michaelangelo square

3 | GETTING MY PASSPORT STAMPED
*DUM* The sound of the passport getting stamped, and me walking past the customs, literally makes me feel like a queen.
QUEEN I TELL YA. And I walk differently with a strut. Like "Oh yeah, Im cleared. Seeya losers (still in the line)."
Ok, Im kidding. I'm not that dramatic, but you know, it's one of the best feelings to be DONE WITH CUSTOMS! Its like, (DESTINATION) Here I COME! Finally!!

4 |  FIRST STEP OUT IN THE TOWN
I'm never one to start unpacking immediately when I reach the hostel/hotel/apartment. I rather much just unpack at night before bed time/before I shower. I dump my bags in the place I'm staying grab my camera and just head RIGHT OUT. Because the breath of air, the first road I walk down, the feeling after I step out into the city/town/wherever I am, is seriously one of the most exciting things EVER. So much awaits!

View of bergen from the top of floyen

5 | THE 2ND DAY
Usually I never accomplish much on the first day I'm in a destination country. I usually touch down mid day, and end up exploring places nearby instead of a full day itinerary. This is why the 2nd day is always the best day of the trip (in my opinion). The first FULL day. The day where we wake up bright and early, to explore and see as much as we can, to learn about the new place. You feel like you can conquer it all!! & By it I mean ALL the different places and sights to visit.
There is nothing quite comparable to the second day.

photo of climbing rocks and exploring cornwall

The words exciting/excitement probably appeared one too many times in this post. But really, these are 5 points in a journey that I look forward to the most whenever I'm traveling or visiting a new place.
Im dancing/squirming in my seat just thinking about having these experiences and feeling the same feelings of wonder in just several hours time!!

What are some of your favour parts of a travel journey? Share them below!

5 FAVOURITE Parts Of Traveling

5 December 2015

DISCLAIMER: This post was written a while ago, but I never got around to publishing it because of the whole lot to travel destination related posts I wanted to share. One day I was scrolling through my list of drafts and found it. I hope it comes along useful especially to those who will be traveling this last bit of summer or going to be traveling on their year/semester abroad. 

5 WAYS to entertain yourself on long journeys

The other day (or a long time ago - i.e. when this was written) I was on Twitter chatting with a few other people talking about their travel preferences (from favourite seat on a plane to food and drinks) and also, what they do to entertain themselves whilst on a long flight.
A lot of people said they mostly spend their time sleeping. Sadly, as much as I'd love to be able to sleep on long journeys, I'm one of those people who find it difficult to sleep when my body is sitting upright. I need to be in an inclined position or laying flat down to actually fall asleep. I hate drifting in and out of sleep: you know the ones where your eyelids are too heavy to open but your brain is still functioning and you get awaken by every small movement or noise? Yeah, those are the worst (my long flights never constitute hours of sleep).

Anyway, I've decided to write this post, after a year of multiple train and plane rides, to hopefully give you some ideas on what to do when you're unable to sleep on a long journey (my definition of long is anything above 3 hours by the way, if you're wondering!)

From train journeys that last a couple of hours to 13 hour long plane journeys, here's what I'd do to keep myself occupied.

Image of train seats on a long journey

1 | M O V I E S / Y O U T U B E
Starting out with the obvious, when I have wifi on the train/plane, I use it. But half the time, it's too crappy for me to watch anything. So on long journeys I catch up on movies (if available on planes), or watch YT Videos when the wifi holds up on trains.

However, we all know the wifi never really holds up, and there is only so many times you can watch Masterchef Junior Season 2 Episode 4, so when I don't have a connection, I turn to the next few activities.

Remember: Always preload your computer/ipad/etc. with movies you never know when the trains will delay, so if you're going on a long journey and it gets even longer, a movie will definitely take the time and edge off!

Nyhaven in copenhagen

2 | A U D I B L E
Most of the time (especially on train rides) wifi barely holds up, and budget airlines don't offer any movies. So this brings me to my next form of entertainment, and that is Audible. I don't own a kindle or iPad and I've tried reading on my phone (gives me a headache all the time) so audible has become my new favourite app.
I preload the books I want to listen to, and there you have a storyteller for company.
During my long train ride from Kraków to Vienna, I listened to half of girl on the train. An interesting choice, and I the story was so gripping I just couldn't stop listening!

Another app I use is Zinio. I pre-download my magazines like Vogue and Nylon, and just read them on the train. Although, I much prefer audible because then I can close my eyes and pretend someone's telling me a bed time story as I attempt to sleep.

listening to girl on a train on audible

3 | T A K E   P H O T O S
And I don't mean selfies, but of course you can do that if you want to. This is especially useful when I'm on longer train rides. Train rides pass through really scenic small towns, you even get stunning views (especially those through Switzerland!) sometimes the view is so good you drain your phone battery snapping photo after photo - case in point when I took pictures for my blog post "The Best Plane Take Off Ever".

Make sure you have your camera batteries all powered up, or you have a portable charger for your phone so you don't miss that special shot when the train / plane zooms past it.

Number 2&3 go really well together I must say. By well together, I mean you can do both activities at the same time. Multitasking will make time pass so much quicker!

image of passing trees from long train ride

4 | E D I T   P H O T O S / B L O G   P O S T S
Most of the time I edit my photos when in on longer rides (more than 5-7 hours). If you blog, own a blog or edit photos in general, you'll know that takes quite some time. So whilst on a long journey, it's the perfect way to kill time.
I must say, however, there are times when I just don't feel like getting my laptop out because the table is too small and its just so uncomfortable.
But most of the times for long journeys, my Mac Air would be out and i'd be doing some form of editing or planning a post (like what I'm doing as of now!)

5 ways to entertain yourself on a long journey

5 | R E F L E C T I O N S
I like taking the time on planes or trains, well basically any traveling journey, to reflect on life, and my experiences. Maybe it has something to do with travelling alone, and not having to entertain another person or be part of any conversation, I find I get the most "me time" when I'm on a long journey. Even if Im on a long journey with a friend, I feel like it's my own time, because who talks for 5 hour straight am I right?
During travelling journeys, I am able to think about life, have a "discussion" in my head, look back at my experiences with the trip - or anything for that matter - and kind of figure out what I've learned from the various experiences.
I'm one of those people who can easily slip into reflection mode and be lost in that world of reflection, so thinking gets me through long journeys EASILY!

white walled buildings in mykonos town

I know sometimes we find these methods extremely simple and idiot proof, but what I want to emphasize is, HAVE AT LEAST 2 MODES OF ENTERTAINMENT.
There were so many times I felt so restless or uncomfortable because of all that time I was wasting on long journeys.

If you're one of those lucky lucky ones who can easily fall asleep in uncomfortable sitting positions, good for you! Otherwise, I hope you found this post useful ;) If all else fails, remember the importance of a PORTABLE CHARGER!


5 Ways to Entertain Yourself On Long A Journey

17 September 2015

How to enjoy and make the most of your experience living abroad, 5 tips and tricks.

From Erasmus, summer exchangs, semester or year long exchanges, to doing a year of masters study overseas, the opportunities to study abroad are aplenty.
When you choose to study abroad, one can safely assume a part of you has the desire to travel, have new experiences, meet new people and basically see the other side of the world.
Depending on the situation you're in, sometimes you get to go on an exchange with your friends, but more often than not, you don't.

In Singapore, doing a semester abroad is pretty common. People go with their uni course mates, make friends, form travel groups even before they leave the country, or even get to do an exchange with their significant other in the same city!
Unfortunately, for my course, the situation was largely different. I'm part of a uni programme that includes a full year abroad, and I could choose between 2 schools - Imperial College and UC Berkeley. I was the only one from my specialisation that chose Imperial (and i'd do it all over again!)

Looking out at the caldera in Fira, santorini

Out of 54 people in my class, there were 9 of us that went over to London, but we were all from different specializations, and I was the only one from mine. Since Imperial College doesn't have an official exchange with my home university, I didn't get to meet other Singaporeans from other courses, much less form a travel group of anything. But I still managed to have a great deal of experiences, especially when it came to traveling, without having to take money from my parents!

So here are some of my tips on how to make the best of your exchange experiences! 

1. Manage your expectations
Here's the hard truth. Right from the start.
A year abroad isn't going to be easy for everyone. 
Before my year abroad, I thought going on an exchange would be easy, fun, less academically strenuous. So many seniors and friends have shared with me how their exchange was all fun and play and that it was EXTREMELY EASY to pass or even score As. Upon arriving in Imperial, I was faced with a rude shock - IT WAS SO NOT EASY. 
Whilst my other friends doing their semester exchange in other parts of Europe could travel during the school week and had only 2 days of lessons, I was stuck with 3 hours of morning lab sessions almost every single day, followed by lectures in the afternoon.
You can clearly tell I was less than pleased. 

Fact: some people do have it easier. That doesn't mean you will.
My friends who did business or humanities courses rave about how much easier school was during their time abroad, but each to its own. 
Some business students have it difficult especially if the courses they take are intensive. I've met students who do their MBAs overseas and they will definitely say it isn't a smooth ride.
So, manage those "I'm gonna travel the world this year! Who cares about studies!!" expectations (else you'd be miserable like I was for about 3 months before you accept the fact). 
If you're in engineering or a science course, don't expect to have it easy. If you're taking 11 core courses in a year, don't expect it to be easy. If you're doing labs, don't expect to have loads of free time. That way, If you happen to have it easy, it's a bonus! 

Architecture in copenhagen


2. Know Your Priorities
Fact: You can't do everything. (As much as you want to)
I have friends who gave up traveling because they wanted to participate in different school actives. I on the other hand, gave up school activities to travel.  Some people prioritise learning certain skills, like cooking, baking or engaging in activities they never had a chance to before. But more often than not, people choose travel.
Well, everyone is different and as long as you set your own priorities up front, you do you, and just make the most of your exchange experience the way YOU want to.

The chain bridge in budapest + advice for year abroad

3. Ignore the Nay-sayers
Priorities for everyone will be different. For me, I never had the luxury of frequent traveling during holidays when I was younger. I probably went on 2 trips the entire of primary school and 1 in secondary school. And funded the rest of my travel experiences (excluding school trips) from my allowance savings post secondary school - which meant no way I could afford a ticket to Europe! 
So prior to leaving home, it was already set in my mind that TRAVEL will be a priority for my year abroad.

Fact: People WILL judge you. Be it in your new school or back at home. They will comment on how you're "rich" because you travel - NO. I'm not. Neither are my parents. And no they definitely did NOT give me money for my year abroad.

Basically, people start making remarks whenever you don't conform to the norm. As an exchange student, you're definitely not the norm. So go, experience the life of an exchange student. You deserve it.

tips for going on an exchange in europe - germany potsdam scenery in berlin

4. Don't be afraid to have experiences alone
Traveling alone or joining a school activity alone, if you want to experience something, go for it!
I had so many solo-travel experiences because my friends couldn't make it. Imagine if i'd only travel if they were available?! I would have missed our on SO MANY fun travel experiences.
I also joined the pole dancing club. In an asian culture, pole dancing is a little bit of a taboo. I have always wanted to try it, but never had the guts to when I was in Singapore.
Im so glad I went for a few lessons alone when I was in London. It was so enjoyable, I'm thinking of doing it regularly now that I'm back in Singapore.

Fact: Going on exchange with a group of people from your home country doesn't mean you have to do everything together. You DONT have to join the same activities and you DONT have to travel together.
If you want to go to Portugal, and no one else is available? Put on your big girl (or boy) pants, and just go for it! On your own. SOLO-POWER! The lessons you gain from traveling alone far outweighs the initial fear of stepping out of that comfort zone we all have.

Exchange in london tips plus picture from the sky garden

5. PLAN
Your academic calendar
Your travel calendar  
Your budget (this is probably the worst) 
All these NEED sufficient planning.
Im not advocating skipping lessons... but as an exchange student (IF your grades don't count into your GPA - like mine) I think the rule of attending all your lessons can be slackened.
Depending on the course and school you are in, there are different requirements. Some schools don't allow you to skip lessons, while others are more flexible. Make sure you attend the first lessons of all your modules so you have a gist of what the different modules are about. Also, to pick out important test dates, work submission dates, exam dates etc.
For me, I made sure I had a full solid month to study before examinations (and then pretty much travelled the rest of the time hahaha!) and I made sure I started my assignments as early as possible, and complete 90% at least 2 day before submission.
When you have your academic calendar sorted out, you can start planning your travel calendar  :) Thats the most exciting part!
Budget wise, I planned for every trip I take. Accom prices, how much money I'm taking, if i'd need transport. Pre-download maps. The usual drill.
Basically, Plan. FOR EVERYTHING.

tips for planning your exchange travel and academic + image of sunset in greece

There you have it. 5 Tips to have a more enjoyable and memorable year abroad!
These tips seem very easy and straightforward, but trust me, when you're caught up with the new high of being in a different country, or continent, all these go right out of your head. You'll probably be bursting with excitement from all the possible travelling opportunities, or you might be sitting alone in your new room feeling a tad bit homesick. Either way, just remember that you're so so so lucky to be doing an exchange/year abroad. Make the most of it!
Create wonderful memories where you can look back on years later and say, I'm glad I did that.
Create stories you can tell your kids and grandkids in the future!

Hope you found this useful, and all the best for your year/semester abroad  xx


5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Year Abroad

24 August 2015

Travel tips on feeling lonely during solo travel

On day 8 of my 10 days of solo travel in Scandinavia, I found myself complaining to a friend about the fact that no one was worrying about the fact that I was traveling alone. As a girl growing up in a relatively conservative Asian environment, I briefly mentioned in my post on my first time solo-traveling to Lisbon that my mother was quite worried and pretty against me traveling alone. However, this time around, even though I was going for 10 days, I think she kind of got used to it. She probably checked up on me thrice, and merely asked if I've arrived at my next destination or more importantly when I'd be going back to London. My father, well, he did not give more than an "OK" the both times I mentioned I was going to be traveling alone - I think its because he traveled alone when he was younger so he thinks I can do it too? Who knows.Oh and Disclaimer! It's not that I need or want my parents to worry about me and check up on me, of course. I'm just merely stating facts. Also, despite me having access to wifi, Jerald was not always actively responding - though he did try, lets just blame it on time difference.

Solo travel to copenhangen

Anyway, my reason for the whole paragraph above, was a lead up to an unexpected question being asked. My friend jokingly texted me saying "What? Are you feeling needy?" And my reply was "Needy? Well I need a lot of things right now..."

When I saw that text, I began to wonder if I was actually a needy person. I've always thought of myself as someone who is rather independent. I mean, I've successfully lived abroad alone without suffering any case of depression or breakdowns / severe homesickness, and truth be told, I kind of had fun! Even though I live away from my parents, I don't feel the need to constantly call them (and clearly they do not feel the need to call me either haha!) Yes, I love my family and friends, but I dont think of myself as some one who would be extremely dependent on them. So when I had to question if I was a needy person I felt a little...Odd.

Solo travel and feeling needy or lonely

So am I needy? In all honesty, when you're traveling solo, there are times you just wish you had someone with you. Your mum, sibling, partner, ANY FRIEND. I don't think its a case of being dependent. To me it probably arises from a case of inconvenience.
So, here are the top 3 not so fun situations that can result in  one possibly being needy during solo trips.

ONE: Having to take ALL your belongings to the toilet/to buy food/everywhere

This is the worst. You have no idea how many times I'd just not pee during long train rides because I didn't want to have to take my laptop, camera, and handbag with me. In the event I do take them all with me to the toilet, I curse under my breath for the lack of space to put them whilst I'm peeing.
On the recent trip to Bergen from Oslo, there was a stop for food and I was holding a tray of food with one had, my luggage in another and my bags on my shoulder, whilst praying hard I don't slam into anyone in the crowded lunch cafeteria. 
I mean its not that they'd get stolen. I left my computer at my seat once or twice when I got up to get food, thank God nothing bad has happen thus far, but you know, it's better to be safe than sorry.
In this situation, I would feel the desperate NEED to have another person there just to keep watch over my things.

taking pictures whilst on solo travel
feeling needy during solo travel, copenhagen waters

TWO: Taking Photos

I almost never appear in any of my travel photos, apart from the OOTD shots (usually in the middle of a side street where there is no one). Sometimes, when you see a stunning view, you wish you could BE in the photo. Especially so, when I want to be able to go back to Singapore and show my grandparents, parents, family etc. and be like "Yeah! I was ACTUALLY there!"
At times like this, getting out my tripod to take a photograph is just too much, so I approach strangers for some help. Unfortunately, the photos don't always turn out good, and its obviously rude to request for 10 more photos because "the wind blew and your hair was in your face" or "they cropped of the beautiful scenery behind".
Again you wish you had a friend with you so you could help each other appear in pictures.

*I must say though, sometimes some strangers have SUPER good photo skills, and they take a couple of different shots to feature my outfit - without me telling them!

view of florence

THREE: Wanting to Try Different Types of Food

Maybe this is a problem unique to me. I like solo traveling, but when it comes to meal times, and there are 10 things I want to try on the menu - especially since I'm in a different country and I get to taste their local food - I feel the neediness setting in. I'm not a very huge eater, I'm more like the person who just wants a small share of every type of food. Tapas style. I don't really talk a lot about food on here, but when I travel, it's a MUST for me to try local food. I'm one of those live to eat type of people. That's what my mum says. (I use to have a lot of body image issues and go on diets, count my calories and all, but in recent years, I've realised it was pointless, fueling my self-loath and damaging my happiness, so I converted and found the joy of eating! A story for another time of course.)
My point is, it sucks to not be able to have another person around to share food with. Again, at such times, I have the sudden feeling of loneliness and the need for companionship.

Otherwise, traveling alone is pretty fun!
I know everyone seems to have the idea that you'll get lonely, or bored, maybe both, when you travel alone. They also think that it is unsafe (thats another topic for another day!) But really, it isn't like that. There are times you DO really wish you had someone else with you, I'm not going to lie, but what you get is an experience you'd treasure for life, something incredibly worth living through the 3 situations above.

solo travel to portugal - porto

If you're not someone who is extremely dependent on your family, or if you would like to feel true independence/learn to be more independent, take a trip out alone. 2 days, 10 days, 1 month, 1 year, it really doesn't matter. I've met people who are shocked I'm 21 and going around alone, but I've also met people who travel alone at the age of 18 or 19 (straight out of high-school), and working in different countries whilst they travel.
Somehow, solo travellers will find each other, and its pretty easy to make friends. (No doubt there are also other times you're in a dorm with 3 or 4 other people who are friends and refuse to acknowledge you...)
Regardless, you do have the opportunity to meet a lot of different people, and when you do, your problems of needing someone disappear. Depending on how long you stay in one place and how flexible your schedule is, you might even find companions to travel with!

brandenburg gate in berlin by night
solo travel to portugal inspirational quote in a quirky store

What I've learnt is, despite situations arising that result in you NEEDING someone, you can always find companionship one way or another. The guy beside you on a 3-hour train ride who happens to also be from London, or a friendly girl who plots out the route to the city centre for you on a map, or one that goes to get Swedish meatballs with you. It all depends on how open you are with interacting with people. If you don't feel too sociable one day, take heart in being your own companion and roam around the streets into underground cafes. That could be fun too!
Do not let the fear of loneliness deter you from exploring a place (be it in your own city or overseas) just because no one else has the time/schedule/money etc. to go along with you.

You have one life, and if you want to travel, save up and GO FOR IT!


3 Times I felt Needy During Solo Travel

16 May 2015 London, UK

Airbnb has been the talk of the town! Famous bloggers have been given the opportunity to stay in them, take glamorous pictures and talk about how the experience is wonderful. Although, I believe it is true, Airbnb is more often than not compared to HOTELS and being emphasised for it's value for money, and being able to "feel less of a tourist and more of an inhabitant of the city".
When my family came over to visit England , I chose to put them in Airbnbs instead of hotels and that saved them a huge sum of money. Though... They had complains about airbnbs and I think they would have preferred a hotel (pft!)

But If you're just a (semi-broke) student like me, you wouldn't op to stay a hotel in the first place. So knowing how Airbnb compares to hotels wouldn't really come in handy. My past few experiences with staying in an Airbnb (Barcelona, Nice, Amsterdam) have been pretty enjoyable. With a budget of ~60$ a night, Jerald and I seldom rent a whole apartment. Most of the time we rent a room in an apartment.
For our recent winter trip, we decided to book hostels for the first half of our trip and then (because I was afraid I couldn't survive 25 days of hostel life), for 10 days in Italy, we chose to stay in Airbnb apartments.

Here are some comparisons (and what I've found out) between both options to help anyone out there who might be deciding between hostel or an Airbnb. I'm not an extremely budget traveller, but, I'm traveling with the money I save up from my regular scholarship allowance (and not my parent's money), and since I have a ton of places i'd like to visit, I would rather have accommodation that is value for money. More importantly, if I can save a little on accommodation (and spend more on food and attractions!) I would absolutely do that.


COST

Here's how much we spent for our 25 days trip.
Hostel: 496.92 euros for 14 nights
Airbnb: 539.08 euros for 10 nights
It may seem like hostels win hands down, but the thing is, with hostels, we chose to stay in rooms that have 6 beds, at times we had the whole room to ourselves - like when we were in Prague, but most of the time, all 6 beds were occupied.
Wheares for Airbnb, we stayed in guest houses and had a room to ourselves.
In both situations, we typically had to share the toilet with other tenants.
So technically a cross comparison like that isn't exactly legit.

For Airbnbs the cost per person goes down when you're in a larger group. So if you're traveling in a big group (say 6) renting a house on Airbnb might be a better option for the cost to space ratio.
However if you're traveling alone, or in a group of up to 4, hostels should be the way to go.

That being said, during non-peak periods of travel, Airbnbs can be quite cheap. Jerald and I once rented a room with a king size bed for less than £40 a night. Which was just slightly more expensive than the cost of 2 hostel beds. If you're traveling during your school term in groups of 4, do check out Airbnb for good deals before booking going for hostels.

General guidelines, if you are traveling in a group of more than 4 - go for airbnbs, if you're traveling in a group of 4 and below, private rooms in a hostel, or 4 beds in a 6 bedroom hostel is usually more worth it.


SPACE

I had a slight phobia of staying in hostels prior to this trip because my first hostel experience was with 5 other friends squeezed in a tiny room without any space to open our luggage (we actually took turns to open them one by one before we could shower).
I had this erroneous perception that hostels were crammed and small, low and behold, I was proven wrong. Granted some hostels are small and you practically have no space to put your things, but generally, that isn't the case. EVERY ONE of the 4 hostels that Jerald and I stayed in had space for everyone to put their suitcases. Sometimes they even have a coffee table and chairs in the room.

For a slightly higher price in Airbnbs, you get a standard room size with a king bed sometimes with an additional couch. At times, there is not as much space to walk around as a hostel.

Generally, if you choose good/popular hostels, the space is comparable to a private room in Airbnbs.
Do not go for rooms with more than 6 beds if space is important to you.


PRIVACY

Of course, when you have a room to yourself in an airbnb, it is definitely cosier and you get more privacy. That being said, there is no issue with privacy in the hostels that i've stayed in. Typically, people keep to themselves and everyone comes back to the hostels pretty late.
Jerald and I have the habit of leaving early and coming back slightly earlier, that way we never had a problem with rushing for the shower or the toilet, and there were no clashes.
If you don't feel very sociable, you can always turn on your laptop and plug in your headphones. The existence of a common lounge or bar in most of the hostels we've been to meant that people who wanted to drink or have fun and make noise would be down at the bar instead of in there rooms. We were lucky enough to have peace and quietness every night.

If you are a light sleeper, maybe go for an airbnb instead. Nobody wants to lose sleep during their holiday! But if you're like me, and you can sleep with the lights on, and you don't particularly get affected by noise generally a medium sleeper, you'll definitely have no problems in hostels!


CLEANLINESS

When I stayed in Astor Hyde Park, I was pretty grossed out by the cleanliness level as well. So this came to me as a surprise. Because the hostels I stayed in during my winter trip were actually CLEAN. In fact at times, they were actually cleaner IMO than Airbnbs. Most of the time when we check in to an apartment, the previous guest had just checked out. This gives the owners quite little time to clean up the room/apartment. But with hostels, they have cleaners to help with the cleaning as well as specific time periods for them to do it.
This is not to say that Airbnbs are not clean. Some of the guest houses that we've stayed in were FANTASTIC. That's because there were no guests there before us.
I guess with cleanliness with Airbnb it really depends on the popularity of the house and how much time there is for the owners to clean it. For hostels however, if you choose to stay in popular hostels like Wombats, the level of cleanliness is pretty good (even the lockers were clean and not dusty!)

So if you're big on cleanliness, choose to stay in more popular/recommended hostels, and you won't have much to complain about.

Another side note, higher end hostels have REALLY good shower pressures. I'm sort of weird like that, and shower pressure is one of the key things I find it very difficult to live without, so I was incredibly surprised when all the hostels I went to had GREAT shower pressures, mostly better than those in the airbnbs!


AMBIENCE / SERVICES

Hostels typically serve pretty awesome breakfast buffets (the one in Prague was amazing) for a cost of about 3 - 5euros per person depending on the hostel. I know BnB stands for bed and BREAKFAST, but half the time, breakfast is cereal in the fridge and a few teabags. Unless you pay and additional fee or it is explicitly stated on the webpage that breakfast is included in the fee, it never is.
People say living in an airbnb gives you the feeling like you're an inhabitant of the country and you're going back to your "house" after a long day. I honestly think that's questionable. I've lived abroad (in a studio apartment I found on airbnb) and it is definitely NOT THE SAME, as if i'm living there as a tourist. Sure the higher end airbnbs will probably have great furbishing, but the same cannot be said for that of a lower priced (under 50 euros per night) studio or room. That being said, airbnbs are definitely more cosy. If you're the type of person that prefers to have very quiet evenings, and you rather pay a little bit more for that, go for an airbnb.
The winning point hostels have is that the higher end hostels have bars, a nice lounge area and wombats Munich had a gorgeous canopy, and you get to make friends while you're there.
You get to meet the locals who work there, and you get to meet foreigners who are traveling. Perfect of people who want to meet new friends or just... people watch (I do that a lot!)


SAFETY

I think by now we all have established that I enjoyed the hostels i've stayed in. And just to reiterate what budget travellers (just google why should i stay in a hostel and you have a ton of blog articles to read) have been saying all these while, HOSTELS ARE SAFE.
Some hostels (like ALL those in the list below) come with lockers, and wombats is so high tech you use your keycard to lock the door of your locker.
Hostels have people in the reception round the clock, so that means in case of an emergency or anything serious, you will have someone to ask for help (I saw a female hostel receptionist guiding a drunk/tipsy girl to the toilet and back to her room making sure she was alright when she got back from a late night out!). This is not usually possible in an Airbnb apartment.
However, some people have lost things in hostels because they don't lock them up. Always find a way to lock your baggage either in the lockers provided or bring your own lock. I typically leave my luggage out and lock my valuables in the lockers provided. Again, not all hostels have the same amenities, so do check if lockers are being provided.
With airbnb, you rent the whole room, and your trust is in the owners of the house. Usually they give you a key to the room so you can lock the room when you leave, and most of the time, nothing would go missing.

Honestly, I don't think the difference in both scenarios is huge. Just make sure to always lock your things up!


Other things to take note:

Like Airbnbs, there are a WIDE range of hostels. I've heard from my friends about their horrible hostel experience, and many of them would rather stay in airbnbs if they could. To avoid experiences like that, always check the hostel for ratings. Just like how you would check Airbnb houses for their ratings and reading previous visitor comments, you should always do the same for hostels.
Base on sites like hostelbookers or hostelworld, the ones with over 90% ratings and recommendation tend to be pretty reliable. Check for the amenities offered in a hostel as well, and look at the images provided so as to gauge the type or room and space given.

Give private hostel rooms a look before jumping to airbnbs as well, because if you're traveling in a larger group, getting a private room in a hostel maybe better that going for an airbnb of the same price, especially if you know it is a reputable hostel.

If you're travelling alone, it might be better to stay in an all female dormitory in a hostel instead of renting a room on airbnb. Just being around people is less lonely and sort of safer in a way.

Here are the links of the hostels and Airbnbs I have stayed in during my winter trip (and some the summer before)

Hostels:
Wombats Berlin / Sleepy Lion Hostel - Leipzig / Mosaic House - Prague / Wombats Munich / Euro Youth Hostel - Munich / Yoho International Youth Hostel - Salzburg
The best hostel from this lot was Mosaic House. Hands down. It felt like a hotel, but with the amenities of a condominium, plus the cosy feeling of an airbnb (located really near the centre of the city).

Airbnbs:
Winter Trip: Milan / Florence / Rome
Summer: Amsterdam / Nice / Paris 

I hope you find these useful in a way, also, my hostel experiences are limited to those listed above, and don't represent ALL hostels!
Feel free to share any of your hostel and airbnb experiences, or list down your favourite accommodation places, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

HOSTEL vs. Airbnb - Which Should You Choose

21 February 2015

Latest Instagrams

© Travel and Life | By Carina Chung . Design by Fearne .