My little visit here (just three days) taught me a few lessons! The first lesson is one I keep learning time and time again – booking the cheapest hostel I can find on Hostelbookers might be good for my bank balance but more often than not defeats the object of travelling. Staying in the shittier hostels often means you meet hardly anyone and so your time in a city is spent depressed in some manky dorm.
Coo-ee backpackers in the King’s Cross area of Sydney was the cheapest hostel at just $11 per night in a dorm. As soon as I get out of the shuttle bus to and attempted to walk into the ‘reception’ (an area of the street drunks actually use as a toilet), one guy accosted me saying I will regret staying there and should go with him to a nicer place. I knew the place wasn’t going to be amazing so I just said I wouldn’t mind how bad it is because it’s so cheap. I spoke too soon… For those who don’t know, the Kings Cross area of Sydney contains a 200m playground for prostitutes, druggies and all sorts of characters. I found out very soon that the rooms either side of my dorm were simultaneously the workplace for the local prostitutes. When I would run to the bathroom I’d bump into a different lady of questionable vocation, and the glazed-over eyes gave away how much crack she’d just done!
I thought, hey I’ll be safe if I stay in the main part of the hostel, maybe I can take advantage of the amazingly rare free internet?! NO. Their internet would take ten minutes or so just to load your facebook home page, and heaven forbid you want to actually send a message to someone. So with my laptop in hand I scurried to the Macdonald’s further along the road which offered free wifi. That was an experience in itself; it resembled the drop-in centre of a horror movie gone wrong! One guy was fishing into the bin to find a drinks container (so that he would be able to disguise himself as a customer and thus sit his arse down on the comfy seats!), one lady was trying to perform a miracle by turning twenty cigarette-ends into a new rolly, and another guy was sheepishly pouring whiskey from a paper bag into his drink. There was also what can only be described as the roughest set of prostitutes you’ve ever seen – discoloured skin, scabs on their faces and their desperation summed up as their whiny voices call out to male customers “You want a girl tonaaht?”
It’s not all bad though, my dorm room at Coo-ee had a TV so I was able to watch the Lost finale, and at least because it’s an unpopular place I only had a couple of guys in my room… who coincidentally weren’t actually backpackers but had moved into the hostel while undertaking various jobs in Sydney.
My first two days I busied myself walking around the city, taking some dull photos of the Opera House under an overcast sky, and continually kept getting rained on by a freak monsoon whether I was in Chinatown, Darling Harbour or walking back to the hostel! This is something I would have accepted if I hadn’t known that mother England was experiencing a gorgeous heatwave.
Tired of my shit Sydney experience (made all the more sad considering this was only a three-day stopover anyway), I hopped it straight over to Wake-Up Hostel. I had been recommended this place by numerous friends and fellow traveller and feel a bit stupid that I missed out on a longer time here trying to save a few measly bucks. And what a difference though! It might have cost double the price of Coo-ee but I had twice as much fun, it was hundreds of times cleaner and had great facilities. I had a great set of people in room 101 so finally my Australian experience was getting well under way.
As I visit different countries I like to immerse myself in the culture, so it would have been rude not to drink a stupid amount of goon before our night out. For about £6 you get over 4litres of alcohol – it’s a bit like gone-off wine but apparently is toxic and has fish and eggs thrown into the mix! Goon, drinking games and a bit of choonage got us all in a good mood in time for our night out at Home nightclub in Darling Harbour. Normally the morning after the night before I can recall most of the events of the previous night, but due to a goon overload I can only remember half the night courtesy of my camera.
I guess the moral of the story is that spending the least amount often costs you a lot more in other ways. I think the best advice to give other travellers is don’t choose the cheapest, the most expensive, but try and find a happy balance of value-for-money and atmosphere. What’s the point of travelling if you stay in places no-one else is – if you’re that poor and can’t afford basic quality accommodation then it’s probably more worthwhile to just go home