Hostels in Chicago

Wrigley Hostel

I stayed at two unique hostels in Chicago. The first was Wrigley Hostel, which is located on the same block as Wrigley Field. The area was filled with bars and clubs. The Wrigley Hostel is at a perfect location do to its proximity to the red line, bus station, baseball field, and great nightlife. The hostel was clean and filled with lots of international guests. They served breakfast every day. They had a pool table, an outdoor deck, several bathrooms, and 24hr lobby service. I met a lot of great people from all over the world. One in particular was from Australia. He walked from San Francisco to Chicago and plans on making it New York City by New Years Eve. Another person was from Italy and was there to run the Chicago Marathon. It was interesting to hear his viewpoint on the Italian food in Chicago compared to that of his home country.

Wrigley Hostel Wrigley Hostel Wrigley Hostel

Chicago Gateway Hostel

This Hostel won awards for being an extra-large hostel. Out of all the hostels I’ve ever stayed at, this place was the most technologically advanced. They had key card entrances, massive kitchen, a study area, TV room, piano room, bikes to rent, outdoor deck, computers with free printing, and free breakfast. Everything was clean and update. The bathrooms were updated with several showers and toilets. Unlike the other hostel, the location wasn’t ideal. It was about a mile or so from the nearest train station, and the area wasn’t as lively as the first hostel next to Wrigley. They did have lots of restaurants and places to walk. I met another person from Australia who’s been backpacking throughout Europe and plans to move to Canada.

Chicago Gateway Hostel Chicago Gateway Hostel 2013-10-13 17.34.18

 Overall Experience

I stayed at both hostels for one day each and I had a great time at both hostels. The people who I met at the hostels made it a great experience. Both hostels created an environment that made it easy to interact with other guests. I met people who were traveling in groups and individually. We decided to hang out to gather and share our knowledge of the places we’ve visited and hope to travel in our lifetime. I think hostels are a great place for meeting like-minded people and it is a great place to learn about others. When I visit Chicago, I plan on staying at these hostels.

 

Great Hostels in Panama City

Panama by luis

The hostel was a great experience. The employees were very knowledgeable about the nearby area and other parts of Panama and Panama City. They also spoke English which was a plus because my Spanish was limited. As the description of the hostel is written, it’s in a convenient area to for the supermarket and nearby restaurants. When we arrived, we made the mistake of booking a double bed for two people when we wanted to beds. I am sure that’s a usual mix-up. The staff gave us a bigger room for the same price and were happy for our business. The newer and more specials room had its own bathroom in a separated and detached part of the main hostel. About 50ft. From the main area. They also gave us an extra cot.

One of the Staff members by Panama by Luis, and American from Wisconsin as he described himself, give us in great detail some of the great areas of Panama City to visit during our stay in Panama City. He even took it upon himself to bring us to the Claro telephone company to translate for us. If you ever stay in Panama by Luis be sure to have a conversation with him.

Panama by Luis Panama by Luis

Panama by Luis Layout

The hostel has a main lobby, upstairs when you get to the place

There’s a washer and dryer by the main stairs for $2 a load

The main lobby has its own WiFi

There’s one big bathroom in the main lobby private dorm rooms

On the first floor of the hostel is a kitchen that needs upgrading and two fridges to store your groceries

Be sure to label anything you put in the fridge

The first floor has its on WiFi but it’s very spotty, it comes in and out of service

They also have an eating area outside and a hammock

Beyond the eating area is another dormitory

The only negative that I could think of about the place is the location. If you could pick up the hostel and put it somewhere else it would be great. The cab drivers had a hard time finding the street and the hostel. They are used to looking for hotels. When describing where to drop you off, just say by the McDonald’s. Other than that, Panama by Luis is a great place to stay.

Panama by Luis Panama by Luis Panama by Luis

Los Faroles Guesthouse (Hostel)

Out of the many hostels in Panama City, I’m glad we stumbled upon this place. The place was clean and it appeared to be newly renovated. Its located in an apartment complex within a great neighborhood. The location is central to everything. Down the street of Los Faroles Guesthouse is the Einstein Statue. The statue is a giant head of Einstein which makes sense because he was very intelligent. Across from the Einstein is a well-known New York City Bagel place. You can tell by the name and the culture within this place that it was heavily influenced by New York City. The hostel is off the main street of Via Argentina, the pace is filled with mini supermarkets, German Bars, international and local themed restaurants.

The staff and owner of the place are very friendly and of course knowledgeable about Panama. They were happy to have some English-speaking visitors to so they can practice their English and it was great because I got to practice my Spanish. One of the managers gave us a tour of the nearby street and took us to the mall free of charge.

The rooms were decent size and they came with closets to hang your clothes. The bathrooms were shared and cleaned every day. The landlord gives you three keys to the hostel, the main entrance, the entrance to the hostel, and the 3rd key is for your room. At night, they have a security guard named Fernando. He works from 6pm to 3am and sometimes later. Fernando is fluent in Spanish and English. He is one of the most interesting people who I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking to. He knows most of the people in the neighborhood by first name. If you get the chance to talk to him, you will come out of the conversation more knowledgeable.

Los Faroles Guesthouse Los Faroles Guesthouse

Prices for both hostels were around $20 a night. I used hostelworld and hostelbooker to book the hostels. For the most part, the majority of hostels were around the same price when we tried to book them on the main hostel websites.

Why Hostels are Great!

Up until two years ago, these words wouldn’t have come out of my mouth. However, since working in Singapore for about 6 months and had a chance to explore Asia, my opinion about hostels has changed for the better. I remember in the early 2000’s a movie called Hostel came out and it didn’t depict hostels in the best of light. I formed my opinion about hostels from that movie (very bad idea). I promised myself that I would never stay in one for fear of disease, kidnapping, hair in strange places, you name it and I thought it.

I remember planning my trip to China from Singapore. I booked my hotel ($60USD) a night, flight was a couple hundred, and I think the total price of the trip was about $1000USD. I booked the hotel for 3 days because I was planning on visiting Shanghai, Beijing, and Suzhou, all in 9 days. However, I only booked my hotel for Shanghai, hoping I could negotiate a better deal once I was in China. When I arrived at my hotel, I was impressed, and thought it was well worth the $60USD even though I hate spending a lot of money on hotels. Let’s face it, you only use it to sleep and shower, most of the time you want to spend your vacation exploring, so why waste all that money on a hotel.

On my last day in Shanghai, I couldn’t get tickets for the bullet train to Beijing. Tickets were sold out for months. Turns out you have to order tickets ahead of time which I didn’t know. I didn’t want to go over my budget so I started walking around the streets of Shanghai looking at better deals for hotels. I ran into one of the international hostel chains and met an American from Texas whose been backing across Asia for the last year. I was jealous and impressed at the same time. I wanted that lifestyle! I explained my dilemma and he told me all about hostels and how I could save a ton of money by staying in one. At first I was skeptical but decided to take his advice.

 

Benefits of hostels

  • If you are a member of some of the top international chains all you have to do is go to one of their hostels and you can get a discount when you provide your member card. In most cases, it costs about $10 to become a member.
  • You can get a private room for $6-$50 depending on the country you are visiting.
  • Most of the time it’s cheaper if you stay in a dorm format which is a group of 3 or more people.
  • Single or twin beds are available
  • Wi-Fi is available
  • Cleaning service
  • Hot shower and other toiletries
  • You meet great people from all corners of the world
  • Hostels are usually located in backpacker areas like Khao San Road in Bangkok Thailand.
  • If you are traveling alone or with a group of people, hostels are a great place to meet friends.
  • Great for budget travelers
  • Some of the top chain and non chain hostels are just as cleaned or even cleaner than most hotels
  • Breakfast and kitchen provided in some cases
  • lounge areas

Since meeting that person in China, I continue to stay in hostels. I’ve saved a ton of money and met a lot of great people who I continue to stay in contact with. If you haven’t tried staying in a hostel, do so.  You will find that the managers of these places are accommodating because they need the business. I remember I was staying in a hostel in Ho Chi Minh City called Saigon Hostel and they ironed my shirt and served me breakfast while I was waiting for them to finish ironing. Just remember to read the reviews on a particular hostel before booking it. If you are traveling in area that has a lot of hostels on the same street, try switching hostels every other day to get an understanding of how hostels are being operated. If by some chance you do have a bad experience, don’t forsake all hostels because of one bad apple. There are bad hostels just like there are bad hotels. Unless you’re on a family vacation or on a honeymoon, I suggest you save your money and use it towards trying new food.