Accommodation Review: Smart Russell Square

Overall Rating: 2/10

– Stay Away unless desperate and the only option is to sleep out on the streets.

Alright, alright. So I booked into the hostel of hell. To be fair, I’ve visited my share of hostels and I expected to be slumming it (the one in Naples was scary enough – I thought I was going to wake up raped or sliced up in bed). But still, this one was one for the infamous lists.

Let’s start with the Positives.

1. Staff were friendly. The doorman always greeted me with a smile, and the baggage check person (Ryan) had a nice conversation with me.

2. Location was very convenient. It was within walkable distance of the tube station (Russell Square) and a supermarket.

3. Beds had a curtain to draw which hid your bed from the room and allowed me to change in privacy.

Moving on to the Negatives.

1. Toilets were only located at Level 1 (separate from bathrooms) and Level 3 (with some shower stalls). If you wake up with a near bursting bladder and had the misfortune to be located all the way up top of the bunk beds, let’s hope you have practiced your kegel exercises.

2. Charging points – only 2 charging points were provided in my room of 9. The math doesn’t compute.

3. Common Room was crowded and there was nowhere to sit (except for the tables). This was caused mostly by the lack of charging points in the rooms – people started bringing their electronics to the common room to charge.

4. The kitchen was dirty and had unwashed dishes in the sink. In these type of 9-bed and 18-bed hostels, it only takes one to set off a chain reaction and I suppose I was there during those bad days.

5. Organization of Room – the beds weren’t bunk beds, they were set into the walls. Which were both good and bad. There was sufficient space (in my 9 bed room) for luggage. However, they had 3 beds on top of each other – which kinda sucked if you have vertigo and are stuck on the top bunk (moi!). I was convinced I would fall off every time I climbed down the hell long ladder.

6. No free lockers (I even brought a lock). Either way, a group of 7 checked out the second day I was there and hostel staff also removed my linens and towel by accident (which I had paid 5 pounds and a deposit of 10 pounds for). This was in spite of me putting in my check in and check out dates in the little dongle provided. No effort was made to replace my towel. My slippers also went missing, I assume it was thongnapped by one of my hostel mates.

7. I had two showers here. The first time, I tried the shower stalls in the basement. The basement showers were worse than communal gym showers. Curtains that stuck onto you. To turn on the water, you had to press down a knob otherwise the water stopped running after a few minutes. This would be alright if the water wasn’t so BLOODY COLD. IN WINTER.

The second shower I had was up in the 3rd level showers, which at least had nicer shower cubicles. However, the water was still cold. My first few showers in Europe in winter were yes, cold showers. I nearly froze to death.

If you would like to sleep in discomfort, there are probably better places to do it in London.

Website Link: http://www.smartrussellsquare-london.com/

Tripadvisor Reviews: http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Hotel_Review-g186338-d1233082-Reviews-Smart_Russell_Square_Hostel-London_England.html

Hostelworld Reviews: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Smart-Russell-Square/London/29412/reviews

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Accommodation Review: Cheapsleep Helsinki Hostel

Overall Rating: 8/10

I wandered into this hostel at around 1 a.m. and asked if they had a bed available. Thankfully, they had a bed available in an 18-bed female dorm.

The room has 9 double bunk beds in it. Next to my head there is a small reading light and a charging point, very convenient. Other pros include: Free lockers, Clean toilets, spacious common room, free walking tour provided on Saturdays and Sundays. Wifi connectivity was also pretty strong inside the room. The tram stops right opposite the hostel and it is a nice walk (~20 minutes) to the city centre (or you may catch a tram there too).

It was about US$25 a night though, which wasn’t that cheap. But hey, this is Finland – not exactly unexpected. Still, I would definitely return here if I come to Finland again.

Website Link: http://www.cheapsleep.fi/

Tripadvisor Reviews: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g189934-d2614574-Reviews-CheapSleep_Helsinki-Helsinki_Southern_Finland.html

Hostelworld Reviews: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/CheapSleep-Helsinki/Helsinki/59673/reviews

Strongly Suggested in Rome

Louder and larger than life, Rome dazzles the senses. From the ripe tomatoes that tease your tastebuds before exploding in your mouth, to the weathered old men grabbing their hair raising caffe from their regular morning bar, and to the ghostly images that flit through your mind as you take in the ruins of a long ago ancient past.

Here are some recommendations with regards to experiences that I hope will help to solidify Rome as one of your favourite cities as well. This is of course, assuming you’ve done the major relics and sights that Rome has to offer. Because nothing – not a single bit of it – should be missed.

1. Eating Italy Food Tour

http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/taste-of-testaccio-food-tour/

The tour I went for was the Taste of Testaccio, in which we were brought through traditional markets to see where the Italians bought their fresh produce and ingredients as well as sample the best of traditional italian food. Sincerely, DO NOT MISS.

Here are some of the moments from the specific food tour:

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Testaccio Market

Testaccio Market

Flavio

Flavio

Suppli’ (Fried Risotto Ball)

Suppli’ (Fried Risotto Ball)

2. Ride a Segway around Villa Borghese

Segways may be found for rent at a rather affordable rate around Villa Borghese Park. You definitely don’t want to miss this experience with views like these along the way:

Pincian Hill

Pincian Hill

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese