My First Hostel Experience: Staying at London’s Safestay Holland Park

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When I was planning my New Year’s Eve trip to London last year, I knew that I would be staying in a hostel to keep costs down. London is an EXPENSIVE city, and since it was just me and my best friend traveling together it would have been way too costly to split the cost of a decently-located hotel or AirBNB.

I had always wanted to stay in a hostel due to the low costs and the social aspect, but I’d always been a little afraid. First of all, have you seen the movie Hostel? Also, the thought of sharing a room/bathrooms with complete strangers was a little nerve-wracking. What if they stole my stuff? What if they were loud in the middle of the night while I was trying to sleep? What if they were messy? For such a low nightly cost in one of the most expensive cities in the world, this were risks I was willing to take.

While searching for London hostels, my friend and I came across Safestay Holland Park. The location seemed perfect and it was right at our price point, so my friend and I booked two beds in a 13-person dorm room with one en-suite bathroom and additional bathrooms on the same floor as the room.

One of the beautiful buildings at London’s Safestay Holland Park

When we arrived in London, we were jet-lagged and starving, putting us in horrible moods. Before even seeing our room, we were stressed out about staying in a room with so many other people, and were thinking about trying to find a cheap hotel elsewhere, even if it meant staying near an airport.

It was still too early for us to check in, so we went inside to the hostel, dropped off our bags, and went to look for something to eat. The front desk worker recommended Byron Burger, which was a super quick walk through Holland Park to Kensington High Street. After a delicious, greasy meal of burgers and fries, it was time for us to check in to our room. We walked back to the hostel to see what we had gotten ourselves into. We got our keys, lugged our bags up to the third floor, and walked into what was a very cute and cozy 13-bedroom dorm. After realizing that the hostel life might not be so bad after all, we took a nice nap that cured our bad moods from earlier.

I’m so glad that the Safestay Holland Park hostel in London was my first hostel experience. I couldn’t have asked for a better (or cheaper!) stay in the heart of London. Another plus was that for the bulk of our stay, my friend and I were the only people booked in the room, even during peak travel times around the holidays. It was nice to have a few nights to ourselves and not worry about disturbing our roommates by playing our own music and coming in at 5am after a long night of clubbing.

WHAT I LIKED:
  • The rooms. The 13-bedroom dorm we stayed in at Safestay Holland Park was spacious, clean, and comfortable. There were bunk beds (some with two bunks, some with three) and lockers to store your belongings (bring your own padlock!). The ensuite bathroom included a separate room with a toilet and a shower, as well as a separate sink/mirror area. Someone using the en-suite? Don’t worry, there were additional bathrooms outside of the dorm room. I never had to worry about not having a toilet or a shower available when I needed one. My favorite part about the rooms at this hostel though were the beds: they were very comfy, had a built-in outlet to charge your electronics, and had a privacy curtain that completely surrounded the bunk.
  • The price. My friend and I stayed at the Safestay Holland Park hostel for ten nights during our stay, and paid about $35 a night. This was even during New Year’s Eve, which is a peak travel time in London. We couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay at this price point.
  • The location. This hostel was located right inside of Holland Park, a beautiful park near the city’s Kensington neighborhood. Kensington is one of the most affluent areas of London, and a walk down Kensington High Street will lead you along several great restaurants, tourist attractions, and will eventually get you to Kensington Palace and Hyde Park. In addition, the hostel is just a short walk away from both the Holland Park and High Street Kensington tube stations, making it very convenient to getting to the other areas of London. The only negative was that the walk through the park to the hostel wasn’t very well-lit at night. I never felt unsafe when I was with my friend, but I might have been a little more aware of my surroundings had I been alone.
  • The people! Everyone I interacted with at Safestay Holland Park, from the hostel staff to our fellow guests, were amazing. The staff was very helpful with recommending nearby restaurants and attractions, and even helped us with booking our day tour to Stonehenge and Bath. One of my favorite memories from the trip was hanging out in the hostel bar with some other guests and some of the hostel workers, chatting about everything from our travels to American politics. A quick note: If you’re looking for a party hostel, Safestay Holland Park may not be the place for you. I was able to make some friends, but it definitely did not have that “wild” atmosphere that is often present at other hostels.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
  • The hostel bar. At the time of my stay (December 29, 2016-January 8, 2017), the hostel did not have its liquor license, meaning the hostel bar couldn’t serve alcoholic beverages. I believe this was something the hostel was working on though, as it had only opened a few months before our stay and had to go through some extra steps to get the license since it is located in a park. We were allowed to bring in our own alcohol. The bar also served food, though I didn’t have anything that was very good. My friend had a panini that he said wasn’t bad, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend the pizza.
  • The showers. This is a minor inconvenience, but it’s something you should take into consideration if you like long, hot showers. The showers at this hostel are eco-friendly, meaning that you have to push a button to turn it on. The water stays on for about 30 seconds, and then shuts off, meaning you have to continuously keep re-starting the water. You also can’t adjust the temperature of the shower, but it was always at a comfortable temperature.
  • The Wi-Fi. Again, totally a minor inconvenience, but it was a bit annoying when I was laying in bed at night trying to browse social media. The wi-fi connection is great in the common areas and the hallways, but it would almost always cut off when we were in our room. This is a total first-world problem though, and it definitely wouldn’t keep me from staying here again.

Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better first-time hostel experience than the one I had at Safestay Holland Park. It was very clean, perfectly located, and super affordable for a budget traveler. The things that I didn’t like were only minor, and are things I wouldn’t take into consideration when trying to find a place to stay.

If you’re looking for a great, affordable place to stay in London, I can’t recommend this hostel enough. In addition, Safestay has other locations throughout Europe, so check out their website to see if they have a hostel in your next destination!

If you have any other questions about this hostel, or London in general, let me know!

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