When I was asked if I’d like to try out a hostel I almost choked on my coffee. “But the Safestay hostel has been described as a ‘poshtel’ by a national newspaper,” smiled Colm, of Hostelworld. The nonsense of this new phrase wasn’t lost on either of us, but with the word poshtel ringing in my ears my interest was piqued.
We were talking ahead of our upcoming live Hostelworld Hangout, which saw us chatting to Colm about how to enjoy luxury on a budget as part of a series of Google+ hangouts with The Traveller’s Handbooks authors. As authors of The Luxury Traveller’s Handbook, in which we share all sorts of ways to get luxury for less – from using loyalty points for flights, to getting flash sale bargains on hotels, we knew one thing – hostels weren’t luxurious.
I last stayed in a hostel 19 years ago as a teenager in Budapest, after travelling overnight by train from Romania into an entirely different country and slightly in awe of the convenience of train travel on the continent. On the whole I quite enjoyed the hostel experience. I was not so keen on the mixed sex dorm I stayed in, but liked the buzz of meeting new people in the bar and sharing travel tales.
Years later, my tastes and interests have certainly changed. I’ve developed a taste for luxury accommodation, wouldn’t contemplate sharing in a dormitory and as one of the founders of LiveShareTravel and co-author of The Luxury Traveller’s Handbook, I like my four- and five-star indulgences.
Still I was a little unsure about the offer of a night at London’s Safestay. But we were promised a private room, ensuite bathroom and more – again, not exactly the height of luxury, but already a step up from my previous hostel experience.
Still, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that my husband Terry and I headed off to the Safestay hostel.
Was Safestay a stylish stay?
Safestay was very modern, bright and oozed boutique style, and this was just the lobby area. Located in a grand 18th century Georgian building, close to Elephant & Castle tube station, just outside Zone 1 it was perfectly situated for exploring London’s sights.
As the hostel only opened in June 2012, the decor and furniture is new, but what struck me most was just how spotlessly clean it was. Our en-suite room barely looked as though it had ever been stayed in, so clean was the bathroom and well swept floors. It was quite basic, yet it had features most hostel guests could only dream of – a 42-inch flatscreen television, comfortable armchair and tea and coffee making facilities. I did miss having a wardrobe and hanging space though, instead, as most hostelers tend to travel with a rucksack there was a grill-fronted locker. Our double bed was unusual as it had another single bed over it, bunk-style. Used to thick matresses with soft toppers, I wasn’t impressed by the rather thin matresses at first – but I have to confess it was actually very comfortable and we had an excellent night’s sleep.
There is a sense with hostels that they’re less safe than hotels, but I found the Safestay to be quite the opposite. Safety and security is paramount, with cameras throughout, a front door buzzer, slightly oversensitive smoke detectors (it was set off early in the morning by a man spraying deodorant from a top bunk – but, better safe than sorry), 24-hour reception, keycards to rooms that are also needed to operate the lifts. In all fairness I’m not convinced that five-star hotels do anywhere near as much to ensure the safety of their guests. Take for example the fact that anyone can walk into the lobby of a five-star hotel, and wander upstairs with ease.
Though we stayed in a private room for a maximum of three guests, Safestay has traditional dormitories for up to eight and a total of 407 beds in 74 rooms. Surprisingly though, and despite the fact that a large group of 50 or more French teens were hanging out in the Safestay’s large basement lounge and bar where guests can socialise, play pool and find very reasonably priced drinks, we never felt overwhelmed by the number of other guests or heard a whisper from others during our stay.
The Safestay hostel also provides a free (though basic) breakfast and free wifi – though just in the lounge.
Generally I enjoyed my stay at the Safestay London. For me, it’s akin to a three-star hotel and though it’s not my normal luxury stay, it is certainly a luxury hostel and an inexpensive, comfortable and welcoming place to stay in the heart of one of Europe’s most expensive cities.
We discussed more about our visit to Safestay in the enjoying luxury on a budget Hostelworld Hangout below.