Where I Stayed In Europe

I wasn’t planning to do a post like this, but since talking about my trip online a lot of people have been asking me about where I stayed so I thought I would do a masterpost of the reviews I gave each hostel! They were all reviewed on Hostelworld, which lets you leave a review and rate different aspects of the hostel which they convert into a percentage rating. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

Travel Joy Hostels Chelsea, London, England (71%)

The rooms were clean, although they were extremely hot at night and we couldn’t figure out how to open a window or turn on some AC. The bathrooms and showers could have been a little cleaner, but they were usable. The free breakfast was incredible!! The staff was all friendly, but you could tell who the regulars/favourites were. The open mic nights were amazing, and you couldn’t hear a thing in the rooms! The location wasn’t great, but I enjoyed my stay!

Kinlay House Dublin, Dublin, Ireland (71%)

I really enjoyed my stay here. The rooms were nice and clean, although the temperature was either freezing cold or way too hot. The rest of the hostel was generally freezing as well so I had to wear my jacket quite a lot. I had a hard time finding the bathroom, I ended up using a handicap one the whole time and I still don’t know if there was another. The location was perfect. Within walking distance to whatever you could want! Only one toaster slot was working (out of 5 toasters), not very good

City Backpacker – Hostel Biber, Zurich, Switzerland (57%)

I only stayed for one night and it was just okay. Going into the building I walked up many floors to find reception. The common room was really quiet all the time- people didn’t want to interact with others. My bed was nice, I liked how there was a sink in the room. The bathroom was decently clean, but the shower was out of order. It was within walking distance to the major train station. I only met 1 staff member, she seemed nice, just tired. For a short stay I would go again.

Hostel ELF, Prague, Czech Republic (83%)

The location is further away from the main center, but you can easily walk or jump on the bus to the city center! Incredibly cheap compared to other hostels in Prague, and the staff are amazing! One guy spent most of the night with us while we tried to figure out what to see and where to go. He even followed up with us the next day! It’s super clean, there’s one woman who is constantly cleaning the place. Their knock off Nutella during breakfast is better than the actual stuff! Loved it!

Hostella Female Only, Rome, Italy (89%)

This place was in a great location, very secure and close to everything. The breakfast wasn’t great, just some croissants (which weren’t good) and fruit. The staff were incredibly friendly! I loved the female only atmosphere!

Hostel Pisa, Pisa, Italy (60%)

The hostel is close to the train station and the airport which is nice. They have lunch and dinner buffets which are decent for only €7! There was no security, our room had a lock on the door but it didn’t work. Anyone could easily walk into the hostel and into any of the rooms. There was also a lot of hair in my sheets.

Mediterranean Youth Hostel, Barcelona, Spain (77%)

This hostel was really nice! The home cooked dinner was good, but very late! I wasn’t expecting the cleaning lady to be as thorough as she was, so it was nice but when she made my bed she moved all the stuff away and that was nerve wracking when I first realized my stuff wasn’t where I left it. All in all, not a bad place

Lisbon Destination Hostel, Lisbon, Portugal (97%)

I loved my stay at this hostel. I immediately felt at home and everyone was incredibly friendly. The entire place was nicer than my house, and the bathrooms were to die for. The breakfast was amazing and the wifi was great. I loved the bracelet and the fact that there are sister hostels we can go to within Lisbon. I still wear the bracelet every day to remind me of this place, and I cannot wait to come back!

Vintage Hostel Gare du Nord, Paris, France (83%)

I enjoyed my stay here. The breakfast is quite light (croissants and toast), but it wasn’t bad. The rooms had a bathroom attached which was nice, but the ceiling of our bathroom leaked every time someone above us took a shower. The location was good, close to a main train/metro station and the Sacre Coeur. There is a burger place close by called Captain B which was incredible. The wifi went out our last day, but they did work really hard to get it fixed.

Advertisements

How I Spent My Money During My Semester Abroad

Studying abroad is an amazing experience, but it comes at a price. Of course the final cost depends on how your tuition is being paid, what type of traveller you are and how much shopping you want to do. I did a lot of research for this trip, there was no shortage of websites telling me how I could save/make money, but I had a hard time finding exactly how much I should expect to spend during my time overseas. I tracked my spending throughout the entire trip, and I thought it would be useful to post it the breakdown of my spending for anyone who is interested in going abroad and curious about how much it cost me!

Exchange rates did fluctuate while I was there, so it was hard to get a completely accurate cost, especially with so many different currencies, but I will list the costs in GBP and CAD!

Living Costs

£1,704.39 ($3,408.78)

  • This category includes the cost for my residence and all the hostels I stayed in. The cost for my campus residence was by far the most expensive part of the trip, but it was worth it. I paid £1,279.03 to live across the street from the school and I had the room from January to the beginning of June if I needed. Staying is hostels is a fantastic way to save money and meet people. I paid a total of £425.36 hostels I stayed in!

Tours/Sightseeing

£366.37 ($732.74)

  • A lot of this came from tours I did with a Glasgow based company. I’ve talked about Gary and his tours on this blog multiple times, but his tours really are amazing, and really affordable! A lot of sightseeing (museums especially) are free in Europe if you have a European student card. Another big chunk came from castles and tour buses. Castles will often charge because there is a lot of upkeep required, and it’s not something I mind paying for if it means myself and other people can continue to visit these historical sites. If you followed my vlogs, you’ll know that I went on a few of those red open top tour bus tours. Honestly, I hated these at first, honestly you stand out so much as a tourist, but I grew to love them.

Shopping

£481 ($962)

  • That looks like a very large number, but I did buy a lot of souvenirs and clothes. I know clothes are such a typical thing for girls to buy in Europe, but I needed them. I didn’t think I would be there for the ‘real’ summer weather so I didn’t bring any summer clothes and as it turns out, I needed them. Of course I also did a little bit of clothes shopping for fun, but Europe has some amazing shops.

Groceries

£243.80 ($487.60)

  • I was surprised how cheap this was. I spend way more than this for the same time period in Canada. But this was about 4 months’ worth of groceries! I did my groceries once a week, and I always did them at Tesco because they had the best deals and were the closest full grocery store to me.

Entertainment/Personal

£179.87 ($357.74)

  • This category is everything from my phone plan, to theatres, to doing laundry. I was impressed how much fun I had, and how little it cost. I didn’t go to any bars or clubs while I was there (I figured that if it was something I could do in Canada, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on it abroad), so that helped keep the costs down.

Eating Out

£434.28 ($868.56)

  • This was a little more expensive that I was expecting. While I was travelling I ate out for every meal (except free breakfast at most hostels). I never stayed in a place longer than 3 nights before heading off to the next city, so buying food to cook at the hostel was really impractical – especially because I couldn’t take any leftover food with me. I didn’t mind eating out, it was nice to experience the traditional food from each place and try new things almost every day.

Transport

£1,649.68 ($3,299.36)

  • This number hurts to look at. Keep in mind this number includes my flight back to Canada. I didn’t include my flight to Europe because I had booked that in advance, but it cost roughly $1,600. A lot of my flights were found through Skyscanner. They were pretty cheap, considering. I took trains to travel through Italy, which were slightly more expensive, but well worth it. I didn’t always have perfect plans for my trips, so I occasionally had to take a more expensive flight because I waited too long to book it, or I couldn’t fly out at a time that was cheaper.

Total: £5,059.65 ($10,119.30)

This number was pretty on par with what I was expecting to pay. I tried to plan how much I would spend in advance, and based on other blogs and websites, this is pretty average for a semester in Europe.

If you have any questions about how I budgeted, tracked my spending or want more details about where my money went, please let me know in the comments, I am more than happy to help!

What I’ve Learned About Myself From Travelling

Fair warning, this blog may get a little cheesy because it is more on the personal side. I did a fair amount of research before coming abroad, and it seemed everywhere people were telling me that I was going to find myself, or Pinterest articles telling me that studying abroad would change my life forever. I didn’t think that was true, or maybe it was true for some people, but I didn’t think I was the type to ‘find myself’. But it happened, and I didn’t even realize. I learned a lot about culture and history while I was travelling, but I also learned a lot about myself. I feel like deep down, I knew all these things already, I just was never given the opportunity to show my talents because a situation never came up or someone didn’t think I could so someone else did instead.

I am a different person when I travel than I am back home. I love the person I am when I travel, I feel like I am really ‘me’. As strange as it sounds, the scariest thing I will encounter on the entire study abroad experience is going home. However irrational it may sound to some, I worry that when I get back to Ottawa I will lose some of that. In any case, this is something I don’t have to worry about for another couple days. It will just be another challenge for me to overcome I suppose.

I like to plan, in fact I think most of the fun of travelling lies in the planning. I’ve never been a ‘go with the flow’ type person, but I sure became one when I was travelling. It was probably one of the least stressful two weeks of my life. Once I accepted that not everything was going to go exactly according to plan (cue me walking to the airport because there’s no public transport or mixing up my flight times) the trip became a lot more fun. I didn’t get upset if I didn’t get to see one of the attractions, I would go to another one. I didn’t get frustrated if the line was way too long, I found a way to entertain myself and avoid the stress of everything not going according to my plan.

I hate getting lost, I hated it before I came abroad and I still hate it. Much like my obsession with planning, I will often refuse to go somewhere unless I have a clear idea of where it is, or I am going with someone who does. Now going on this trip did not make me realize that being lost isn’t really a huge deal, it’s just an adventure. I still don’t enjoy it and I would take photos of maps and directions before leaving, but it didn’t bother me as much as it used it. I was able to laugh it off most of this time when I realized I was lost and then quickly find my way back to where I should be. So not a complete turnaround, but I think it was a step towards finding a balance of control and spontaneity.

I was able to pick up a language faster than I ever thought possible. I feel like I should point out, that I was nowhere close to being fluent in a language, but I was able to speak enough to get by. I feel like it’s become a running joke in my life that I have a strong French background, have taken French classes for 7 years and can still not speak the language very well. Basically all of my friends know it, and honestly it’s kind of a sour spot for me. I would love to be able to speak French, but I always thought that maybe languages weren’t for me. I guess once I was away from all the judgement and people knowing I couldn’t speak a language it became easier. I was able to pick up a few words in almost every city I was in, but when I was in Paris I barely spoke English outside my hostel. Granted all I needed to do was order food, ask for directions and make general small talk at museums and public transport, but I thought it was a huge accomplishment for me, and I am quite proud of myself.

This next one is a bit of a weird one. I’ve always been the type of person who loves to be alone, but also hates doing things alone. There have been way more occasions than I would like to admit that I have cancelled plans because I was the only one who was going to go. One of my biggest fears about going abroad is that I would have a hard time going out and doing things by myself. It wasn’t easy, but travelling solo doesn’t really give you much of a choice. Once I was outside and doing things I was excited about, it became really easy for me to want to go out, and by the end I was trying to find ways to go out without having other people come with me.

This was kind of a longer post, so thank you to anyone who read to the end! Like many of my posts, there are 100 more things I could add to this list, but I feel like these sum it up quite nicely. I really did learn a lot while I was travelling, and my goal is to take as much as I can of what I have learned and integrate it into my daily life back in Ottawa.

Things Not to Tell A Traveller

I knew going into this journey that a lot of people were going to be interested and want to talk with me about this. After I arrived I actually created an FAQ post so that I wasn’t answering the same questions over and over, and everyone would have access to them. However prepared I was for people wanting to talk and ask me questions, I was not ready to be bombarded with other people’s opinions and thoughts on how I should spend my trip. While I appreciate people wanting to talk and give me suggestions, please do not act like you are entitled to make decisions or comment on my decisions. I have created this handy little list of things not to tell me (or anyone else who may be traveling)!

Oh that place/thing is boring, you should really go see this

Again, I appreciate the suggestion, and maybe I will go see what you suggested, but why do you think you can tell me not to go see something I am interested in? If I think something is boring, I am most certainly not going to see it. Everything on my list is on the list for a reason, so please don’t tell me that something I want to see is boring or not worth it.

Oh enjoy it!

This is a really nit-picky thing, but when you hear it from a ton of people, multiple times a day, it gets on your nerves. I know you are just trying to express to me how much fun you want me to have, or something but this is kind of a redundant phrase. I know this is a phrase that people just say when they aren’t sure what else to say, but it makes it really awkward for me. What am I supposed to say to that? I mean obviously I am going to enjoy it or at least try to. Why on earth would I travel through Europe, or anywhere for that matter, and not try to enjoy myself? Please, just find something else to say.

I’m so upset you couldn’t do *blank*

You know what, I probably am as well. I didn’t get to see everything in every place I went to. There simply wasn’t enough time to go everywhere and see anything, so I had to pick and choose and fit in as much as was possible. So please don’t tell me how upset you are. And if you are telling me how sorry you are I couldn’t do something that was never on my list and was instead part of your agenda, don’t apologize. Just read number 1 because I really don’t want to hear it.

So these are fairly blunt, but sometimes these things need to be said. I know everybody means well, but at a certain point it does tend to get on your nerves, especially because travelling is not always the most relaxing experience! I am more than open to talking about my experience and sharing my stories and listening to other people’s stories, but please avoid the phrases above. There are so many more things I could put in this post, so maybe there will be a follow up post!

Is there anything that bothers you when you travel?

Update!

Hey guys! I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t forgotten about the blog, I’ve just been traveling and its really hard to find time to sit and write a post. I have a bunch of posts planned out on my phone (mostly about my trip, my advice on traveling Europe and things I’ve learned along the way), so when I get back to Glasgow and finish exams they will be going up!
I can’t wait for you guys to read them, but until then check out my YouTube channel where I have vlogs about my trips so far!

5 Ways to Get Out and Explore Ireland

ISA Study Abroad Student Blog

Clara Duffy is a student at Western Washington University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Dublin, Ireland.

If you follow in the footsteps of many previous international students, chances are your weekly schedule will consist of minimal school and as much free time as you can manage. It is so easy to spend that extra exploration and adventure time laying on your bed cuddling your computer. I am telling you, as cozy as it is, the amount of memories you will make out of your bed will make crawling back into it that much sweeter. Here are a couple things that, if you are like me, you will never regret leaving the warmth for:

  1. Howth

If you have ever read about this place in James Joyce’s Ulysses, then seeing its majestic beauty in person will inspire you to capture it…

View original post 813 more words