Survival guide: Hostels

Staying in a dorm room gives you a possibility to meet more people but it can also be also be a cause of all kinds of trouble. Snores that don’t let you sleep all night, drunk people doing stupid things or beg bugs; it can be truly intimidating, so here are my tips for making your hostel experience more pleasant.

Survival guide: Hostels | The Cheerful Wanderer

1. Female only or mixed dorms? Small or bigger rooms?
Many hostels offer female-only rooms. If you’re a solo female traveller, consider booking one of those. They are usually cleaner and quieter, but that’s not the rule. Maybe it’s just my luck, but I’ve never had any problems with male travellers, so I usually go for mixed bedroom instead. They tend to be a lot of fun and you will meet and bond with other people much faster.

On the contrary to popular belief, smaller rooms are not always the best choice. When I was travelling to London with my friend we somehow managed to book seperate rooms. She was in 3-bed mixed dorm, while I ended in 9-bed mixed dorm. When we went ot unpack and see where we sleep, we seperated. Fifteen minutes later, when I was joyfully chatting with three Brazilian students, my friend came to our room and told us her dorm stinks and a guy who was taking a nap at that time, was snoring loudly.

I discovered I meet more people in 9-bed or 12-bed mixed dorm. However, I only booked 20-bed room and regretted it a lot, because there’s absolutely no way you won’t get waken up every hour when there are so many travellers sharing a room.

2. The centre of the city or a quiet area?
Staying somewhere further from the city center has its advantages. Prices are usually lower, there is less traffic and supermarkets are more common. It’s smart to first check the public transport connections. In London, for example, it’s not the most intelligent choice to stay in a hostel situated in Zone 6. Underground tickets are very expensive even without that. While in Barcelona I’ve found the cutest hostel 25 minutes away from everything. And if you plan to party all night, stay in the heart of the city. It’s better to be close to the club, when you’re returning to your bed early morning.

3. Invest into a fake wedding ring
If you don’t want unwanted attention, buy yourself a cheap wedding ring on ebay or aliexpress. You can get them for $1 and yes, they work.

4. Flip-flops are not just for summer
Something I learnt the hard way, unfortunately. Nail fungus is the consenquence I still have to deal with (I know, gross). Always carry a pair of flip-flops if you plan to use a communal shower or option two, don’t shower at all (please don’t go for option two). Believe me, foot conditions are not something you want to deal with.

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Travel Movie Monday: One Week

Every second Monday I’m going to recommend you one travel movie (in no specific order). Each one of those mentioned, had some kind of an impact on me and I’m sure they will affect you too. Travel movies have the ability to inspire your wanderlust, the motivation to a new destination and give you the power to chase your goals.

ONE WEEK (2008)

Travel Movie Monday: One Week | The Cheerful Wanderer

Chronicles the motorcycle trip of Ben Tyler as he rides from Toronto to Tofino, British Columbia. Ben stops at landmarks that are both iconic and idiosyncratic on his quest to find meaning in his life.

A movie about a man who travels across his country after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. What makes it different from all other travel movies is that we not only see a sampling of the beautiful country that Canada has to offer, but also get an insightful narration by Campbell Scott. On his way to British Columbia, Ben learns a few lessons about himself and what life might be about.

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A day in Helsinki

Many travelers decide to take a day more in Stockholm or Copenhagen instead of heading to Finland’s capital. I visited it for a day, while staying in Tallinn last summer and I truly enjoyed the city. However, it was a cold day when I was there – the temperature was below 15°C and the wind was howling. Not that surprising considering we are talking Scandinavia.

First of all, you’re probably wondering what’s the best way to get through the city. Helsinki is compact and walkable, and it has an excellent public transportation system. A very popular option is underground metro, but you can also use bus or tram. The last one was my choice. I highly recommend buying day ticket, if you’re in hurry. It’s going to save you lots of time. Prices can be found here. All of the transport options operate on the honor system; you don’t need to present a ticket, but if you’re caught by a patrol without one, expect an 80 euro fine.

Things to do

1. Swim naked in the oldest public indoor swimming hall in Finland
Yrj0nkatu Swimming Hall is not only the oldest indoor swimming hall but also one of the most impressive buildings in the city. You can swim care-free and enjoy the sauna after. They have separate swimming days for men and women. Women are welcome on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sun, while men get Tue, Thu and Sat. If you want an authentic Finnish experience, buy a second floor fare, because it includes so much more.
Address for your GPS: Yrjönkatu 21b, 00120 Helsinki

2. Grab fresh fruit at the central market
Perfect place to do souvenir shopping, buy fresh vegtables and fruits (berries everywhere!) and eat some local food. You can’t imagine how happy this market can make you feel when it’s one of the first things you see in the city after you get off your ferry feeling hungry.

3. Be in awe by Temppeliaukio Church
Build in a rock and opened in 1969, this rock church will take your breath away. The church is used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics.
Address for your GPS: Lutherinkatu 3, 00100 Helsinki

4. Take a photograph in front of Tuomiokirkko Cathedral
One of Helsinki’s best known landmarks. The green domes of this white-walled Evangelical Lutheran Church that towers over Senate Square (Senaatintori) was originally built to honour the Russian Tsar, Nicolas I. It was finished in the early 1850s.

A day in Helsinki | The Cheerful Wanderer

5. Walk up the hill to Uspenski Cathedral
It was completed in 1868 and is the largest Orthodox cathedral in Western Europe. Unfortunately it was not possible to enter inside when I was there, but I’ve read it’s just as stunning as on the outside.

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Top 10 most romantic breaks in Europe

Europe is ofter referred to as the most romantic continent. Not surprising, there’s so much diversity that every one can find something for themselves.

10. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm, also known as the Nordic Venice, is a harmonious city filled with colourful façades and eye-pleasing monuments. Modern art and historic charm are one in Swedish capital.

Top 10 most romantic breaks in Europe | The Cheerful Wanderer

9. Lisbon, Portugal
Hilly colourful streets, charming restaurants and cozy little cafés are just some of the reasons that contribute to the romantic character of Lisbon.

Top 10 most romantic breaks in Europe | The Cheerful Wanderer

Photo credit: Flickr

8. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
No matter what the time, strolling along the waterways in Amsterdam always feels calming and romantic. Water does its job, we could say. At night, the bridges are illuminated, which makes the city even more magical than it already is.

Top 10 most romantic breaks in Europe | The Cheerful Wanderer

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20 reasons to visit Estonia

It’s no secret there’s a small country up there called Estonia, but how much do you really know about it?

Estonia got on my must-visit list around two years ago, when I saw a picture of Tallinn at one of my favorite travel blogs. I was blown away with what I viewed, the capital city seemed to be so colourful! This summer I got a chance to explore more than just the most touristic city in this Baltic state. Here are 20 reasons why you should book your airplane ticket as soon as possible.

1. Colourful streets
As I mentioned, this was one of the main reasons I wanted to see Tallinn. If you’re like me, enjoying to photograph cobbled streets and buildings of all colours, you’ll feel like you’re in heaven when visiting Tallinn. My camera was out all the time. Two tips though: don’t wear high heels and for the best photographs in summer months, get up early before all tourists start pouring in.

20 reasons to visit Estonia | The Cheerful Wanderer

2. Cute restaurants and bars
As a food lover, I must point this one out. You can order a cake in almost every bar (and they are all incredibly delicions) and the food is great. If you’re travelling on low-budget, I highly recommend you Drakon, a is an old-fashioned pub in Tallinn wherein all the meals cost 1-3 units of money. It’s right next to Town Hall Tower, so located at old city centre, but unlike other places around, this one is very inexpensive. When entering, you’ll be taken into medieval times, when the soup was drank out of clay pots (and not eaten with a spoon) and electricity didn’t exist. Perfect place for rainy days, which I couldn’t avoid. I can guarantree elk soup and carrott pie are very tasty.

Another amazing restaurant in Tallinn is Trofé. Their grilled salmon was one of the best dishes I have ever eaten (and I eat all the time!).

I mustn’t forget to mention Must Puudel, a retro bar with a wide range of beers, dreamy ice cream (peanut ice cream with salty peanuts…) and great meals. It is super groovy, but a little hidden, so make sure to go in. Also, the staff is really friendly.

However, you can’t really avoid touristic prices in Tallinn, that’s why I suggest you to visit more cities that you can easily reach using public transport or by car. In Viljandi I enjoyed Seljanka soup for 2€ (if I’m not mistaken, that would be around 6€ in Tallinn).

3. Tallinn airport
The largest airport in Estonia is only 4km away from the city centre. It’s small compared to bigger airports (Istanbul, for example), but so very cute. Excellent facilities, comfortable seats, modern look and positive messages on toilet doors (“Lipstick will save the day!”) all helped to make it my favorite airport. They also have the coolest business card exchange there with houndreds of cards pinned to the board.

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