Tag Archives: Guides & Hints for South America

Youth Hostels – Checklist: Requirements and Questions

Here is my simple checklist of the most important aspects of a youth hostel. There are requirements and questions to ask myself before choosing one.

Requirements for a youth hostel

  • Own (free) secure locker – for safety and peace of mind: credit card, camera, mp3 player, keys, money, etc.
  • Warm water
  • Staff – authentic, honest and experienced

Questions for deciding on a youth hostel

  • Location – How far is the city center? How far is the bus station?
  • Duration – How long will I stay there ideally?
  • Price – important or not? What I am willing to pay for x?
  • Mentality and offers – Do I want to relax or party? Do I want to do “canned” tours or explore on my own? With whom I wanna hang out?
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Exploring – Discovering the Nature of a Place

One of my favorite acitivities is “exploring”. Basically, I take a camera and a map, then I head down the road from the place I stay. I take a look, which direction looks promising and then I start walking, looking and ENJOYING. At every corner and crossroad I listen to my hunches if I wanna go somewhere else or might this be good occassion for a great picture? Time to explore that store? Find out what this building over there is? The freedom to choose. Just to it! (A word of caution beware of too dangerous places. I only had one more or less dangerous situation, but I got out of it without a sratch or giving away a penny.)

This approach is one of the most natural ways to create an immunity against the dangerous backpacker disease called Monumentitis ;)

Monumentitis (n.) the condition caused by repeated exposure to the cultural and historical artifacts of a place one is visiting; usually accompanied by sore feet, sweaty armpits, and a generally unpleasant attitude.

It is amazing what you can learn on such a trip about a district, city or even country. No guide, no pre-canned lines, no tourist areas, just real life, real people and real situations. I love to get hands on the “real thing”, for me culture is not about museums, famous monuments or historic places. It is about the behavior and customs of everyone around. How do you give tip in Peru? Is it “ok” to bring friends to party in Argentina without asking? Where are the rich parts of the town? Where do the taxi drivers wash their cars? etc. etc.

When I am tired or finished I take out the map and try to find my way home or just call a taxi. Also I recommend to ask some experienced people, which places are safe. Yet, I often landed in not so safe places anyway, but I am pretty cautious and high alert.

Stuff to bring:

  • map + address of your residence
  • camera (for me this is crucial cause I take a closer look, if I am on photo tour)
  • water and maybe some food

I also used this “technique” i my hometown. is also applyable to your own hometown! I tried it out, it’s great!

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