2 May 2015

Hostel Suites Argentina: First impressions

October 2014.  A few weeks before I was due to depart for my cultural exchange to Argentina in the Big Blog Exchange (BBE) 2014, I received from the organiser, Hostelling International (HI), a proposed itinerary indicating the hostels in which I'll be accommodated when I get there.  In truth and having been a life member of HI since 2000, I had expected the hostel names to read something like "YHA Buenos Aires" or "YHA Mendoza" - YHA (or Youth Hostel Association) being the adopted brand name of HI's chain of affiliated hostels in many parts of the world.

So, yeah, you could say I was surprised to learn that they had instead arranged to put me up in hostels run by Hostel Suites (HS) Argentina - a name which, until then, was totally (and uncomfortably) alien to me.  I was eager to find out more about HS and spent considerable time Googling about them.  I, of course, found nothing remotely negative about HS; in fact, every review I came across was a good one.  But still....

I spent 7 of my 11 nights in Argentina in HS-run hostels - namely HS Palermo, HS Mendoza and HS Florida.  For the benefit of those who wish to one day visit Argentina on a budget, I'd like to now share with you my experiences and honest views with regards each of these hostels to help you decide whether or not HS is the way to go for you.

1.  Hostel Suites Palermo, Buenos Aires

Hostel Suites Palermo, Buenos Aires

This was the first hostel I checked into in Argentina.  Combining old-world comfort with modern amenities, I really like this hostel.  It has a stylish, hip amber-coloured interior and a bright, airy, colourful inner courtyard which really give guests a good first impression and make them feel truly welcome.  The comfortable common area comes equipped with TV, DVD, nice furniture and (yay!) free WiFi, adding to the "wow!" factor of the place.  Then there are the friendly and knowledgeable staff, all of whom speak sound to excellent English - making life that much easier for this non-Spanish speaking foreigner.  Most of this hostel's rooms come with en-suite facilities; I found mine to be clean and adequately comfortable albeit a bit smallish - but hey, remember this is a hostel, not the Hilton.

HS Palermo is located in the heart of the vibrant neighborhood of Palermo - Buenos Aires' very own equivalent of London's Soho, making it really convenient to some of the city's finest arts & crafts shops, restaurants, bars, cafes and nightlife.  Simple continental breakfast is included in the room rate and piping hot coffee is available on the house 24/7 at the reception area.

So, did I enjoy the experience?  Very much so, yes.  What I particularly liked about this smallish hostel is its warm atmosphere.  The layouts of the common room and inner courtyard, for instance, really encourage interaction amongst travellers - perfect for staying indoors on rainy days and cold nights.  The hostel's proximity to restaurants and cafes is also a major plus point.

2.  Hostel Suites Mendoza, Mendoza

Hostel Suites Mendoza, Mendoza

The city of Mendoza is located on the western fringes of Argentina, neighbouring Chile, which probably explains why there were so many Chilean travellers when I was at this hostel.  Add to that a host of backpackers from Europe, Central America and other South American countries (I was the only Asian around) and what you get is a truly cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Most, if not all, visitors to Mendoza use this vibrant city as their base for visiting the Andes - so stays (I was told) are usually short.  However, this shouldn't be taken as negative reflection of this hostel; this hostel is truly nice.  In fact, of the three HS properties I review here, I found HS Mendoza to have the most laid-back, don't-worry-be-happy atmosphere.  This was where I made the most friends during my time in Argentina - be it crazy chicos from Chile and Paraguay, insightful irmãos from Brazil or friendly fräuleins from Germany.

Having said that, parts of the hostel do look rather tired and in need of refurbishment.  Don't let this put you off however; I was to learn a few days later that plans were already in place to improve parts of the property - starting with the kitchen and dining area.  This will no doubt go some way towards improving the aesthetics of this already-lovely hostel.

3.  Hostel Suites Florida, Buenos Aires

Hostel Suites Florida, Buenos Aires

Make no mistake; this is a bit of a party hostel and they like their music loud here (in the lobby, I mean).  To be honest, I wasn't impressed - well, at least not initaially - but that's probably because I'm 50 and grumpy and Iggy Azalea wasn't really my cup of tea.  Having said that, that's where my list of less "desirable" things about this hostel ends.

I spent my final 3 nights in Argentina in HS Florida and, during that time, I really came to appreciate the place for everything that it is and offers.  For starters, it's located in the heart of the city centre and sits bang on Ave. Florida, Buenos Aires' main pedestrian-only shopping area.  This can only mean one thing - convenience; convenience to shopping, the city's Metro system, restaurants, cafes, pubs, you name it (here, every night is Pub Crawl Night!).

And then of course there are the rooms.  For hostels, they're huge and tastefully done up (in a functional kind of way, that is).  I was very happy with the room they gave me as it came with a decent-sized desk - a rarity in hostels anywhere in the world.  On the basement level, there's the Fusion Bar & Club which, despite its name, is actually a very decent eatery/bistro (and, of course, bar).  This is also where breakfast is served.

During my 4D/3N stay in this hostel, I very naturally got into the groove of HS Florida (I'm now hooked on Iggy Azalea!) and quickly grew to really like this hostel - and, no, the loud music isn't such a bad thing after all as it creates and personifies the unique character and vibes of the place.  The staff are friendly and professional and ever-willing to offer useful tips and advice (which you'll need if, like me, you can only manage half a dozen Spanish phrases at best).

On hindsight, I can't help but feel a bit foolish each time I think of my earlier anxieties about Hostel Suites Argentina.  They are, after all, a member of - and hence duly accredited by - Hostelling International, an organisation synonymous with providing some of the cleanest and safest hostel accommodations anywhere in the world - not to mention one which I've trusted for more than 15 years.

On my last day in Argentina, I had the pleasure of meeting HS Argentina's General Manager, Señor Mario Duarte, who asked for my feedback with regards these three hostels.  I'm not one for lip service but, apart from one or two very minor points, I had only good things to say about them.  I especially like the fact that nearly all their frontliners speak very decent English as one of my early concerns about HS Argentina was communication.  I'm also totally sold on the easy-going, laid-back atmosphere of all three hostels which really made me feel quite at home.

So, yes (and as you'd have guessed by now), I do indeed unreservedly recommend Hostel Suites Argentina to all you budget travellers out there who plan to visit Argentina.  Their hostels are clean, comfortable and, most importantly, safe.  What's more, in all of them, guaranteed good vibes are thrown in free-of-charge.  Over to you.

* You can find out more about Hostel Suites Argentina and/or book your bed(s) with them via their secure website by clicking HERE.

Buen dia, everyone.

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