I decided to spend my one-month stay in Cape Town at three of its highest rated hostels.
Chronologically: Atlantic Point, The Backpack, and Once in Cape Town.
All three hostels were in the same league, but with each their own unique selling propositions.
The following is a brief review of my personal experience at each hostel.
Being aware it’s more fun to bitch than praise, I will attempt to emphasize the pros as much as the cons.
You can find a summarized comparison at the end of this review.
This beautiful and modern hostel had a wide variety of communal facilities, including a pleasant bar, separate poolroom, cozy tv & pc room, swimming pool, and spacious kitchen.
The staff were extremely friendly and accommodating.
One of the receptionists even made the most honourable effort to make the introductory tour seem genuinely joyful and conceal the fact she’s done it enough times to classify it as torture.
Much like the staff, the diversity of rooms left little to be desired. All facilities were clean and the bedsheets were great.
One of my favourite aspects was the dorm’s keyless deadbolt door lock.
I can’t stand having to carry around and risk losing a physical key.
Finally, the hostel staff was great at organizing different culinary events, ranging from their weekly braai, occasionally inviting a food truck stand, and even hosting a homemade pizza night.
there’s always room for improvement.
And in this regard, my first remark is to offer fresh coffee throughout the day. While this might not seem very important, it's that nice little extra you remember.
For example, I once stayed in a hotel in Budapest, which always had a big bowl of free fruit, presented with a witty health note, resting on a small wooden table next to its main elevator.
While I can’t remember much about the hotel itself, to this day, I look back on it positively because of that small gesture.
But I digress.
Another thing I found lacking, as with most hostels, were dorm bed curtains. These are an inexpensive way to provide that little bit of extra privacy in a highly communal living space.
Curtains are also a great and subtle way to communicate to your roommates that you want to be left alone for a few minutes.
I could add that some of the basics such as cooking oil weren't provided, and some of the kitchen utensils required renewal, but it is a hostel after all, and spartan cooking equipment is part of its charm.
Finally, both televisions could use an upgrade, as we sometimes couldn't make out the team colours during the UEFA European Championship 2016.
I won’t lie, this has become one of my all time favourite hostels.
It is perfectly located, with equal distance to the Waterfront as to Lion's Head and Table Mountain, and a stone's trhow away from the infamous Long Street.
Firstly, while not overzealous in their welcome greetings, the staff was very friendly and accommodating. Our relationship quickly evolved from socio-commercial to nightlife partners in crime.
Second is the hostel's layout. Everything is ground floor, and this together with its proximity to Table Mountain, gives for a great view of the mountain range from most parts of the hostel.
Also, the bar is open all day and offers a proper variety of snacks and drinks throughout the day, including fresh coffee as well as soup and/or sanwiches during the afternoon.
Similar to Atlantic Point, the Backpack also organizes a weekly braai.
Finally, the hostel also has a spacious 24/7 guarded outdoor parking space, the wifi worked fine, and there’s a cute souvenir shop at the reception.
The backpack uses roomkeys... only the entrance gate has a keycode.
Also, the music application linked to the bar and terrace stereo system had a relatively limited choice of music and often froze.
Third and finally, I spent a solid week suffering from a heavy fever at Once In Cape Town, one street down from The Backpack.
Considering this is one of the most popular hostels in the area, with a lot of buzz surrounding it, I held high expectations. Unsurprisingly, I was overall a bit disappointed.
The best thing about this hostel is its popularity. There's always tons of people around, and a lot of cross-culturally curious locals hang out at the onsite restaurant & bar; "Yours Truly".
Its second best attribute is obviously its location. Not only does it neighbour a pizzeria and one of my favourite burger joints (Hudsons), Kloof street is also basically an extension of the previously mentioned party street; Long Street.
Similar to all previous hostels, Once in Cape Town also had wooden beds, which dont make those annoying metallic squeaky noises every time someone moves an inch.
But what made OICT's beds so great was their large lockable safe built in behind the pillow, which doubled as a nightstand when closed.
The safe also had electrical sockets inside, allowing you to safely leave your phone locked up and charging in your room.
Finally I'd like to add that the reception staff was very friendly and they played great music in the restaurant/bar.
The hostel was under construction during my stay and they decided to give me a room right under the makeover area. There's nothing like starting the day early and hung over in a loudly vibrating room.
Even worse was that they didn't warn me the hot water would be cut off at certain times, making it difficult to figure out when I could shower.
And when I did get blessed with hot water, there would always be a worker climbing the ladder, conveniently positioned against my curtainless showertub window.
I don't mind parading around in my birthday suit, but with safety in mind, I still kindly informed the workers that the moon would be out a bit early that day.
To top it all off, the toilet seat had a buttcheek-pinching rupture which would expand generously when seated, just to clamp up tightly when you stood up.
However, based on most people's reviews, the above mentioned issues seem custom to my specific stay.
A more general downside to the hostel was its wifi, which besides being pretty slow, constantly required you to sign in again every few minutes.
Ultimately, my biggest disappointment was with the "Yours Truly" onsite restaurant & bar. Some of the staff were obnoxious, they messed up an order twice in a row, and let's just say BA economy class offers better sandwiches.