Hostel Review: Caledonian Backpackers, Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city that has its fair share of tourists from all over the world and a good chunk of them are backpackers. The backpacker crowd tend to come in and out of the city en-route else where, skipping past the likes of Dundee, Glasgow and my home town Aberdeen – the road to the highlands via the West Coast is well trodden. Due to the steady number of tourists all year round and the crazy demand for any mattress over the summer, the city is dusted with great, affordable hostels that could rival any capital city around the world.

I was looking for a base in the city centre of Edinburgh to live out of until I found work and a place to stay. I had no problems booking for three nights at short notice  and even less extending my stay for a total of two weeks. I stayed in an 8 person mixed dorm but there are privates available and if you are really stuck a thirty eight person dorm!  – the price will go up over the weekend.

Upon arriving I was greeted by a friendly dread-locked girl that gave me the run down. Checking in was quick and painless despite me arriving a month ahead of time (Whoops). However a quick play with the computer and I was found a bed with no hassle at all, although mistakes like that may leave you without one in the Summer.

The interior of the building is smeared with different colourful and playful murals, that make the place look like students broke in over night. But it works: it was nice to see a six foot Totoro outside my door every morning and with the building itself being vintage and converted in places it doesn’t feel out of place.

The 1st floor is the heart beat of this busy hostel: The stunning, bright, quiet and clean ‘Caterpillar Room’ is the perfect retreat after a day flat hunting; wooden decks scattered in bean bags where you can stretch out and waste the night on your laptop. There is also a well stocked and reasonably priced bar next door with pool tables, Nintendo Wii, storage lockers, books and board games, comfy sofas and anything else you may need. The bean bag cinema room is also a welcome addition with a huge widescreen, great sound and a built in movie system. Awesome. A spacious kitchen and computer access is also available on this floor.

The Caterpillar Room

The rooms are nothing special but provide lockers (you can buy a lock at reception), spacious and the hostel provides you with two pillows! That may not sound like a big deal but for someone that has stayed in a lot of hostels it’s a welcome bonus and backpackers appreciate things like that. The two rooms I stayed in during my two week stay had only two power outlets. This is a problem when you have various people needing to charge up but it can be forgiven for the plentiful outlets on the 1st floor. Still – extension chords would come in handy…

The showers and toilets were kept clean and tidy. I didn’t have to cue once for either but I understand there is a shortage on the higher floors.

The Bar/common room

Breakfast is free and superb for the price of the hostel. Served until midday if you were out late the night before, you can have Muesli, white and brown toast, juice, coffee and plenty of spreads. Generous as some of the cheaper hostels can cut back drastically on what they offer in the mornings.

The reception is 24 hours and requires a flash of your room card to get in. You can also sign in guests if you want to drink at the bar.

My only real complaint about this hostel was the staff. Apart from the odd exception they all seemed miserable and looked like they hated being there. Perhaps they only work for accommodation? I can only speculate. Atmosphere and energy are a big part of any hostel stay and Caledonians lacked both. Nothing really brought the guests together like some of the other bigger hostels try to do, and it was far too easy to disappear between your headphones. At times it was hard to get the staffs attention and at others they just gave the impression they couldn’t be bothered. Poor and a disappointing for such a great hostel.

The Good

Location – Situated at the corner of Queens ferry at the castle end of Princes Street; you can even get a sneaky view of said castle at some windows of the hostel. Bus lines, bars and restaurants are steps away and it is next door to the awesome Wannaburger; the name says it all. I wanna’d and had too many of them.

Price – Absolute bargain. I’m sure it will rise over the Summer but at a tenner at off peak times it’s a steal.

Facilities – Free and decent wi-fi, nice little bar and all the mod cons you would expect from a good hostel.

Free Breakfast – Good variety and no dishes to clean up.

The size – Plenty of space to roam and decent sized rooms.

The Bad

The staff – I feel horrible writing this as the only fault as nobody was offensive at all. Just a bit of enthusiasm, effort and a smile would have pushed my opinion of Caledonian Backpackers from a great hostel to an excellent one. That’s all it takes.

 The Verdict

Caledonian Backpackers: Practical and central hostel in the heart of Edinburgh with great facilities.

8/10

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About Darren Crocker

Twenty nine year old from Aberdeen, Scotland now residing in Edinburgh. View all posts by Darren Crocker

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