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June 28, 2010

Au Pair Adventures: Living Cheap, Hostel Common Rooms

By Guest Blogger

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No_Vacancy_Sign(VisionsofAmerica,Joe Sohm,PhotoDisc,Getty)
(Visions of America/Joe Sohm/Photodisc/Getty)

I walked into Itaca Hostel at 11:30 p.m. tired, bruised, and rain-soaked. I had spent the past two hours trying to find the hotel, at which I had no reservations, while trying to avoid being robbed in an area of Barcelona known for pickpockets.

No, my flight wasn’t delayed, pushing me into night-time check-in. I’m just one of those youthfully ignorant people who did no research before showing up in Barcelona, so I had no idea that the airport is a trek from the heart of the city. I made up for the hours I should’ve spent in research doing “field detail” on the subway. Que bueno.

“I’m sorry but we have no beds available.”

Ah, the words no one at that point wants to hear.

I’m not sure if it was because I was a young girl traveling alone, or because it was late at night, or because the lovely Portugese woman is always this nice, but as I walked toward the door, she stopped me.

“... unless you want to stay in the common room?”


As it turns out, the hostel’s common room couches are all pull out beds. They rented me one for the night on the condition that I get up by 9 a.m. so they could clean and open the room to everyone. It turned out to be my best hostel experience yet: not only did they give me a discount rate, but I also had the whole room to myself! I couldn’t have created a more ideal situation. When they actually gave me a bed on the third night I stayed, I couldn’t help but wish for my common room back! (Honestly, there should be some sort of rule against people who snore in dorm rooms.)

I ended up staying in Itaca all five days I was in Barca, and it was really lovely. The staff are incredibly nice (though be warned, the girls often confuse “right” and “left” when giving directions), and the location is absolutely ideal (next to the main Cathedral in the Barri Gotic, one block from La Rambla). I learned when I was leaving that a nearby restaurant gives free dinner to hostel guests, so ask about that as well.

Since leaving Spain, I’ve talked several other “fully booked” hostels into letting me use their common room in the future. I’ve yet to see if those experiences turn out as wonderful as my one in Barcelona, but for those trying to sleep for the cheapest possible at the last minute, it isn’t a bad question to ask!

Somewhere between swimming after turtles in the Virgin Islands and experiencing an Ecuadorian meat market, Caitlin Byrnes developed a passion for international culture. Though raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Caitlin went to the deep south to get a degree in journalism and international affairs. While in school, Caitlin lived on a coffee farm while spending some time studying abroad in Costa Rica. Desperate to not return to NASCAR country after graduation, Caitlin is trying her luck in Europe. She is now an au pair in a Swiss ski town where she is learning French, attempting to ski, and absorbing as much European culture as possible. She will be blogging about her adventures for More information can be found on Caitlin's website.

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road


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It may sound funny but the simple right and left confusion is something that sounds not normal for me..

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