In the last five years, I have been travelling more and more frequently – often times, going out the country two times a year – depending on the funds available, or the level of stress and misery that I am in.
For 2018 alone, I went to Japan twice, starting the year in Nagoya and Sapporo; celebrated my mom’s birthday in Tokyo last October; before finally ending the frenzied jaunt across the ocean in Taipei, Taiwan in mid-November.
One of the things I learned during all my budget trips is that it’s not necessary to stay in hotels. Of course, if you have the money to burn and living in a lap of luxury is more of your thing – by all means, enjoy.
But if you are a budget traveler like me, staying in hostels is a sure fire way of landing prime accommodation, while meeting fellow travelers on the road and with more bang for your buck. So far, I never had any disappointments at all – with most hitting the mark (especially the hostels in Japan which sets the bar really high) and yes, even the one in Singapore who almost wowed me but missed the mark on cleanliness.
That is why I am pleasantly surprised to know about Homey Hostel, a hostel that lives up to its name with its homey, cozy, chill vibe yet over delivers when it comes to function, service and style. Located in a busy neighborhood two blocks away from Taipei Main Station, this charming budget accommodation ticks a lot of my must-haves when it comes to slumming it out on a budget:
Location, Location, Location – this should be a cardinal rule. Even if you have the most charming, most Instagrammable place in the world but if it’s far from where the action is, or the transportation source, then you are wasting time and money. Homey Hostel is about a ten minute walk to the Taipei Main Station and the Taipei Bus Station. You are centrally located, with many places in Taiwan only a bus or train ride away.
There’s also plenty of food options: fast food favorites like KFC and McDonald’s (open 24 hours), a 7-11, a mom and pop stores selling dumplings, sticky noodles and stinky tofu and a milk tea shop. So you will not be starved. You get a taste of your burgers and still have a chance of sampling local cuisine – so it’s a definite win-win
Cozy and comfortable sleeping spaces – Given that you will be tired and spent the whole day, you should be comfortable and safe where you sleep. Our dorm room had four bunk beds, plenty of room to man oeuvre, plenty of sunlight plus a locker room where each traveler can safely store their valuables. In spite the fact that it’s a dorm room, and there are three other guys who’s not part of our group, we never felt uncomfortable at all. After all, we barely get to see our roommates, as we had different schedules and they’re often out of their beds by the time we wake up in the morning.
Each bed is equipped with its own night light, your very own charging station, a pillow, two sheets and a comforter plus its own curtain to give a semblance of privacy. If you’re a light sleeper, Homey has ear plugs available on the reception which you can take free of charge. Towels are for rent at TWD40 while hygiene kits are for sale.
Amazing facilities: inviting and functional common areas + clean yet efficient communal bathrooms – This is where Homey hits the mark high for me. I am in love with their communal space – which housed the reception, a game area (a game of fooseball anyone?), a work area, a dining hall and the super efficient kitchen. This is something I haven’t even seen in Japan so I really love this space and regrets that I didn’t maximize hanging out here.
There are long wooden tables where you can eat together with other fellow travelers. Or if lounging, reading or hanging out is more your thing, Homey has designed numerous nooks where you can curl up with a good book, or play one of the many board games that’s also available within the area.
I am really particular with bathrooms so, it’s a nice surprise that Homey has those electronic toilets common in Japan. There’s never a wait in any of the shower rooms which was also shared coed. Shower cubicles were designed with its own mini “dry area” where you can store your clothes, towel and toiletries before stepping inside the shower area. Bathrooms are kept clean and while it can get busy, you will never have to line up should you need a quick bath or use the loo.
Fun and FREE activities – The availability of fun activities that will expose to the local culture, landscape and scene is something that is inherent with majority of hostels. In Japan, I enjoyed the takoyaki and film showing nights. Homey Hostel offers a range of activities every Friday, including walking tours. During our stay, we joined a trek up Elephant Mountain to take in Taipei’s sights at night. We were joined by guests from Europe, HK and China and it was a treat exchanging stories — and discovering common interests and passion. I had a nice chat about conquering the 47 prefectures of Japan with Andy, a guest from Germany. Homey offers these activities for FREE and even taps the help of knowledgeable and efficient guides from various Taipei tour groups.
Intuitive Customer Service – personal, warm yet professional. The reception counter of Homey Hostel promptly closes around 10:30PM and opens around 8:30AM the next day for service. Given we arrived really late, 4AM, our key cards were left in the counter with our names and a note to just approach reception in the morning for check in. In the morning, the hostel serves a simple breakfast of bread, a choice of spreads (chocolate, coconut butter, garlic butter and peanut butter, coffee, tea, juices, hot congee and an array of side dishes).
The check in process is quick and efficient, and you will be asked to pay for your stay and a TWD100 deposit for the key card which is refundable, should you manage not to lose it. The reception also doubles as a small “business center” where you can arrange for tours, ask for directions, buy postcards and send them (I did) and even pay for the snacks and the craft beer that’s available in Homey.
The team, led by the affable Jeffrey, is young, charming and English-proficient, always ready to give directions and insider tips. In our case, it was recommended we take the express train going back to the airport, which saved us 30 minutes in travel time. Jeffrey, meanwhile, recommends that the next time we are in Taipei and arriving late, we take the Kuo Kang Bus No.1819 which runs late nights from Taipei Taoyuan Airport to the city.
Would I recommend Homey Hostel for the Taipei-bound. Absolutely! My first two trips in Taipei, I kept raving about a hotel (that will remain unnamed) due to its top-notch service; now that I experienced Homey Hostel, I have found a better choice which offers the same level of service that I expect, coupled with a fun, laidback atmosphere and most of all, can’t beat prices. How low? You can get a bed for as low as TWD600 a night!