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Our Final Hostel Stay In 2012

by Tony · 12 comments

Sydney YHA Roof deck

Our trip this past January started off heavy on the hostel stays. Between the incredibly cheap prices of hostels in many South American cities and our early enthusiasm to rough it, we were in and out of hostels almost every week.

But this hostel momentum eventually faded and the last half of our trip has been mostly divided between short-term apartment rentals, house-sitting jobs, and a few hotels.

Sometimes though, you visit a city like Sydney and realize that if you aren’t going to use hotel points, your best option is going to be a hostel.

We Tend To Hate Hostels… So Why Stay At One In Sydney?

Sydney is one of our favorite cities, but it is also the winner of the “How the f@%! can anyone afford to live there” award.

We tried mixing in hotel points with apartment stays, but even with the most deliberate planning on our part, we were left with a few unbooked nights on our schedule.

Knowing we didn’t want to leave the downtown area, as we loved being close to the harbor and having everything be within a quick walk, our Aussie friends overwhelmingly pointed us towards what was described as the best hostel in downtown Sydney.

Was The Sydney Harbour YHA Really That Good?

Sydney YHA Room

After spending a week in the Sydney downtown area near the harbor, we had begun to learn our way around. When we were told to check out The Sydney Harbour YHA, we checked the map and saw that it was in a prime location. Up on a slight hill overlooking the harbor and above the markets that occur on the weekend.


The Sydney Harbour YHA is actually built on top of structural remains dating back to 1795 and the archaeologists working there have recovered over 1,000,000 artifacts. We thought it was such a cool use of space to incorporate the archaeological dig into the design of the building.

While the street level entrance to the hostel is dedicated to the dig, the second floor hosts a large hang out area with computers and couches. There was even the biggest kitchen (outside of a restaurant) that we have ever seen with numerous stove tops and sinks.

Because of the relatively inexpensive (for Sydney) accommodation prices, the Sydney YHA had a wide age range of guests. We saw 60+ year olds on vacation along with groups of high-schoolers on chaperoned trips. Not your typical hostel demographic mix!

The best part of the place had to be the roof deck (featured at top). We had been spoiled earlier in the week when we used Meg’s hotel points to stay at the Hyatt and had a front row view of the opera house and bridge. The rooftop of the YHA, though, was at least the best view from any hostel we have stayed at on the trip.

Our Only Issue

The air conditioning was only activated when it was hotter than 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) outside. The keyword there is outside.

It was definitely cooler than that outside the building… but inside?

Our room on the 3rd floor had just a small window and for some reason seemed to trap all of the heat that the building generated. It was a furnace! Opening the window should have cooled it down, but because of construction on the freeway, the noise was too much.

Final Verdict

The Sydney Harbour YHA is a great place to stay when visiting Sydney, especially if you want to have any hope of staying under budget. Tremendous shared facilities and super clean bathrooms definitely lead us to recommend it… just be sure to ask for a room with better ventilation!

Big thanks to The Sydney YHA for sponsoring our stay. If you’re interested, staying in a 6 person dorm will cost around $40AUD while a private will cost about triple… and these are a good value for Sydney if you can believe it!

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

JR December 3, 2012 at 10:26 am

Tony, great description of the hostel and the stay. I would hang around with 60 years olds I guess and ask for a room on a lower floow. It is truly amazing aw you and Meg have traveled to get a sense for which countries are more or less expensive. The wide swings are pretty amazing. I wonder if NZ is similar to Aus in costs ?

Tony December 3, 2012 at 5:02 pm

HUGE swings in costs between countries. I imagine NZ is very similar expense wise to Australia. Part of the problem is how remote it is and how few people there are which makes everyone have to pay more.

carol riley December 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm

I am so happy to be on your list!! Terrific stories. . . I’ve been fairly busy looking for goat testicles to play with. Kind of scarce!

Tony December 3, 2012 at 5:03 pm

hahaha Scarce… but so worth it if you can finally find them!

Vicky from acoupletravelers December 4, 2012 at 12:19 am

WOW I really can’t believe how expensive the hostels are in Sydney! That’s insane! You guys really should give couchsurfing a try!

Tony December 4, 2012 at 12:35 am

We knew Sydney would be expensive, but were still surprised by the price of everything when we got there! We really wanted to try couchsurfing but never made it work for us… have you had good luck? Seems like it would be more difficult for couples.

Dave December 4, 2012 at 12:50 am

Depends what you mean by making it work:

If you’re looking for…

Someone who will accept 2 people for X number of days
Normal amenities (wifi, shower)
Being able to get up and go to bed when you want
Centrally Located
Private room with a bed

Then yes, a few times we’ve had all of these things. Many times not, though.

The key is to be upfront about what you’re looking for and minimize the back and forth. Message a lot of people, and someone will inevitably come through.

Tony December 5, 2012 at 6:56 pm

We really need to try it… at the very least we should start doing some couchsurfing meetups. We know people who have had great luck making friends that way. Maybe it will be our 2013 New Years’ Travel Resolution?

Bethany ~ twoOregonians December 5, 2012 at 8:28 pm

We need to join that resolution! I created a profile, but we’ve never actually taken the couchsurfing plunge. There’s probably a pretty cool community in Portland (hint, hint).

We can echo the pain of high prices with our pocketbook stories from New Zealand. (NZ$13.70 for a decent carton of vanilla ice cream at the grocery store? C’mon!) I feel like costs soared in the last nine years. It wasn’t like this last time… But, it’s so fantastic to be here, I’m trying not to let it bother me too much. Let’s send 2012 out in style 😉

Hope we can make it to Australia someday!

Liz December 18, 2012 at 2:04 pm

We’ve been couchsurfers for about 4 years (mostly hosting in Denver, CO USA, but we did our 2 week honeymoon in Paris exclusively couchsurfing). We have space for 2 people, but often have people flake out on us- early planning is always appreicated from CS hosts! You guys should definatly start getting involved- we still have great friends that we met through CS.

mike December 4, 2012 at 11:35 pm

We did the hostel thing once and didn’t have a great experience. We should give it another go.

Tony December 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Hostels have a HUGE range of experiences… we have stayed at some hostels run like super private B&B’s and some that run like giant prisons. We really have come to trust the rankings on the hostel booking sites and try to always stay at a place with all attributes close to or above 90%.

There is a big drop off in what you get once you go below 90%… at least from our experience!

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