Our first hostel stay in San Francisco was for three nights at the HI San Francisco Downtown, and I’ll tell you for sure it was a good’n. Although it was fairly late at night when our Amtrak bus deposited us into the centre of the city- get the lowdown on the Amtrak adventure here– the streets were so full of people that it put my mind at ease about finding a new place in the dark with only a memorised route to lead us there. Sometimes I get a bit concerned about wandering around unchartered territory in the middle of the night, know what I’m saying? The reception area on the ground floor had all sorts of people hanging out for the wifi purposes, and after checking in we entered the main hostel through a top secret door (i.e. nobody enters without a key) and went to find our respective rooms.
The hostel is in a converted hotel which seems to go up and up for an infinite number of floors- I have no idea how many in total- and due to it’s central location they seem to get quite a lot of school groups staying. In a similar way to the HI Santa Monica, (read all about it here), this is not your cute mini-hostel where you can socialise with everyone there; this is tourist central station and people are coming and going consistently.
That’s not to say we didn’t meet good people; one of my roommates on this occasion was a Spanish sailor, and another was a German au pair waiting to go back to Germany. I think she was quite looking forward to leaving America…she told me she’d been working for a not-so-lovely family for the last few months and was well and truly fed up. Poor lass. My bf had an awesome roommate called Canadian Nick, who was a right friendly chap! He was exceedingly good for interesting chats and Scrabble tips, and was also a skilled chess player, would you believe it. So there you go. He worked as some kind of travelling architect, and spent most days working in a library which also apparently happened to be the headquarters of San Francisco’s finest chess players.
The location is basically the main selling point of this particular hostel- on Mason Street, mere minutes away from Union Square which is pretty darn tootin’ convenient if you ask me. It’s also within walking distance of Chinatown, museums, and public transport options galore.
As a male and female travelling together, there were many hostels where staying in the same room was just not an option- and this was one of those times, due to there only having been single-sex dorm rooms left. I stayed in a four bed dorm-consisting of two bunk beds with lockers and a sink in the room; the bathroom and shower rooms were located in the corridor outside and admittedly meant you had to be semi-strategic about your choice of shower time. Mixed dorm rooms are available here, as well as private twin and doubles, but obviously this comes at a price!
Breakfast is included in the price of your stay, which is your classic USA HI buffet-style bagels, coffee, fruit and cereal, although due to the sheer number of guests breakfast time is a highly crowded affair. There’s also a decently-sized kitchen in the building which we didn’t use as much as we thought we would due to making the most of the hostel’s arranged dinners, and eating out during the daytime.
Considering this place houses a lot of non-traditional backpackers; tourists or businessmen who are staying just because the hotels are too expensive, and big school groups, this place still puts a great deal of effort into activities and getting people to interact with each other, which I appreciated. As well as organising dinners for the guests, they also sort out group tours on foot or bicycle, pub crawls, and regularaly hold pizza and movie nights in their cinema-room which was pretty cute (the beanbags are highly comfy and it’s awesome to just be presented with a load of free Dominos pizza if I’m honest). I also highly appreciated the library-type common-room situation they had going on, complete with board games galore. Who doesn’t love a good board game, for goodness’ sake!?
Dorm rooms currently go for around $60 a night. (Slightly more than that if you’re not a member of Hostelling International.) Yes, you read that correctly. $60. Per night. For a bunk in a shared bedroom. Accommodation in San Francisco is in HIGH DEMAND and believe it or not this was still one of the cheapest options for us…although we did choose to move to the (cheaper) HI Fisherman’s Wharf when our three days stay Downtown came to an end. Private doubles or twin rooms can go for around $170 a night give or take a dollar or two, so let’s just say San Francisco is somewhere worth saving up a little for. Despite these prices however, I still think a stay in a well-designed hostel like the HI Downtown makes far more sense than a basic budget hotel which would have not nearly as much attention to detail. Just saying.
Peace out, pals ✌🏻