When travelling to another country, sometimes, the best way to experience everything is to forego luxury and go back to basics. Now, I’m not saying that you should go all Into The Wild (read the book, or better yet, see the movie to know how hardcore it is) here, but it’s hard to really get into the spirit of things when you’re constantly worried about the cost of things, the right clothes to pack, and where to stay.
Enter backpacking. It is a form of low cost, independent local or international travel. When backpacking, you use a backpack or other luggage that can easily be carried for long distances, so if you’re the type who needs to coordinate his or her entire outfit with the right kind of shoes, this might not appeal to you very much. Backpackers make it a point to spend as little as possible, so they always take public transport, they stay a little longer in every place they visit, and they stay in inexpensive lodging such as backpacker hostels. This form of travel is generally favored by young adults because they are more adventurous, have fewer obligations and they generally have more time to travel.
One of the things that can be said about backpacking is that you’ll have an authentic travel experience because you get to experience and immerse yourself in the real culture of a place you visit. You also get to meet the locals and before long, you’ll find that you’ve made friends in every part of the world. And if these aren’t enough reasons to convince you to give backpacking a try, then consider the fact that the Duchess of Cambridge once went backpacking during her gap year, and she loved it. Hey, if Her Royal Highness can do it, so can you!
Backpacking is now becoming more and more the norm in many Asian countries, as young Westerners eagerly make the journey across the continent to soak up the ancient culture. In more affluent countries, such as Singapore, the backpacking movement has noticeably grown over the past few years, as many young travelers find out that the best way to make their way through this country is to travel in a no-frills manner. A lot of things cost so much in Singapore, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have fun if you’re traveling on a budget. Sure, there’ll be no caviar to go with your glass of champagne in that swanky restaurant, but you can have the most authentic Singaporean cuisine at a very modest price. And besides, caviar is wildly overrated.
One of the best things about backpacking is staying in a hostel. You can end up sleeping in amazing and interesting places and meet some brilliant people. In a hostel, you don’t get your own room. It’s kind of like being in summer camp, where you spend your nights in bunk beds, and beside the beds of other people. If you’re new to backpacking, or want to try it out, there are some unwritten rules that you need to be aware of when staying at a hostel:
- Put yourself out there and mingle. Ok, mingling is not compulsory, but if you’re travelling on your own and you want to make friends, then take the time to get to know people. Listen out for conversations where you can join in. Don’t expect people to come to you, but many travelers, especially seasoned ones, will warm to you if you make an effort to make conversation with them.
- Don’t hog the bathroom. In a hostel, you’ll be sharing a bathroom with other people, so be respectful. Don’t use up all the hot water, nor should you leave wet towels on the floor. This isn’t like a hotel where someone will pick up after you, so make sure to leave the bathroom clean.
- Be considerate of your roommates. Maybe it’s been a while since you last shaved, or it’s been ages since you’ve worn makeup. That’s fine. However, make sure that you wash up fairly often so as not to stink up the place. Don’t leave your belongings scattered all around your room, as someone can trip over them. Never use your roommates’ stuff without permission. And if you’re staying at the top bunk and you just got in and its 3AM, climb up as carefully and noiselessly as possible so as not to disturb your bunkmate.
- Respect the vibe of the hostel. Each one is slightly different, and hostels in the same country can have different cultures. A hostel that has a reputation for hosting wild parties will be just that, so don’t complain about the noise. Other hostels will be more laid back and quiet, so don’t even think about starting a rowdy get together on the premises.
Here are the best backpacker hostels to stay in while you’re in Singapore:
1. Drop Inn Hostel
Address: 253 Lavender Street, Singapore
Cost: From $17.54 to $47.00 per night
The Drop Inn Hostel has long been a favorite of backpackers who frequent Singapore. Though it’s a little Spartan, the rooms are comfortable and very clean. All the beds and rooms are fixed up with free linens, so you don’t need to bring your own sheets here. The rooms are airconditioned and each bed is outfitted with a small bedside table and a table lamp. The bathrooms are a bit on the small side, but they’re well-maintained and clean, and yes, you will have to share the bathrooms and shower facilities with other guests. There’s even free Wifi, so go ahead and bring your tablet or smart phone. Just don’t download huge files because that will cause the internet to slow down for everybody. Facilities such as a microwave, dining utensils, and a refrigerator are available and can be used by everyone.
Perhaps the best part about staying here at the Drop Inn Hostel is the free breakfast. You get free toast, jams and cereal for two hours each day, and coffee and tea can be had for free throughout the day.
2. The Little Red Dot
Address: 125 Lavender Street, Singapore
Cost: Starts at $20 a night
This hostel is considered as a haven of rest and relaxation. One main feature of this place is a terrace in the middle of the hostel where backpackers can chat or have fun together. The staff is very friendly and helpful, and they see to it that all the guests will feel at home.
There are three types of rooms: the mixed 6-bed dorms, the 8-bed male dorms, and the 8-bed female dorms. All the rooms are airconditioned and equipped with private lockers, key card access, wooden bunk beds, reading light, and fresh linen. The bathrooms are equipped with hot showers and are cleaned on a daily basis.
The Red Dot has a spacious lounge with two LCD TVs, DVDs, travel books, board games, and the daily newspaper, which makes it a great place to hang out if you’re taking a breather from sightseeing. Guests can also play Xbox 360 games, watch movies, or use Wifi, all for free.
The hostel provides free breakfast with toast, jams, cereals, coffee and tea. Snacks and other beverages are available at the reception area.
3. Beary Nice
Address: 46B Smith Street, Singapore
Cost: $21.00 a night
Based on the cutesy name alone, one may guess that this hostel must be full of stuffed bears. And it is! Stepping into Beary Nice makes one feel as if he’s stepped into a nursery, what with the decorations in primary colors, and many stuffed bears of all sizes can be found all over the place. Yet, this somewhat kitschy hostel is serious when it comes to providing good accommodation and services. It has won numerous awards within the last five years. Such accolades include being the Top Rated Hostel in 2010, and a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisors.
Beary Nice has elevator access, so that means no more lugging your bags up several flights of stairs. The restrooms for male and female are separate from each other, so no more awkward moments when running to the loo in the middle of the night. The restrooms are outfitted with hot showers, free shower gel, and the use of hairdryers.
The dorm rooms come in 10 or 12-bed configurations, and all rooms are airconditioned and accessed by a security card. Each comfy bed is kitted out with clean bedspreads and quilted blankets, a locker, a shelf, a plug socket, and a lamp.
The lounge area is small but well equipped. People can share the huge TV, DVD player, books, videogames, and Wifi. Local phone calls are free of charge, and there’s also a self service laundry with ironing facilities.
Beary Nice serves free breakfast daily consisting of toast, jams, coffee, and tea. And all day, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate is free.
When taking a trip to Singapore, consider backpacking and staying in a hostel. Just remember that you’re roughing it, so don’t complain about every little thing. It’s part of the experience of backpacking, and it builds character. You might be surprised by how much fun it could be!