When I was approached by Backpacker Panda hostels to stay with them and review the experience on my travel blog, I was excited but apprehensive too.
Excited because after watching Queen, I have been inspired to try out this form of accommodation.
Apprehensive because of the safety factor and I am not sure India is the best country to try this out in.
Read on why and how did it actually turn out for me!
This is an honest review from my end vis-a-vis my experience in exchange for a free stay with them at a property chosen by me.
Planning the destination
I was headed to Mumbai in end of November 2018 and decided to explore staying with Backpacker Panda hostels. BTW they have more than 50 properties in various corners of India and a few international ones too. I was super impressed with the travel spots they have hostels in – great planning in their choices. ( Agra, Varanasi, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Srinagar, Goa, Kochi, Pushkar, Manali, Hanoi, Pelling, Kathmandu and many more)
When I looked up their website, I saw two properties listed under Mumbai. One in Andheri and other in Colaba. Immediately my head filled up with visions of morning and evening walks on Marine Drive, hanging at Gateway of India and then heading to Taj for coffee.
Hostel stay at age 40+
But the next moment I was filled with apprehensions. Colaba is such a premium location of Mumbai, would the accommodation be worth it? I did not want to be shortchanged on my staying option. You see, I am very anal about the loo and bedding whenever I travel. I did explore their picture gallery but wasnt assured by it.
The last time I stayed in a hostel was during a college trip wherein we were put up in the YWCA. So my experience was not very grand. I seriously pondered on the fact whether at my age, will I be able to hack it in a hostel now?
Crossing my fingers, I booked it for 3 nights and 4 days as was offered to me. The booking process is actually pretty seamless. I opted to sign in on the Panda License which is priced at 99/- INR. Let me tell you why I was hooked by this feature.
- instant cash back of 99/- INR on signing up
- awesome discount pricing on booking hostels (actual price on the room I wanted was 999/- but I got it for much less than that as I was on the license)
- great savings with their travel partners
Check – in
I was met by a very calm, efficient and warm young man who quickly took me up to my room. The room key card also doubled as the access card at all entry/exit points. I was blown away by the cleanliness and organised look of the entire place. Bonus point that its built in an old house with some great architectural elements like the staircase and the flooring.
My choice of room was a 6 bed female dorm which had 3 pairs of bunk beds. I was initially assigned a top bunk but found it painful to climb up and down. At my request, I got the bottom bunk which was much more comfy as all my stuff was accessible to me. There was a compact locker under the bed with a key – it could fit a cabin sized suitcase easily. Several wall hooks near the toilet door allowed for peeps to hang up stuff easily.
The matteress was like an 8″ thick pocket spring sort and had very fresh linen and duvet. I was amazed at the soft and clean bed.
Several foreign travelers that I met there told me they were shocked at the clean linen as they had experienced worse at several hostel stays in India on this trip. This was one of the cleanest hostel that they had been to.
This was quite the surprise as it was tiny but neat and efficient. The rain shower was oh so divine to bathe under. Best part was the housekeeping which took special care to clean well.
A water point on every floor took care of drinking water. So carry a water bottle which you can refill regularly.
A small kitchenette and a common dining cum lounge room on the top floor allowed one to cook. So you can bring your own groceries and cook for yourself. There are no meals served here at all.
The rooftop had benches running all along the length and one could laze here with a beer and watch the sunset. Or just commune with other travelers who are staying there too.
Laundry load on a chargeable basis is available. One can rent out a towel as well.
No one could enter the space without a key card- very efficient system of managing security of the place.
The notice board at the reception had several posters of events happening nearby. It also shared info on food joints, tours, taxi, etc which I thought was very neat.
Things which can be improved
The shower area needed a shower curtain as the entire space got wet after a bath.
The sink bowl could be a little deeper and wider. Washing one’s face meant water splashing all around on oneself.
The sink faucet is on a timer to save water but I found it terribly painful as its on a very short timer. Brushing / washing one’s face became quite a chore.
The dorm was a perpetual mess with everyone’s luggage lying all over the place. I wish there could have been some kind of luggage rack system to allow for better space management.
No windows anywhere meant no natural light in the rooms and toilet – I found this pretty depressing. But then I wasnt there to spend time in the room.
Intrigued? Pin it for later!
I will admit to being taken by surprise by this cool and clean hostel. It went beyond my expectations and I have been peddling it to my friends and family who didnt believe me at first. This hostel scored very high in terms of location, pricing, cleanliness, security and comfort. So no surprise that I have rated it 4 1/2 stars. I have earmarked this hostel chain for my future trips in India, especially the solo ones!!
Rating is out of 5 stars where 1 is best avoided and 5 is beyond expectations!!
The bottom line of the hostel is Cheap stay. Add to that cleanliness, security and comfort; you have one value-for-money deal!
If you are a single woman wishing for a solo travel, try this out. You will get to make friends (I did) with other similar minded and mostly solo travellers.
A group of friends wishing for a cheap lodgings to have some fun together. Best part is that they have mixed sex dorms too. So if you are a group with couples, this would be work out as an ideal stay.
If you are on a long stay for work/study, this is a great option. Also if you have to go for an exam/conference / interview – this would work out well. (Loads of cafes around the place would ensure clean and cheap food too)
You could check out the website for options on other locations and also the FAQ page to look up the rules. I would love to hear feedback on this review and if you have stayed in a similar hostel in India -do share that with me please.
Coming up: An early morning walk in Colaba to enjoy the gorgeous architectural buildings