“ 22 Donegall Road, Belfast.Tel: +44-(0)28-90315435 „
With the terrorist situation in Belfast calming down in recent years, and the increase in cheap airfares to Belfast from the UK, Belfast is rapidly becoming a popular destination for those on a more limited budget. The Belfast International Youth Hostel has the cheapest beds in town.
The hostel is located near one of Belfast's few train stations, and is otherwise a 5-10 minute walk from the centre of town and the coach station (where you can get shuttle buses to either aiport). It is located in the best area for eating in Belfast, which is handy, and in particular the best breakfast in Belfast (which can apparently be difficult to find). This location is ideal, because the centre of town only really has shops (a very good selection), and not much in the way of entertainment or restaurants open outside of business hours.
The hostel is open 24 hours, although after 11pm you need to show a key to the nightwatchman to get in. This is one of the security issues - the key has your room number and the full address of the hostel. If you lose it and a questionable person picks it up, they have easy access to your room and the hostel generally. On the up side, because of this security policy they give every occupant of the room their own key.
The hostel has 2 bed, 4 bed and 6 bed rooms - no traditional dorms. Some rooms are mixed and others are single-sex.
My husband and I stayed in a twin room. It had bunk beds, 2 lockers (you need your own padlock), a rack for coats with hangers and a sink. The sink was one of those annoying ones where you push down and you get about a second of water flow out of it. There was, at least, a plug. The room had central heating, however it was only turned on at night (some time between 6.30pm and 8.30pm while we were at dinner). It made the room quite uncomfortable during the day that we were there as it was extremely cold. However, if you're out and about I guess you won't mind.
The beds were not the most comfortable - you could feel the springs, but they were not too bad. They were also a bit noisy when you moved. Each bunk has its own reading light, which is great. The top bunk had a security bar to stop you rolling out, however it had been bent to an odd angle, so I doubt it would have done much to keep my husband in! Luckily he survived the night.
Linen is supplied - 2 sheets and a pillowcase, which are sealed in a plastic bag so you can be sure they've been washed. A duvet is also provided, although the covers are left on, rather than cleaned along with the sheets and pillow case. The pillow cases were quite awful - nylony and very very worn. The sheets were clean, fresh white sheets. The pillows were excellent - a decent amount of stuffing and quite firm. They do not supply towels.
The layout of the hostel is a little odd. They were undergoing rennovations when we visited in early 2005, so we did not get to access everything. You enter from a side street to a stairway. In a room off the entry hall is the reception (but you do not have to go through it to get to the rooms - one of the security problems.) You go up the stairs to the second floor to get to the rooms. The first floor has the communal areas, however you cannot access it from the stairs. Instead, you have to go up to the second floor and go down in the lift.
The second floor has rooms leading off either side of a corridor. The carpet in the corridor has seen better days and clearly a large number of inebriated people! However, whilst stained, it seemed clean enough. The toilets and showers are scattered along the hallway, although they're not well signed. The facilities are basic, but clean - the showers are just a room with a shower nozzle and a hook. Each toilet/shower is a separate room, rather than all together in a block.
The hostel was reasonably full when we stayed, and quite noisy. The doors do a reasonable job of sound-proofing the hallway, but not good enough for us. A large group of girls came in from a night out at 3am, turned on music and started singing, laughing, shouting etc. Someone (I don't know whether it was staff or a guest) eventually told them to shut up, but it took awhile.
There are no smoking signs everywhere, and their website says they have a no smoking policy, hwoever there was a really strong smell of smoke in the hallways.
The staff on the reception are quietly friendly - they don't volunteer much, but if you ask questions they're happy to help. They apparently will look after your luggage for as long as you like, but I'm not sure if it's locked up or not. They also have internet access. We had paid in advance because we had booked via a internet booking agency. We had to leave our YHA cards as security for the keys.
Their website says they are wheelchair friendly - they definitely were not when we were there. There is a lift, but it seems you can only access it from levels 1 and 2, and not from the ground floor, although you may want to explore this further. It may be simply a temporary thing with the rennovations.
Prices: For a twin bed room we paid £26 (for 2 people). Their website does not list prices. The prices on booking engines seem to range between £7.50 (6 bed room) to £13 per person (2 bed room).
Their website is http://www.hini.org.uk/hostels/belfast.cfm, although you cannot book directly with them online. You can book using the hostelworld.com site, or other booking engines.
All in all, for the price you can't complain, and it does sound as though when not undergoing building work they offer more in the way of services. However, it's not the Ritz and I've stayed in better hostels.
Belfast International Youth Hostel
22-32 Donegall Road
T: +44 (0) 28 9032 4733
F: +44 (0) 28 9043 9699
According to their website, their communal facilities are as follows - I was not able to check them out myself as they were not accessible when we were there:
"DINING ROOM .
(NB. Facility not available 5th Jan 2005 - 4th March 2005)
Here you can enjoy the hostel's breakfast, which includes vegemite! Weather permitting why not enjoy your breakfast in our very own little garden which the dining room looks out on. Or if you prefer, cook up your own feasts in our fully equipped self catering kitchen .
***PLEASE NOTE that due to renovation and building work, from 5th January 2005 to 4th March 2005, there will be no self-catering kitchen, no breakfast service and no laundry facilities available at the Belfast hostel. Sorry for the inconvenience as we work to upgrade our facilities***
FROM MONDAY 19 APRIL FOR 60 WEEKS THE HOSTEL WILL NO LONGER HAVE A CARPARK THIS IS DUE A MAJOR EXTENSION BEING ADDED TO THE HOSTEL , THERE WILL HOWEVER BE ON STREET CAR PARKING "