Something we learnt on our travels is that a lot of hostels in the smaller towns of South America don’t have any sort of online presence which makes it look like there is only one or two places to stay if you are booking in advance. Usually if you just show up there and are willing to do a little walking, there are plenty of hostels to choose from.
At the time in Punta del Diablo (Uruguay) we didn’t know this, so we booked ourselves into one of the only hostels we could find online. This was a mistake because pretty much everyone else does this too. The result… an amazingly over crowed and below average hostel. It turned out to be one of the worst of our travels.
Not that the building was bad, it was more that the rooms were cramped, dirty and full, plus half of the people in the hostel seemed to be doing volunteer work / workaways. We saw no full time staff the whole time we were there, which left uninterested workawayers to serve breakfast and clean the hostel, which sometimes wasn’t done at all. It also made for a weird atmosphere as the workawayers stuck to themselves and pretty much took over all of the common spaces. This and the fact there was only 1 cooker for 60ish people meant that you need to queue for a couple of hours to make food wasn’t a great experience. When you book in advance it leaves very few options if your not happy, either put up with it or throw away the money you paid and leave early.
That was not just it, when we booked online through booking.com we agreed on paying a certain amount in Uruguayan Pesos. However, when we arrived at the hostel, the volunteer informed us with the price in US dollars. Booking.com doesn’t take payment online, so you have to pay once at the hostel. The problem being that we ended up paying €10 more because of terrible and dishonest exchange rate from US dollars to Pesos. This also happened to us in our hostel in Iguazu falls. That’s something we learnt and since we have never booked again via a website like booking.com or hostelworld.com.
Now when we don’t have any alternative other than booking our stay in advance we call, send a message on Facebook or email the hostels. Usually we get a better rate by booking direct too.