In the City of Hills, I know a place where fun and hospitality reside—at the San Francisco (SF) Downtown Hostel. After one missed flight, a connecting flight that brought the inner Usain Bolt in me (running from Terminal 1 to Terminal 7 at LAX), a lost luggage and a mixed-up of accommodation booking, I was treated with kindness when I checked-in at the hostel’s reception. It was a long, stressful day but the staff made it easy and quick to resolve issues, leaving me wrinkle-free.
As a habit, before entering my room, I picked up some leaflets, brochures and booklets at the hostel’s kiosk to find coupons, bike rentals, discounts, free stuff and pocket guides and maps. There’s one thing that I’m always looking for but I’ve never found it in many hostels I’ve stayed in the past—a gay brochure. When I saw the Guide to Castro brochure lying on the shelf, my heart skipped (singing Will Pharell’s HAPPY song in my head) and felt like there’s a halo of glitter-filled rainbow above my shaved head. I picked it up, touched its glossy cover and looked around (another habit). This gay-friendly hostel welcomes everyone! Yay to that!
Five minutes later, two guys (a ginger and a blond) saw me leafing through the rainbow pages and asked where I found it. They took a copy and sat with me at the sofa. We introduced each other and a rainbow-filled conversation ensued. And I hated it because one was so gayer than me. Hahahaha…
The hostel is in the most convenient (like super, super convenient) part of the city. It’s less than two minutes walk to the station where the classic cable cars begin/end their trips. The metro subway and the bus stations are within few steps. The hostel is also surrounded with restaurants, diners, cafés, groceries, and fastfood outlets. Staying here also means you will be tempted to go shopping and replace those worn-out backpacking clothes that make you look like a hobo already. I treated myself to UNIQLO where Asians, like me, don’t have to settle for American or European’s definition of S, M, L, XL sizes. LOL…
Do you want a night that you’ll remember for the rest of your life? The hostel’s Pub Crawl every Thursday night is known for its epic fun where travelers around the world start the night off as strangers and end up as drinking or dancing buddies. The pub crawl started at 8:00 pm and by 10:00 pm, I was already drunk. I left ahead of the group, before I’d do shameless stuff that would crush my morals! Hahahahahaha!!! If you are like me, who get drunk and forget most of what happened a night before, check your camera for embarrassing photos that will aid your memory. The pub crawl is the most-attended, sell-out hostel activity of the week that brings 30-50 people together. Before hitting the pub crawl, mingle with others for Taco Thursday!
Beer lover? Then Mondays are for you. It’s Beer Tasting Day!
At the need of the day, after sightseeing and walking up and down the hills, holding on to the side of the cable car or biking through the bay, there’s no better way to end it but a movie and pizza night on Wednesdays. Don’t be late for your movie date! It’s limited seating at the theater!
Just like when someone we know is visiting our city, we open our arms to welcome him so he could experience the best what our city could offer. We show him around and take pride in being a guide. SF-Downtown hostel is doing just that. They take travelers to places guided by locals who are engaging and fun that make climbing some hills easier than we all think. And it’s FREE!
If you happen to be there on a Tuesday, you must join the Bike the Bay Tour where you go across the Golden Gate Bridge. Bike rentals aren’t free but they can get you a real, good discount ($18 for 24 hours). Should you decide to do it on your own, on another day, ask the reception for a discounted brochure/coupon.
On Thursday, join the Chinatown Walking Tour which I would highly recommend. You’ll be passing through alleys where it was once seedy for its notorious past. And yes, food is involved in this tour. In the afternoon, the North Beach Tour is another way to see and know the city through the eyes of a local.
On Saturday, the Locals Way Tour will bring you to Mission, a district with interesting history, amazing murals, mixed neighborhoods and totally different vibe. And if you are into the political side of the city, their SF Social Movement Walking Tour is tailored for you.
* Sign up for these free tours and activities at the reception desk.
* Just in case you missed the tours/activities, the hostel has two other branches, the City Center and Fisherman’s Wharf. You are always welcome to hop on their daily activities but make sure to inform the reception. Check their respective websites for the day’s events.
I was billeted in a 4-bed dorm style rooms and it was spacious. It has a private bathroom with shower and sink, a closet with hangers and big glass windows that make the room naturally well-lit and ventilated. They offer free linens and towels. Rooms are cleaned everyday and bathrooms are sparkling clean. Each bed is equipped with a lamp and two electrical outputs. If you are physically-challenged, there’s an elevator for your convenience.
Wi-fi signal is pretty fast but can be a pain (it’s like catch-me-if-you-can game during night time) sometimes when you are in the comfort of your bed. My three roommates were actually able to get through it without problems but me. So, to be fair, it’s either my obsolete iPhone 4S or just the position of my bed? LOL… The second room where they moved me on my last night had excellent wifi connection. The lounge on the second floor is where everyone hangs out and where wifi speed is real good.
Breakfast is consist of bagel, bananas, bread spreads, coffee, milk and tea. The kitchen is well-kept and equipped with toasters, microwave oven, a refrigerator to store your food and a stove for those who would like to cook their own meals. There’s also a vending machine for drinks and snacks at the computer room. And like any hostel around the world, clean up/wash your own dishes/utensils. Unless, of course, your mother is traveling with you. LOL…
The halls are decorated with beautiful posters and information about the city. Check out their MEANWHILE IN SAN FRANCISCO bulletin board where they post events happening in the city that week. There’s always something for everyone: foodies, party animals, sports fanatics, geeks, adventure-seekers, theater maniacs, etc…
Staying at this hostel has gained me new Facebook friends. We bonded through our love for travel and living the same lifestyle. The cosy hostel lobby and spacious living room are good areas to start gaining friends. Strike a conversation to someone sitting across or beside you at the breakfast table by sharing plans for the day—and who knows, you might end up together exploring the City by the Bay.
Tip to save money in San Francisco:
Buy a to maximize your time and budget.