More than just a bed in CapeTownReading Time: 5 minutes
The Backpack (TripAdvisor rating 4.5/5 Booking.com customer rating of 8.6/10 at £20/night)
On a recent trip to Cape Town my friends and I stayed at The Backpack Hostel, situated within walking distance from Long Street and Kloof Street. My initial draw to this hostel was the fact that it had amazing ratings on Trip Advisor and it had been voted the second best hostel in Africa by Hostelworld.com and rated as a ‘5 star hostel’ by hostelgeeks.com.
Imagine, arriving in Cape Town at 10pm, it is pitch dark outside and the heavens have decided to have a sneeze. Not a violent sneeze, but a sneeze, with remnants, all the same. In spite of the external conditions, we received a very warm welcome and were led to our dry room for the night.
We were in and out of Cape Town and we therefore stayed in different rooms; an 8-bed mixed dorm room, a 4 bed mixed dorm room and a private room. The clientele is a mix of families, travellers and sometimes-young people on school trips. The rooms are clean and neat with a boutique style design. There are a few shared bathrooms scattered around the property that are kept very clean throughout the day but if the idea of sharing toilet facilities makes you cringe, some of the rooms have private bathrooms.
At the back of the hostel there is a ‘chill zone’ with bean bags, books, a TV and multiple DVDs if guests want to just chill out with a book or for a movie (I was so chilled in this room I even forgot to take pictures). There is also another room with a large table and chairs that could either be used for sit down meals or if one is working. Actually, there are a few different cool working spots people can use around the hostel. Only staying guests are provided with a code to enter the hostel gates and visitors are not allowed beyond the reception area so security is something they definitely thought about.
If you are inspired after spending the day at the food markets or just longing to make home cooked food? Well, there is a well-equipped kitchen where you can make a quick meal or cook up a storm if you have missed preparing your own food. For those staying long term there is plenty of fridge and cupboard space for storage. I was not there for long enough to miss cooking but the kettle came in handy to make my daily cuppa:-).
A very generous hybrid continental buffet breakfast is served in the dining area by the friendly staff. The buffet is constantly refilled as hungry travellers stock up enough to try avoid having to buy multiple meals during the day (the fresh fruit salad and yoghurt combo is amazing). While having breakfast, we watched Table Mountain undressing itself as the clouds lifted to reveal the majestic piece of rock that nature so artistically and perfectly carved but, for a couple of days it decided to have a pyjama day as the clouds did not fully lift from the summit.
There is a garden at the rear of the hostel with an outdoor pool and balcony, perfect for cooling down and chilling out. For a couple of evenings after spending the day walking extensively- we returned to the hostel, lay on the loungers and spent the evening enjoying a glass of local wine (or two) as the cool breeze blew on our hot feet, and we watched Table Mountain disappear into the darkness.
Toni, one of the owners, is an amazing woman who has travelled extensively herself and therefore was much attuned to the budget traveller’s needs. She advised on creative experiences that would not cost an arm and a leg but would still be thoroughly enjoyable and therefore encouraged us to see a different side of the beautiful city.
The staff went over and above to take the admin of travel out of our hands (at no extra cost) negotiating deals and booking different activities such as Cage Shark Diving, Sky Diving, arranging our accommodation in Hermanus as well as not only arranging our car rental but also the transport to go and collect the car (if that is not going above and beyond with customer service, I don’t know what is)
For our drive to Hermanus, Toni recommended routes that would give us the most picturesque views and provided ideas of where to stop for a spot of wine tasting (not for the driver). In addition, when we drove further down the Western Cape, to avoid lugging ALL our belongings with us, the hostel staff allowed us to leave our bulky luggage at the hostel.
Another great thing about The Backpacker is that it a social enterprise. They are involved in community projects that help build skills for disadvantaged young people in Cape Town. Sports projects are in place to help young people develop their individual skills, which builds confidence; a knitting project was established to provide warm clothing for AIDS orphanages. Staff members and their children can apply for money to aide their studies through a bursary that the hostel has set up which you can contribute to by leaving your key deposit. If you have clothing that you no longer require you can leave this at the reception for sale, and the takings will be reinvested into the disadvantaged communities in Cape Town.
As The Backpacker is not in a primarily tourist zone, you can engage with local activities (e.g. I was able to go to a local yoga class round the corner from the hostel) but remain within reasonable proximity to the town centre and the V&A Waterfront. Having stayed at The Backpack I understand why they received their awards and for what I received in comfort, convenience and service it was indeed good value for money.
Have you had an amazing stay in Cape Town? Where did you stay?