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I stayed in a backpacker hostel in Paris and here’s what happened

Simon Calder’s Travel

There’s snoring in my room, an almost melodic, low rumble. It’s not the kind of snore that has you launching pillows at the culprit, but enough to keep you hanging on waiting for the next one. Usually there’d only be my boyfriend to blame, and I’d roll him over (if feeling charitable), or give him a hard kick (if feeling less so). But I’m in a hostel dormitory room in Paris, and climbing into the next bunk to roll or kick the snorer doesn’t seem socially acceptable.

The French capital has never been a cheap destination, and hotels routinely offering rooms at costs of over €1,000 a night are becoming more and more common. This isn’t helped by the Olympics coming to town this summer, although there is evidence that rates are falling. While I struggle to understand spending so much anywhere, doing so in a city like Paris, where surely you spend very little time in your room, seems even more incomprehensible.

So this time I checked into a hostel. It was partially motivated by price, and partially curiosity. I used to be a prolific hostel-hopper, and I’d spend months on end going from dorm room to dorm room, sharing my space with strangers who’d become friends without a second thought. But this was pre-Covid, and before my 30th birthday.

The pandemic threatened to destroy hostel culture. In 2020, France’s hostels lost 50 per cent of their revenue, and many were forced to close their doors for good. Those that survived raised their prices, and the entry price for a dorm bed is now between €18–30, or closer to €50 in Paris. When I first backpacked France in 2013, you could get a dorm bed for as little as €10, so it doesn’t surprise me that many opt for Airbnbs instead, particularly when travelling with friends or as a couple, often finding it more economical.

Anna and a view of Paris from the hostel (supplied)

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I checked into The People Hostel, Belleville, in Paris’s 11th arrondissement. It’s my favourite part of the city; the sticky smell of hot baklava mingles with dumplings and croissants. There’s no gold-gilded domes, except from afar, but the former quarry turned park, Buttes-Chaumont, uses its elevated vantage point to give one of the best panoramas over the Parisian skyline: the Eiffel Tower, Invalides, Sacre Cœur, the distant skyscrapers of La Défense.

Arriving was like…

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