Hostels in Russia are really something else from what you may be used to, so here is some piece of advice for when you plan your bookings:
- Read the reviews carefully. We mostly used booking.com and hostelworld, but hostelbookers is good too.
- Come with an open mind.
- Most of the hostels are quite hidden, very rarely you’ll find any sign or indication of them, so make sure you have ALL the information about the address.
- Be nice to the locals living in the hostel.
- Check the hostel rules.
Point #1 & #2 seem pretty standard and need no clarification.
About point #3, here is why.
The Russian address system might get a bit confusing, as each address is often made up of a bunch of information, an inheritance of the Soviet mass construction of tall multi-apartment buildings. So, you’ll usually have a “dom” number, which refers to the whole complex; then, since many housing complexes in Russia are massive and contain multiple buildings, most of which are accessible from an inner courtyard, you’ll also have a “korpus” number referring to the specific building; the “stroenie” number is quite similar to the “korpus”, as it still refers to the specific building of a complex having a common entrance from the main street; then, you may have a “pod’ezd”, aka the actual entrance to an apartment located in a multi-storey building; and finally, the “kvartira”, referring to the specific apartment accessible from the specific “pod’ezd”, inside the specific “stroenie” or “korpus” of a certain “dom”.
And if after all this you feel like you haven’t understood anything, don’t worry, me neither! The important thing is, when you write down the address of your hostel, make sure you get the “korpus”/”stroenie” number and the “pod’ezd”/”kvartira” as well. For example, a full address could look like this: Ulitsa Lenina, dom 15, korpus А, pod’ezd 15 (kvartira 7).
Again, not all addresses necessarily have all these specifications, it really depends on the type of building, but it’s better to check with your hostel. Most booking sites indeed only mention the number of the “dom”, which may cause you to get stuck wandering around a massive building for hours with no idea which entrance you should actually use. Trust me, been there, done that, not fun.
About point #4: most hostels in Russia are used by locals as permanent accommodation. It can be old widows or middle-aged workers or young boys, but these people do actually live in such hostels on a permanent basis, for reasons which may vary. Anyway, they may appear cranky at times and look at you like you’re invading their space, cause, hey, they were there first! In these cases, don’t stress about it, just smile and be nice to them even if they’re not, who knows maybe one of them will open up and tell you incredibly interesting anecdotes, you never know.
Point #5: Many hostels in Russia forbid to drink alcohol inside, so, before you get crazy ideas, check with the administration. It’s really not about you, it’s just that they know their horses, and Russians can get a little too out of control when they drink, so it is just easier that way.
Last but not least, not all hostels are the same, these are just tips for what the average Russian hostel looks like and what to expect, but you can find youthful, party hostels as well, especially in the most touristic cities (Moscow, St. Petes, Irkutsk, Ulan Ude). Most likely, these places will also be more expensive, while usually you can easily get a room for about 350 Rubles/night. Again, it really depends on what you’re looking for and on your budget.