We stayed a few nights at the San Francisco International Hostel last month, as we often like to check out the hostel scene while traveling, sort of a nostalgic memory of our past lives as backpackers. While this was not a great hostel by international standards it was functional and served its purpose, which is good enough in a city like San Francisco, which seems well short on accommodation options of this sort.
We reserved our room at the SF International Hostel a couple weeks in advance on hostels.com. Lobby area was always busy and regularly people were arriving to check if there was availability. Not sure if this hostel is this busy all of the time but judging form the scores of backpackers being turned away, it would be advisable to book early for this or any other hostel you are interested in staying at in San Francisco.
What we liked about San Francisco International Hostel:
Check in process was thorough, staff members were friendly at all times and they insisted on mandatory room key checks for all people entering the building - they took building security quite seriously while we were there. We liked the large common room with plenty of tables and two TVs showing the news, seemingly around the clock. Also, in the morning, there free pancake batter for all staying at the hostel. There were inadequate pans, burners as well as cleaning/drying provisions for the number of people trying to use the kitchen but the gesture was nice. Plus, if you wake early, there was no congestion in the kitchen. Also, the free coffee and tea station was nice.
Rooms were as expected, beds moderately comfortable and door lock was solid, at least to our room. Location close to Union Square was nice (although there were too many undesirable types wandering outside the hostel in the early morning). Hostel was also within 5-minute walk from the Powell Street BART station, making it a convenient transfer location from San Francisco International Airport.
What we didn't care for so much
As mentioned, there were some interesting characters walking the streets in this area at times. If you are used to this, it won't bother you and is something you just have to get used to in places like San Francisco, especially on and around Market Street.
As expected the room walls were thin, meaning you could hear a lot going on in the room next to ours. Savvy backpackers and travellers will have earplugs so this doesn't have to be a problem.
Next, we found there the hostel to be quite short on electric outlets, which is quite important these days. In our room the only plug was located behind one of the bottom bunk beds, which was occupied the entire time we stayed so we felt quite uncomfortable trying to get to it. Each floor had a couple of outlets in the hall and the ground floor kitchen/common area had a few additional plug outlets to make up for the shortage in the rooms.
Our other gripe would be that hostel is inadequately equipped with toilets. Seems there is one single toilet on most floor, which is not really appropriate considering the number of rooms, each with 4-6 beds located on each level. Considering the hostel for full up each night we stayed, this was not convenient.
Overall, this hostel has its flaws and is not cheap. However, being in SF, your options are limited and most hostels might be full up anyway. In the end, we found the San Francisco International Hostel to be good enough and made a half decent stay.
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