I don’t normally patronise hostels – the idea of “shared bathrooms” isn’t something I find very appealing – but a charming and affordable newcomer on the Taipei tourist scene is one that I’d happily make an exception for, not least because of their near-hotel quality ensuite rooms.
Name : Star Hostel – Taipei Main Station
City : Taipei, Taiwan
Address : 4F., No.50, Huayin Street, Datong District, Taipei City 10349, Taiwan (source – official site)
Length and date of stay : 1 night, 06-07 November 2014
Number of guests : 1 (note that the booking would have covered 2 persons, but I was travelling solo)
Room type : Standard Double Bed Private Ensuite
Total cost : TWD 1,680.00
Booked through : Hostelworld.com
Links : Official Site / Hostelworld / TripAdvisor
ACCESS AND LOCATION
I wanted a budget room in a central area with easy access to public transportation, convenient low-cost dining options, and – quite important as it was my first time in Taipei – a nearby stop for the direct airport limousine bus. The area around Taipei Main Station ticked all those boxes, and Star Hostel was close to the heart of it all.
From Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, take bus 1819 (TWD 125 one-way) and get off at Taipei Main Station, then follow the directions posted on the hostel’s website.
Google Maps can be a fickle mistress – I’m not even sure if you’re seeing exactly the same map I selected – but its 9-minute estimate for the walk from Taipei Main Station to the hostel seems just about right. This puts Star Hostel within a short stroll of all the railway services that use this important transportation hub, from the urban metro system to Taiwan’s cross-island high-speed rail line. I, for one, used the metro a lot during my brief stay in Taipei and found the location very convenient for that purpose.
(Mind you, the ground underneath Taipei Main Station is riddled with passageways so getting to the trains can be a bit of a chore at times.)
As for the hostel’s immediate neighbourhood, Huayin Street’s tossed salad of mid-rise buildings offers an interesting mix of the decaying and the new (or newly renovated). Nothing remarkable, but I rather liked the atmosphere, and it was fairly quiet for a downtown street.
COMMON AREAS AND FACILITIES
The hostel itself looks spanking new, but it’s set within a much older building that formerly housed one of Taipei’s first shopping malls (at least, according to their website). The former retail space is now shared by several tenants, including the hotel where I spent the previous night, which explains why there are two signs for accommodation mounted on the side of the building.
In any case, just take the lone lift up to the right floor – there’s a sticker with the hostel’s name next to the correct button – and step out into their reception area, where the first thing that greets guests is a rather inviting little wooden hut.
Turn right and you’ll see the front desk. The people I dealt with all spoke English, so there shouldn’t be much of a language barrier here for many foreign visitors. (I also overheard one of them speaking to a guest in Japanese, and – considering that we’re in Taiwan – I wouldn’t be surprised if Chinese speakers are also well catered for.)
The walls and decor are mainly in shades of black and white, enlivened by the warm honey-golden hues of the wooden furnishings and wall panels.
Outdoor shoes aren’t allowed in the guest area, including the bedrooms. Before passing through the security door, guests need to remove their footwear and change into standard-issue slippers. There’s a numbered shoe cubicle for each room in the entrance hall, all equipped with doors (but not locks).
After removing your footwear, tap the room card on the scanner next to the sliding door and head inside, where you’ll find the spacious common room.
I didn’t make much use of this area during my one-night stay – I’m not really a very sociable chap – but those who appreciate having a venue for mingling with fellow travellers or conversing with their mates will probably love the commodious atmosphere and the variety of seating options. I’m also a fan of the woodwork and the little indoor cottage … awfully tempting to run up to the upper level and pretend that it’s a play castle. Erm, I mean, curl up in relative privacy up there with a good book. (Yeah, sure, let’s go with that.)
Off to one side is a well-equipped shared kitchen, as well as a connecting door that allows guests to enter the Star Cafe (which is also accessible to non-guests via a door near the front desk). Note that this is a hostel, not a full-service hotel, so guests are expected to clean up after themselves and wash any dishes and utensils they may have used in the kitchen.
As for meals, the website states that a complimentary breakfast is served in the cafe from 0800 to 1000, whilst guests who need to nibble on something a little earlier can help themselves to a lighter selection of breads and spreads in the shared kitchen (available from 0700). If memory serves, the complimentary breakfast consists of a set meal with a cooked dish that varies from day to day. I didn’t get to try it as I was there on a Friday, traditionally a day of abstinence from meat amongst Catholics, and the day’s offering happened to include meat.
Accommodations are spread out over at least two floors, with an internal staircase between them. Mine was conveniently located on the same level as the common facilities, which meant that popping out to the kitchen for a cup of coffee or a drink of water did not require negotiating any steps.
Like any other hostel, this one offers the usual dormitories with bunk beds and shared showers/toilets, but for the sake of privacy I was quite happy to pay a bit more to sleep in one of their ensuite rooms. The website advertises single rooms, but the smallest non-dormitory option available at that time on Hostelworld (where I placed my booking) was a double room, so I ended up paying for two even though I was travelling solo. No matter – the price of TWD 1,680 (roughly USD 53 or PHP 2,365) was still excellent for a single guest, and I was glad to have the extra space.
Right, let’s have a look. Simple furnishings, and completely devoid of stationery or packaged toiletries or other amenities that hotel guests are known for pillaging from their rooms.
Not bad at all. No frills, but clean and equipped with all the basics – even a couple of non-essentials like a nice little flat-screen TV and a hairdryer. Do bear in mind that the bathroom walls are made of frosted glass, so things might be a little, er, awkward for guests with companions, though as a solo traveller I had no way of knowing just how visible my morning ablutions would have been to someone on the outside.
Larger ensuite rooms for bigger groups are also available, and their dormitories may be worth considering if you’re on a tight budget (or just like the companionship). Bear in mind that according to their website, lockers are provided for dorm guests but they’ll need to bring their own padlocks.
Bearing in mind that this is a low-cost hostel (for which a different set of standards will apply from, say, a full-service hotel), I’d rate the experience of staying here as follows.
Location : 4.5/5. I was happy with its proximity to a major transportation hub and the convenient airport link. Some walking still required, though not an issue unless you’ve got heavy luggage.
Facilities : 5/5. Basic, but complete, and the great design factor’s a major plus.
Dining : Score withheld as I didn’t get to try the complimentary breakfast, but from what I’ve seen, I would probably have enjoyed it.
Rooms : 4/5. Like the facilities, basic but complete and kept very clean. One point comes off for the frosted glass bathroom walls, which might pose some privacy issues (I’d be happy to reinstate that point if I could be assured that it’s not possible to see anything through them).
Price : 5/5. Even with the lack of hotel-like amenities, the price is quite good for what it gets you.
Final remarks : Star Hostel offers accommodations of near-hotel quality at hostel prices. I’m more than happy to recommend it and will likely stay here again on future visits to Taipei.