“ Address: 2, rue Ferrier, 1202 Genève Switzerland. Tel: ++41 (0)22-901 15 00 „
We stayed one night at this hostel in Geneva last month (April 2010) whilst we were on a long weekend break. There did not seem to be many budget options accommodation wise in the City and although this is a hostel we paid more for a room here than we have for many budget hotels in other European cities, unfortunately this is simply the way things are in expensive Switzerland.
Booking only a couple of weeks before we needed the room, we used their website and found it very user friendly and straightforward. Unfortunately the first night we needed a room they were already full and on the second of the two nights they only had two bed 'dorm' rooms left. We went for one of these at a price of 73 CHF (approx £49 as at April 2010) for two people for one night.
The hostel is very easy to find and their own instrucions, provided with the booking confirmation were simple and accurate. Basically you just follow the main road out of Cornavin station and the hostel is about 4 blocks down on the left. The hostel entrance is on the back of the block, facing away from the main road and when we arrived mid afternoon it was quiet.
Check in was a simple and quick process as there was no one else waiting, we paid the cash for the room and were given swipe cards which provide access to the front door and your room door. As we were in a 'dorm' room we were expected to make our own beds and were provided with all the necessary linen and some towels at reception.
Reception is pretty good in this hostel, featuring fridges full of cold drinks (including beer which is available until 9pm due to Swiss licencing laws), staple backpacker foods such as instant noodles and plenty of chocolate, crisps etc in some vending machines in the lobby. They also sell a range of swiss army knives and the usual tourist souvenirs of cow bells and swiss chocolate at pretty reasonable prices.
Off reception and the lobby there is a TV lounge and a seperate computer room available for guests, we did not use these but they always seemed busy. Downstairs from reception is a self storage locker room which you can use if you have bought your own padlock, we used this the following day after checking out to simply stash our bags for a few hours before we headed back to the airport so it was pretty useful for us, lucky we had our own padlock with us though.
Also downstairs there is a self service coin operated laundry which again seemed pretty busy while we were there with people in and out all the time. A great idea for a hostel though and pretty popular with guests, many of whom, we were surprised to note, were families with kids, mind you this seems more understandable when you consider the prices for hotel accommodation in this super pricey city.
So, linen, luggage and room key in hand we made our way up to the second floor where our room was. Ours looked on to the road outside, above the main entrance to the hostel. On opening the door to the room we were quite pleased to find our own sink inside, not always a given in hostel rooms. A pair of bunk beds made us laugh, years since either of us had slept in one and with my ability to fall or trip on an entirely flat, unelevated surface in broad daylight, it was immediately decided that my other half would take the top bunk.
Clean but basic, there was a wardrobe and some drawers underneath, a long sideboard under the length of the window which has roller blinds on the outside (which are controlled internally and are useful for blocking out light).
The bunks had seperate build in lamps which was useful and I have to say I slept really well, they were definitely comfortable, despite my skepticism.
In the corridor on which our room was there were men and women's toilets and showers, I used one of the showers and it was hot and quite powerful, I did not particularly like the button pressing required to keep the water flowing though and constantly did not do it in time before it stopped, not too much of a criticism though, they were clean and they worked and really thats all that matters.
There is also a kitchen on each floor with basic supplies to enable cooking, we did not use them other than to take a pair of glasses back to our room for some wine later, we made sure we washed them and returned them in the morning, these shared facilities rely on people being considerate.
All in all this was a great hostel, clean, user friendly and in a great location. We did not hear any noise from other guests through the night or early in the morning, but (like fizzywizzy!) we were woken by the atrociously loud dustmen outside for what seemed like forever collecting the rubbish, we did not realise this was daily and just assumed we were unlucky in that they collected on the day we were there, if we stayed again this fact alone would make me ask for a room on the other side of the building.
Cheap it is not - in terms of a hostel, but against the price of hotel rooms in the city it is actually quite a bargain and seems to book up quite early, if you are planning a visit make sure you book well in advance.
One of the first things you notice, as a visitor to Geneva, is just how much accommodation there is. With several at the airport and seemingly loads of hotels on every city centre street, not to mention those in the suburbs, Geneva teems with hotel accommodation. In spite of the abundance of hotel beds, accommodation is fairly expensive and, wishing to save our cash to spend on other things, we opted for a city centre hostel instead; even so, at a whopping £54 (based on converting from 87 CHF) a night for our twin room, the accommodation could not be considered cheap.
We booked the hostel directly through their website and gave credit card details although we didn't have to pay anything until we were at the hostel. We received an automated confirmation by reply and a couple of days before we were due in Geneva, we emailed the hostel reception directly to confirm the booking with a human being. The automated response mentioned two useful pieces of information which the person who confirmed our booking reiterated. The first was directions to the hotel from the main train station and from the airport: we used this information and were relieved to find out it was clear and correct. The second piece of information related to the free public transport which is available to all visitors staying in hotel or hostel accommodation in Geneva: we were told that we would be issued with full cards on our arrival at the hostel and, in the interim, to make our way from the airport to the city centre, we should take a free ticket from the machine in the baggage collection hall. (Incidentally, you should hold onto your boarding card until you reach the city as you should show this along with the complimentary ticket and any hotel booking paperwork if your are stopped by a ticket inspector along the way: this way you can prove you are a visitor to the city).
The hostel is situated just a couple of minutes walk from the main train station, Cornavin, and within easy walking distance of the Old Town, the Lake and other main areas of interest to tourists in the centre. There are tram and bus stops close to the hostel if you need to go further afield. There is limited parking outside the hostel but there are several secure car-parks nearby. The location is excellent for sightseeing, for shops, bars and restaurants and for transport. There are plenty of places nearby for cheap breakfasts as well as a great selection of restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world in the nearby district of Les Paquis.
When we arrived several people were smoking around the doorway of the hostel. Smoking is not allowed in any area INSIDE the hostel but it would be nice if guests were asked not to huddle around the doorway itself when they go outside to smoke. We had arrived at the same time as several other people, including one group of young men who found it necessary to ask about everything they were told several times over. For the majority of this time there was just one receptionist who did her best to try to check in everybody at once but might have had more success had she concentrated on one booking at a time.
While we completed our registration cards the receptionist prepared our free travel passes; the receptionist explained that they were valid for the duration of our stay including the day of departure. She asked whether we wanted to pay for all three nights or just the first one, and pay for the others later. We decided to pay just the first night in case the place was noisy and we wanted to move somewhere else. She asked whether we wanted to pay in Swiss Francs or in Pounds. She did not mention that there is a 3% charge if you want to pay in Sterling; the receptionist who took our payment for the second and third nights told us this the following morning. Finally we were issued with a swipe card each to be used to get into our room and to open the front door of the building in the evenings. Everything else we learned about the hostel was as a matter of chance or from reading the (many) notices around the place. While not as institutional as some hostels, there were lots of notices about facilities and rules.
Our room was on the first floor facing onto the street where the entrance is. We learned the next morning that one should ask for a room on the other side of the building where there is just a courtyard as it will be much quieter. The street itself is not noisy but the bin-men are and they collect daily. The first hurdle was to actually get inside the room; this might sound like a simple task but it was made difficult by the half partition that separated the sleeping area from the tiny wash area. It was impossible to enter the room while carrying a bag; we had to open the door and slide our bags across the floor then enter the room, opening and closing the door like one might a "kissing gate". Each person had to do this in turn: you couldn't walk into the room one after the other without closing and re-opening the door.
The rooms are very basic and bare but really quite adequate for a short stay. In our "eco" double (eco being short for economy, not as a reference to "greenness"), there were two single beds, a small table and two chairs, and a wardrobe. The table was suitable for use as a desk or for somewhere to sit and eat. Behind the partition, just as you entered the room, there was a wash basin and vanity unit. In our room the beds were made up but guests taking a dormitory bed, or who take a two room dormitory, are given clean bedding when they check in and must make up their bed themselves. This, of course, is the norm in most hostels.
The room was spotless and in pretty good condition. There were a few scuff marks on the white walls but that is understandable given the rigmarole around getting into the room. Four small hand towels were provided which were fine but I would have preferred at least one bigger towel. On the first morning we hung our towels to dry and by the time we came back, late at night they were still damp. The next morning we simply dumped our towels on the floor and new ones were provided along with more sachets of shower gel and a little bar of soap.
There were two toilets (one for men and one for ladies) on each corridor, as well as three showers. I was pleased that each shower was in its own locking cubicle as it afforded a degree of privacy. One bathroom contained the two toilets, two basins and a shower room; the other contained just the two showers, and some washbasins. Both bathrooms had a hairdryer and an excellent mirror. We never had to wait to use the toilet or to have a shower, and the water was always hot. In the bathroom with one shower the water stayed on once turned on, but in the other bathroom the showers turned themselves off every thirty seconds or so; by pressing the button several times in succession you could avoid repeatedly turning the shower back on and having to adjust the heat each time. The bathrooms were also sparklingly clean and I did notice members of staff making regular checks.
Each floor has a small kitchen equipped with a kettle and toaster, hob and a selection of crockery and other utensils. You couldn't cook a full meal but you could prepare snacks and simple breakfasts. The kitchens are kept locked and you have to get a swipe card from reception to use them. There is a vending machine in reception selling soft drinks and snacks. You can also buy beers from reception (but only up until 9.00pm as alcohol can't be sold after this time other than in bars and restaurants). The reception shop also sells a selection of souvenirs - a limited number of more moderately priced Swiss watches, Swiss Army knives, mugs, cow bells and chocolate. They also sell various items of outdoor equipment.
Reception also has a selection of leaflets on Geneva and tourist attractions in Switzerland in general. When we were given our travel passes, the receptionist also gave us two maps; one full colour map of Geneva with enlarged sections for certain key areas, and a black and white map produced by the hostel themselves which was annotated to show places they thought might be useful to their guests. One useful little bonus was a discount on the price of admission to the International Red Cross Museum, for which privilege we had only to show our swipe cards at the cash desk of the museum.
The hostel has a coin operated laundry in its basement and other facilities include a television lounge (as well as a long list of cable channels the hostel screen a different movie each evening - free entertainment for those backpackers who can't afford a night out in Geneva!) and a quieter lounge in the basement. Beside the television lounge there was a separate room containing several computers with internet access; these were coin operated, taking Swiss Franc and Euro coins.
On the day of our departure we weren't due to fly out of Geneva until late afternoon. We noticed that it was possible to store luggage in the hostel after check out (at ten o'clock) and decided to go down the locker room in the basement to investigate. There is a whole wall of lockers but unfortunately you do need your own padlock in order to use them, which we hadn't brought on this occasion. In the end we just carried our bags around for the day, thankful to have traveled light. Check out was simple: all we had to do was return the swipe cards.
Based on this experience I'd recommend City Hostel Geneva to anyone happy to stay in budget accommodation. However, I'd have certain reservations regarding the time of year of travel as I suspect the place might be a bit noisier in summer once the larger numbers of backpackers are on holiday throughout Europe. Apart from the noisy arrival of the bin-men each morning, the place was generally quiet and we both slept well all three nights. It's not a place for anyone who wants to be waited on or who expects little luxuries but we found that, spending well over twelve hours out of the hostel each day, we only needed a shower and a comfortable bed, and we got both of those.
2, rue Ferrier 1202 Genève/Switzerland
phone ++41 (0) 22-901 15 00
fax ++41 (0) 22-901 15 60