Friday, April 26, 2013

The Northern Lights March 2013 - Billie's Backpackers Hostel Fairbanks

***This post is part 3 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Hotels in Fairbanks are actually very reasonably priced. For example, I found availability at the highly rated Hampton Inn for approximately $100 per night on the dates that I needed, and they even allow occupancy of up to four people per room. Best of all, they offer free breakfast, free high speed internet, and free airport shuttles. There are also many beautiful bed and breakfasts in town if you are willing to pay a bit more.

Unfortunately, when traveling alone on a budget, it is sometimes difficult to justify paying for a hotel room all by yourself. In these situations, I tend to look for local options like backpackers lodges or hostels. While perusing TripAdvisor, I ran across Billie's Backpackers Hostel and noticed that it had stellar reviews. It was also very affordable. I emailed Billie and reserved a bed in the shared sleeping area for only $30 per night.

When I arrived, I was happy to see that everything looked exactly like it had been presented on the website. The house was on a quiet street, but still fairly close to downtown as long as you have a car. During the summer, Billie actually rents out an unheated gazebo and space in the yard for tents. But in the winter, only beds in the house are available.

The common area downstairs was very comfortable and cozy, with one extended communal dining table and plenty of chairs. The kitchen had a good amount of space and all the amenities needed to cook and store your own food, although I chose to dine out most of the time. There was also a computer and television set for guest use.

The shared sleeping area and quiet zone was upstairs. If I remember correctly, there were enough beds for eight in main area, one bunk in a separate bedroom, and space for three more in a second bedroom. I was very lucky to get a bed in the small bedroom for only two people, which definitely helped with a quiet night's sleep. I believe Billie also added beds in the heated garage to accommodate even more people, but I wouldn't recommend sleeping there since you have to go outside to access the main house.

There was one smaller bathroom upstairs, but I always tried to use the main bathroom downstairs next to the kitchen. This bathroom was huge and always kept spotlessly clean. I never had an issue with hot water, though I did take very late showers (since I was out every night trying to catch the lights). Linens and towels were provided.

The best part about the hostel was undoubtedly the people. This was truly an international gathering. Just in the three days that I was there, I met travelers from Argentina, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, China, Taiwan, etc. There were guests that had been living there long-term, and others like me who were staying for only a few days. I had a great time chatting with them and exchanging travel ideas.

Billie and her family were wonderful hosts. On the second night, they even made two huge pots of chili, one with beef and the other with caribou and moose, along with plenty of condiments. Not only that, they brought out strawberries dipped in chocolate for dessert! Even though I'm sure this wasn't a regular occurrence, I still couldn't believe how generous they were.

Finally, Billie has two very cute (and chubby) pugs named Kubhala and Frankie. They're both very friendly, but if you're allergic to dogs or just don't like them, this might not be the hostel for you since they regularly roam the common area downstairs. All in all, I would highly recommend Billie's Backpackers Hostel. It was definitely a highlight of my visit to Fairbanks.

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