I receive reader e-mails daily, and try to answer your questions to the best of my ability. On numerous occasions, your messages have asked about the hostel experience for wheelchair users. Given that I had never before stayed in a hostel, I couldn’t comment on what they are like for anyone, regardless of their physical ability. That is, until now.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to gather some experience, when I spent two nights at the ClinkNOORD Hostel in Amsterdam, Netherlands. ClinkNOORD is a part of the Clink Hostels brand, with two other locations in London, United Kingdom. The hostel recently opened, in September 2015, and is located inside of a 1920’s-era building. Since even a mid-range hotel can cost ten times as much as a hostel, I thought it was important for me to open my world and experience a different way of travel. If they are accessible, hostels can help you maximize your travel budget and do more with the resources you have. Check out this video, which offers a look at the building and surrounding area:
My Very First Hostel Experience
Staying in a hostel was uncharted territory for me, and I admit that I was worried it wouldn’t work out. I had already decided which hotel would serve as my “Plan B,” but am happy to report that the hostel served my needs, and was actually a pretty cool place to stay.
The community atmosphere reminded me of my freshman year in college. There were plenty of new people to meet, each with unique experiences to share. If you didn’t connect well with someone, you could say “next!” and move on. I made a few new friends at the hostel, each from a different continent! I’ll take you on a tour of the hostel facility, highlighting its accessible features below.
The Entrance & Check-in
The hostel’s main entrance has two flights of stairs, so wheelchair users must enter through a door at the rear of the building. The back door is down a few steps, but is accessible via a lift. If you can reach the control button, you’ll be able to operate it yourself. If not, you’ll need to call the hostel and ask for assistance. I was able to reach, so it was fairly easy to get down to the entry door. The staff said that a ramp will eventually be built at the front entrance – I hope construction starts soon!
Once you’ve reached the door, you’ll need to push the intercom button to request access via the rear entrance. The staff speak English, so you won’t have any difficulty getting assistance. A staff member is usually along within a couple of minutes.
The registration/check-in desk is located on the ground floor, level zero. The wheelchair accessible entrance is on the basement level, -1. At check-in, I was given a hotel-style key card to access my room. Since I had pre-paid online, I was only asked for my passport as identification. There was no “security deposit” like you might find in a typical hotel.
The building contains a few elevators, which were large enough to accommodate my wheelchair and 2-3 other persons. The selection buttons were located within easy reach for those seated in wheelchairs.
Path To My Room, Security
I was placed in room 305, on the third floor. To ensure security within the hostel, access to each room block is restricted to guests staying in that specific block. Access is granted with a tap of your key card. My room block contained rooms 303-324. The door to my hallway was very light, and easy to open from my wheelchair.
The individual room doors were a bit heavier, but still fairly easy to open. Pictured here is the door to my room, 305. A keycard is also required to access your distinct room, adding an extra layer of security. Theoretically, the only people to have access to your hostel room will be yourself and your roommates.
My Room, #305
I elected to take in the “full experience,” so I reserved a spot in a shared (4-person) dorm room. When I checked-in, the friendly receptionist told me that my room would be of the double bed/bunk bed style. Since there was already one person in the room, he told me to take either the lower bunk or double bed – whichever was available. To my surprise, the double bed was available!
The bed itself was fairly hard, and not very comfortable, but I was able to deal with it on a short stay. If you are a firm mattress lover, it might have been perfect for you. This memory foam guy had a tough time dealing with the harder surface.
My roommate rarely spoke and decided to keep to himself, so I did the same. He did say that he was from China, but we didn’t talk about much else. ClinkNOORD provided the bedding, as well as towels. Based on my conversations with other guests, this is not true of all hostels.
I made sure to select a room with an en suite bathroom. The idea of sharing a bathroom with more than a few people is not up my alley. As I had requested, my room had a wheelchair accessible bathroom. Pictured above is the toilet, which had fold-up/down grab bars on both sides.
You’ll also notice the red cord strung along the wall. This cord is to be pulled in case of an accident or emergency. If you slip or fall, help will be on the way if you pull the alert cord.
The wheelchair accessible roll-in shower, pictured above, was a real treat. The accessible features exceed many of the finest hotels in the United States. Grab bars and an accessible shower chair with armrests will make showering easy (and safe!) for all. There are no shower curtains in any of the bathrooms, but they do drain well.
One of the main draws of hostels, aside from their low cost, is the social atmosphere and opportunity to meet new people. Pictured above is one of the common areas, located on the ground floor. It features several sofas and a pool table (hidden by the bookcase). Some seating areas/activities are not accessible due to their position on elevated platforms. There is still plenty of space to have a good time and interact with others, though!
I hit up the Zinc Bar, located on the basement (-1) level, both nights I stayed at the hostel. There was a decent selection of beer, but there was no Heineken! I opted for Stella Artois instead. I was able to get two bottles for about € 7,00. This was a great place to socialize, even on weeknights.
Location & Transportation
The ClinkNOORD Hostel is located in the Noord district, across the River IJ from the city’s Centraal Station, which contains accessible bus, metro and train service. The Central Station can be reached by the wheelchair accessible ferry, #901, which crosses the river every 5 to 10 minutes, 24 hours a day. The nearest ferry stop is Buiksloterweg, only 400 meters (0.25 miles) from the hostel. The ferry is free. You can read more about the ferry and other transit options in the article on wheelchair accessible public transportation in Amsterdam.
Just a short walk from Central Station is Dam Square, where the Dutch Royal Palace is located. There is also plenty of shopping and dining options around this area. Pro tip: You won’t get a true culinary experience at KFC or McDonald’s. 😉
I stayed at ClinkNOORD for a rate of about €16,00 a night. That is a HUGE savings over many of the nearby hotel options. The accessibility features in the bathroom rivaled those found in many western-branded hotels. The staff were cheerful and always willing to assist with whatever I needed. My fellow guests were either outwardly friendly or kept to themselves – No one was rude or judgmental.
Although there are a few things I’d like to see improved, I would definitely return to ClinkNOORD again, next time I’m looking to save a few bucks.
Have you stayed in a hostel with your wheelchair?
What was it like? Were you comfortable among able-bodied guests?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!