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Television presenter, adventurer and bestselling author Simon Reeve has travelled extensively over the years. Visiting more than 110 countries and circling the world three times for the BBC TV series Equator, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn, we thought he’d know a thing or two about finding the best accommodation.
Our pal Gareth Morris from TravelSupermarket caught up with him for us to discuss his experiences of staying in hostels over the years and to find out more about his new show, Indian Ocean.
Simon, do you have any fond memories of staying in hostels over the years?
Hostels are a great place to stay with mates, or when you’ve pitched-up in a new city and you’re looking to make a few new friends. I’ve done both, although when I was travelling with mates we’d generally have so much to drink that my memory gets hazy about where we actually stayed. I do remember one time when I was staying in a rammed hostel with friends in Paris a mate of mine fell off his bed and landed on top of me. It felt like he’d cracked my ribs, but I was laughing hysterically through the pain. My best memory is staying in a hostel dorm with a Dutch netball team. They made a big impression.
Where was the best hostel you have ever stayed in?
I think it has to be the Hostel of the Sun in Naples. A great place with wonderful character. The city itself has ups and downs, and seems to be on a bit of a down at the moment, but I’ve had some fantastic times in Italy and Naples is a town with soul.
Any tips for finding the right hostel for your trip?
You want to check what other travellers are saying about a place first. And that’s what the internet was invented for, isn’t it?! I’d always go for a small room in a cool hostel with a great location, rather than a big room in a crappy place. You don’t want to spend a lot of time. You want to get out and about.
What’s the first thing you do when you arrive somewhere new?
I get out and explore. That’s the whole point, that’s my favourite thing about travelling, having new experiences every single day.
How has the way you travel changed over the years? Particularly regarding your accommodation.
I’ve probably become more accepting of rubbish hotels. I’ve stayed in so many appalling places that I’ve just become used to them. In Dushanbe in Tajikistan I remember we stayed in one place that had mouldy, windowless rooms, and damp, smelly mattresses. As I stood at the sink waiting for the water to turn from brown to clear, idly watching two cockroaches scuttling along the filthy floor, I nearly trod on a colossal brick-sized rat-trap, primed with a chunk of rancid cheese. Whenever we get a clean room with a decent bed I’m happy and a little bit amazed.
Beyond the obvious (passport, currency, phone etc) what three things do you find invaluable when travelling?
A leatherman wave multi-tool, a petzlzipka head-torch, and tea bags. I’m a kit fiend, so I have long packing lists for my work adventures. I try to keep the packing weight down, but we cover a lot of ground on my journeys and one day we might be up a mountain filming rare primates, and the next filming underwater at a seaweed farm or undercover in an animal market, so we need endless specialist kit and equipment.
Tell us about your new show.
It’s called Indian Ocean, and – guess what – it’s all about the Indian Ocean. Not just life under the waves, but life around the edge as well. We started in South Africa and worked our way up the east coast of the continent, then round India and back down through Indonesia to the south west of Australia. It was my most exotic adventure, because we went to the lovely Seychelles and the Maldives, but also my most extreme, because we were on the frontline in Mogadishu in Somalia, one of the most dangerous places on the planet.
Simon Reeve’s show ‘Indian Ocean’ just aired on BBC2 in the UK. You can find more information at Simon’s Official Website.
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