posted by Colm Hanratty | 0 Comments
Meet Gonzalo Rodriguez, owner of the award-winning La Chimba Hostel and also Bellavista Hostel in Santiago, Chile. I was lucky enough to not only have stayed in Bellavista Hostel, but I also did a wine tour with Gonzalo. He also helped me out with my 'How to save money in Santiago' video. I asked him a few questions about his hostel, his favourite bar in Santiago and what made him open a hostel...
2. What can guests expect from a stay there?
For starters, they will be lucky to be staying in Barrio Bellavista, which is arguably the most interesting district of Santiago as far as cultural attractions and cool nightlife go. The area is an oasis of colourful, low-rise colonial architecture with leafy streets and a village-like atmosphere smack bang in the centre of the city. The best bars, restaurants and clubs are at your doorstep. The hostels themselves started out as old-school ramshackle accommodations. But over the years they have evolved into unique, award-winning properties with all the modern amenities travellers should expect without losing that proper backpacker vibe you want upon entering a hostel lobby.
3. Describe your role to us.
I'm constantly getting feedback from the staff and guests and I have to respond quickly to solve random problems that arise daily to keep things running smoothly. I spend a big chunk of the week at the home improvement store. I also am always on call to fill in as a receptionist, activity planner or janitor whenever needed. Then it's back to the home improvement store.
4. How did you end up in this line of work? Had you backpacked/travelled before?
Yes. Staying in hostels was one of my favourite things about traveling when I headed out on my first trips. That sample of diverse, friendly people from around the world you befriend as a byproduct of being a broke traveller is priceless. After college I travelled around the world for as long as I could and I anticipated a major comedown when I'd have to eventually return home to start working. That's why I started a hostel as soon as could - to ensure I could keep my travel buzz going.
5.What do you think is the key to running a successful hostel?
Friendly, dedicated staff is key in my opinion. I learned this more as a guest than as a manager.
6. What’s the strangest/funniest thing that you’ve encountered with one of your guests?
Not a week goes by without witnessing something strange, funny or just plain 'WTF?' behavior from a guest. In fairness to all the crazy travelers that have stayed with us over the years, I can't single out just one episode. It's a good question though, and I'd love to hear stories from other hostels. Perhaps all hostels should nominate their weirdos and funnymen for a yearly award?!
7. What’s your favourite bar in Santiago?
I like a wonderful wine bar in Barrio Lastarria called Berri. Just for wine though - don’t order any food or cocktails.
8. Same as above only restaurants?
There is a place called La Peluquería Francesa in Barrio Yungay which I love. It's a vintage hair salon turned hip restaurant. The salon part still opens in the mornings for vintage ladies.
9. What’s your ‘top insider tip’ for your city?
I think many travellers often assume that the centre of a city means 'downtown', but that's not always the case. Santiago has grown wildly away from its historic centre over the past century and any local will let you know that the centre of the city has for long ceased to be what we know as the downtown area. Even some guidebooks have failed to grasp this fact. The indisputable centrepiece of Santiago these days is Plaza Italia, so my tip is finding accommodation somewhere near there or you will miss out on what modern Santiago has to offer.
10. What’s the favourite part of your job?
I can't think of a better environment to work in than a hostel. You can't beat that atmosphere of high-spirited international travellers with amazing stories to share. Everyone around you is having their best day.