Nanaimo, British Columbia is the second largest city on Vancouver Island which is across the Georgia Strait from Vancouver and the rest of the Canadian mainland. I’ve never found a ton to do in Nanaimo but a lot of people find the Island parks nearby to be quite enjoyable. For the budget traveler (like me) there are hostels available in Nanaimo.
I stayed at the Painted Turtle between August 16th to August 21st, 2009 and here are my tips.
The hostel is walking distance from the Greyhound Bus Station (about 10 minutes by foot) so arriving via Greyhound, if you can stand for the abusive customer service, might be wise. You could walk from the BC Ferry terminal (Departure Bay, not Duke Point) but the walk will be long and somewhat arduous with your pack (about an hour).
The hostel itself is 3 stories. On the main floor there is nothing except for the reception area (the customer service was very friendly).
On the second floor there are dorms, that sleep four, and four bathrooms with toilets and stand up showers. The main feature of the hostel is a living-room/dining room/games room/kitchen that they call “The Great Room.” It has two stoves, two microwaves, one fridge, two sinks, a large dining room table, a foosball game table, a living-room, and a few pay computer terminals.
There is no communal television in this hostel and many travelers did not like that (myself I did like that).
The 3rd floor is just dorms again.
The hostel is very safe, it is in a nice neighborhood, and the people that run the place are refreshingly polite (not all hostels are like that, even with Hosteling International). However, there are a few hang ups with the hostel.
Firstly, they close the Great Room at 11:30pm and while that does help quiet the hostel down for sleeping, there is no where else to go but your room at that point. If you aren’t tired, you will have to head outside to a bar or something and that’s a little annoying.
Another problem with the hostel is that they have a terribly noisy foosball table. Here they have constructed a common area with no television which helps create a relaxing atmosphere but they have this game that is incredibly noisy, especially with the shouting it generates.
Lastly, they have no lockers available for their guests which means if you want to account for your valuables then you will have to keep them on your person during your stay. I’m sure people will say that the hostel is safe, and it certainly felt that way, but I’ve backpacked enough to see the look on someone’s face who has just been robbed of everything. Lockers, even small ones, are required for a secure hostel – no matter what – because some budget travelers are desperate enough to steal.
Overall, I would recommend this place for sure and I would give it a 7.5 out of 10, losing points for the lack of lockers and for not providing a common area for late at night.