Hostel Costel – How to Make It as the Owners of the First Hostel in Timisoara

Three friends, Vlad, Radu and Alex, had an idea that made them pioneers in the city they live. They were the first to open a hostel in Timisoara, a city with great potential that would make every traveler fall in love with it. They combined their traveling experiences with their buisness knowledge and opened a joyfull place where even luxury travelers have a good time. The guys shared with us the story behind the scene of Hostel Costel and talked about the challenges of dealing with people around the world and the advantages of being hostel owners.

1. For approximately one year, you and your friends worked on the reconditioning of a very old house in Timisoara and turn it into the first hostel in the city. What’s the whole story behind Hostel Costel? How did you come up with that idea and why?

We’ve been meting a lot of young foreigners in bars and pubs, and all of them we’re wondering why there is no hostel in this town. We’ve also been to some hostels before, and we knew about the boom of hostels in Sibiu after it was declared Cultural Capital of Europe 2007. So while sitting at a beer we decided that if nobody did a hostel until now, then we should do it (beer had a decisive role for our courage) . Then we searched for houses that we could rent and transform into a hostel and found this beautiful house which we fell in love with, despite the bad conditon it was in (or maybe because of that) and the fact that we knew we had a lot of work to do.

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2. Before opening Hostel Costel, I’m thinking all of you did quite some traveling. Where have you been and did the places you’ve seen inspire you?

We’ve mainly been in Europe and more in the neighboring countries, but we are always daydreaming about a trip around the world. And until that is possible, we are just travelling through the ‘eyes’ of our guests and with their stories from all over the world.

3. Who are your guests? Where do they come from?

One of the first things we’ve learned is to differentiate our guests between travelers and tourists. They come from all over the world and they are more interested in getting in touch with the locals. I’d say, most of them come from Germany, Australia and UK. But we had tourists from every Continent and really from every corner of the world, including Senegal, South Africa, South Korea, Chile or islands we haven’t heard of before. We had guests travelling by bike from Sweden to Singapore or by motorbike from Vladivostok to Budapest.

4. Why should tourists stop in Timisoara? Why should they consider Romania as a travel destination?

Timisoara has a vibe of its own. People in Banat region always had their special way and Timisoara is seen as the heart and capital of this region. Fact is it is a multicultural city, very tolerant with all the minorities and very open-minded towards new.
Romania is just worth visiting because you can find 2000 years old fortresses, unspoiled natural areas, bio products cheaper than the ones in shops, people willing to share their house and food with you.

5. If you were to make a map for a foreigner to follow while visiting Romania what places would you put on it?

There are some places you can find in almost any guidebook like Bucharest, Brasov, Sibiu or Sighisoara. Besides this there are the mountains, from Retezat to Fagaras and up to Rodnei, Maramures with all its villages and wooden architecture, Moldavia’s painted monasteries and last but not least, the Danube Delta. It also depends on each one’s personality, if he/she wants to party or hike in the mountains. We always recommend a route for each guest considering the time he has, the budget and his interests.

6. What other hostels around the world would you recommend travelers?

There are some nice hostels we are looking up to like : Soul Kitchen Hostel in Saint-Petersburg, Russia or Kex Hostel in Iceland, ArkaBarka is also a special hostel in Belgrade and there are many many good hostels with nice atmosphere and beautiful design. Our advice for the travelers is to read some reviews (the rating is not always very relevant) and check some photos online before choosing a hostel.

7. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being hostel owners?

The advantage is that you learn a lot, you interact with lots of people and cultures on a daily basis. History, cooking, politics, football, habits and daily routines…you meet them all. Disadvantage is that it takes all your time, like any other business, if you are really committed to it, so you don’t really get out in the city for weeks. But most of the times it’s so much fun at the hostel, you don’t regret it.

8. What is the biggest challenge when dealing with people from around the world?

Can’t really think of anything… maybe getting enough sleep because you always want to stay and talk to every guest. People who stay in hostels have respect for the other guests so they always wash their dishes, try not to be noisy during the night etc. It is a bit challenging when we have guests who have never stayed in a hostel, but most of them understand the idea quite fast and enjoy their stay.

9. Why should a traveler choose to stay at Hostel Costel instead of any of the hotels in the city?

You cannot compare a hostel with a hotel. Instead of getting an empty room and a key at a hostel you get a lot of information, like hidden bars, good and cheap restaurants. You’re up to date with all the parties in town and you get a map and other useful hints. You have a lot of common areas and meet a lot of people with whom you share your experiences. Basically you find out more about the city in no time and also can make plans on where else to go and which routes to choose. Of course you have to share a room with somebody else, but usually this kind of travelers respect themselves and you’ll be friends with them in no time.

10. What are the biggest misconceptions about hostels?

People think that because they are cheap they are also dirty or noisy or have bed-bugs. But hostels changed and if you take care of the hostel and keep it clean and well organized, you just get more for less money. Nowadays hostel-owners put a lot of accent on the looks, the design and most important the atmosphere and the vibe the hostels offers. A happy traveler will recommend you further and will also come back to Romania and to your hostel. It’s not just budget accommodation, we have people who could afford 5 stars hotels but come here to interact and not just watch TV in a hotel room.

11. What are your future plans for Hostel Costel?

Future plans are to arrange the garden. We have a quite spacious garden with lots of different fruit-trees, but we also want to make one more terrace to enjoy a nice lemonade or a cold beer in summer, some hammocks under the trees to read or just take a short nap. We’ve already made a grill-area this autumn so next summer the garden will be the highlight of the hostel.

Details and photos can also be found on Hostel Costel‘s webpage, and Facebook.