After we stayed in Zostel in Delhi and Agra we totally fell in love with the brand and the bet that wherever you went in India Zostel was always somewhere you could rely on for a great stay. That being said we got chatting one night with the Zostel Agra staff about how we love to combine travel with volunteering – they told us about the Zostel internship and we were instantly intrigued! A few emails with the CEO and various other Zostelites, a short application form and a kind of whatsapp interview and we were granted the opportunity to volunteer in as many Zostels as we wanted as long as we spent a minimum of 3 weeks in each. Amazing! We gave Udaipur as our top choice as we’d heard great things about the White City and were keen to spend some time there.
We arrived in Udaipur not-so-fresh-faced after a 17 hour sleeper trian from Mumbai – far from feeling energised and raring to go we put on a brave face and rocked up to Zostel Udaipur at around 10 in the morning. We had been unsure on whether we were expected to start work immediately but to our absolute delight the manager was out for the day and had told the staff to let us know that we should have a couple of days to settle in and explore the city ourselves before getting down to work. Much needed and an indication of the laid-back, easy vibes of Zostel itself! We were shown to the dorm which would be our home for the next three weeks and collapsed on the beds. We had barely noticed then that the hostel was absolutely incredible and pretty much looks like a hotel! We jumped in the shower and as the boiling hot water cascaded down we pretty much jumped for joy…this was our first hot shower in about three months! After a very long shower and a freshen up we headed up to the rooftop and as we stepped foot out onto this beautiful terrace we were in love – we looked at each other and thought ‘We think we can manage 3 weeks here!’…and we did!
After our few days exploring this pretty lakeside city we met with the managers and discussed what it was they would like us to help out with at Zostel Udaipur. The hostel was only around three months old when we arrived as had recently moved locations – this explained the spotless modern interior! – and so the managers were keen to increase its online presence and reviews which were as yet still developing. Their main clientele being backpackers we thought the key to creating an awesome hostel vibe was to set up daily activities – this is something we love doing when we stay at hostels and is always a winner when bringing new people together. The hostel itself could get great reviews just for being the way it was so it was up to us to create a buzzy atmosphere to match!
We dug out some white boards and devised a daily and weekly activity board. The rooftop at Zostel Udaipur we thought was too stunning not to utilise and so we immediately set up free chai on the rooftop everyday at 5pm and from day one this worked an absolute treat. Backpackers love free things, everyone loves chai (if you don’t you’re weird!) and one look at the rooftop and you couldn’t help but fall in love with that view. Every night for three weeks we drank chai with people from all over the world and from India itself, we introduced people who may never have met before, drew people out of their dorms and encouraged them to put their phones down for at least an hour. Chai time turned into dinners, into next day outings and even some people deciding to travel onward with each other – excellent!
In addition to rooftop Chai we ran sunset walks to Ambrai Ghat, group outings up to Monsoon Palace for sunset, trips to Bagore Ki Haveli – the nightly traditional dance performance, movie nights with popcorn, street food tour of Udaipur, pool competitions, pancake day, night walks to Fateh Sagar lake, cooking classes learning to make Chai and Samosa’s, breakfast trips for the best poha in town and of course every backpackers favourite – the pub crawl! We had so much fun organising and running the trips which were always full with anything from 5 to 20 people taking part! We revelled in meeting new people and showing them corners of Udaipur they may never have discovered otherwise.
We were lucky enough to be in Udaipur when the yearly Holi Festival of colour was happening so made this an epic all day hostel event! We got every up one up on the roof bright and early, bought some brightly coloured paints and made sure everyone was smeared in them before leaving to join the party in the main square come 11am! It was an awesome day ending in rooftop beers with pretty much everyone in the hostel laughing and reminiscing about the day!
Lastly we had agreed with the Zostel Internship manager that we would create one of our GoPro videos to document life at Zostel Udaipur and so we did all of the above with our GoPro in hand shooting all of the inevitable selfies and laughs along the way!
As soon as we were greeted by Surbhi on reception she was our super helper and good friend in no time! She showed us all of the ropes at the hostel including how to check people in, all the info on getting to and from Udaipur, gave us some help in organising the activities and most importantly where to get fed (okay so probably only important to us!) By the end of three weeks we had had a lot of laughs on reception, playing with Baadsha the pug and eating all our meals together on the rooftop. Surbhi was instrumental to us settling in at Zostel and we cant thank her enough for that!
Upstairs in the restaurant we also befriended the cheeky waiter Rajesh, the chef Vijay and sweet kitchen hand Somu. They kept us fed, full of chai and were always ready for a bit of banter once they’d got used to our ways! On our last day we were so so sad to be leaving them all – we took tons of selfies and promised them we would be back one day!
You can read our full review of Zostel Udaipur here but all in all it really is more like a hostel come hotel. The interior is beautifully done with intricate paintings, white marble and heavy wood doors giving you the royal feel of Udaipur yet once you head down into the common room it becomes the bright and colourful space you can expect from all Zostels. This is a hostel with style, an unbeatable rooftop and a luxury place to stay with a budget price tag!
For the first part of our Zostel volunteer experience Udaipur really kicked things off with a bang. We met so many like-minded travellers and people who we are sure we’ll stay in touch with for years to come, we absolutely loved the hostel, could hardly ever drag ourselves away from that rooftop (we bang on about it but seriously!) and fell in love with this peaceful city so much so that we really didn’t want to leave. We wished we had more time on our visas so that at least we could stay a little longer. It wasn’t all bad news though as we would be starting our second adventure with Zostel in Jaipur just a day after finishing! Read about our three weeks there here….
As we always mention, volunteering not only adds unforgettable experiences to our travelling but allows us to extend our trip by providing us with free food and accommodation. In this case we managed to spend just £80 in three weeks as opposed to £210. This may not sound like a huge saving but living on £10 a day in India this really goes a long way. Of course we could always save more but you always have to find the balance between saving every penny or letting go every now and then and making memories you wont forget!
C & J x