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April 26, 2007

Baltimore for budget travelers

Baltimore is sufficiently offbeat and off the beaten track to be of interest to foreign backpackers.

I'm going to take a stab at looking at lodging, things to do, media and guidebooks in this blog entry. Let's start first with the prospective reopening of Baltimore's youth hostel.

Fortunately for those on a budget, Baltimore long-closed youth hostel looks like it is on the verge of reopening.

A Baltimore Sun story on April 10, entitled "Volunteers prepare their hostel takeover: Group renovates mansion so tourists can visit Baltimore without breaking the bank," tells about the revival of the hostel:

After eight years without one, Baltimore is close to welcoming a hostel back to town.

The opening, a rare occurrence for the languishing national hostel scene, means travelers to the city will once again be able to find safe lodging that costs less than most hotels' continental breakfast.


MacLeod and about 10 volunteers have been working for years to raise money from private sources and renovate a deteriorated Mount Vernon brownstone. They say the hostel, at 17 W. Mulberry St., could open as soon as May.

It will be the only hostel in a major Maryland city - the only other Maryland hostel is in Knoxville, near Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Baltimore's last hostel, which operated from the same location, closed in 1999, shut down by the local branch of Hostelling International because of poor management.

I was spurred into researching the question of Baltimore for budget travelers by an excellent e-mail from Ryan, a member of the Travelerspoint Travel Community, who e-mailed me:

I'm hoping to get your advice on Baltimore.

There is a group of three of us coming to visit Baltimore for three days in early May from England -- we are flying into BWI airport.

I must say I'm having real difficulty finding accommodation of the budget variety and am quite reluctant to pay the exorbitant prices that the chain hotels are requesting in the Inner Harbor area.

Do you know of any hidden gems or what areas to perhaps look towards? Just to let you know we won't have a car.

Also, what would you recommend doing with our time in Charm City?

Hi Ryan, I would start with the youth hostel -- see if they can accommodate you specially, even though they aren't open yet -- try them at Friends of Baltimore Hostel, 410-576-8880, acknowledge that you know they aren't open yet but can they help you?

Other lodgings

The Mount Vernon Hotel would be the next place I would check. Then The Tremonts --ask for the business rate.

Other options for essentially freeloading with other travelers are these:

It's a long shot, but you could put a notice on Baltimore's free Craigslist, in the sublets-temporary section, seeking help with cheap accommodation for a few days.

Here's a list of Baltimore area hotels, with addresses and links, compiled by the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Here's Expedia's list of discount hotels in Baltimore. They start at around $126. They also list a Best Western outside town at $76 a night, but that would require a car.

Here's the TripAdvisor list of discount hotels. These start at about $129.

Where did Ryan eventually end up staying? Well here's what he told me:

I certainly had a look at the Mount Vernon hotel, however I finally managed to get a room at the Days Inn in the Inner Harbor area. By securing an online special advanced rate, plus the fact that three of us will be sharing this room, as well as taking advantage of a particularly healthy pound-dollar exchange rate -- we have managed to offset the amount to roughly $50 a night each. This is not too bad for three nights but would not be pleasant for someone looking to travel the length and breadth of the country over an extended period of time.

Ryan also asked about things to do and see. Let's look at some ideas now.

Things to see

Most everyone agrees on this list of things to see:
  • American Visionary Art Museum

  • Little Italy, which has free open-air movies on Friday nights in the summer.

  • Fells Point -- walk around. I will try to ink to my story on this.

  • Fort McHenry

  • Walters Art Museum

  • USS Constellation

  • For kids

    National Aquarium
    Maryland Science Center
    Port Discovery

    Fun stuff

  • Crab cakes at Faidley's in Lexington Market

  • Walk around Hampden, visit Cafe Hon

  • Greektown: Samos restaurant

  • Ride the water taxi from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry and Fells Point

  • The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum

  • Museum of Industry

  • Cool neighborhoods

    Mount Vernon
    Upper Fells Point


  • A Baltimore Orioles game.

  • A Baltimore Blast game. Funny and very local!

  • Arts

    Center Stage


  • 1st Mariner Arena

  • Pier Six Pavilion

  • Rams Head Live!

  • Sonar

  • Events

    CityPaper Daily Highlights

    Places to eat

    CityPaper Online Eats.
    The current hotspot for the beautiful people is Pazo. Do try to check it out!



  • Baltimore Sun

  • Baltimore City Paper onlline

  • Baltimore magazine


  • WBAL radio

  • WJZ

  • WMAR

  • WYPR-NPR radio

  • Local chat

    Sunspot forum-Local news, take a look here to see what local people on this lively and friendly forum think about Things to do in Baltimore, Best Place to eat crabs in Baltimore and Best cheap eats in Baltimore area.

    Here's a discussion on things to do in Baltimore on the Lonely Planet Thorntree -- Baltimore.

    Traveling to D.C.

  • Take the MARC local trains -- the Camden or Penn lines.

  • Or Amtrak -- more expensive.

  • Or Greyhound buses -- note, the station is in a very inconvenient part of town.

  • From BWI: Take the B30 Express to the Greenbelt Metro station, part of the Washington Metro.

  • Miscellaneous

    Lonely Planet guide to Baltimore

    Please contact me if you have any suggestions on cheap places to stay in Baltimore or other recommended updates to this blog entry.


    May 22, 2007: Here is an article in the New York Times, 36 Hours in Baltimore, with a roundup of places to see and visit.

    The article lacks a list of budget hotels and notes incorrectly that"

    Discerning locals go to Obrycki's (1727 East Pratt Street, 410-732-6399;, known for a homemade peppery crab spice that, pardon the blasphemy, rivals Old Bay. The faux-fancy d├ęcor (stenciled brick walls and fake windows) is not why you came. It's the freshness of the crabs ($43 for a dozen mediums), in an establishment that commendably shuts down for the winter when the local catch is lean.

    Obrycki's (a half-block from our house) is not visited by locals, who consider it expensive and the food oversalted.

    Jeannette Belliveau

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