Billing itself as the only "themed backpackers" in Queensland, Cellblock Backpackers quickly disappoints, which is a shame because the building itself is comfortable and relatively clean. The owner lets the place down immensely; John is hostile and can get aggressive, and can be found at the bar, choosing the next frightened female victim to play beer pong with him. If you refuse, you may as well leave because you will not be given work.
Bundaberg isn't a town you'd want to visit; it's more one that you visit for work -- there are very good working opportunities here, be it cherry tomato picking, weeding, packing fruit, pulling plastic, and cutting wire. But there are better hostels in which to stay! Cellblock is situated opposite the river, which is nice for an escape at the end of a working day, but as Bundaberg can have occurrences of crime, it is best explored in a group.
There is a shopping centre five or ten minutes' walk from the hostel, which has a K-Mart, Coles, Woolworths, and BWS (not that there is any tolerance of alcohol within the hostel itself!). There is a bar/club, which often has live music and is always full of backpackers -- this is a nice place to go on a Friday or Saturday night to unwind. There is a bar in the hostel, but the expense and the presence of the hostel owner may make you want to drink elsewhere. Most will head to another backpackers that's cheaper and has a much friendlier atmosphere.
Rooms and Bathrooms
There are lots of different rooms in this hostel, from the cheapest ten-bed, non-air-conditioned room to the private, air-conditioned double rooms (the cells). It is hard to sleep in the ten-bed -- or even the six-bed -- dorms because of the heat; everybody buys fans to have next to them in the night, and this helps a little, but it is boiling! Many rooms have mice and cockroaches, which will eat anything and everything left out. Rooms are cleaned every Thursday and anything on spare beds or the floor is thrown out -- even shoes! There have been many times where people's entire bags have been thrown out, which is beyond unfair, completely unnecessary, and upsets many people.
The male bathroom is usually closed for some reason or another, so everybody uses the female bathroom. The showers are very good, and considering the number of dirty people coming back from farm work everyday, the hostel is kept relatively clean.
One of the few good points about Cellblock is its common spaces -- there is an outside bar with plenty of seating, which is where most of the backpackers gather. There is also a TV room with a couple of DVDs. There is a lovely pool, if you don't mind the sometimes-unpleasant presence of John. The kitchen is tiny but everyone knows everyone in this hostel, so it is easily shared. There are spaces to leave your dirty work shoes outside.
As to the deposits -- when you hand your money over, don't expect to see it again! They make money any way they can. You have to give three days' notice to be taken off the work list, despite the fact that people are without work. We were put on cherry tomato picking, which is sneaky because you get paid cash in hand for this job, and they knew we wouldn't be around to collect the money -- so that ends up in John's pocket as well!
You'll come by work very easily here -- we started the day after we arrived; however, this can depend on your relationship with John. Some guests say if you want work, you have to get friendly with him; some find avoiding him completely works best. Additionally, his children run riot in the hostel. John's wife seems lovely and is often helping people with injuries (she's a nurse). In any case, we highly recommend you don't check into Cellblock, especially if you are female. This is a very uncomfortable place to stay. Don't go to Cellblock.
Hostelz.com Staff Reviewer
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