“You’re staying at a hostel?? Haven’t you seen the movie??” This is the usual response that I get when I tell people that I plan to stay in a hostel when I travel. I always get bombarded by tales of the 2005 horror film about young travelers who stay in a hostel and end up being brutally murdered. Hostel, the movie, is pretty gruesome, but my experience with hostels in real life has been quite the opposite. I actually prefer to stay in a hostel over a hotel! On the fence about staying in a hostel? Well hopefully I can ease your fears and convince you to make your next travel accommodations a hostel.
What is a hostel?
A hostel is an inexpensive boarding place for travelers that provides an interactive social setting. Hostels differ from hotels in that they are not full service. They only provide the basics of what you need like a knowledgable staff, clean and safe living spaces, and toiletries (for a price, of course). However, unlike hotels, they tend to go out of their way to foster a sense of community and a social setting. Some may have social nights or bars. Hostels have dorm-style rooms with bunk beds, but they also have private rooms that you may rent.
Here’s reasons why hostels are the places to be:
- You make international friends. When you stay in hostels you get the chance to meet people from all over the world. Unlike hotels where there is very little mingling among guests, hostels have more of a community-style setting that encourages meeting other people. Whether you’re here in the U.S. or in a different country, you’ll meet other travelers from all over the world who flock to these communal-living places. Hostels foster a sense of community by hosting events like game nights and pizza nights. They also often have cool hangout areas and bars for travelers to gather and have fun all night long.
- You save a TON of money. If you are traveling on a budget, hostels are definitely the way to go. The cheapest hostel I’ve stayed in was only $12/night. The most expensive was $42/night. You may think that you’ll be staying in a moldy, old dump for such cheap prices, but that is far from the truth. I have never stayed in a hostel that I didn’t like. Most hostels are trendy, fun, and modern with many of the amenities that hotels have for a much cheaper price. A lot of hostels have amenities like bars with prices that are tailored to the budget of their travelers, so drinks are much cheaper. I once stayed in a hostel in Italy where an entire bottle of wine was only 9 euros! If you’re traveling for a while, eating out multiple times a day can really get expensive. If you’re staying in a hostel, you’ll be able to save even more money by taking advantage of their communal kitchens.
- You are closer to living like a local. Something about staying in a hotel when you’re traveling gives off the vibe of “vacation” or “just visiting.” Vacations are awesome of course, but, personally, when I travel, I like to settle in a get the real experience of being in a country and not just visiting. I want to feel like I live there. I can’t get that feeling if I’m going back to a commercialized hotel every night. One of the nicest things about hostels to me is that they are simple. They provide you with the basics of what you need and tend to be similar to the living standards of the local people. Staying in a hostel when you’re traveling gives you more of an authentic experience.
- Location, location, location. When you’re traveling, the location of your accommodations can help make or break your trip. The good thing about hostels is that usually they are located in optimal locations. Most times, travelers who stay in hostels are traveling on a budget, so expensive taxi rides or private drivers are out of the question. Owners of hostels keep this in mind, so many times your hostel will be close to restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. After all, they want you to have a good time, so they make it easy (and affordable!) to do so.
- You get to relive your college days. Remember when you were in college and you lived with a lot of different people from all over? Because you all shared so much personal space, you were forced to get to know different people and actually ended up liking some of them! You learned about different locations and different ways of life, which ended up broadening your horizons a bit. This sort of how hostel life is. Unless you get a private room, you’ll be sharing a room with typically three to seven other people, which can be daunting at first, but can be like one big sleepover. Never got the sorority/fraternity house experience? Here’s your chance. There are common meeting places where you can hang out with your new friends at all hours of the night, sharing experiences, drinking and playing games. Sounds a lot like college without the classes, right?
Hostels are great, and they are always my first choice when traveling. However, it wouldn’t be fair of me to only mentions the pros without mentioning the cons:
- While most of the hostels that I have stayed in have been clean, there is a chance that you may find one that does not fully meet your cleanliness standards. This has only happened to me once. I just ended up making the best of it and sticking it out for the couple of days that I was in the country.
- Fortunately, I have never had a problem with compromised safety in a hostel. Hostels tend to go out of their way to make sure their guests are safe. However, you will be staying with strangers, and there have been people that have had their belongings taken. Hostels provide lockers for guests to lock their belongings in, so it would be best for you to use them. Never get too comfortable. You may make friends and enjoy your roommates, but when you get too comfortable and feel like you don’t need to lock up your things, that’s when you open yourself up to theft.
- Most hostels give you the choice of whether you would like to staying in a co-ed room or not. I have stayed in rooms with just other women, but I have also stayed in rooms where I was the only girl. While rooms with other women are my preference, I feel comfortable in co-ed rooms and have never had any problems. But just a heads up- you may be in a mixed room with the opposite sex.
Over the years, hostels have been one of the main reasons that my travels have gone as well as they have. In many of the places that I have been, the people that I have met have been the best part of my trip. Had I been staying in hotels, I probably never would have gotten as close to other travelers, but thanks to the community-centered culture of hostels, I’ve ended up making friends around the world.
On a budget? Feeling brave? Try a hostel! You won’t regret it.