There is a huge misunderstanding out there. Thanks in large part to a gory 2005 Quentin Tarantino horror film, conveniently titled, "Hostel". Going to see that movie (reluctantly, I might add) was one of the first times I ever heard the word hostel. In between scenes of torture, I whispered to my friend, "I guess we'll never be staying in one of those places!" Then I was reintroduced when I got around to watching the movie, Eurotrip. Again, not the best first impression.
Then everything changed when I actually stayed in one! Hostels are an integral part of budget traveling and allow you to travel for longer periods of time, to places that otherwise would be out of your budget. And the best part is that within the hostel community, you can make connections with travelers from ALL OVER THE WORLD!
For those of you new to hostels, here's the idea: Hostels provide budget-oriented, sociable accommodation where guests can rent a bed, usually a bunk bed, in a dormitory and share a bathroom, lounge and sometimes a kitchen. Rooms can be mixed or single-sex and can range from 3 to 20+ bed occupancy. Private rooms may also be available.
For those of us who know and use the hostel network around the world, we find it surprising the kind of reputation hostels have among those who've never utilized them! I literally cannot understand why people are so turned off by hostels!!! We're writing today to crush these misconceptions, because staying in them can completely change the way you travel.
Ready to learn the truth about hostels?
1. THE PRICE IS ALWAYS RIGHT
Using hostels as your main form of accommodation can allow you to travel for longer periods of time and spend your budget doing amazing activities as opposed to paying for a room you'll only be sleeping and showering in. If you're anything like us, we don't need many amenities to be happy. Hostels at their most basic provide a clean bed and a shower for a sliver of the cost of a traditional hotel. It's not at all a stretch to say that you can find a hostel bed pretty much anywhere in the world for under $40-50 a night.
2. DORMS AREN'T THE ONLY OPTION
Most hostels offer private rooms. The most common arrangements will include one full bed or two single beds. Sometimes the private rooms still require the guest to use a shared bathroom, but it does give you more privacy at night!
As a couple, we usually book private rooms (private double) at hostels because they tend to cost the same as two single beds in a dorm. If you're traveling solo, that kicks the price up to go private room on your own. But if you can split it as a couple or if you're traveling with a friend, you can get some privacy and pay the same as what you'd pay for a dorm bed!
And if you do choose to stay in a dorm, chances are the people you're rooming with won't stay strangers for long. There is always great conversation to be had, and it's not hard to create fast friends to share new experiences with.
3. THE LOBBY/LOUNGE IS AN INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL EVENT CENTER
You will never find a more bustling, unique space while traveling than a hostel lobby/lounge. The best hostels equip this area for travelers to relax, play games, connect to wi-fi, or share a beer with friends from all over the world. It's one of the best places to chat with fellow travelers and learn more about where they're from and where they're headed.
As compared to a hotel, where guests rarely communicate to one another, hostels promote a sense of community and it's almost impossible not to end up meeting at least a few fellow travelers. In our experiences, even the hostel staff also tend to be more open and helpful.
Many hostels will hold special events like free breakfasts, karaoke, happy hours, and dance parties to further connect their guests. We've been gifted with stand up comedy, international sporting events, and some of the most fun trivia nights we've ever been a part of! A hostel in a small village in Northern Vietnam even woke up at 6 a.m. to make us spicy chicken wings, serve us beer, and let us connect our laptop to stream Superbowl XLIX!
4. A SHARED BATHROOM DOES NOT MEAN IT'S DIRTY
Most humans use public bathrooms every single day. It's just something that is a part of life. Shared bathrooms, in my experience, are not much different from private bathrooms. Someone else used them at some point. Hostels are just like hotels and clean daily. If it's a concern of yours, ask your hostel what time the cleaning crew comes through, and schedule your shower around that! And always bring a pair of basic flip flops to throw on in the shower!
5. YOU WILL LEARN MORE ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE STAYING
Hostels are the best place to find the coolest things to do in the city you're staying in. Major hotels tend to partner with specific tour companies, restaurants and experiences; limiting your suggested itineraries to over-priced tours that may not even be the kind of adventure you're looking for. Some hostels will offer their own tours, but they will also help to recommend the tours with the best experience and value. They can also clue you in to the best local haunts and best kept secrets of their hometown!!!
6. YOUR STUFF IS NOT JUST LYING AROUND
Before I stayed in hostels, I never understood how anyone could feel comfortable sharing a room: "what about all of your stuff!?" Common misconception. Every guest has a locker! It's well known in backpacking that you bring a high quality lock so you can keep your stuff locked up when you're out exploring. If you forget one, most hostels will sell them or can point you to a store where you can purchase one!
7. GENDER-SPECIFIC DORMS CAN EASE YOU INTO THE EXPERIENCE
If the idea of mixed-sex dorm rooms still makes you a bit uncomfortable, many hostels offer gender specific dorms as well. This format is especially appealing to female travelers; adding that extra layer of security and comfort. That being said, many people forget how some guys can feel about the situation as well. My husband has admitted a few times about feeling uncomfortable with females in the room, wondering if they're cautious of his presence. If it's a point of discomfort, try these out before jumping into a fully mixed dorm!
8. MOST TRAVELERS HAVE MANNERS
Despite any stories you've heard, we can assure you that most travelers just want a bed to sleep in and a bathroom to freshen up in. Of course some hostels cater to different crowds, but as a general assessment, most travelers will do everything in their power to be respectful in shared rooms. When lights are out, using a flashlight or headlamp is customary. If you're coming in late or leaving early to catch a bus or otherwise, it's a general rule to keep voices down and have as much prepared as possible the night before. That being said, as a person who enjoys sleep, I know it's my responsibility to use ear plugs and a sleep mask (they are truly amazing at blocking out pretty much everything).
Before we wrap this up, we'll say that although we are huge hostel advocates, just like hotels, not all hostels are created equal. We cannot stress enough that you should RELY ON CUSTOMER REVIEWS to make booking decisions. They are EVERYTHING! They are the best way to find out what it's really like to stay there.
We highly recommend Hostelworld (and it's app) for booking hostels. There are no booking fees and the rating system keeps us assured we're choosing hostels that we'll be happy with!!!
Travelers, any points we missed? What do you love most about hostels? :)