What is a Hostel?
Hostels are very popular with young backpackers and also attracts older travelers too. However, I know a lot of people who say that do not want to stay in this type of accommodation. Where you spend the night can be one of the best experiences in your trip. You might not always be lucky and end up at a below average place for a couple of night but that is ok. We like to view these hostels in the way that these weird mishaps usually make for great stories. You will end up remembering the crazy hostel stories more than the good ones. A hostel is primarily budget-friendly accommodation aimed at backpackers and travelers who don’t have lots of money to pay for expensive hotels. The bathrooms are shared with other guests and possibly with the hostel staff too. Hostels commonly provide some sort of basic kitchen facilities, a common room for the guests to socialise and maybe even a bar.
What is a Dormitory?
Honestly, you would be surprised how many times I have been asked what a dormitory is! A dormitory (dorm for short) is a room in which you book a bed instead of a room. The room is usually quite large and lined with bunk beds so that the hostel can best utilise the space in each room. Dorm rooms can range from 4-bed dorms up to 30-bed dorms. I think the hotel room I have stayed in with the most beds was a room with 18 beds in Edinburgh. Usually the more beds in the dorm, the less you will need to pay for your bed. Dorms can also be designated to only males or only females. Some hostels also have private rooms available and these rooms usually cost you less than a hotel room if you need a little extra privacy one night.
Hostels might not be for everyone but lets look at all the good and the not so good parts about them!
They Are Cheap and Keep Your Budget Healthy
A good deal of your budget will go into your accommodation cost while you are traveling. Staying in cheap hostels will help you save a lot of your money which means you can travel longer. BONUS! It’s quite expensive for solo travelers especially to stay in a private room in a hotel, so booking just a bed in a hostel is much more cost effective. The more beds in the room, the cheaper you will have to pay and there are some discounts for guests who stay a few nights longer like getting a night or two for free. Try and negotiable with the hostel because you will never know if you don’t just ask. For example, travelers in New Zealand and Australia on Working Holidays visas usually stay in hostels long term because they are easy to book and they all have the amenities they will need and WIFI!
Location Location Location
A lot of hostels are in locations that are convenient for travelers. Whether that is in the heart of the city, close to train or bus stations, close to the beaches or right in the middle of where the main attractions are. Most travelers will want a great location because it is a big advantage being within walking distance to all the good stuff! Being in a good location will also save you time, hassle and money on transport.
Meeting New People
The biggest pro to staying in hostels over hotels! Traveling alone can be a bit lonely at times, even if you have a travel buddy. Having some new faces around to share your new travel stories with will be a breath of fresh air. Hostels are definitely a better place to socialize with all sorts of different people than a hotel. They are a great place to find and meet other travelers that are doing the same thing as you. Maybe some people from your hostel will tell you about their great travel plan and invite you to tag along! You can make new friends for an hour or maybe you will meet people who will be friends for life. Remember that there are a lot of people travelling and doing the same thing you are doing and want to have a chat!
Someone Will Always Want To Party
When young and sociable travelers get together, it usually ends up with everyone having a few drinks and a bit of fun. This will then usually lead into a slight intoxicated expedition to explore the surrounding nightlife. You are in a new place so why not?! No one has ever started off telling a wild travel story to their friends with “Oh, I had a great night sleep…” and for travelers everyday is a weekend! I have had a lot of spontaneous nights with cool new people. We would end up partying in the hostel until the early hours of the morning or at a local bar.
Pub crawls are for those party animals who want to go out with with a group of people from the hostel. They are lead by a guide from the hostel staff who takes you from place to place. There are also hostels that are especially known for being Party Hostels. Party hostels commonly have a pub crawl every night, their own bar with cheap drinks and play drinking games before hitting the town. I have done pub crawls all over the world and there seems to be this unwritten code that everyone in the group look out for after each other during the night. As a girl travelling by herself for example, you can see why this is appealing. You will always have some from the group to chat with over a few drinks and a dance. The next day you can have a chat some all your new hangover buddies about what you did and maybe what you didn’t remember doing.
Having a kitchen in the hostel is a major plus! Eating at a restaurant 3 times a day will get very expensive and your budget will hate you. The kitchen facilities means you can cook your own meals saving you loads of cash. Cooking with other travelers from all over the world can be a fun learning experience. Another hint is to put your food in a labelled bag and to tie it up in a plastic bag. It is very common for food to go “magically” missing in the hostel fridge. Please note that some hostels will not have a kitchen. So make sure to have a look at the facilities listed about the hostel before you book.
There are a lot of hostels out there and a lot of competition for business. Most hostels try to organize exciting activities and entertainment their guests to keep them engaged. Each hostel wants to be the best place to stay and to be competitive with other hostels around. Hostel activities could include movie nights, cheap dinners, games and cheap/free tours for those who want to get out there.
Free breakfast in the morning is the best because we all love free stuff, right? A typically hostel breakfast is bread, jam, butter, maybe a bit of cereal with coffee or tea but anything free is better than nothing! It will also depend on how much you pay for a night and how expensive the place you are at. If you paying $7 a night with breakfast please don’t expect too much guys. Not all hostels will have a free breakfast, so if this is something you are after be sure to look at the hostel information.
Well, I can not guarantee that every hostel you visit will be super friendly but most of them will be really nice and helpful. Many hostels hire travelers to work in exchange for a bed (I have been one of these people). These backpackers are usually more social, will be happy to sit down and have a chat and will better understand what you will need during your stay. Staff will have a map available for you and can highlight all the places you should see and do during your stay. If you want to eat out, ask them where is cheap and affordable around the area. If you want to volunteer at a hostel, click here and see how I did it in the UK!
Super Cool Hostels
Hostels may not just be a place to sleep because staying in some of them can also be an experience itself. You will find some hostels that are rather unique. Such as old buildings that used to be prisons, infirmaries or hospitals that have been renovated and turned into a hostel. Cool right? You could even end up sleeping in a tent on a rooftop, in a caravan, in an old jumbo jet, haunted house, tree houses, on a boat… Keep an eye out for hostels like this. In my experience, hostels can even be better than hotels!
Budget travelers (like me) L.O.V.E anything that is free! Free internet, laundry, coffee, tea, and of course, food. We love the hostels that won’t ask us to pay for much more than the bed that we have booked. Read the hostel information and reviews before booking and you might just find one that will give you a free drink when you check-in! You never know
The Big One – Lack Of Privacy
It can be difficult, and sometimes just plain impossible, to find privacy and space for yourself when you are sharing a room. All the personal space that you will have is on your single bunk bed. The best way to get a bit of extra privacy is to choose a dorm room fewer beds and then you might just get a little peace. If you are lucky, and go to a less popular and quieter hostel, you might just get a room for yourself by only paying for a bed.
Very Interrupted Sleep
By saving money and choosing to stay in dorms, be ready to sacrifice some (maybe even lots) of sleep. There will be people snoring, getting in and out of the room in the middle of the night, some will be stumbling to bed at 3am pissed out of their heads with alcohol. There are others who will be waking up and packing two hours later, their constant noise of zipping and unzipping the bags annoying you. Before you know it your alarm will go off… sigh.
This is one of my pet hates about hostels. The worst part is that when you complain about the snoring you are usually told to get a private room instead. We pay for a place to sleep and not a night of torture. We didn’t pay to sleep in a dormitory only to be kept awake all night by people snoring so loudly that clearly they are the only ones asleep! Snorers, who are most likely aware that they are snorers, should get private rooms or be put in a room shared with other snorers. You can see that snoring obviously annoys me. However, one way that I dealt with it is by putting on my noise canceling headphones and putting soothing music. Even then it isn’t ideal or the most comfortable either.
The Wild Party Animals
Ok, yes I did say that hostel parties are great BUT that is only if you weren’t the one being disturbed at night. Not getting any sleep because of all the party noises, banging doors and the constant activity of people along the corridors all night isn’t too much fun when you are actually trying to sleep. Some nights there might be a fight, there will be yelling, loud drunk singing… There might be a night where you will be waking up to your bed shaking because your drunk roommate in the bed below you is having sex. It happens.
Sharing bathrooms are never too much fun. Waiting for your turn to use the shower after a million other people in a busy hostel is bad and it will probably be dirty. It even gets worse when you find out that the hot water has all been used up. Cleanliness to hostel is very important but not everyone keeps their showers and toilets from becoming disgusting. So, if you want a clean shower you always find out when the cleaner does the bathroom and jump in right after they finish!
Hostel kitchens can be great and the more equipped the better, however, the reality is that some people will not clean up after themselves. Clogged sinks, dirty dishes, dirty dishes that people have half washed and grease covered stoves is really gross. It is even worse you have to wash someone else’s pots before you can use them. Even then you might need to wait a long time before it is your turn to use the stove. If the hostel is packed and busy, the only way to get the kitchen when it isn’t too busy is to cook your dinner early. Maybe around 4pm or 5pm before everyone starts getting ready for dinner time. Or you will have to wait until late at night which is super annoying when you want to go try to get some sleep.
If there are lockers, put your valuables in there so they are safe and you have peace of mind. When there are no lockers in your room, please be aware that there will always be a risk of theft. Be careful because having your bank cards, passport, mobile and camera stolen will ruin your trip. Always lock it up in your bag. It is better to be safe than sorry I always say.
Not everyone cares about their roommates when staying at a hostel. There will be people who are rude, noisy, smelly and won’t keep the room clean. They will not care if they wake you up by turning on the lights at 3am and talking loudly. They will make your stay unpleasant. Once again, if you choose a room with less people you might be lucky to avoid these people.
Moving Rooms Often
Allocating beds in a busy hostel can more complicated than what people would think. Hostel staff will try their best to avoid moving people around because it is a hassle packing up all your stuff and unpacking it again in a different room. You might need to move if you are already in the hostel and decide to stay longer than you initial booking. Moving rooms happens a lot in hostels and it’s annoying to pack up all your stuff only to be moving next door.
The Dreaded Bed Bugs
These are nasty little things that make my skin crawl just thinking about them! Hostels with bed bugs are disgusting but we can’t always judge a place if we don’t know much about bed bugs. These little bugs can be pass on from a nasty bed-bug infested hostel to a nice clean one. If you have had your stuff infested, you may have to say goodbye to your clothes and maybe even your bag! They are really hard to get rid of. You can get rid of them in a SUPER boiling hot wash (90 degree +) and then putting them in the hot dryer immediately after. You really want to make sure you don’t go home with bed bugs as nasty little souvenirs.
We Love Hostels
It is cheaper and sometimes you get a hostel that is really great value for money. You really need to do a bit of research into your hostel and please ALWAYS READ REVIEWS. I can not say this enough. If you have a bit more money in your budget, pay the extra bit of cash and get a hostel that is really awesome. You will find some really amazing hostels on your travels!
Hostels are an experience. You should see if you like it or not and make a decision for yourself. I think hostels are generally more suited to young backpackers who want to socialize with other young travelers.
I have met a lot of great people in hostels that I’ve keep in touch with. I have had some crazy nights and definitely have some funny stories. I must also admit that at some point on my travels I was the party animal stumbling to bed at 3am after a pub crawl. Ooops. There are so many memories in the many hostels around the world. For me, the pros outweigh the cons for me because I always seem to have a lot of fun!