Here at GSTP, we pride ourselves on knowing a whole lot about travel. For one reason or another however, topics occasionally come up that are well and truly out of our **cough**, luxury travel **cough** depths. One such topic: staying in hostels. A life long friend who could stay at hotels often chooses hostels, and so we consulted our solo travel friend, who will affectionately go by Adrian Deleterson, to cover this intriguing topic for us.
As a frequent reader of GSTP, I love learning about the best ways to find amazing deals on airfare, luxury hotels, and vacation destinations. However, in a recent conversation with Mr. GSTP himself, I brought up a personal passion, which hasn’t been covered as much on the site – hostels. Yes, hostels. Often tied with the backpacking community, it’s easy to want to avoid these places after seeing movies like Hostel, Taken, or EuroTrip. However, if you ask most people who’ve stayed a few nights at one of the thousands of safe, clean, and fun hostels out there, they’ll likely tell you it was a highlight of their trip. So, is staying in a hostel really all that bad, after all?
What am I getting myself into?
No two hostels are the same, even if they are part of the same chain. There are the party hostels that are made up of backpackers and traveling students/young professionals (20-35 years old) and then there are the non-party hostels where… you guessed it, there is less of a party scene. When it comes to roommates, you normally end up splitting a room with anywhere from 1-10+ people. If you’re looking for a true hostel experience, go the multiple roommate route. Prices vary depending on the country, but expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $50 for a (bunk)bed.
You will never get lonely in Hostels… ever
As a frequent solo traveler, a question I often get is “don’t you get lonely?”. Thanks to hostels, I can confidently say the answer is a resounding no. Between your roommates or the other guests you meet in the reception area or bar (yes… many hostels have their own bars too), you are surrounded by people who are often LOOKING to hang out. This is often a foreign concept for people (particularly in the USA, where everyone grows up in a “stranger danger” society) but welcome to hostel livin’! Hostels embrace this culture and will often organize daily sightseeing trips and evening activities for all interested guests. Does your fancy hotel regularly organize sunset tours of central Rome (link), four day trips to beaches in southern Cambodia (link) or seven day journeys down the coast of Vietnam (link) with fellow guests? I didn’t think so.
Hostels Are Built for speed, not comfort
Hostels force you to expand your comfort zone. If you ever had a roommate, you know that living together, even if only for a few nights, is a team effort. Can it be a little nerve-wracking introducing yourself to random people from all over the world when you get to your room? Absolutely. But once you get past the initial awkwardness, you often realize the person you’re talking to has a unique story or similar interests. I can’t tell you the number of times I got to a city knowing no one and having no idea what to do, only to leave a few days later having completed an action-packed itinerary with several new friends I met at the hostel.
Hostels are NOT for the light sleeper
If you go to one of the social/party hostels, recognize that you might not get the eight hours of uninterrupted sleep your doctor recommends. Thanks to cheap alcohol, bar deals, drinking games, and bar crawls, your liver might not love you in the morning either. This is by no means saying you can’t get in a sober and quiet night’s rest, but don’t go in there with the same luxurious sleeping expectations you’d have for a hotel. Non-party hostels provide quieter environments, but you should still expect to share a bathroom and potentially be woken by roommates getting in late or leaving early.
Okay, this sounds kind of fun… now what?
Congrats! Recognizing that hostel livin’ can actually be incredibly rewarding is your first step to making lifelong memories at amazingly affordable rates. The next step is figuring out where to actually stay and how to make a reservation. The good thing is that in addition to sites like Booking.com, there are several websites out there dedicated exclusively to hostel life such as HostelWorld and HostelBookers. I also relied HEAVILY on blogs and other great websites of other hostel/budget travelers like Nomadic Matt and The Broke Backpacker. Whether you want to know more about what to be looking for in a hostel (link) or what actual hostels you should consider in each destination (link), other travelers can often be the best way to finding the right fit for you.
In conclusion, if you’re someone who is comfortable meeting other people and trying out something new, book a room at a hostel the next time you find yourself traveling the globe. Yes, it won’t provide the luxurious amenities that those fancy hotels do, but the travelers you meet and experiences you share could prove to be far more memorable than that extra pillow or cable TV. And with savings of up to $100’s per night, there’s a lot of upside.