Why you should stay in a hostel
No, you probably won’t die
In 2006 a little movie called Hostel came out and the word “hostel” suddenly became synonymous with “super creepy place where various parts of my body will be cut off and I will probably die”. This is not fair to 86% of hostels.
As a matter of fact, many hostels can be a better choice than hotels when you’re traveling abroad! I personally have stayed in many hostels and have yet to be murdered, or even tortured.
Part of the reason for this is when I’m booking hostels I do my research. Hostels.com and Hostelworld.com are both great sources for travelers. Not only can you see all the available options, there are also reviews and ratings for things like location and security.
When people find out my husband and I stay in hostels while traveling, they look at me like I’m a good sport and him like he’s some kind of weirdo. This is an inaccurate assumption. We are both weirdos.
But there are a lot of reasons to stay in hostels.
More moolah in your pocket (or wallet, or purse, or whatever)
Staying in hostels makes travel way more affordable. While some hostels are surprisingly expensive, most are fairly cheap. For my husband and I, this means that we can travel more often, take longer trips and sometimes even have extra cash for things like a good meal or fun experience while we’re on the road.
Free wifi, breakfast and other perks
Granted this isn’t the case for every single hostel ever, but many of them do have good stuff included in the price. Paying for things like wifi can add up fast. (You want to get those instagram posts up as quickly as possible! Otherwise, why travel?)
Many hostels also have kitchens, so you can cook a few meals while you’re on the road. Eating out all the time is not only expensive, but hard on the tum tum. Instead, pick up some noodles and shrimp at the local market! No one has ever used a hostel kitchen to cook human bodies parts! You can be fairly sure of that.
It’s also fun to chart your trip by the different free breakfasts. Some might just be some stale toast and jam. Others could include delicious eggs, pastries, etc. It lends a distinct flavor (pun) to each city. Plus, that morning cup of coffee when you’re on the road is VITAL.
People who run hostels tend to be a little eccentric and that’s a good thing. While all the hotels belonging to specific chains have the same corporate-dictated look, hostels have personality in spades.
I’ve stayed in hostels where there were murals on all the walls, windows that looked like bubbles on a space ship, or were located in interesting, historical buildings. I still have clear memories of hostels I stayed at in 2008, because they were so distinct and memorable.
(Killer meaning great, not killer meaning someone will kill you.)
Centrally located hotels are expensive. They tend to be very nice, but you need a stack of benjis just to stand in the lobby. However, there are some excellently located hostels where you can get a room for a fraction of the price of a big hotel.
When my husband and I booked a hostel in Madrid, we ended up with a room that looked out on the main square. Our hostel in Rio was literally 2 blocks from the beach. Sure it’s fun taking a bus for 30 minutes to get to the big sites, but personally I’d prefer to just walk out the door.
Opportunities to socialize
This is especially true if you’re traveling alone, but it applies to couples and those traveling in groups as well. A weird thing about traveling is that it can become isolating. Ideally you travel to meet people, but that’s easier said than done.
Hostels give you all kinds of opportunities to meet other travelers. Many have bars or common areas where you can hang out. Lots of hostels host group events like city walks, pub crawls, movie nights, etc. Our hostel in Cambodia even had daily yoga classes!
You can be as social as you want to be. (Just avoid the guy in the corner who keeps eyeballing you and stroking his knife. He’s probably one friend you won’t be adding on Facebook.)
So what are the drawbacks?
Drawbacks can be minimized if you do your research in advance, but hostels aren’t glamorous.
- You might have to wait for the showers in the morning
- The showers can be cold
- The beds aren’t the most comfortable things you’ll ever experience
- There probably won’t be a tv in your room
- At times hostels can be noisy (I bring earplugs with me, so I won’t be kept up by drunken revelers returning at 3am, yelling, slamming doors and puking in the hallway. This has only happened a few times, but it’s good to be prepared.)
If you’re planning on staying in dorms and not private rooms, it’s also good to bring:
- A headlamp or flashlight
- A sleep mask
- A padlock for your belongings (dorm rooms usually have lockers) (there’s a bit of a code amongst hostel travelers not to steal each others’ stuff, but it’s still best not to risk it)
- Pajamas (I don’t care if you usually sleep naked; doing it in a dorm environment is rude)
- Antacids (if you’re a farter)
Why hostels and not airbnb?
Airbnb can be a great option, but it falls short in a few ways:
- No 24 hour reception. This is key when you’re getting in on a late train or flight.
- No tours, fun breakfasts, or opportunities to socialize.
- Surprise cancellations. This has happened to me several times on airbnb, where I’ll book a space, everything will seem cool, but then the host suddenly cancels, leaving me scrambling to find another place to stay (now that all the inexpensive options are already booked).
- Confusing locations. In general, hostels are a little bigger and easier to find. Airbnb locations can be confusing and, when you don’t speak the local language, that makes them even harder to track down.
I’ve made some great memories staying in different hostels around the world! And I’m still here! With all my limbs! If you haven’t yet, you should definitely give it a try. Don’t forget to pack your spirit of adventure. 😉