We’ve all heard the hostel horrors — smelly rooms, smelly roommates, cold showers, personal belongings inexplicably going missing — but I challenge you to abandon those pre-conceived notions and hear me out. Your bank account will thank you later.
1. They are incredibly cost-effective.
Now, this is the most obvious portion of this list, which is why I’m getting it over with as quickly as possible. Everyone knows hostels are cheap, but the biggest misconception surrounding this magical institutions is that you’re sacrificing basically every comfort for a lower price tag.
And — stay with me here — I’m here to tell you that this is entirely untrue.
Of course, not every hostel out there is going to be clean and comfortable, but on the same note not every hotel is going to be cockroach-free, and not every AirBnB is going to be as “centrally located” as advertised. There are bad eggs in every bunch, and travel accommodations are no exceptions.
But as long as you do your research (and you don’t really have to do much) you’re more likely to find a rad hostel than a rotten one. Hostelworld is an awesome place to start; simply type in the city you’re traveling to, check off a few necessities to filter results, et voila: whole list of hostels that fit your needs, whatever they may be. Each hostel also has a photo gallery, so you can see what kind of bunking situation you can expect, and user ratings and reviews from fellow travelers who’ve gone before you. I’ve used Hostelworld every time I’ve booked, and I highly recommend it, simply for ease of use.
A lot of hostels actually include a free breakfast every morning, or at least offer use of a communal kitchen, so you can cut down on meal costs. Many also include free wifi and computers, and some even have shuttle services to the local airport or train station.
And when it comes down to it, if I can snag a bunk for $12 a night instead of a hotel room for $120, I’m a happy traveler.
2. They’re tons of fun.
Price aside, hostels are an excellent place to meet new people — usually around your age, if you’re a university student like me — from all walks of life and all corners of the globe. Sharing a room can come with it’s occasional downsides, like reduced privacy or different sleeping schedules, but it also offers up the opportunity to interact with your roommates and learn a bunch, from different slang to tips about the city you’re staying in.
I stayed at a hostel in Vienna called Hostel Wombat and had such an amazing time meeting new people. The hostel itself had its own bar on the lower level and threw a Carnival party while we were there, and then the next night my friends, our roommates, and I all shared a few bottles of wine and baguettes from the grocery down the street, swapping stories about all the different places we came from. One of our roommates had just arrived from Budapest, which happened to be our next stop, and so she gave us the heads up about which spa to go to and awesome walking tours to try. Our other roommate was from Australia, and we all hit it off in Vienna and still interact on social media to this day.
It’s tempting to just keep your head down and burrow in your sheets without saying a word to your fellow travelers, but I’d highly recommend striking up a conversation or two — you never know who’ll you meet or what kinds of stories you’ll hear.
And while traveling solo can get a little lonely, if you stay in a hostel it doesn’t have to be.
3. The location can’t be beat.
One thing that remains the same across the board of hostels worldwide is that they tend to be in the most amazing locations.
The hostel we stayed in in Prague, Hostel Mango, had a beautiful view of Charles Bridge right from our room, and all the sights of Old Town were quite literally a stone’s throw away.
I also spent a night in Abraham’s Hostel in Dublin, Ireland, and it was just a street or two over from the bus station that I needed the next morning (so I didn’t have to drag my duffel through the streets of the city) and a quick walk to the Spire and the banks of the river Liffey. I went for a twenty to thirty minute morning walk and wandered all the way to Grafton Street and back.
Long story short, you don’t have to sacrifice your travel funds to stay in the thick of things, and hostels make staying in the city centre easy and budget-friendly.
4. You’ll learn how to be a smart traveler.
And by that I mean you’ll learn how to pack light and stay organized. Staying in a hostel means that you don’t have the unlimited space to sprawl out like you would in a hotel room, and sometimes the security cabinets that they provide are on the smaller side.
Every morning and night you have to rummage through your suitcase to change, grab your toiletry essentials, and then pack it all up again. You learn very quickly how to pack in a way that works for you, and how inconvenient fishing for your toothbrush in an overflowing explosion of a suitcase can be (especially when you’ve come back late from a night out to a pitch black room and have to make as little noise and use as little light as possible).
5. It’ll humble you.
Giving up the creature comforts that come with staying in a hotel — daily maid service, food delivery to your room, a giant bed and fluffy white sheets, towels folded into the shape of swans — can actually be a rewarding experience.
Hostels are low on luxuries, and in some of them they give you a bundle of sheets at check in and tell you that you’ll be making up your bed yourself, and so the quality of your hostel experience falls directly on your shoulders. You become responsible for your own bunk — no one will be cleaning up after you — and you also have to learn how to be considerate about light and noise levels when sharing a room with others, some of whom may have just gotten back from an eight-hour trek and go to sleep at the time you usually think about starting dinner, and you’ll quickly become aware of how everything you do affects those around you.
Staying in a hostel is simpler, less frilly and fancy, and I think that’s not only good for practical reasons, but for personal reasons as well.
So the next time you’re scouting out the perfect spot to stay for your upcoming adventure in Rome or Paris or Reykjavik, consider looking into hostels. You might be surprised with what you find.
(image from budgettraveler.org)