What Is A Hostel?
Before we go on with this post, let’s establish a basic understanding of what a hostel is. A hostel is basically a dorm-style living accommodation where instead of reserving an entire room, travelers get to reserve a bed space. Since the traveler might be placed in a bunk bed with 8 other travelers, or sometimes even up to 16 other travelers, the cost of staying in hostels can be rather cheap compared to hotels or Airbnbs.
Imagine staying in hostels like living in college dorms. Usually, there are only around one to three bathrooms on each floor, with several sinks and shower stalls in each bathroom. The only difference is that you might be sharing space with people of all ages and backgrounds. And due to the relative lack of personal space compared to hotel rooms, it’s much easier to connect with other travelers in a hostel. Maybe that’s why hostels have always been a popular choice among solo travelers.
Tips For Staying In Hostels
1. Only Book One To Two Nights In Advance
One of the biggest nightmares of staying in hostels is finding out your hostel sucks, but you already booked your stay for the whole week. Let’s prevent this nightmare from happening by only booking one to two nights in advance, just in case your hostel turns out disastrous. Also, if you suddenly have a change of travel plans, you won’t have to worry about cancelation fees.
2. Read Reviews On Hostel World
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS do your research before staying at a hostel. And the best place to do a thorough research is through Hostel World. You can find out what other travelers think about their stay, and also see detailed photos of the exterior and interior of the hostel. Also, Hostel World provides information regarding what amenities are offered, and whether they have high-speed internet or not (Super Important! I’ve accidentally stayed at a hostel without Wifi before. It was a fail on my part.)
3. Bring Flip-Flops
Flip-flops are a must for staying in hostels. With tens and hundreds of people using the same bathroom and living area, it’s important keep your feet clean. You definitely wouldn’t want to end up with itchy athlete foot at the end of your stay!
4. Keep An Eye On Your Valuables
Most hostels provide personal safes with locks next to the bunk beds. However, some lockers may be too small to fit your entire luggage inside. Don’t hesitate to ask the front desk to see if they can store your valuable items in a secure area. Also, whenever you’re leaving your bed area, whether it’s to get breakfast or to the bathroom, always make sure to NOT leave your valuables spread out on your bed. You never know if your roommates are as nice as they seem. Be relaxed, but never be naive.
5. Use Your Own Pillow Case
Maybe I’m too much of a germaphobe. But I always have to bring my own pillowcase everywhere I go. Even if you don’t like using pillows, make sure to put down a towel beneath your head just in case. We can never be too sure if the hostel’s washing machines did a good job killing off all the nasty germs.
6. Be Open Towards New Experiences
For us introverted people, it’s very tempting to hide away in our bunk beds and never come out to socialize with other travelers. But don’t let your shyness hinder you from experiencing awesome travel adventures and getting to know amazing people. I know it can be quite scary stepping outside of your comfort zone and introducing yourself to others, I still struggle with it too. But remember! The endless wonderful possibilities that await you just by taking the leap and overcoming your fear, is far more valuable than wondering what if.
7. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
More often than not, people are willing to help you out. If you’re having trouble with your travel itinerary or are experience awkward situations with your roommates, don’t hesitate to speak up and ask the hostel staff for help. With hundreds and thousands of travelers visiting these hostels each year, the staff members have probably already dealt with various situations similar to yours. And they can most likely provide helpful solutions to your worries.
Common Myths About Staying In Hostels
1. Hostels are loud and people party all the time
Yes, it’s true that some hostels actually advertise themselves as “party hostels” to attract travelers from all over the world to drink and party all day. And I’ll be honest, I’ve stayed at a few of these party hostels and they are truly everything they claim to be. Obnoxiously loud music blasting all night, and free beer everywhere. BUT! Not all hostels are like this! Nowadays, there are tons of chill, family-vibe, and relaxing hostels where you can actually sleep through the whole night without being woken up by crazy drunk people.
2. Hostels are super dirty and dangerous, that’s why it’s so cheap
Definitely not true. Out of all the hostels I’ve stayed at, only one of them was kind of messy. And that was because I didn’t do my research beforehand, and booked it the last minute. Hostels are so cheap because several people stay in one room, and so imagine the cost of an Airbnb room divided by 8 or 16. Of course, it’s going to be cheap! So don’t think that the low cost of your stay equals the quality these hostels offer. I will even dare to say that a lot of the hostels I’ve stayed at actually offered better customer service and overall experience than high-end hotels.
3. There’s no privacy whatsoever
Okay, I’ll admit. Privacy was my biggest worry about staying in hostels. And if you’re also concerned about the lack of privacy, I’ll say that your concern is valid. But, doing your research before booking your hostel can make a huge difference in your overall experience. A lot of hostels nowadays provide curtains around your bunk bed to give you the comfort of personal space. So that if you cringe at the idea of making awkward eye contact with the person across from you, you won’t have to.
Pro Tip: If the hostel doesn’t provide curtains, you can use a large towel to DIY your own curtain!
4. Hostels are unorganized and unprofessional
Contrary to popular belief, a lot of hostels provide amazing customer service and group activities for their guests. Since most hostels hire well-traveled receptionists that speak several languages, they can truly cater to your needs and help you with any questions regarding the city you’re visiting.
Apart from great customer service, many hostels also provide private tours and group activities such as Karaoke nights to help travelers get to know each other. Also, most hostels have broad connections with tour agencies around the city, so they tend to have better discounts for visiting popular tourist destinations.
What To Bring?
- Pillow Case
- Flip Flops
- Sleeping Eye Mask
- Hanging Toiletry Bag (Great For Communal Bathrooms)
- Padlocks (Just in case the hostel doesn’t offer)
- Quick Dry Towel
- Ear Plugs
- Packing Cubes
- Travel Clothing Hangers
For more details, check out “Top 15 Affordable Hostel Essentials That You’ll Need“
Where To Find The Best Hostels?
The absolute best way to find cheap and awesome hostels is through Hostelworld.com! Every hostel that I’ve stayed at was booked through Hostel World, and I truly thank God for this awesome app/website. It has truly made my hostel adventures so much more enjoyable.
I recommend downloading their mobile app so that you can find the best hostels while on the go. What I love the most about Hostel World is that you can see hostel photos, ratings, reviews, availability, and pricing all at one glance. For example, it’ll show you a hostel’s ratings based on its cleanliness, location, security, and facilities… And if you book two weeks in advance, you can cancel your reservation without any penalty fees. Great for indecisive people like me. Lol.
Pros Of Staying In Hostels
1. Fun Activities And Group Tours
My favorite thing about hostels is that they often offer discounted group tours to popular travel destinations. Not only does it save you a lot of hassle when it comes to finding the best travel agencies and sorting out transportation logistics, but you also get the chance to interact with other fellow travelers staying at your hostel.
Many hostels also purposely organize socializing events such as open mics and pub crawls so that we all get to mingle with each other. Hey, you never know! You might meet your future best friends through these events.
Needless to say, one of the biggest pros of staying in hostels is the extremely affordable price. In Vietnam, I was able to keep my accommodation cost at $4 USD a night by staying at the hostel called Mooka’s Home. Don’t let the cheap cost fool you! This hostel is one of the cleanest, most quiet, and modern hostels I’ve stayed at. And that’s the case for lots of hostels around the world. If you do your research, you can find amazing hostels that are affordable yet high-value.
3. Access To Kitchen
Most hostels have fully equipped kitchens for you to cook your own meals and keep your travel costs down. And even though many hostels are situated in convenient locations near supermarkets, make sure to still look up its surroundings on Google Maps beforehand. Just so that you won’t have to carry your heavy groceries too far.
4. Free Breakfast (Sometimes) & Happy Hours
Who doesn’t love free food and free booze! But don’t have too high of an expectation for the breakfast food at hostels. Since they have to serve so many people daily. To keep the cost down, simple toasts and scrambled eggs is often as luxurious as it gets.
And as for happy hours (especially at party hostels), you get a free drink of your choice, and sometimes even more than that! It really depends on the culture of the hostel, and how drunk they want their guests to be.
5. Meeting Cool People Around The World
This advantage of staying in hostels is especially true for solo travelers. The best thing about solo traveling is that it pushes you outside of your comfort zone. Whether it’s in terms of trying new activities or meeting new people. And when you’re all alone at a hostel, other solo travelers are more likely to approach you and strike up a conversation. You never know what opportunities await you at a hostel. Maybe a new best friend, a potential lover, or even a future business partner!
Cons Of Staying In Hostels
1. Less Privacy
This is inevitable when sharing a single room with several other people of all age groups and nationalities. You have to give up some of your privacy. Others might hear you sleep talking about your weird fetishes, and you probably won’t be able to sing in the shower like you usually do. But hey, it’s not for a lifetime. After traveling, you can resume performing your random rituals in peace.
2. Some Hostels Have Curfews
Yeah, I know! “Why do hostels have curfews? We’re not kids!”
But for our safety, some hostels require that we return before a certain time at night since they will close up the security gate and prevent anyone from entering. So before going out partying, make sure to check with the front desk regarding the curfew. You won’t want to be locked out of your hostel in a foreign country at 3 am!
3. Need To Be Aware Of Your Valuables
Being aware of your valuables is crucial in any situation and any location. But compared to staying at private rooms in a hotel or Airbnb, you need to be several times more alert when it comes to protecting your valuables in a hostel. With sometimes more than 8 people sharing the same room, that means you’re around 8 times more likely to have your valuables stolen. That’s why padlocks are a MUST!
4. Communal Bathrooms
For people who love long and therapeutic showers, communal bathrooms can be quite a stressful experience. With so many people sharing the same bathroom and walking in and out, it’s definitely not relaxing at all. But just think of it as if you’re experiencing college all over again. Fun times, amiright?!
5. Can Be Intimidating For Introverts
As a fellow introvert, I know way too well how intimidating hostels can be for introverts. After a long day of traveling, all we want to do is hide back into our comfy cave and not talk to anyone. But how do you do that when you’re sharing a room with a whole football team?! Ugh girl, I know the struggle. But don’t beat yourself up if you just can’t find the energy to talk. Sometimes, you just need some time to recharge! Put on your earphones and watch a movie on Netflix. And after some time to yourself, you’ll feel much more ready to socialize with other travelers.
Be Open To New Experiences
One of the best advice I can give you in regards to staying in hostels is to be OPEN-MINDED. Almost all of the most amazing travel adventures I’ve experienced were with my hostel roommates. By simply introducing ourselves and getting to know each other, we often end up traveling together and experiencing wonderful moments that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. I can’t stress enough how important it is to just go with the flow, and open your heart to new experiences. Follow your gut and have fun!
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