Hostels are the lifeblood of backpackers and budget travellers. Practically every country in the world has a supply of low budget accommodation to provide guests with a cheap and convenient place to spend the night. They’re clearly a popular choice, but not for everyone. Many fresh-faced travellers are a little hesitant to use them, and many people can’t stand the thought of having to share a room with a bunch of strangers.
It comes down to personal taste, and what you’re willing to put up with for the benefits. There are plenty of pros and cons to these forms of lodging, but what are they? Let’s look at a few, shall we?
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There’s a reason hostels are so popular in the first place! They provide all sorts of benefits to all types of travellers, particularly in the long term.
Obviously, this is the biggest advantage, and it’s an enormous one. Accommodation is one of the biggest expenses when it comes to travel, so having a cheap place for the night is incredibly important for long-term backpackers!
Hostels are by far the cheapest form of lodging throughout the world and have a huge price difference compared to even the cheapest hotels. In most countries, hostels rarely go over £15 and are usually much less! You can even find some for as little as £2 a night in some places!
Selection of Rooms
Today’s modern hostels come with a range of different rooms to suit your needs. Mostly they vary in the number of beds, with the prices getting cheaper when the bed numbers increase. Some hostels even have private rooms, giving you a bit of separation while still having the benefit of hostel life.
Also, an important feature in most modern hostels is female-only rooms. Many girls are understandably concerned with having to share a room with strange men, so hostels provide a safer environment that costs the same as the typical room.
One-Stop-Shop for Travellers
Hostels aim to provide absolutely everything you’d ever need to survive a trip. From facilities to do your own laundry and prepare your own meals, to having cafés or bars attached to the hostel itself. There are noticeboards where fellow guests post offers for rideshares or buying/selling equipment. Some places even have in-house tour agencies that can arrange day trips and activities for you!
The staff (who are often travellers too) are always incredibly helpful and can assist you with anything you’d ever need. If you need more info about the area, transportation or just the best places to go, they’ll be able to help you out.
Save Money, Cook Yourself
While travelling the world trying new cuisine is a must! Of course, you should splash out on a restaurant now and again, but doing that in the long term gets very expensive. Luckily, many hostels come with their own kitchens for you to prepare your own meals!
Some hostels might not have a fully equipped kitchen, particularly in the middle of big cities. But at the very least they should have a kettle and a microwave. Ramen noodles anyone?
Meeting Other Travellers
Hotels are filled with businessmen, families, the rich and people cheating on their other half. Hostels on the other hand are filled with fellow travellers that are exploring the world for the same reasons you are! You get to interact with people travelling along similar paths and have similar mindsets towards travel and life. It’s not all hemp-wearing and guitar playing!
You could read every travel book or blog post (and please do!), but no advice is better than from travellers that have experienced it themselves. Hostels are filled with people who can share their adventures and advice on what to do and where to go.
A Sociable Place
A bit of privacy and a cosy double bed is always welcome from time to time. Yet, after a couple of weeks on a solo journey, it can get pretty lonely.
The benefit of hostels is that they’re incredibly social places! It’s a spot where fellow travellers meet each other, share their stories and hang out with a bunch of like-minded individuals in a very relaxed atmosphere. You’ll make friends that you’ll join on day trips and possibly travel further with. You might even find luuuuv.
Even if you’re a bit shy, that feeling quickly disappears. Everyone’s in the same position as you. Nobody knows each other, everyone’s a stranger travelling alone, so there’s no reason to feel embarrassed! Even if you’re a bit of an introvert, no problem, you can easily keep to yourself too!
Something Out of the Ordinary
Sure, there are some incredible 5-star hotels out there with hot tub suites and personal gyms, spas and beautiful massage ladies. Low-price hostels can’t really compete with the quality, however, they do have some pleasant surprises.
How about a hostel that has its own hot-spring, or a rooftop bar overlooking the city? You might find hostels in places so unique that a hotel couldn’t be built there, like on the banks of a river as local fishermen pass by or in the middle of the rainforest surrounded by wild iguanas! You’d be surprised what you can find.
Though hotels, for the most part, will help arrange day trips or activities, one thing they cant offer are social events, but hostels do! On a weekly and sometimes daily basis, different events will be arranged for hostel guests.
They range everywhere from the simplest quiz nights or movie nights to taking the guests out on the town to a few bars or even full-day trips. Not to mention plenty of opportunities to get completely wasted with your fellow guests over card games, beer pong and everything else in-between! These experiences can’t be found outside of hostels!
Better Than You Think
Many people have a horrific image of what hostels are like; prison-style bunks in filthy dorms filled with perverts, but it couldn’t be further from the case…mostly. Of course with many hostels, you get what you pay for. Don’t expect to pay £2 a night for a luxury experience. That being said, you’d be stunned how modern and well equipped some hostels are these days! Many are actually better quality than the cheapest hotels!
Definitely, the most modern and most luxurious option is capsule hostels, where you crawl into your 4 walled bunk and close the curtain to have total privacy. Some hostel bunks might come with their own TVs and nightlights, with beds comfier than you have at home! You’ll find sleek modern common areas with plasma screen TVs, vending machines, video games, a karaoke machine and all sorts thrown in between, you’d be amazed!
Food is an expense we can’t really avoid, but hostels will provide one meal for you! Most hostels offer a free breakfast for guests! Of course, don’t expect anything spectacular. For the most part, it might only be a slice of toast, but who’s a budget traveller to turn down free food! Many hostels will also offer free tea and coffee throughout the day, more than you can expect from a hotel!
While some of us are happy to sleep on a park bench if it means we get to travel, others want a bit more comfort and security. The average traveller has plenty of issues with hostels, some of which is fair. It’s not that backpackers disagree with them, it’s just that we’re willing to deal with it.
Lack of Privacy
Privacy becomes a luxury that you’ll sacrifice during your stay. Whether sleeping on open bunks with a group of strangers or sharing bathrooms and common areas, you’ll rarely have time completely alone. You might have a curtain or be lucky enough to stay in a capsule hostel, yet it’s not real privacy. You always have to consider that other people are there, which can get quite annoying.
Sharing a Room
If you had a choice, I don’t think anyone wants to share a room with anyone else, let alone 4, 6 or 12 other people! Not only do you lose your privacy, but you have to deal with everyone else’s annoying habits! And some people can be FUCKING irritating.
You’ll have to deal with that inconsiderate twat banging around while you’re trying to sleep, that horned up couple discretely slipping in a finger or two above you or those assholes having full volume conversations on the phone. But nothing, NOTHING is worse than trying to sleep with someone’s thundering snoring all night long. There’s always one.
99% of the time, hostels are incredibly safe and are full of very respectable and considerate guests. Yet there’s always a handful of assholes that has to ruin it for everyone.
As you’re sharing a room with complete strangers, there’s potential for some mischief. After all, there are plenty of creeps out there who have made female-only dorms a necessity. Though incidents are rare, they definitely can happen.
The most common problem is thievery. Most decent hostels have lockers (either paid or free) that allow you to hide your valuables, though many don’t. Even if they do, they might be too small to fit everything or just too easy to break open. A good rule of thumb is don’t leave anything in the hostel unless you’re willing to lose it.
Time Limits & Curfews
Many hostels have 24 hours receptions and allow you to come and go as you please, others don’t. If you arrive late at night at some hostels and the reception is closed, then you’re shit out of luck. Doors might be locked at night, though you’ll probably have a key or a code to open it. However, if there’s a problem there’s nobody to get a hold of.
A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.