Having traveled through Europe, staying in my share of hostels, I can’t say enough good things about these community lodging options. The financial savings are absolutely the biggest reason people initially consider staying in hostels. They all eventually learn, though, how wonderful these alternatives to overpriced hotels can be.
While each hostel is different, the premise behind this lodging option is to offer a safe and inexpensive way for like-minded individuals to travel almost anywhere. You can potentially spend just pennies on the dollar by staying in hostels, and depending on where you travel, you may find them to be almost as luxurious as some hotels. Of course, there’s also plenty of bare bones options too, but they all offer a sense of community and camaraderie.
While some hostels offer private rooms and baths, which can be nice for group or family travel, typically hostels have large community bedrooms with a series of bunk beds. Think summer camp for big kids! You’ll generally find at least one hostel option located near most popular travel destinations, especially in Europe. They’re often marked with a large flag and local attractions are typically nearby.
I’ve stayed in hostels and hostel-esque hotels in London, Dublin and Barcelona. You can find accommodations with private rooms, wifi and even a bar in house. I’ve met families, luxe travelers and newbies like myself who wanted some privacy- and luckily, you can find whatever you’re looking for, often for a far better price, if you stay with a hostel.
Hostels get all types from all around the world, so they are used to getting uninitiated travelers and are happy to show you the ropes. Still, to make sure you are prepared and will enjoy yourself as much as possible, consider these tips for staying in hostels.
Book Your Stay Right Away
Depending on where you’re going, the time of year, and if you are looking for a private room, you may have to book your stay several months ahead of time. There are many different online options for hostel booking, but I recommend Hostel World.
Pop on over and search by your location. Then take some time reading through the reviews. Think about if you want to stay in a relatively chill place or if you want to consider a “party” hostel. You can typically tell if a hostel can be described that way by the reviews, whether they have a bar on premises, and their “lights out” time. Once you find the perfect hostel, book it!
Rent or Bring Your Own?
While each hostel is different, generally a fee or a deposit is charged on certain things like sheets, towels, and pillows. Take your budget, room in your baggage, and convenience into consideration when deciding on renting or bringing your own. If you’re traveling across Europe with only a backpack, you’re probably going to want to just spend the money to rent. You will want to use every inch of precious space in your bag for stuff like underwear and flip flops for the shower.
In my experience, there are certain rules that most hostel travelers stick to, without prompting or reminding. Top of the list, in my opinion, is to be respectful of others and the premises.
Don’t leave you crap strewn all over the common area. Clean your hair off the sink vanity after brushing it. Don’t make a huge racket when coming to bed after lights off (and consider having all of your bedtime necessities laid out so you aren’t making a racket in the middle of the night). And take a damn shower. Be aware of others and remember that you are a guest.
I’ve never had a theft issue at any of the hostels I’ve stayed at, nor have I know of anyone who has, but it’s best to be smart about your belongings. Bring a padlock for your locker, so you don’t have to worry about someone jacking your passport or $2000 camera. Again, I am not saying anyone will ever try to steal from you, but better to be prepared.
As for personal safety, it is of my personal opinion that hostels are generally safer than many hotels. Not only do hostels take admittance to the building very seriously, you also have a roomful of good folks who won’t tolerate any bad behavior from anyone.
It sounds weird, but hostel travelers have an unwritten code they abide by and they take it to heart. So trust me: you’ll be safe.
I think hostels still have the reputation of being shady boarding houses full of hooligans and dirty hitchhikers. That’s really not the case at all. Everyone I’ve ever met at a hostel are really nice and super friendly. It is impossible to stay in one and not make friends.
Many hostels offer activities and tours. Oftentimes, you will see the best sites, eat the best food, and experience the most amazing things when you join a crowd in the common area that is leaving on a tour. Everyone’s generally there for the same reason, so it’s really easy to make fast friends.
Initially, I was super nervous about bunking up with a bunch of strangers from all over the world. Not anymore! It is a wonderful way to experience a new city or country. Best of all, you’ll likely leave with a few new Instagram and Facebook friends. Not to mention, amazing memories.
Let’s hear from you! Are you considering staying in hostels for your next trip?