I’ve been traveling solo my whole adult life. And during that time, I’ve stayed in my fair share of hostels. Probably over a 100. All over Europe, Southeast Asia and North America.
Although I often alternate with Couchsurfing, I love staying in hostels. They’re affordable and really fun. Sure, there have been some very bad ones, but mostly a lot of very good ones. I’ve stayed in giant 20 person dorms and cozy private rooms. In boring hostels and crazy party hostels. In sparkling new and old run-down places.
Whether you’re new to traveling or a seasoned roadie, I recommend staying in hostels. Hostels are a cornerstone of the tourism industry and an important factor in making travel more affordable and accessible. Some people are intimidated by hostels, and they get an undeserved bad rep as a hotbed for bedbugs and drunk tourists. Here are the reasons why I love staying in hostels, and you probably will too:
Hostels are affordable
As a backpacker, I always look for ways to stretch my money. From eating street food to finding good deals on flights. One of the best ways to save money while you are traveling is by staying in budget accommodation like hostels. Instead of paying for a full room in a hotel, you’re paying for a bed in a shared room, which is usually a lot cheaper.
Especially as a solo traveler, this makes a huge difference. Because you are paying per bed and not per room, you avoid the dreaded surcharge for singles. Single people often get the short end of the stick in the tourism industry, but not in hostels. Hostels are made specifically for you, the solo traveler.
Prices vary a lot from hostel to hostel and I don’t recommend going straight for the cheapest. Always look carefully at what value you are getting for your money. It’s often worth paying a few dollars more per night for breakfast, a better location, and just a better overall hostel. Always, always read the reviews and pick a good hostel, not just a cheap one.
Affordability comes at a cost and for hostels that cost was always comfort and privacy. But not anymore! Because most hostels now offer private rooms as well as dorms. If you’re traveling with a partner or friend, these private rooms are a great way to enjoy hostel life while still getting a good deal. And even as a solo traveler, these are usually cheaper than a hotel room.
Hostels are fun
But travel isn’t all about money. Or at all, really. Travel is about meeting new people, having new experiences and learning about different cultures. And no place facilitates that like a hostel.
Hostels host travelers from all over the world, many of them young, solo backpackers. All people dying to make new friends and meet people to hang out with. Most hostels facilitate this by creating common rooms and organizing events, like bar crawls and game nights. These are usually a super fun and easy way to meet new people and explore the city.
I’ve met so many cool people and have made friends for life in hostels. I love traveling alone, but I don’t want to do everything by myself. It’s much more fun to go for a drink or dinner with other travelers. So I always look specifically for hostels with a social atmosphere, both in their description and the reviews. I usually use Hostelworld to find hostels and read reviews, but always try to book directly with the hostel. #supportlocalhostels #supportsmallbusiness
I’ve also worked in hostels through Workaway and really enjoyed that. It was so much fun to hang out with all the guests, show them around and make sure they had a great time. Hostel staff are often volunteers or young locals who love to travel and have fun. They usually have the best recommendations for places to eat and party or activities to do in the area.
Hostels are (not) for everyone
Many people think of hostels as dirty places where young backpackers go to get drunk. And sure, some of them are. But hostels have definitely evolved from their crummy young hostel roots. These days, your options extend from cheap party places to fancy boutique hostels. There’s a hostel for everyone!
Flashpacker and boutique hostels are taking the world by storm. These upscale hostels are more like hotels and offer far more amenities than regular hostels. Creaky bunk beds are traded in for comfortable private rooms and cute dorms. Beer soaked common rooms turn into inviting lounges and outdoor swimming pools. These places manage to combine the (relative) affordability of a hostel with the comfort of a hotel. They often attract a slightly older crowd with a bit more money to spend, who still want to hang out and party.
And hostels aren’t just for twenty-something backpackers, just like travel isn’t only for them. Some hostels have age restrictions, but most welcome travelers from all ages. I’ve met plenty of people in hostels who were well into their thirties, forties, fifties of even sixties! They all said they preferred hostels because of the fun and social atmosphere.
And as for couples? You can definitely stay in a hostel, even in a dorm. Especially couples who travel long-term will enjoy the chance to hang out with other people. Just please don’t have sex in the dorm. It’s very rude.
Of course, some people will still prefer to stay in a hotel or apartment. Which is okay! It’s your trip, do what you want. But if you’re a young (solo) traveler, I recommend giving hostels a try, even if it’s just for the iconic travel experience.
So what about you? Do you stay in hostels when you travel? Why, or why not? I’d love to hear all about your hostel experiences in the comments!
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