A lot of my travel recently has been to places where I’m going with the express intent of visiting a friend(s), and have a place lined up to stay. Staying with friends is the ultimate- it’s a great way to squeeze in some real catch up time, and it’s free accommodation. However, when I’m travelling somewhere where I don’t know anyone, the first thing I do is start researching hostels. I know airbnb and other house share sites are all the rage, and conventional hotels will always have their place, but neither of them will dislodge hostels as my favored lodging option. Here’s why:
1) Hostels are always cheaper than a hotel, and usually cheaper than an airbnb. Unless you’re on a romantic breakfast-in-bed couples retreat, the whole point of going to a new place, in my mind, is to spend as little time in, and as little budget on, where you’ll lay your head at night.You want somewhere safe, clean, and centrally located, 100%. The safety and cleanliness, and to a large degree, location, are things I refuse to compromise on. But I also don’t need to be dropping hundreds of dollars a night on a hotel room I’m hoping to pass just my sleeping hours in.
2) There’s almost always free wifi, which is one of my major pet peeves about hotels. If I’m paying hundreds for this room, that should at least buy me the password to the wifi, no?!
2) Just because hostels are economical, does not mean they are gross. There is a huge variety of hostel options; I’ve had pretty much everything from a 40 person bunk bed co-ed room with shared bathrooms to a beautiful single room with an en suite bathroom which was essentially a hotel room where I put the linens on the bed myself. Hostels are very much pick your adventure in terms of quality and luxury, and you usually don’t have to compromise too much on price. For proof, check out this article in The Guardian, chronicling some of the top hostels in Europe which are truly spectacular.
3) Hostel breakfasts are BOMB. They just are. And they’re usually included in the cost of your stay.
4) Hostels are a fantastic place to meet fellow adventurers from across the globe. In my experience, hostels tend to be places that gather like-minded but beautifully different people who share a love of travel and exploring new cultures. Especially if you’re a solo traveller or it’s just you and your bestie, it is easy to strike up a conversation in the dorm room, at breakfast, or at the in-hostel watering hole. You might meet people with fascinating stories, get to practice a foreign language, learn new travel tips, find buddies to hit the nightlife with, or even make lifelong friends. Hotels and airbnb’s simply don’t have the same experience. Many people choose hostels because they want to meet new people on their travels; it’s just an exceptionally good place to mingle with other travellers. I know every time I’ve stayed in one, I’ve met fantastically interesting people.
5) Hostels are not just for Euro-tripping eighteen-year olds. Sure there will be some, but the stereotype is not exclusively true. I’ve seen families with toddlers, old couples, senior solo travellers, and many in between, not to mention a solid number of travellers in their 20’s through 30’s. Graduating college does not mean the end of hostelling! That is very much an American perception.
6) Booking a hostel is just as easy as booking a hotel. I usually go to hostelworld.com as it has a really user-friendly site, and a huge catalog of hostels you can book through them.
7) The hostel reception people are your best friend and just as good if not better than the concierge at a swanky hotel. One of the first things I do upon arriving is ask the desk person for a map, open it up on the counter, and then chat them up about places to see, their favorite restaurants, secret city tips, etc. I leave with a map covered in pen scratches, and tons of great insider info to make the most of my trip. A friendly desk person who knows you is also an important person to have on your side if you run into unexpected challenges on your trip.On top of that, they’re also usually cool people. When I was in college part of me secretly wanted to quit school, get a job at a hostel, and become just like them.
Long story short, hostels are a great accommodation option for the traveller on a budget. For so many reasons. There’s something about the overall experience of staying at a hostel that is special, and the prices, saving you lots of your travel budget for all the things you want to do once you reach your destination, is hard to argue with. Get out there, get hostelling!