Hostels tend to get a bad rap: dim lighting, smelly backpackers, or even cockroaches all over the place. When I first started traveling as an adult — I’m not going to admit how old I am because this was back in the day when they issued paper airline tickets — I settled for dingy dwellings just to save a few bucks. But no more!
Believe it or not, hostels have since become some pretty nice digs, ones you’ll be proud to stay in. Of course, they’re not the same as a luxury hotel, but you can travel in style and save some serious money.
Not convinced? Well, read on my friend, because you’ll learn how amazing hostels can help you save and have an adventurous travel experience.
Wait, What is a Hostel?
If you’re a hostel newbie (or you accidentally misread ‘hostel’ as ‘hotel’, no judgment there), let’s do a quick overview.
A hostel is what’s known as a budget-priced accommodation without the frills of what a hotel would offer. For example, you won’t get your own coffee machine inside your room or free soap. As well, most hostels offered shared rooms, meaning you won’t get a room to yourself unless you upgrade to a private room. Room size depends on the hostel — you could be bunking with as many as 8 to 10 other people in the same room and as few as 3 or 4, with bunk beds or normal twin beds. Guests are given lockers to store their things, instead of your classic hotel closet and dresser. You’ll also be sharing amenities such as bathrooms, workstations, kitchen and a lounge room. While you aren’t given toiletries, most hostels sell them for a low cost, and all kitchen tools (pots, pans, cutlery, etc.) are provided.
Any travelers choose to stay in hostels for the price. Depending on where you’re going, you could be paying as little as $25 for a shared room. Not too shabby considering most hotels are more than twice that amount. But that’s not the only perk!
Tell Me More, Please
If you’re unsure about the idea of shared accommodation, hear me out. Most hostels have undergone a makeover over the past few years and many have started marketing themselves as luxury hostels. As in, you can get many of the same amenities as hotels and you’ll be staying in bright and clean places. Cockroaches no more!
What are some of these amenities you ask? Some spots offer pool access, free breakfast, community activities, and beautiful locations in city centers or incredible locations you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise. Many of these hostels also offer boosted security, including keycard access (instead of physical keys) and strict rules as to who can be in the hostel (aka no unsolicited guests).
For example, Freehand Miami is only two blocks from the beach, offers free iced coffee, bike rentals, and daily housekeeping starting at just $30.
Hostelling International — a nonprofit operating a network of high-quality hostels — opened a Swiss spa hostel in the Saas-Fe mountains, a glacier village. Facilities you’ll get access to include massage showers, whirlpools, water slides, and saunas. If that’s not enough, there’s an in-house restaurant overlooking the Alps. All starting at around $64 a night!
And it’s not just single travelers who can stay at hostels. Many places offer private rooms with queen or king-sized beds for couples, and others have family rooms for multiple people. While these rooms cost more than the shared lodging, they’re still a fraction of what you’d pay at a hotel.
If you’re a solo traveler, a hostel can be a great way to meet people. You get the opportunity to hang out in the communal areas and meet travelers from all over the world. If you’re nervous to strike up a conversation, some hostels arrange events where you can’t help but meet new people. There’s stuff like free walking tours, welcome parties, happy hour, and movie nights. I met a solo traveler 10 years ago when we both stayed at the same hostel and we’re still friends!
Are There Any Downsides?
As cool and budget-friendly as hostels are there are a few downsides to consider. If you’re after better amenities, hostels may fall short of your expectations. Sure, where you’re staying may be clean and in a nice location, but may not get things like towels, toiletries, and your own refrigerator. Even if your shared room offers a locker, you may need to bring your own padlock.
Depending on your habits and personality, you may not get the privacy you desire. If you’re an introvert (or have had a long day), you may want some quiet time. While hostels do offer privacy in the way or room dividers or curtains between bunk beds as well as quiet hours, you won’t be able to escape some noise. This could be solved if you stay in a private room, but you’ll still need to use shared common areas.
Also, consider doing some research to see what kind of hostel you like. See if the hostel is for people who like to party, or it’s pretty chill or family friendly. That way you know what you’re getting into before you go.
Finally, you may end up spending more on other areas of travel. Let’s say you choose to stay at a hostel in a less accessible neighborhood or in a pricey area. You could be spending more on transportation or meals than you anticipated. But you can still save money with some strategic planning — don’t think that you have permission to splurge just because you saved money on your accommodation.
Are Hostels Right For Me?
If you’re looking for a cheap place to rest your head and stretch your travel budget, a hostel can be a great choice. You can find ones that are clean and safe, just make sure to check reviews before booking.
Of course, there is no right or wrong answer, just one that’s best for you. Whatever you decide, make sure you set a budget and be realistic on what you can spend, so that you can enjoy your trip totally guilt-free.