Staying in a Hostel: The Good, the Bad and Everything in Between

Hostels can be a great place to stay if you’re young, have no kids and travel on a budget. They can also be an excellent opportunity to meet new people. If you’re older, more settled and looking for some quiet time alone, this may not be your best option, but good news: hostels are changing! Staying in a hostel has become quite a trend, and we’ve outlined the pros and cons when you consider them for booking your next vacation.

Staying in a Hostel: The Good, the Bad and Everything in Between

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Hostels Are More Affordable Than You Would Think

Hostels are more affordable than hotels, Airbnb, camping and Couchsurfing because non-profits or community organisations usually run them. The people working in them do it out of passion rather than to make money. As such, they’re much less likely to overcharge you for things like meals and activities than other accommodation options.

They may also have fewer amenities such as laundry facilities or Wi-Fi—but those cost savings get passed onto you. Hostels are an excellent option for budget travellers, but even travellers who want to splurge a little bit can book a private accommodation in the newer hostels that have been opening up the past few years.

If you backpacked through Europe in the nineties toting a Let’s Go Europe guidebook, we feel your pain. Hostels were generally dilapidated and disgusting, and it was a miracle when you booked that one single guest room available, granted weeks in advance. And over the phone. And sometimes it was occupied when you checked in. But did you have high expectations? Since the concept of hostels began around a century ago in Rhine Valley, Germany, accommodations were essentially four walls and mattresses, a bare-boned budget option to higher-priced hotels that offer attractive amenities.

Perfect For Solo Travelers

Staying in a hostel and travelling alone is quite popular for solo travelers.

In addition to providing a cheap place to stay, many hostels are explicitly designed for solo travellers. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people and have a better chance of making friends, so you don’t feel lonely when travelling alone.

Other amenities include shared kitchens and standard rooms where guests can mingle over drinks or play board games together. Many hostels also organise group activities such as pub crawls or city tours, helping you get out and interact with others while still feeling safe.

Times have indeed changed for budget travelers who now have a number of advantages that help make their stays more seamless, like the ability to read reviews of hostels before booking hostel, technology innovations like WIFI and more hostel options to choose from (crappy vs high end, party hostel vs countryside hostel, etc). Europe has seen an invasion of boutique hostels (hostels that are fashionable and stylish with similar overnight guests to boot) that also offer restaurants, clubs, bars and even swimming pools. The popularity of hostels have increased demand, and hostels have been turning out more double and single rooms (as opposed to dormitory-style rooms) than ever before. As the type of traveler has changed (ahem, millennials), the hostels are meeting their demands. It even goes beyond backpackers. Young families, young execs and even young jetsetters who crave that community feel when they travel are booking hostels.

Best of all? Solo travelers are getting so much more out of hostels than usual.

Bad Roommates Can Ruin Your Stay — But You Can Overcome This

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Roommates – you never know who you’ll get!

One drawback of staying in a hostel is the possibility of getting a not-so-fun roommate if you book a bed rather than a private accommodation.

While most people who stay at hostels are respectful and considerate, there are always a few who aren’t so great. People can act out because they don’t know how to be good guests. It’s also possible for two people staying together in separate rooms but sharing the same bathroom unit to have conflicts arise over personal space issues. For example, using another person’s toiletries without asking first.

The best way to avoid this is to just be positive and communicative. You’ll see that they will start to open up when they know more about who they are staying with.

Shared Bathrooms and Showers

Bathroom share

Shared bathrooms and showers are among the most significant drawbacks of staying in a hostel. You get to meet new people and have to share these tight spaces. If you aren’t comfortable with this arrangement, you may consider staying in an Airbnb or even a hotel if your budget allows it.

Showering at night can be challenging because others might be using the bathroom while you’re trying to get ready for bed after a long day of sightseeing or hiking through mountains, but if you wake up a little earlier than the travelers who are sleeping in from partying late, you’ll be A-OK.

America has caught on with the elevated hostel experience. Chances are most backpackers who travel to Miami have stayed at The Freehand, a hostel opened by Sydell Group (responsible for NYC’s five-star Nomad Hotel and Ace Hotel in Palm Springs). Freehand Miami, which took over a 1930s Art Deco hotel, is a thriving scene for the hipster set with the busy The Broken Shaker bar serving up craft cocktails, new restaurant 27 and outdoor pool. There’s even a sprawling backyard that hosts BBQs.

Over in Santa Barbara, The Wayfarer, a 31-room hostel, has a fully equipped communal kitchen, an outdoor heated swimming pool (yes, heated) with expansive pool deck, a library, on-site laundry, complimentary breakfast and a coveted location in the busy Funk Zone, the new hostel has been seeing sell out accommodations. All rooms (private or shared) have en-suite bathrooms, free WIFI, 42” HDTV and individual lockers.

Where to Book Your Stay in a Hostel?

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Whether you book a hostel room at, Hostelworld or Airbnb, you can also bring your internet access devices wherever you decide to stay. Whether you have a laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, there are several ways you can use them to get internet access to Facebook, or internet banking while travelling. One last popular option that allows you to book your stay in advance while travelling abroad would be to connect with locals through Couchsurfing.

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You’ll meet people from around the world and get the opportunity to stay at affordable prices. There are some drawbacks to staying in hostels, such as noise levels or lack of privacy, but we recommend trying it at least once because who knows? It could be one of your favourite memories.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed in over 600 hotels and has flown a million airmiles. He lives in New York City.

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