I’ve stayed in a few hostels over the last 2 years and often when I tell people I have stayed in a hostel I get two different responses. One response is from those who have already stayed in hostels and usually have a positive view of the ones they have stayed in, the other is a more curious response from people who haven’t stayed in hostels who wonder why I choose them often over hotels. So my reasons are explained below.
You’ll be surprised at who you might find, stories you will hear and people you will learn about in a hostel. Unlike hotels, hostels have a community feel to them. I’ve met so many teachers in hostels, teachers from California, Canary Islands, Columbia, New Zealand and Germany. I’ve met young travellers, experienced travellers and families traveling. I recently spoke to an older cousin at a family wedding who is planning a 3 week trip in Europe over the summer with his teenage daughter, they are planning on using hostels. He was very complimentary of the hostels he has stayed at in the past saying that he is always happy with how clean they are. I also have a friend who has recently walked part of the Camino de Santiago in Spain with his dad, they also chose to stay in some hostels as a family. Sometimes you see whole families who have hired out rooms or groups of friends who have done the same. the variety of people you will meet is never ending and you’ll find that people want to have a chit-chat and find out about each others lives and travel experiences. This is especially so over a complimentary breakfast, which is usually a help-yourself to breads, yoghurts, fruits and coffee. It’s a good start to the day and you might meet someone over breakfast to do something with during the day.
Hostels often have lounges and bars where you can chill, chat, read, or talk to staff about things to do in the area. They also often have kitchens where you can cook and keep your food, another great way to save when traveling! I used the kitchen a lot in a hostel in Vancouver where I cooked up a a one pot wonder and kept it in a container to eat each evening. £10 for 3 nights of meals as opposed to 3 nights of eating out which could cost anything between £30-60. There are usually ample of spaces to chill and plug in electronics in hostels too and sometimes these spaces have a piano, reading book shelf and TV area. I even witnessed a guy set up a large computer screen with x box and begin to play games. People started joining in with him and it became the evenings entertainment.
Some hostels offer day trips which are often discounted or even free! I took a free trip out to Quarry Rock when staying in Vancouver, I only had to pay for my own public transport and a guide from the hostel lead us there, through the hike, and brought us back. She also took us to one of the best doughnut cafes in Vancouver- honeyz. I met another teacher from California on this trip and something that was really weird was two other girls from Germany who both met on this hike, who found out they were from the small town of Heidelberg in Germany and both went to the same university, what are the chances! I was even more interested because I had been to Heidelberg the Christmas before so it was interesting to find out how quirky and quaint Heidelberg really was to live in! The hostel I stayed at in Miami offered discount day trips to the Bimini island in the Bahamas. It included hostel transfers to the port, the ferry crossing and a wristband to use facilities at the Hilton Hotel for the day, all for just $110. I met a lovely teacher from The Canary Islands on this journey and we hired a golf caddie to explore the island on.
So many people ask me, how I’ve managed to afford to travel so much especially in this last year. There are a number of reasons to cutting costs one of them being using the campervan means we don’t have to pay for as much accommodation, but another big money saving tip when traveling is to use hostels. This is especially so when you are traveling solo.
Saving money is one of the more obvious pros to staying in a hostel over staying in a hotel. Even if you are budgeting for a hotel and looking for the cheapest, a hostel will usually be cheaper. This is especially so if you are travelling by yourself and only require one bed instead of paying for a whole room in a hotel. In America I’ve paid as little as £13 a night for a bed in a hostel, including breakfast. Again I paid only £11 a night for a hostel in Copenhagen, you can’t usually find a hotel for under £80 for the whole week. A hostel gives you many more money saving opportunities. This means more money left to spend on doing things in the city.
It depends on what kind of holiday or break you are looking for, for me I want to get out and see new places and I find that I rarely spend too much time in the hostel. Hostels don’t usually have the luxury of having swimming pools and spas, although I’ve been surprised at what some hostels do offer when I’ve searched around! I also find that you do have to bare in mind saving when traveling in pairs. When traveling solo you often get a, some would say, unfair extra fee slapped onto your hotel stay as you are often limited to choosing a room for 2 people when there is only yourself in this large double bed. I’m always left annoyed at myself for paying double when there is only myself using the facilities.
Overcoming the downsides to hostels
Just like hotels, you get different hostels so if the first hostel you stay in isn’t for you, don’t write them off straight away. I had a bad experience in a hostel in NY. It’s important to look online at reviews or ask around an area to see where the best hostels are in an area.
A hostel might not be a good idea for people who like their own space. When I first started using hostels I felt a little wary of having my own space and much preferred staying in hotels but over time I’ve realised it’s less lonely to stay in a hostel, if traveling alone, and it’s much cheaper! Over time I’ve become accustomed to sharing my space and actually really enjoy the community feel of space sharing. There are some hostels where you are given your own space. I stayed in a hostel in Vancouver where you had your own ‘bunker’ style bed. This meant that when the curtain was drawn you had your own mini lamp and charging point facilities. I felt quite cosy and comfortable.
Something else to consider is the safety of your things, as you don’t know the people you are sharing a room with. Most of the hostels I have stayed in, I have felt safe and comfortable to leave my bag on the bed when I went out but it is important to lock away your valuables. I lock away my electronics and extra cash and I always keep my passport on me when I go out. You will need to take your own pad lock and key with you, for the locker. Often they sell the locks at the hostels but they are usually expensive, so I always carry the same one with me. Lockers are usually placed inside the room you are sleeping in. I’m usually OK to leave my bag of clothes and towel out on the bed and you’ll find that others do the same. You kind of have to use your common sense and get a feel of where you are staying. Often hostels will keep your bags in a lockable storage cupboard with a ticket on it if you really feel uncomfortable leaving your less valuable things in the room when you go out.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m like any other person who likes to stay in nice hotels with a beachside pool or a spa, but when I stay in these places it’s because I like few days of chill time. Like when I have 4 nights in a beach hotel in Cancun so I could lay around the pool, enjoy the views and read my book. Or when we had the night in the Corinthia in London so that we could experience the spa for the afternoon. These experiences were amazing and chilled and totel relaxation time. But, my type of traveling is usually to see new places, get out and explore and I would feel bad if I had paid so much money on a swanky hotel only to then leave the facilities im paying for spending the whole time exploring. I prefer to keepo the two seperate, If I’m exploring then I’m more than happy with a hostel as my base. If I’m wanting a spa holiday and paying for a hotel, I will then choose to spend the majority of my time using the hotels facilities.
Overall many positives have come from me using hostels; staying in clean and friendly environments, being offered various day trips and courtesy breakfasts, seeing new places on a budget and meeting new people.