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If you’re young, possess little more than college student funds, and ventured out into the world minus parental units, chances are high you’ve stayed in a hostel. Commonly referred to as “youth hostels” because often they hold age restrictions for travellers staying with them, they are a necessary evil. Hostels are not all bad, and not all good, though with my parents they seem to always host a negative connotation. Here are 5 pros of staying in hostels (to soothe your parents’ minds) and 5 cons (so you know what you’re getting yourself into).
Though some hostels can cost as much as a hotel, as a rule of thumb they run much cheaper, which is what makes them so successful with solo backpackers. For most places in Europe you can find hostels costing €15-20 a night and in South America the average going rate is $7 a night, so you’re saving your money for better things (like delicious food).
I’ve had hostel-mates from all over the world, with every different kind of story, and every kind of language. In social hostels there is often a bar where travellers congregate, and if you’re taking your trip solo you get the chance to meet amazing like-minded people who might share your adventure with you the following day.
Instead of scrounging for hotels in the outskirts of a city, for half the price you can stay in a prime location and stop worrying about transportation and where you are going and focus on what’s really important. Exploring & getting lost!
I mean this in the best way possible. So if you’re staying in a hostel, they most likely already know what you’re looking for and can help you out. Need airport transportation? Some hostels offer this, and if they don’t can point you in the right direction. Need recommendations on food, things to do, the best place to experience local life? Just ask the person at the front desk. Usually this is someone living in the hostel for free in exchange for their work, so they understand where you’re coming from with ideas similar to yours. Often you can book excursions directly at the hostel desk, so if you’re planning on booking an activity, like skydiving or a hiking tour, check with your hostel first to see if they can get you a discount.
Most hostels require guests to vacate the rooms for several hours during the morning and early afternoon for cleaning purposes. This means no sleeping in and exploring the amazing city you are in! Bonus, if you’re hostel mates are weird and you don’t want to be around them, get out and be adventurous and avoid the crazies!
Cheap = basic. Think the bare necessities. Though you can score some amazing hostels with a cheap price, hostels are usually pretty minimalistic. Don’t expect 4 star quality when you’re paying a half star price. This doesn’t mean compromise yourself though, hostels should be clean and efficient- and if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable there is no shame in moving to another location.
It happens, and it sucks. But get out of the hostel and only deal with them when you have to. If someone is truly disrespectful or you feel unsafe, request to move to another room. On the other hand-if you’re just annoyed at their smelly feet, suck it up by avoiding them (and their stench) at all costs.
Breakfast, towels, (sometimes even linen), extra blankets, and more are going to cost you extra at a hostel. Don’t expect any free shampoo, conditioner, or soap, and expect to have to pay to borrow a blowdryer. Travel with the things you need, go without, or spend a little more money.
While this might not bother you for a short while, over extended periods of times it can get old quickly. Sharing a room with 4 strangers can be immensely taxing, and if your hostel doesn’t include an in-suite bathroom, you are going to be showering down the hall with 15-20 other girls. Think back to your college dorm days again, but this time with all completely different customs. Disaster waits around every bathroom stall… if there are stalls that is.
Most hostels put a curfew in place to protect their travellers and to limit desk time for their employees. This means you may sacrifice late nights out, and if you miss curfew you could be locked out of your hostel. The alternative is no curfew with people stomping through the hallways until the literal crack of dawn. Choose your vice wisely!