Some of the most frequently asked questions that I get is”what is a hostel?” and “what’s the difference between a hostel and a hotel?” I’m also asked questions like”is it safe to stay at a hostel?” or my favorite one “Are hostels full of homeless people?”
No, hostels are not full of homeless people! Hostels are typically designed for independent travelers like myself. The concept of a hostel is to make an affordable accommodation where guests can be comfortable and meet fellow backpackers and where they can share valuable travel information.
This post will give you an idea of what to expect from a hostel. I will also tell you about some upsides and downsides of staying at a hostel. I will not get into too much detail on hostels in this post because this topic will eventually evolve into a category.
Hotel V.S. Hostel
A hotel usually costs 5 to 10 times more than a hostel. In a hotel, you have the entire room to yourself, and you usually have a private bathroom/shower. However, I often find that if I stay in a hotel, it’s very hard to meet fellow travelers unless the hotel is known for being a common place for backpackers to stay.
A hostel is a very economical form of accommodation, especially for long-term travelers, and you meet a lot of fellow backpackers. Meeting like-minded people can be great if you want to find new travel companions or to get some useful travel tips for your onward travel.
A typical hostel room will have between 4-12 beds in one area. It is usually bunk style beds. Most rooms have a storage locker for each person so that you can lock up your valuables. Some hostel rooms have an ensuite that is shared between everybody in the room, or there will be multiple bathrooms outside of the rooms.
In countries with hot climates, most hostel rooms will have A/C or fans to keep the room cool. You can find out all this information on hostel booking websites like HostelWorld, Hostel Bookers, or Trip Advisor.
Some hostels have great social areas while others are only average. I like the hostels that have couches and lots of social areas where you can meet people. Most hostels have a TV with movies or Netflix, and some hostels even have bars and restaurants.
Hostels are very inexpensive. A night in a hostel can cost between $5USD to $30USD depending on where you are.
Share Travel Information
You can meet a lot of like-minded travelers. Most people are going to, or have been to the same places that you’re going to. You can meet individuals who have been somewhere you want to go, and they can give you some helpful advice on your next destination.
Meet Other Travelers
If you’re traveling alone, it’s easier to find other people to travel with to your next destination if you stay in a hostel. If you want to have a few drinks and go out to the bars, it is always a lot more enjoyable and safer to go with a group from the hostel.
Hostels usually have daily and nightly events or activities. These events could be a happy hour special, an economical dinner option like a BBQ, or a group tour that is often cheaper than the local tour companies.
Excellent Internet/Bilingual Staff
Fast Internet and English speaking staff are not always a guaranteed, but most modern hostels will invest in a good internet plan, and they will hire bilingual staff. I find this very helpful in places like Central and South American where English is not commonly spoken. It’s good to get onward travel information in a language you can understand.
Downside Of Hostels
You must share a room with many people. You will need to prepare yourself for a lot of annoying things that may happen for example people snoring, or drunks returning from the bar at 3 a.m. turning on the lights and talking loud! These things can disturb your sleep so bring ear plugs!(I think most backpackers including myself are guilty of being one of these annoying people from time to time. I always say “it’s all part of the adventure!”)😉
Depending on the hostel, you may need to wait to use the shower or washroom. Mornings can be the busiest times. Good hostels have a lot of facilities, but other hostels have limited facilities. It always pays to read the reviews on HostelWorld, Hostel Bookers, and Trip Advisor. If a hostel lacks in the service area, somebody will most likely mention it in the reviews.
Curfew Or House Rules
Some hostels have a curfew. Most are 24 hours. You can always find out the general rules of a hostel from the booking websites.
Too Social Or No Atmosphere
Some hostels are full of people who just want to party all night. The noise, smell of smoke, and people coming in and out of the room can be annoying if you are traveling solely for site seeing.
Some hostels are geared more towards travelers who want a quiet place to stay. This type of hostel can be a big disappointment for somebody who may want to socialize and meet people to travel with.
Reviews are great! No matter what you prefer for an accommodation atmosphere the quiet type, party type or perhaps somewhere in between, this information will help you choose the hostel that will suit you best. And it is a good idea to read several reviews for each hostel. People tend to get a little carried away with what they write in the reviews; their expectations can be high sometimes. I find that if several people say the same thing about a hostel, then it is more likely to be an accurate statement.
I like to mix my hostels up because I usually travel for five months at a time. I find it nice to balance some quiet time with time to socialize.
Cleanliness May Vary
Cleanliness is only as good as the guests that are staying at the hostel. When you share a bathroom with 4-20 people is can get messy. Some hostels clean a few times a day, while others are only once a day. So you just have to remind yourself that you get what you pay for! Reviews will help you with Cleanliness standards of a hostel.
I suggest that if you haven’t stayed at a hostel before to try staying at one in your home city or somewhere close. This way you can get a feel for this kind of travel culture before you plan any long-term budget trip.
If you find that the hostel lifestyle is not for you, I would suggest traveling in South East Asia or Central America where a budget hotel only costs $10USD – $15USD. Perhaps you could mix a trip with a combination of hotels and hostels.
If you have any questions on hostel life or anything else related to traveling, then feel free to email me. firstname.lastname@example.org.