No, you didn’t read that title wrong; I have not been held hostage (as much as my lack of posting may suggest). On the contrary, I have been spending a fair amount of my time bouncing around from hostel to hostel, traveling about when I’m not cooped up in my room studying for upcoming finals. The past two weeks have been jam packed with lots of studying and coursework, as classes will be done by late April and my exams will be over early May. Time is really going by way too fast and I am in no way ready or prepared to leave this place. But rather than focusing on the ever-approaching future, I’d like to take some time to talk about something that has become quite familiar to me: hostels. Since I don’t have pictures of every single hostel I’ve ever stayed at, I’ll just provide you with this one picture of my fellow hostel friends and me from St. Patrick’s Day weekend in London to prove that I am still alive and well.
If you don’t know what a hostel is, it’s a sort of cheap hotel/lodging space generally used by students or younger travelers. Don’t get me wrong, you encounter all different kinds of people in hostels: families, students, workers, the elderly, etc. But generally speaking, you see a lot of younger students and travelers. Hostels provide plenty of different options for lodging from two-person private rooms to twelve-person dormitory suites, and your choice of room depends on how much you want to pay. If you’re a broke university student like myself, you’ll generally choose a six-person dorm. Now I know if you’ve never stayed in a hostel before and are used to the luxury of having your own private hotel room, the idea of sharing a room with 5+ complete strangers that may or may not speak your language could be extremely off-putting. However, I’m here to tell you that it’s not near as crazy as it sounds and to inform you of the positives of staying in a hostel.
Positive #1. You save TONS of money. So far I have stayed in nine different hostels in five different countries and the most I’ve paid for a night has been about $40 (and that’s only because it was in Switzerland-probably the most expensive country in Europe-and I made the reservation only a day ahead). Usually if you book a week or so in advance, you can find rooms for as little as $10/night. Granted as with any hotel or motel, a lot of things factor in to the price such as what city you’re in (big cities may be more expensive), which nights you’ll be staying (weekends are always more expensive), etc. But in general, you’ll find most any hostel to be cheaper than staying in a private suite.
Positive #2. Each hostel is totally unique. As hostels aren’t really a “chain” thing like a Holiday Inn or Motel 6, each one is individually designed to the city/area. Some hostels are really colorful and bright and hippy-ish, while others are sort of modern and chic. All the designs are different, and you never know what you’re going to get. This may be somewhat scary seeing as you could walk into a very strange environment, but I haven’t had a single bad experience at any of the hostels I have stayed at.
Positive #3. Hostels are very safe and secure. I know hotel rooms are as well, but honestly I don’t really think that they’re anymore safe than hostels. Although not knowing who your roommates are in a cheap room may seem daunting, it shouldn’t be. Each hostel I’ve stayed at has had a secure place for holding bags if you choose to use it, along with secure lockers in the rooms. Some hostels require you to have your own lock, but they’ll usually be for sale at the front desk for cheap as well. Now I’m not saying that you need to lock up all your stuff-I hardly ever do actually. Normally all of my roommates and I just leave our stuff out whenever we go out because honestly, all of the people we’ve stayed with have been decent people and we’ve felt comfortable doing so. However if you’re not quite as trusting as me, the security lockers are a nice plus.
Positive #4. You meet different people from all over the world. If you’re a total introvert, then maybe sharing a room with nine other people isn’t for you. But personally, I live off of meeting new people and hearing their stories. When you choose your hostel, you can usually choose if you want to be put in a room strictly just for women/men, or if you want to be put in a mixed room where you could be with either. I normally choose mixed rooms if I have the option because I don’t like limiting myself to meeting just other women (besides, six women in one room just seems like a lot for me). In my experiences, I have met people from England, America, Canada, Argentina, France, Germany, China, Spain, Australia, and other countries I can’t even recall. Not only did I get to make connections with all these different people so that I have connections in several different areas, but we shared advice on what to do/see in the current cities we were in, and even got to go out and explore together. Everyone I have met has been extremely friendly and welcoming and sharing rooms with them has felt normal, as if I were sharing a dorm room with friends back home.
I understand that the hostel life is not for everyone and if you can afford to spend $100+ on your own luxury suites, by all means do so! But if you’re on a budget, or even just looking to meet some different people while traveling, I would highly recommend giving hostels a chance. Who knows? You may just meet your next travel partner!