Hostel: A type of hotel that typically offers super cheap rates, by creating rooms with dorm bunk beds, instead of private rooms.
The question of whether or not to use hostels when traveling is a highly debated one. I know before I used them regularly in Europe, I couldn’t imagine being comfortable sharing my personal space like that. While hostels are definitely not for everyone (having a laid back personality is a good starting point), here are some things you might not know about the hosteling world.
Hostels are not just for kids. There are people of all ages at hostels and while the demographics definitely lean towards the younger set (18-24) this can vary from property to property. And if you were wondering if you were too old to go, you can put those fears aside.
You get what you research. The best hostels are often booked months in advance. Using a site like HostelWorld.com not only lets you search for hostels that have the amenities you want, you can also read reviews from other travelers. While I would caution against just picking the highest rated (might also have the least reviews) you’ll find that it’s easy to spot negative trends in the comments. If 5 of the last 10 reviewers mention a bug problem, then you might want to stay away.
It’s not all party all the time. In this case it depends, but for many hostels, there are “quiet hours”. If you’re looking for a quieter place to lay your head, then you might want to avoid hostels with built in bars.
Sleeping on a bunk bed isn’t your only option. Most hostels offer several versions of the same thing: bunk beds (6 to a room, 8 to a room, 10 to a room or female only rooms). But a good percentage (maybe half) also offers privates. If you’re traveling alone, these can be a little pricey (if the bunks are $10, then the private will be about $25-30). Well worth the cost, if you want privacy. If you’re traveling with others, the cost of a private might be only a few dollars more than individual bunks.
A good hostel experience can add to your trip. There are lots of clean hostels, located in great spots in Europe. And the people there can be interesting too. Some of the highlights from trips I’ve taken have been coming home to the hostel, only to discover that someone cooked pasta for everyone. We spent the early evening eating together, sharing stories (everyone was from a different country) and laughing.
The entire hostel experience is hinged together by the travelers who use it. If it was full of abusive drunks who kept you up all night and trashed the room, then no one would use it. And while there are people who don’t get it, what you’re more likely to find is an international group of folks—some straight out college, others at retirement age—who all try to be respectful and share in the joy that is travel.
Have you used a hostel? What was your experience?
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