A common misconception about traveling is that it’s too damn expensive. People feel that you need an unlimited supply of money to travel on the cheap. Money’s tight? Don’t know how you’re going to make your dollars stretch between all your travel expenses? Where are you going to stay? The answer. Hostels. Hostels are the perfect option for the money-minded traveler. Now, if you haven’t had much experience traveling or are just repulsed by staying in a room with a bunch of strangers, you’ve got it all wrong.
We’re going to squash some of the misconceptions you may have about hostels. Now, the following events do occur on the rare occasion. Sometimes you get a hair in your food at a restaurant, too. It’s part of life. I’ve stayed in over 50 hostels in my life and I’ll tell you these events are more of an anomaly than the actual norm.
Dispelling 5 Myths About Hostels
You Can’t Sleep in a Room with a Bunch of Strangers
Did you ever live in a dorm room your freshman year of college? Did you know those people prior to moving in and committing to a semester or two of living together? How about ever going away to summer camp? Did you not share a cabin with a bunch of kids you didn’t know? Even if you didn’t do any of those things, staying in a room with people you’ve never met is completely fine.
At the end of the day, you’re all on a budget and just need a place to lay your head. Oftentimes, hostels are just spots to sleep, shower, and plan out your day so you could actually explore the place that you’re visiting. If you’re brave enough to travel solo, as I just did to Europe, hostels are the places you’ll make friends for the day. The highlights of my trip were often spent with people I met that day, whether they were in my room or if I met them in the common area. While some activities are fun alone, it’s always better when you have a companion, especially one you just met. Not to mention, you can stop taking selfies because you came up on a personal photographer!
People Will Steal Your Stuff
When you travel, you carry around a bunch of crap. People are too concerned about their own crap to want to steal yours, too. Like anything, you have to be smart about storing your stuff. 90% of the time, hostels will have lockers for you to store your important belongings. Now, I believe I did get my wallet stolen out of a hostel while staying in Spain. You could never know for sure. Lesson learned. I wasn’t careful enough about protecting it. At the end of the day, protecting your stuff is on you.
If you truly care about something like your iPhone, laptop, tablet, or sweet North Face jacket, you’ll find a way to not lose it. Invest in a lock and carry it around all the time. There are even sweet little locks for your bags and purses to deter thieves from picking your pockets.
You’ll Walk in on People Having Sex
It’s late. People come back drunk and want to have some fun. Maybe you’ve been there. While you may walk in on someone, the occasion is rare. Just as you don’t like strangers watching you get down, they don’t want to be caught with their pants down either. Pun intended. I can’t speak for everyone, but the majority of humans prefer privacy. They’ll often take it to the bathroom if need be.
Now, on the off occasion that you do walk in on two people you don’t know, guess what? You can close the door and come back in idk… 15 minutes. Go chill in the common area and introduce yourself to some fellow travelers. Maybe talk to the cute girl/guy working at the front desk and ask how they ended up there. When you get back to the dorm, the ice has already been broken with your roommates.
Bed Bugs are a For Sure Thing
This varies from every corner of the globe, but I have yet to experience bed bugs in any of my travels. I’ve traveled to Southeast Asia, Costa Rica, and Europe so I still have many, many places to see, but I’d say over 50 hostels is a fair sample. Though I have yet to experience it, you do hear about bed bugs in hostels from other travelers. That is disgusting! Blacklist this place on TripAdvisor and Hostelworld by writing some terrible reviews so the rest of us know never to stay there!
This one guy was telling me how he woke up with tons of bites after staying in a hostel in Krakow, Poland. He said they ended up refunding him for the 2 nights he stayed there though, so I guess that’s good?
Just pay attention to reviews before you stay somewhere. Usually the big complaints about the rooms are that they’re too hot or cold. Also, some of the mattresses can be extremely uncomfortable. If you could feel springs in your back, it’s probably time to throw out that mattress. The pillows often have no support either. It’s a side effect of being cheap. A travel neck pillow can help alleviate the discomfort.
Hostel Kitchens are Filthy and Badly Equipped
A big advantage to staying in a hostel over a hotel is that you actually get access to a kitchen. That means more money on activities and adventures and less money on eating out at restaurants. Going to the market and picking out your own food takes away time from exploring a place, but if you’re thin on cash or just want to save, it’s a cheaper option. If you plan on being somewhere for a few days, then you can keep your stuff in the hostel fridge. Label your items with a sharpie and date so they don’t get taken.
Oftentimes, these fridges are packed and stuff may have been sitting there for weeks with the guests long gone. That means FREE FOOD! The staff likely hasn’t taken the time to clean it out. It really varies from place to place. Some hostels are more on top of it than others. If you’re trying to get some free food though, use it to your advantage. Most kitchens have a cabinet of free food to just take. I guarantee you there’s pasta in there! It never fails.
Again, some hostels are better than others. Shelling out the extra few bucks could guarantee you a more comfortable stay and make sure your needs are met in the kitchen. Some hostels may not have kitchens so if that’s a deal breaker for you, on to the next one.
Do Your Research
There are tons of reviews of hostels over on Hostelworld. If cost, atmosphere, and location are most important to you, then read reviews up and down to find your perfect spot. The best option is talking to other travelers and finding out their recommendations.
On the European circuit, you meet so many people who just arrived from the place you’re going. I was headed up from Croatia to Budapest, Prague, Berlin, and Amsterdam, and so many people were going the opposite way. Just talking to others and asking for recommendations on where to stay and what to do saved me hours of planning time.
When you need a break from hostels, book an Airbnb or guesthouse. These places don’t have the social atmosphere, but you can at least get some peace and quiet. Cheaper options are usually further out from the city center depending on where you are. The privacy can’t be beat though. You get a little spoiled. No lie.
Another option that I honestly have yet to try is Couchsurfing. These are locals who offer you a couch or extra bed to sleep in. It’s all part of the travel ecosystem. You would do something in exchange for them like cook them dinner or take them out for a drink. Ladies have to be more cautious of this because there are some creeps out there, but I’ve heard some good things about it. This is especially great if your wallet’s thin.
Book a Hostel Today
Not only have I stayed in hostels in 17 different countries now, but I’ve also stayed in quite a few here in the states. While they’re typically more expensive here, running about $30-40 a night and even higher during big events like festivals, the locations can’t be beat. They’re often around the corner from high priced hotels in the city center.
I stayed in hostels in both Austin and Portland and hardly had to take Ubers anywhere because of the prime location near all the bars, restaurants, and sites. If you aren’t ready to test the hostel waters abroad just yet, dip your feet in stateside and see how much money you’ll save on your next trip. There’s so much to see in this world so get out and explore!