Why should you stay in a hostel – I thought the reasons on why you should were self-explanatory but apparently, they aren’t. So let me give you some fantastic reasons to stay in a hostel.
Now, I know some of you are saying – “Seriously why would you want to stay in a hostel, ewwww” and don’t get me wrong, this is a very valid reaction to have. Hostels can be overcrowded, noisy, dirty, unsafe and uncomfortable…. But then so are some hotels. There is a huge difference between a bad hotel and a good hostel – but if you find a GREAT hostel then there are some massive plusses to staying there.
- It’s cheap – as I am yet to win the lotto this is a huge plus
- If you are travelling alone – it’s a great place to meet people due to the room sharing and communal areas
- Local Information – Those who work in hostels are usually backpackers themselves and so have gathered a wealth of information on what they think would be useful – they usually let you pick their brains for the price of a beer!
- Location – there are always great hostels in the location you really want to stay at, usually two streets over from the 5-star hotel whereas the budget hotel is generally about three bus rides away.
- There is something for everyone!
There is an art to choosing the right hostel, though it’s something that is learned from experience rather than a blog. Once you have stayed in a few you learn how to spot them and steer clear!
Stay in a hostel with a great location
One of my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE hostels (big call I know) is Bumbles in Queenstown. When I looked at the map of where it’s located it appeared to be slightly out of town. As I was travelling on my own and so wanted to ensure that I wasn’t too far outside the thick of things. However, I decided to chance it and trust my gut that it wasn’t that far and that those people who wrote the reviews were wusses!
It paid off. The hostel was less than a 2-minute walk from the centre of town (though Queenstown isn’t that big so most places are a 2-minute walk from the centre). As it wasn’t in the middle though, it was a little quieter at night. Best of all, it was on the opposite side of the town to big hotels and had beautiful unrestricted views of the lake framed by ice-capped mountains.
Staying in a hostel is cheaper
Cost is relative, decide what your safety and a good nights sleep are really worth. I have stayed in some flea-bitten places – literally (check out my post about surviving bed bugs for some tips if this happens to you). What I have discovered is that no matter how much money you might be saving – if the place is uncomfortable or unsafe it isn’t worth it.
In Vang Vieng, I stayed in a tree house style hostel called SpicyLaos. Those we had met on the South East Asia circuit recommended it as a great place to get the full tubing experience… we stayed two nights there before we grabbed our stuff and splashed out on a hotel room. It wasn’t the bugs or the fact that your pack was sitting in the dust so you couldn’t lug it up to your bunk. Or even the makeshift bathrooms that reminded me of an old-fashioned Australian outhouse. We didn’t feel safe. Vang Vieng hadn’t quite reached the infamy that it now has when I was there – but it wasn’t far off. After a few red bull buckets, you wanted a place where you could feel safe and secure – not have random people walking through at all hours in all states.
My advice is to always read the reviews and see what your money is getting you. Over the years I have stayed in some truly amazing hostels at great prices. I staying in one hostel in Playa Del Carmen that had a pool on the roof, but it did have a karaoke bar next door that had people singing terribly until the wee hours of the morning.
Making friends is easy when you stay in a hostel
Travelling alone is never easy but can be hugely rewarding. When I was at university I participated in the Student Exchange program and headed to San Diego in Southern California – or SoCal. If there is one thing you should do at Uni – that’s it! My first week in Sunny SD was in Hostel USA – I chose it because everywhere else was booked out. Just my luck! That first night I met two others who were participating in the same program as me and heading to SDSU, instant friends! Next, I met one of the girls who worked on reception – who were in charge of “fun”. And fun is what was had – there was a pub crawl, a beach trip, a sea world trip, a taco Tuesday and dress up party. When I left for my dorm room a week later I was no longer travelling on my own. Find a place with great staff, it can change everything!
Some of the people you meet can become your travel buddies (however, check out my post about getting to know your travel companion before you decide to spend a week with them). In Tulum, Mexico, I was having a little difficulty finding my hostel. I was wandering the streets in the vague location of where I thought the hostel was. Looking up I saw another woman doing the same thing. We promptly joined forces (and maps) to find the place. From that chance encounter I had met a like-minded soul, for the next 2 months, we met up continuously as we backpacked Central America.
Stay in a hostel to get the best local advice
Generally, those who run hostels are a travellers dream. They are friendly, happy and fountains of knowledge. Whether you are looking for the best pancakes in Dubrovnik (thanks Hostel Villa Angelina) or want an authentic Vietnamese imperial feast (cheers Hue Sport 2) having someone point out the way or give you that insiders tip can change a trip.
When I look at the reviews of a place I always look to see what people say about the staff. When I arrive at the hostel, I always make sure I am polite and courteous to the people who work there, no matter how tired of cranky I am. The best advice I can give you is to ask questions. Most people love answering and sharing their local knowledge, so take advantage of that. And always make sure you give feedback, if you loved the bar they recommended, tell them. If you found another great place right next door, tell them that as well. It will help them when they advise the next traveller.
There is a hostel for everyone
I am no longer a 20 something backpacker. I am now a 30 something backpacker, and proud of it. However, this does mean that my priorities have changed when I look for a great place to stay. When I was in my 20’s I cared about the nightlife and the checkout times. Now I care that it is quiet and has good local advice. Thankfully, due to ever increasing the cost of living and globalisation, there are enough 30 something, 40 something and 50 something backpackers out there to ensure that the quieter version of a hostel is available. So don’t worry about being too old, staying in hostels is for everyone.