As someone who has stayed in plenty of hostels within the U.S and abroad, I can say there are plenty of wonderful features, and um, not so pleasant things. Hostels can be a great way to see the world and meet new people but have the potential to be a disastrous experience if you don’t know what you’re getting into. I hope this list will help you weigh your options and figure out if the hostel life is right for you.
Pro 1: The Price
One of the most obvious benefits of the hostel option is the price.You typically pay by the bed, aka per person, for each night. They are much less expensive than hotels if you’re willing to contend with some of the cons. Hostels are a popular choice for traveling students or for anyone traveling on a budget. If you’re someone who would rather spend your money on activities or simply are looking for more inexpensive travel options, hostels may be a good choice for you. Hostels can also vary in price per bed so it’s a good idea to check out a few different ones in the area to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.
Con 1: Lack of Privacy
The standard hostel room is a four to six-bed room which usually consists of bunk beds. I have some seen a couple here and there with a few eight or more beds per rooms if you’re up for the experience. I would suggest looking at website photos to get an idea of room layout so you’re able to better judge your comfort level. If you plan on being away from the room all day or are just a generally social person this might not be a problem at all. Sometimes it may be awkward if you’re a solo traveler rooming with another group. Sharing a room with someone during vacation can bring some of the same frustrations you may have experienced during your college years; when to turn the light off, partying, snoring etc. Many hostels do offer private rooms which are much more expensive than dormitory rooms, but often less expensive than your standard hotel room.
Pro 2: Kitchen
Some of my favorite travel memories take place in hostel kitchens. Besides being a great way to socialize or make interesting memories, they serve many practical uses. Most hostels come with fully equipped kitchens so you’re only in charge of buying the food you will eat. It’s pretty common for them to serve a breakfast so you’ll only need to worry about arranging plans for lunch and dinner. Of course eating local cuisine is one of the best parts of traveling, but we all know that eating out every meal can get expensive very fast. Having a hostel kitchen provides you with a great way to make your own food efficiently and stay on a budget. Prepare to wash your dishes and label your food. Another tip – many times there will be a “free to use” shelves for dry and fresh food. This shelf consists of food that was left by guests who have checked out but is still eatable. You can often find things like eggs, milk and condiments that you will be able to use during your stay.
Con 2: Communal Bathrooms
Even if you do manage to snag a private room, many hostels only provide communal bathrooms. While this isn’t a lovely experience for anyone, it isn’t so bad if you come prepared with a bathroom bag and shower shoes. A good way to judge the weight of this con is to read the reviews for the hostel you’re considering. People will be pretty open about cleanliness and when you’re sharing showers; that’s pretty important.
Pro 3: Meeting People from All Around the World
Because so many aspects of hostel life are communal you naturally get to know the people around you. This is really great way to hear cool stories, make new friends and get cool ideas for things that may not be in your travel book. Many young or solo travelers will often meet people in hostels and then continue their travels with the people they’ve met. I’ve had the chance to go to poetry readings, concerts and amazing restaurants because of my hostel companions. Meeting people from different cultures is an important part of traveling and expanding your world view and hostels only help add to this.
Con 3: Security
Hostels don’t provide you with a lock and key and you’re responsible for your own items. Because you’re sharing a room with potential strangers it’s important to be aware of this risk. You can easily find small padlocks at convenience stores or online that are intended for travel use. Some hostels may rent them out, but don’t count on it. I’ve personally never experienced theft in hostels outside of losing one travel pillow, but I’ve heard stories from people with worse luck. Many hostels do offer lockers to secure your belongings in so you can place the padlock on the locker instead of merely having it on the outside of your suitcase. I don’t find it necessary to put away every single item I own when I leave the room but it’s always a good idea to be careful with your valuables.
Pro 4: Activities
Many hostels, particularly ones in big cities, host their own tours or have arrangements with the local companies. You can often buy tickets right at the front desk. You find anything from pub crawls to walking tours around the city. The employees are usually very happy to offer suggestions that match your interest and budget. This is a great way to spend your first day in a new place so you can see the sights and get ideas for the rest of your trip. Many hostels often have common areas with pool tables, TVs and even small cafes. This is a great perk and a nice way to relax during your down time.
Con 4: Noise
Anywhere you stay in a city has the potential to be noisy. However, hostels are often very social environments and that “socializing” can sometimes last late into the night. I’m a night owl and in my early twenties so that’s not always a bad thing. A good way to avoid this problem is to not stay in youth hostels or “party” hostels. There are many hostels that are more family friendly and they tend to have quiet hours. If you’re someone who values your beauty rest or doesn’t enjoy the wild nightlife, consider they type of hostel you plan on staying at. If you’re someone who wants to experience the “party” hostel without committing for the whole trip you might want to try staying at a few different hostels throughout your stay.
Pro 5: Unique Experiences
Overall, you will get a one of a kind experience no matter you go. You will leave with amazing stories and get to participate in things outside of the average “touristy” plans. You may find yourself trying new things with new people you could never even imagined before departing from home. The communal and unique nature of hostel helps all these to happen on a greater scale. If you want something different and adventurous then this is a perfect fit. Fear not, there are plenty of cozy and low-key hostels if you crave the unique with a little less of the adventure.
Con 5: Curfews
This one is sort of a pro and a con. The hostels that do have curfews are often in big cities and have them in your place for your protection and well being. When a hostel has a curfew this means that their front doors will lock at a certain time and you will need your room key to get into the building. One of the advantages of staying in hotels is the ability to go to front desk at any time to get a replacement key if you lose yours. Another important thing to note is that many hostels will fine if you lose a key ( this varies depending on if you have a swipe card or a metal key). They will be pretty upfront about policies when you check-in but it’s always good to know in advance. This is coming from a serial key loser.
Now it’s up to you
Well, there are some of the reasons to stay (or not to stay) in hostels. I really believe that the pros greatly outweigh the cons. I’ve mostly stayed in hostels during my international travels and have found them to be an enriching experience that only added positivity to my trip. If you’re still on the fence, look out for a local hostel to try out the experience before committing to the lifestyle on a longer trip. Happy travels!