One of the most important aspects of any kind of travel is having a place to rest your head at the end of the day – especially if you’ve been exploring by foot the whole time. And if you’re like me, all you’re after is having a clean set of sheets and at least some excuse for a mattress to fall onto.
But, for whatever reason, some young people I’ve talked with are absolutely mortified by the idea of staying in a hostel. Should we be thanking Eli Roth for instilling a sense of sheer terror in us at the thought of staying in a hostel? Probably. But people, come on, it’s just a movie. Of all the hostels I’ve stayed in, I’ve never once feared for my life. In fact, staying in hostels can be one of the most exciting parts of your trip if you do it right.
Or maybe it’s the ick factor? Sure, there are plenty of dingy hostels out there. In fact, I stayed at one while I was in Prague. Let’s just say that my friends and I decided not to shower for the few days that we were staying there – and we felt cleaner that way. But that one hostel did not deter us from staying at others. You simply need to scout out the hostels that best suit you and your preferences.
So between the fright factor and the ick factor, some young people think that hotels are the only way to travel. Then when they see just how expensive most hotels are, they opt out of traveling and decide they simply can’t afford to do it. But fear not, I’m here to tell you that hostels are simply a backpacker’s best friend for more reasons than one.
So without further ado, here’s my list of 10 reasons why you should always opt for a hostel over a hotel.
1. They cost less – This is a no brainer. Hostels are cheaper than hotels simply because they can afford to be. Hotels are all about fluff and flare, while hostels are about functionality. You stay at a hostel to sleep, clean up, and move on.
2. They are part of the backpacking experience – I simply cannot imagine staying at hotels while backpacking. At least not a “nice” one. Hostels should be just as much a part of your transient adventure as your 30L backpack. Hostels are symbolic. They represent passage, frugality, and that simplistic nomadic quest that most backpackers are after.
3. They are all unique – Every hostel you stay in is different. Unlike hotel chains, hostels are typically independent businesses that are as original as the people that walk through the door looking for a bed. Each hostel has its own character; its own personality. Hotels, with their plain white walls and disinfectant-scented hallways, are usually cold and unwelcoming.
4. Good vibes are in the air – When you walk into a hostel, nearly everyone there is simply loving life. Most backpackers don’t write up itineraries or feel the need to have their trousers pressed for the next day – no, see at hostels, people are laid back and enjoying everything in the moment. At hotels, you’ll rarely come across such a colorful, vibrant group of individuals all in one place.
5. Amenities – Every hostel I’ve stayed in has had an open kitchen area for everyone to share. And in many cases, shelves were stocked with utensils and even some food staples like pasta and spices. Shared kitchens can be really fun when people decide to make meals together.
6. They feel like home – Hostels definitely have a warmer, cozier atmosphere than most hotels. While, yes, backpacking is all about seeing and exploring new places, it’s nice to come back to your hostel at the end of the day and feel at home. As I mentioned above, most hostels have open kitchens that you can use whenever you’d like. Or you can lounge around in the common area and relax with a good book.
7. The staff is awesome – I can honestly say that all the hostel workers I’ve interacted with have been incredibly awesome. Unlike hotel staff, with their tidy suits and neatly pinned hair, hostel workers are usually really laid back and friendly. And more often than not, are totally down with throwing back a few beers with you once their shift is over. The Sunflower Hostel in Berlin, Germany, has some of the best staff that I’ve encountered. I’ll never forget the night my friend Rachel and I sat outside with a bunch of backpackers and some hostel staff on the 4th of July, sharing stories and enjoying some good German beer. It was one of my favorite nights from that backpacking trip.
8. Valuable travel advice – Hotels usually have affiliate connections with restaurants and other tourist destinations. On the other hand, hostel employees will share awesome travel tips while getting nothing in return. They will even warn you about certain scams out there that are targeted toward young naive travelers. Simply put, hostels have your back.
9. Community – This is my favorite aspect of staying in hostels. No matter where you are, who you are, or how long you’ve been backpacking, you will always be surrounded with community-minded people at hostels. Sure, there will always be those individuals who like to claim their bed and pass out for the night without ever saying a word to the other travelers. But 9 times out of 10, hostels are filled with like-minded individuals who are all about making new friends and sharing their exciting stories from the road.
10. And most importantly – Because you won’t be writing a blog post a year later about all the great memories you made at the hotels you stayed at.
So there you have it – 10 reasons why you should give hostels a shot. Remember to do your research – no two hostels are the same and none are created equal. But one thing is for sure, no matter what hostel you stay at, you’ll always have a story to tell.
If you’d like to read more about my backpacking adventures through Europe, check out my blog post “7 Weeks of Backpacking Through Europe” at Tiny Pilgrim.
the stupidity of this post and this blog is beyond what can be described in words…
OMG, yes — my 24 year-old younger brother still insists I stay away from Russian chicks in Hostels because of that movie! He’s an affable, uber-driver/pilot/roller-skating-DJ, and he always makes friends instantly, but STILL he’s nervous about hostels. The risk of the unknown will do that to some people. Why is it so hard to tell these young whippersnappers that risk creates an element of excitement and of reward? Anyway, hosteling is tame compared to couchsurfing.
You’re absolutely right – it’s the unknown that scares us. And you’re also right about the risk-reward element! If we knew exactly what to expect at all times, adventures simply wouldn’t exist.
Everything you wrote sums up for me as hostels are the best experience for their value. Which I completely agree. I think every traveler old or young should try the hostel experience at least once in their journeys.
Hey John! Yes, I absolutely agree. The hostel experience is one that everyone should have.
I think a mix of hotels and hostels are the best. Normally after an international loonghaul flight, I prefer to stay in a hotel the firsts night, especially if it is in a country that doesn’t speak English. With a hotel, the bed is comfortable, all the taxis and bus drivers and what not will know where the Sheraton or Hilton or Marriott is in town whereas knowing the location of hostels is a hit or miss. At this point I’m jetlagged and just want to rest and get a good shower. Oh and getting the hotel toiletries are useful too since I can reuse them for the hostel stay. After napping, I would then checkout the hostels nearby and see firsthand what they look like. I’d visit 2-3 and if I see one is clean and in a safe neighborhood, I would checkin there the next day.
Hey Joey – I totally feel you on preferring a hotel after a long-haul flight. When you touch down in a new country, generally the first thing you want to do is go unload your pack wherever you’re staying and maybe relax for a little bit. The last thing you want to have to do is spends hours locating your hostel – because you’re right… those can be tricky to find. You are definitely spot on about the perks of staying at a hotel first, then continuing with hostels later on. And I absolutely love the idea of getting the toiletries and having them with you.
I like your travel philosophy! The pictures and hostel recommendations/highlights are particularly useful.
Hey s.guinness! Thanks! And I’m super happy to hear that you found this post useful. If you ever find yourself in Berlin, Germany, check out the Sunflower Hostel. It’s awesome and the staff really is wonderful. St. Christopher’s in Berlin is nice too. A little more fast-paced and more of a party scene there, but it’s still a great place to stay.
For me, hostels give you a chance to meet people who are also travelers. When I was traveling in Budapest, I opted to stay in a hostel because I was traveling alone. I made friends there with a cohort of Welsh women who have since become good friends. (I actually went to visit them a few months ago.) There are other memories I have of hostel stays… including more… ahem… exposure to the sex lives of some of the others staying in the hostel, but that’s part of the experience. Also, I’ve found that, in some countries, hostels have the most consistently reliable internet.
Hey Aaron! Yes, hostels are awesome for making friends. That’s so great that you stayed in touch with the Welsh women you met in Budapest! How awesome! I can relate… I’ve met people while backpacking who have become my best friends. Isn’t traveling the best?
I’ll be honest … I’m not a backpacker, not even a little bit, but I wish I had spent more of time younger time traveling like this. Great write-up and I’ve passed this on to a few friends that are skeptics; I think it’ll make a few converts.