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.