If you’ve never stayed at a hostel before, you may have a preconceived notion about what they are. Most people assume they’re made up of dorm-like rooms with bare bones beds and not much else. While many do offer basic shared rooms with multiple bunks, you can also find that staying at a hostel can be rather luxurious and most offer at least some private rooms. In fact, a report by Hostelworld.com found that 9 in 10 have private rooms in addition to traditional shared or dorm rooms.
In nearly all cases, hostels are the least expensive accommodation available to travellers, bringing the opportunity for people from Los Angeles to Charlotte to travel the world on a tight budget.
Here’s what else you need to know about staying in a hostel.
You’ll Meet People of All Ages When Staying in Hostels
While the majority of hostel guests tend to be between the ages of 18 and 25, people young and old, families and single travellers, choose to stay in hostels.
It’s really not as uncommon as you might think to check in and meet a 60-year-old woman who’s been travelling the world solo. There is no roommate matching system, but that just brings the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life with varying experiences and backgrounds.
What Hostels Provide
At minimum, a hostel provides you with a bed and shared bathroom facilities. Most have lockers and/or storage areas and free Wi-Fi, at least in common areas, and some may offer a variety of amenities like kitchen facilities, laundry services, board games and computers. If you can find a hostel that has a kitchen, you can significantly reduce your travel costs by making your own meals. Some may even provide a basic breakfast, but most of the time it’s not much more than toast (or bread you’ll toast yourself), jam, fruit and coffee.
Towels are only rarely provided, so you may want to bring a lightweight microfiber travel towel that you can easily travel with – just remember to pack your hostel essentials.
Staying in a Shared Dorm Room
If you plan to stay in a shared dorm room, don’t forget the earplugs or you’re likely to be woken up by someone who snores loud, a drunk roommate who stumbles in at 3 a.m., or someone up rustling bags around at 5 a.m. for an early flight. If you snore, warn everyone in advance to give them permission to throw a pillow at you if it gets to be too much.
Staying at a party hostel means little to no sleep at all, so be sure to read the reviews and description of the hostel. Some good clues are hostels with bars or hostels that host pub crawls. It’s going to be loud and it can be lots of fun if you’re prepared to go without sleep.
A Bonus for Solo Travelers
For solo travellers, hostels provide the added bonus of having a setting that makes it easy to meet friends, and possibly future travel partners. Even if you’re an introvert and normally have a hard time making friends, hostels tend to be social places filled with lots of like-minded people who love to travel, while the communal kitchens and common areas are designed to help you meet others, making it much easier.