Okay, first of all hostels aren’t scary. Seriously people, quit giving me horrified looks when I talk about staying in a hostel. That stupid movie is not indicative of anything beyond Hollywood’s ability to gore-ify everything in the universe.
Hostels are awesome. They provide amenities that most hotels lack and are a source of great new travel buddies. And most importantly, they are CHEAP.
However, the very nature of hostels requires a special outlook. And that, my dears, can be summed up in one rule.
You get what you pay for when it comes to hostels. This is rule number one.
Now, there are plenty of spotlessly clean hostels in renovated buildings with brand-new Ikea furniture. And then there is the majority. The buildings are often older. The furniture is eclectic at best, broken-down at worst. And many have a loose definition of “clean.”
A hostel can be in an old drafty building. The rooms can lock poorly or not at all. The heating or air conditioning depends on your luck. And BUNK BEDS OF DOOM are the normal sleeping situation.
If you fear being alternately crushed by your plummeting bunkmate, or falling off a shaky, shaky top bunk, I’m sorry. You’re not getting out of it. Hostels make their money by shoving many people into small rooms; bunk beds are the logical result in 95% of the hostels in Europe. I’ve only had ONE break on me over the years and I was the one falling. Onto my friend’s head.
If you are staying in a hostel, you are probably broke. Which means you pick the cheapest room possible. That means dorm rooms with shared bathrooms. “Dorm” may bring to mind visions of those tiny cramped college rooms, and the comparison is accurate. Including the clumps of mystery hair that infest the shower.
Now in a hostel, the larger dorm rooms are the cheapest. Which in practice means sharing that €12 room with 9, 11, or 13 other people. One of them will snore. Two will hog the bathroom (more if you decide that an all-female dorm sounds appealing. A word to the wise: it is no safer and only means more blow dryers at ungodly morning hours). At minimum, three will have different sleep schedules than you AND make more noise than a drunk rhino when they get up.
Speaking of drunk rhinos…If you’ve really pissed off the hostel gods, that ONE drunk person will be your roommate and stagger in puking or something equally fun.
*Note: If you don’t know who that drunk person is, it’s probably you.*
On the other hand, the drunk asshole is offset by all the really cool people you will meet. Travels are often social and love to chat. You can easily make new friends and drinking buddies. I usually travel alone and have never stayed at a hostel where I didn’t meet cool people. For example, I recently met 2 German students who’d just road-tripped to Andalucía, Aussies in the middle of a 6-month European Adventure, and a Chinese guy bumming until his money ran out.
Besides the cool people, there are immediate practice advantages to hostels. They have a kitchen–where your broke self can cook dinner and make sandwiches for midday picnics. They have wifi and usually computers available so you can check when your bus/train is due. And they will always have a common area where you can lounge, drink wine, and possibly smoke (I have even enjoyed a hookah at one lovely place in Madrid). Hostels also often host pub crawls and city tours, and the receptionist is paid to tell you where all the cool places are!
Basically, hostels are great! And no, concerned friends, I am not going to be stabbed.
To Be Continued in…My Hostel Must-haves