Looking for a great travel experience but want to keep your costs down? Hitting the road solo and looking to meet fellow travelers? Or are you just bored of the typical hotel experience and looking for something new? If any of these ring true then you’re in the right place. I have stayed at many hostels across the world and can say that some of my most amazing experiences are due to the locals and fellow travelers I met while staying at a hostel.
Hostels can be very different from your typical hotel experience. If you’re new to the hostel scene and not sure where to begin, then you probably have some questions. Luckily for you, we have answers! Keep reading to learn more about how to approach your next hostel stay.
Which is Better – Dorm-Style or Private Room?
This often comes down to personal preference and budget. If you’re traveling with a group of friends and you will all be on similar schedules and trust each other, then dorm-style is an effective way to save money and share a larger room together. However, if you are either traveling solo, looking for a quieter experience and/or have the budget flexibility, a private room will give you your own space. And don’t worry, going with the private room won’t prevent you from meeting others. Hostels almost always have common areas where fellow travelers can meet, hang out and plan activities together.
Where Can I Find Hostel Reviews?
To find the best hostel for you, online reviews are the way to go. The place to start is Hostel World. You can sort rankings by different metrics and read credible reviews by people who have actually stayed there. You can also search on Google for individual hostels, and often find reviews on TripAdvisor and other sites as well. This is an effective way to learn more about different options in your city of choice.
How Safe are Hostels?
Many newcomers to the world of hostels have questions about security. When traveling, especially if you’re alone, questions about your safety are very important. That said, I have never had anything but very positive and safe experiences at hostels. Most will provide lockers for guests to secure their valuables. This comes in especially handy if you’re staying in a dorm-style room, so you can keep track of your belongings when you’re out exploring or partying. You can also bring a personal baggage lock just in case. If you have a private room, it will be even safer and you can lock your door each time you leave the hostel.
Can I Meet Others at Hostels?
If you’re interested in meeting fellow travelers, you’re in the right place! You can even look at the “atmospheric” ratings on Hostel World to see how social a given hostel is. However, almost all hostels have common areas where you can hang out and meet travelers from all over the world! And most travelers staying in hostels are looking to meet new people too. Introduce yourself and share your plans for the day. Chances are, they’ll join you or invite you to hang out with them.
It’s also common for hostels to provide information about tours, day trips and other activities. Participating in activities like these give you another opportunity to meet and connect with fellow travelers as well.
What About Cooking?
If you’re looking to further reduce your travel expenses, then cooking can be cost conscious and fun. Many hostels have communal kitchens complete with appliances, pots and pans, and other supplies. You’ll just have to buy the food, which will give you the opportunity to visit local markets and experience new flavors. I always recommend that people visit a grocery store while on a trip to check out local foods. When I traveled to Turkey I bought a bunch of food and wine, and wound up spending the evening enjoying it with new friends in the hostel. The owner even prepared the food Turkish style, and we hung out drinking his local wine that evening.
What Activities Are Available?
Depending on where you’re staying, your hostel might either directly offer excursions such as day tours, or at least provide more information about how to sign up for such activities. When in Europe, for example, our hostel provided us information about free walking tours that were fantastic. Who says sightseeing needs to be expensive?! And many of these walking tours also offered bar crawls that evening, which were great ways to have experience nightlife while meeting more fellow travelers.
For better sleep, you may want to bring earplugs and an eye mask, especially if you’re going to be in a shared room. I usually bring my Bose QuietComfort 20 in-ear noise canceling headphones which are amazing at blocking any noise when used in tandem with the White Noise application.
Also, be sure to bring shower supplies (e.g. towel, shampoo & conditioner) since it’s not a given that these will be provided at the hostel.