When I travel, I almost always stay in hostels. This is partly to save money, and partly to save my sanity. I usually travel alone, so if I stayed in a hotel I would just stay in my room and keep myself to myself – I can go for days without talking to anyone. While sometimes I need the privacy and luxury of a private room, most of the time I still like to meet other travellers, and luckily there are some hostels which offer the best of both worlds. Recently, I spent some time in London and Vienna at the Wombat’s Hostels in each city, and I found that you can have it all. Hostels like Wombat’s are changing the way we travel, allowing you to meet other travellers and socialise, but still being able to enjoy your privacy. Here’s why staying in a hostel for the first time really isn’t that scary, even if you are over 30 like me!
Staying in a Hostel for the First Time
If you haven’t stayed in a hostel before, you may not be sure of what to expect. Following the unwritten rules for hostel etiquette (which I actually wrote down here) helps everyone to enjoy their stay more. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for hostel-specific rules too, which are usually pinned on the bedroom door. Basically, you just need to keep yourself and your stuff clean and tidy, be open to meeting and learning about other people and cultures and be considerate to fellow guests. Simple! I’ve tried to answer all possible questions you might have about staying in a hostel for the first time, to set your mind at ease.
Why are You Afraid of Staying in a Hostel?
OK Dr Pepper, what is the worst thing that could happen in a hostel? I’ve had my fair share of hostel nightmares so even I, a great advocate of hostels, have to hold my hand up and say, yes, sometimes things do go wrong. Sometimes other travellers aren’t as honest as you would hope, sometimes people snore, and sometimes people are just disgusting. However, these incidents are not as common as you might think. I have stayed in over 100 hostels and I can count these unpleasant experiences on one hand, and they all came from sharing a dorm room. However, even when sharing a dorm with other people, most of the time I have had lovely roommates, ready-made friends to go for a drink with or share a meal. Female travellers may prefer to book a female dorm to reduce the risk of snoring men (although some women snore like beasts too!) or you can go for a private room. Generally, private rooms will eliminate all your concerns about staying in a hostel, as you don’t have to worry about your roommates, so can enjoy the privacy you would in a hotel, with the added bonus of being able to socialise if you want to.
What Are Hostels Like?
Hostels can vary a lot from simply a room with bunk beds in, to a well-designed, purpose-built hostel with social areas, kitchen, bar, outdoor space and more. Each hostel is different, even hostels which are part of a chain have their own personalities and quirks. Whereas with chain hotels you could be staying anywhere in the world, I find that hostels have much more of a local flavour and a story to them. I loved that Wombat’s London started life as a hostel for sailors way back in 1865, and the wood in the bar is over 500 years old, salvaged from old boats. How’s that for a story? The best hostels have facilities that can rival hotels – a nice bar, clean bathrooms, outdoor space, I’ve even stayed in hostels with a pool. Good hostels are like hotels, but better!
Are Hostels Safe?
In the vast majority of cases, yes. You may have to take more care of your belongings if you stay in a shared dorm room than you would in a private room, but most hostels have lockers where you can store your belongings. Occasionally, you will come across hostels which don’t have lockers, which is rare these days in Europe, but it does still happen. In this case, either keep your valuable belongings with you or ask the hostel to lock your passport in their safe. If you aren’t comfortable staying somewhere without a locker, check if they are provided before you book a bed. Very rarely lockers are broken into, which happened to me in Ecuador, but unfortunately, theft can also happen in hotel rooms, so I don’t view hostels as any less safe than hotels.
For some women, sharing a room with men may be uncomfortable if you’re not used to it, in which case I would advise booking a bed in a female dorm, or a private room so you can sleep more easily.
If you find yourself in a shared room with a roommate who you don’t feel comfortable with, explain the situation to the staff who may take action to remove the other person if the situation requires, or you can ask to switch rooms. If switching rooms isn’t possible, then look for somewhere else to stay. At the end of the day, your safety is your priority, so in any hostel or hotel where you don’t feel safe then get the hell out of there. I have to stress though that most other travellers who choose to stay in hostels aren’t psychopaths or creeps, most of them just want to hang out and enjoy their time travelling so please don’t worry about this!
Again, any concerns about sharing a dorm room can be solved by booking a private room, which will be more expensive than a dorm of course, but just as safe as any hotel.
Is There an Age Limit for Hostels?
In most cases, no. I have come across hostels which have minimum age limits of 18 (which is understandable if there is a bar on-site, or if the hostel doesn’t want to have children around), and in hostels where children are permitted, they are only allowed with an acommpanying adult and only in a private room. Occasionally I have come accross hostels with maximum age limits of 30 or 40. Personally, I avoid hostels with maximum age limits as I believe hostels should be inclusive for everyone. Besides, at 35 I am over the hill too for some of these places, and I have no desire to stay in a hostel filled exclusively with beer-swilling 20-year olds. I want to meet different kinds of people when I travel.
Some people wonder how old is too old to stay in a hostel, but I think you are never too old – as long as you feel like you still can and want to, then why the hell not! Older people are sometimes regarded as oddities but have a chat with them and you might learn a thing or two! More than likely, older people in hostels have some awesome travel stories to tell. Or if you are over 30 like me (or older) don’t be afraid of getting involved and chatting with everyone, and sharing some of your travel experiences. Hostels are about meeting other travellers, no matter where they are from, or how old they might be! However, do check the reviews of hostels on sites like Hostelworld or Booking, and any that describe themselves as party hostels are usually best avoided unless you want to stay up all night every night drinking.
Why Staying in a Hostel is a Great Idea!
Now I’ve hopefully addressed all of your concerns about staying in a hostel for the first time, let me share with you just why I love hostels so much as a 35-year-old solo female traveller, and why you shouldn’t be afraid to stay in hostels – especially when you find a hostel that really does things right. I recently stayed in London and Vienna with Wombat’s City Hostels, and they are great examples of hostels getting it right.
Hostels Really Aren’t That Scary
Just don’t watch the horror film “Hostel”. Seriously though, one of the stand-out things for me at Wombat’s was the safety. Each guest was given a key-card at check-in which you needed to access your floor level, bedroom, and locker. Other guests (or non-guests) couldn’t access the floors where they didn’t need to be. Some hostels I have stayed in didn’t even take the guests’ ID details on check-in (which I hate!!) but Wombat’s wouldn’t let anyone check-in without an ID.
You Meet Travellers from All Over the World
Hostels provide the perfect place to meet people from different cultures and countries. Even if you book a private room in a hostel, you meet people in the kitchen, having breakfast, at the chill out area or having a drink at the bar. If you are travelling alone, hostels are a great way to make friends and find other like-minded people to hang out with. Wombat’s Hostels, for example, all have a large reception area where travellers gather to chat, and a bar (the Wombar) where you can spend your free drink voucher included in your stay and meet your new best friend. Events arranged by hostels like pub quizzes and walking tours also offer easy ways to make friends. And it’s not all about drinking and all-night partying! Sure, if that’s what you’re into there will always be people who want to do that too, but there is no pressure to play all-night beer pong if you don’t want to – you can just as easily chill out in a hammock on the terrace in Wombat’s London or line up a row of flaming sambucas if you prefer!
You Get the Best Tips from the Staff
Having volunteered in various hostels, I know how important it is to know the local area so you can recommend the best places to guests. All the staff members I met during my stay at Wombat’s clearly knew their stuff, and usually had their own traveller story to tell, giving recommendations that they knew I’d like and giving more personal service than any hotel concierge ever could.
Hostels are Far Cleaner than You Might Think
Go back a few years, and all hostels had to do was provide a grungy mattress in a dark room and travellers would put up with it. Now, you can, and should, expect spotlessly clean hostels, with professional cleaning staff to keep bathrooms, bedrooms and social areas clean. This is especially important when you share bathroom facilities, you don’t want to be fishing someone else’s hair out of the plug hole, do you? Wombat’s have won awards for their cleanliness, and I was impressed that everywhere in the hostel was so clean.
A Sense of Humour
There aren’t many companies who can get away with a slogan like “sleep with the best”, but Wombat’s are proud to say that after winning the Hostelworld HOSCAR awards for Best Hostel Chain 6 times. I also loved the cuddly wombats which popped up everywhere in the hostel – if I needed any more motivation to wash my dishes that furry face would make me clean up! Generally, hostels have more of a sense of humour than hotels as they don’t risk offending snotty-nosed conservative types who wouldn’t lower themselves to staying in a hostel anyway, with a saucy joke and cheeky poster advertising the sale of Wombats’ condoms (play safe people) I feel much more at home in a hostel that really suits my open-minded traveller’s personality.
You Can Cook Your Own Meals
I get bored of eating out all the time. And it gets pricey too! Sometimes I just want to make something simple, like a bowl of cereal or a quick pasta dish, so having a kitchen in the hostel is a godsend. I was also pleasantly surprised to find an oven at Wombat’s London so you can oven bake food too instead of just microwave. This is also a huge relief for people with special diets, so you can prepare your own food and know exactly what goes in it, so you know that vegan really is vegan.
Stay in the Best Locations
Actually, I have been amazed at the location of some hostels around the world, where I thought real estate would have been way too expensive to have a hostel. I’ve stayed in hostels right on the beach, with killer views over a turquoise lake, and at Wombat’s London, walking distance from Tower Bridge. All Wombat’s Hostels are located in the heart of their respective cities and have excellent transport links too. The Wombat’s Vienna at the Naschmarkt was right next to the largest market in Vienna, which was a great place to get dinner, and find a bargain!
Hostels are so Much More than Just a Room
Have you ever noticed when you stay in a hotel that you spend most of your time in your room? Don’t get me wrong, sometimes all I want to is lounge around in a bathrobe and watch TV, but staying in hostels the social areas outside the room are far more enticing! The bar is full of friendly people enjoying a drink, the chill-out area is great for planning your next days’ adventures, and the best thing? No-one will treat you like a weirdo if you talk to them. Talking to people is actively encouraged in a hostel, it makes everyone happier, so get out there and make a new friend.
And They’re Great for Your Budget
If you are travelling on a budget, even not taking into account anything I’ve just said, you can’t deny that hostels are one of the cheapest accommodations you can stay in. £18 for a bed in the centre of London? That is tough to beat. It’s not only the beds that are a good deal though, have you ever done laundry in a hotel and baulked at the bill? Some hostels (like the awesome Wombat’s of course) have self-service laundry facilities you can use to wash your clothes for a fraction of typical hotel prices. Fancy a drink in the bar? No, you don’t have to pay through the nose for a beer or glass of wine, at Wombat’s, not only do you get a free drinks voucher when you check in, the prices are really good too – and if you overdid it last night or don’t fancy an alcoholic drink, just help yourself to the complimentary water.
Still not convinced? Watch this little video I made about Wombat’s London with a very catchy tune!
STILL not convinced?? Just try it. I believe we should all try anything once, so take the leap, and you might be surprised. You certainly don’t need to be afraid! You can book a Wombat’s Hostel in London, Vienna, Budapest, Berlin or Munich right here:
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This post was brought to you as a result of the #wombatsTraveller blog trip, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with wombat’s CITY HOSTELS. However, as always, all opinions are my own and I maintain full editorial control of the content published here on Tales of a Backpacker.
Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you!
Tales of a Backpacker is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: February 15, 2020