I feel like I’ve been bashing hostels lately; from sharing some horrible hostel nightmares to drawing up a list of unwritten rules for hostel etiquette for those who stay in a hostel for the first time. However, it is not all bad! I feel I now have to tell the other side of the story and emphasise why hostels are awesome and why I still stay in hostels despite everything you might have read in the other posts! There are definitely places where there are hostels better than hotels, and here are just a few reasons why!
Why I Love Hostels: Price
Sometimes you can get a good deal in guesthouses, Airbnbs or cheap hotels, but, generally speaking, it is hard to beat the price of a hostel bed in a shared dorm which can cost less than a good meal in most towns & cities!
Usually hostels have more than one type of room available, depending on how sociable you feel, or how far your budget will stretch! You can choose from barn-like dorms for rock bottom prices, to smaller 4 or 6 bed dorms with air-con, or private rooms for the best of both worlds. You get to choose how sociable you want to be. You want to just veg out on your bunk all day reading? Ok. You want to make friends with everyone in the place and the hostel dog? Great! It’s your choice.
Hostels are no longer just ‘youth hostels’, they are for every age. Some have no-child policies, while others are more self selecting like party hostels are less likely to have older guests. That said, I have met people staying in hostels from 3 years old to 73 years old (approximately!) so they really are for everyone.
Hotel vs Hostel: More Places to Hang Out
Ever noticed how hotels just have your room and a dark & dingy lobby to sit in? Hostels by their nature are more sociable, and tend to have more options for hanging out; from gardens with hammocks to bars, and sofas to just grab a book and read.
It’s a no-brainer really. When you are sharing a room with someone you don’t know, talk to them. A lot of hostel goers are solo travellers, so are glad of a chat, an offer to eat together, go sightseeing or to get drunk.
Why are hostels better than hotels? Partying!
This applies less to me know than it used to, but if you want to go out and get drunk and party, chances are that someone else at the hostel will want to too. If you like to party, there are well-known ‘party hostels’ in each city, so seek them out; usually places with an on-site bar tend to be more ‘party’ than others. Conversely, if you prefer the quiet life, be aware of these so you can avoid them!
Good Deals on Other Activities
A lot of hostels which offer tours or excursions have specially negotiated rates to save you money. They focus on bulk buys and group discounts so offer much lower prices than hotels would. True, you may not get the luxury experience that a hotel chain offer, but the old adage of safety in numbers (and cost-saving in numbers!) rings true here.
Each hostel is different. There are a few hostel chains which offer similar kinds of accommodation, but usually a hostel is a unique, small, family run or expat business. Often the staff are volunteers, so can chat about their travels, and don’t look down on scruffy backpackers like me. Unique artwork, cool music, chilled vibes, to me these are the little things that can make a big difference to my stay.
Cooking Your Own Food
Unlike hotels and guesthouses, a lot of hostels have kitchens available to use where you can rustle up your own meals. This helps you to save more money instead of eating out all the time, offers a respite from fried street food, or the chance to cook meat-free or gluten-free meals safe in the knowledge that the chef hasn’t slipped something unexpected in your food.
Location, Location, Location
Don’t think that hotels get all of the prime real estate. Some hostels have incredible locations, worthy of any 5 star property, and are usually walking distance to top attractions, bars and restaurants in the hip areas of town.
Volunteering in Hostels
There are a lot of hostels out there which offer work in exchange for a bed. Generally, work would be for 5 hours or so 5 days a week, then you would have the rest of the time to explore, safe in the knowledge you have a bed for the night that you don’t need to pay for! Work exchange sites like Workaway, Helpx, and Worldpackers have tons of similar opportunities listed so you can travel the world for free!
I worked in several hostels during my travels, and saved thousands of dollars in accommodation costs which meant I could keep travelling for longer, and could really get to know the area where I was working. Although hostel work isn’t for everyone, it can be a great way to save money on your travels!
I’ve teamed up with Worldpackers to offer all Tales of a Backpacker readers a $10 discount, which means you only need to pay $39 USD for a full year’s verified membership. Once you are a verified member you can apply to and message all the hosts on Worldpackers and volunteer all over the world. What are you waiting for?! Read more about the Worldpackers discount or click below to activate your promo code.
Why Stay in a Hostel? A Home away from Home
For me, a hotel will never feel like home. But, with a sense of friendship and camaraderie, hostels really can feel like home. One year when I spent Christmas away from home, I was volunteering at Hostel Home in Mexico City, and we all had Christmas Dinner together, and even exchanged gifts!
Do you love hostels? Share your happy hostel memory below, I’d love to hear them!
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