Hostels: you either love them or you hate them. I know this particularly well, because while I think there are many good reasons to stay in hostels, my husband thinks they’re a devil’s creation that should be avoided at all costs. On my recent solo trip to Romania, however, I got back to my style of travelling and stayed in several hostels. This definitely reminded me of all the pros of hostels, and reasons I love staying in them.
In fact, I love staying in hostels so much that I do it even when my budget really doesn’t need me to. For example, on my trip to Vanuatu I chose a hostel in Port Vila just because I like the atmosphere. For me, staying in hostels adds a lot to your trip – especially if you are a solo traveller.
If you’re not sure whether you’d enjoy staying a hostel, here are a few of my favourite pros of hostels for you to think about.
Pros of Hostels
Okay, here we go.
#1: It’s so easy to meet people
This is the biggest pro of hostels in my opinion. I actually enjoy being on my own a lot, and that is one of my favourite things about solo travel – however, I also like to meet new people and have the option of being social when I want to. In my experience, this is pretty difficult when you stay in hotels, and even harder when you stay in AirBnBs (another reason I don’t really like AirBnB).
Hostels are nearly always social, fun places where people are looking to meet new people. In hostels, common spaces are pretty much open season – you can just go up to anyone and start chatting. As someone who is actually pretty shy by nature, I hate feeling like I might be annoying people by talking to them – at a hostel, you can be pretty confident that if someone is hanging out in a common space, then they’re up for a chat.
NOTE: Please consider *in common spaces*. I don’t think the same can or should be said for people chilling in their bunks, especially if they have headphones in (seriously, headphones are like the universal signal for ‘this is me time’, surely). Headphones in = no conversation, in my book at least.
#2: It’s cheaper, and leaves more money for other things.
This is the second biggest reason to stay in hostels, although as I’ve said, money isn’t personally the biggest factor for me. That said, I personally would never spend $300 for a place to sleep. I can really sleep through anything, which is a great skill for hostel life, and frankly if I was paying for a luxury hotel I’d want to be awake every moment to make the most of it.
Hostels, by comparison, are super cheap. In parts of Asia and Eastern Europe you can stay in hostels for <$10 easily. This means that you can travel without totally exhausting your life savings (sounds boring, but this is important to me. I love to travel, but I also want to be financially secure), it also means you can travel for longer, and have more money left over to do other cool stuff.
I’ve said in other blogs that I think budget travel is largely about priorities and figuring out what is most important to you. For example, maybe you love fancy hotels and the experience of staying in them – that’s cool, but if you want to keep your budget in check you’re probably not also going to be able to do lots of cool activities and eat delicious, expensive food. For me, activities are my favourite thing about travelling – so I’d prefer to skimp on accommodation so I can go on tours and pay entrance fees without worrying too much.
#3: You can get local tips for cheap and fun stuff to do
My personal favourite hostels are ones that are staffed by locals, because I find that most of the time, local staff have amazing recommendations that they’re happy to share with you. In fact, on the whole I find that hostels attract people who are passionate about their city and like to discuss it with visitors.
Also, hostel staff are used to dealing with stingy backpackers who eat 2-minute noodles for dinner and are happy to change 3 buses to save $5 (I can say this, because I am one of those backpackers). Unlike fancy hotel staff, they aren’t likely to recommend you go out to some hyper-fancy restaurant or go on a tour for $500. Instead, they’ll give you tips about cheap or free things to do, which often end up being the most fun things to try.
#4: Communal kitchens are a godsend
I love communal kitchens, which pretty much don’t exist in hotels (a kettle does not count, although I have cooked an impressive selection of meals using only a kettle). Firstly, communal kitchens are fantastic for keeping costs down – if you’re a solo traveller, you can easily spend a few dollars and whip up a delicious pasta that will probably last you a few days. Just be sure to mark your name on any leftovers, lest it be pilfered by a hungry backpacker with no morals.
The reason I love kitchens more so than the money aspect, however, is that sometimes you just don’t feel like going out for dinner. I have no qualms about having a meal on my own, however there are definitely nights when I don’t feel like making the effort to look presentable, go out, try to struggle through in a different language, etc. On these days, I just love being able to cook something quick and easy in the hostel and perhaps have a lazy night watching netflix and eating pasta.
#5: They just aren’t pretentious (mostly)
Okay, so like any other shared space, there are definite exceptions to this. I cannot, in good faith, promise you that you won’t meet any pretentious people in hostels – you almost certainly will, although they’re likely to be that different type of pretentious where they play guitar and tell you about how you can’t be a “real” traveller if you like the Eiffel Tower. Anyway, I digress.
Aside from the odd guy like the one above, for the most part hostels are fun, laidback and unpretentious. They don’t judge you if you sleep in til midday and skip over visiting the most important museums. Other guests don’t care if you’re eating 2 minute noodles – in fact, they’re probably doing the same.
There’s something about communal living and the shared ‘on a budget’ mentality that I think makes people way more chilled out in hostels. People are usually friendly, open and non-judgmental, and I just love that.
So there are five pros for staying in hostels. Now, I’m not going to pretend that there aren’t downsides of hostels – there definitely are. They can be loud, the bathrooms are often icky, and they’re not always as well located as expensive hotels. As an introvert, I also like to mix things up and stay in private rooms occasionally to break up the hostel stays.
But, on the whole, I love staying in hostels. Have I convinced you yet? Let me know what you think about staying in hostels!