If the first thing you think of when you hear the world “hostel” is a 2005 horror film, it’s time to catch up. Even if your vision is over-stuffed dorms that feel like cells, you’re probably not in touch with where hostels are at these days.
The truth is, if you book a bed today you’re likely to find a space that’s funky, comfortable, and makes sharing a bathroom with strangers optional. Huge wins, all. Not to mention, the accommodation of choice from your Uncle’s “epic” post-college backpacking trip is still the best fodder for post-travel party stories and your best move for stretching that travel budget.
Read on as we de-bunk three common hostel myths, throw some facts around, and save you some drinking money.
Myth: Hostels Are Unpredictable
Along with pretty much everything else, hostel life has joined the digital age. Although there are plenty of off the grid spots spots worth checking out, your average accommodations are listed online with reviews and photos. Which means not only can you scope a spot before you book it, you can even plan your Instagram angles. Sites like Hostelworld offer a booking guarantee without any fees and let you prioritize categories like “safety” or “partying” in your search.
Fact: Hostels Are Affordable
Let’s be honest, you’re not going to use that hotel gym and if you just spent 9 hours failing to sleep on an airport layover, you will not care how many people are in the same room as you when your head hits the pillow. If you’re wondering how some people can afford to travel so much, well… this is it. Get comfortable with eliminating unnecessary frills and you can cut your accommodation cost in half, freeing up budget for an extra flight or a splurge on that Michelin-starred restaurant.
Myth: Hostels are Unsafe
As a female who has traveled alone, I actually found the opposite to be true. Many hostels have 24-hour reception and the staff happy to give you advice about which parts of town are not safe to walk alone. Also, I’d much rather go home to a building full of people late at night than fumble for my keys in the dark doorway of a rental. Hostels tend to attract a lot of solo travelers and many offer “family dinners” or bar crawls which are usually a safer way to make friends than sidling up to strangers in a bar.
If you’re nervous, pick a place with a lot of positive reviews online and consider getting a private room.
Fact: Hostels are a great travel resource
Concierge may not be a word you associate with budget travel but often the most helpful person you’ll meet all trip is the one running your hostel. Since they are catering to the budget traveler, hostels tend to have the best information on cheap transport and restaurants that you can actually afford. Many offer free tours or will hook you up with an inexpensive and trustworthy local guide. Additionally, everyone from the bartender to the token guy with his guitar in the common area is a budget traveler too — you’re bound to find someone who has been where you’re headed next and will point you toward an off-the-beaten path beach resort or hidden hot springs.
Myth: Hostels Offer No Privacy
If you think staying in a hostel means sharing a dorm room with 10 strangers in bunk beds you’re not wrong. Dorms remain the cheapest way to travel, and often an awesome way to make friends. However, if you’re squeamish about sharing space with strangers or need some privacy for other reasons… most hostels offer private rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Which means you can get a little personal space for less than a hotel and still have the chance to swap travel stories with a backpacker who considers himself the next Kerouac.
Trust us, the post-trip anecdotes write themselves.
Fact: Hostels invite you to join a community
Hostels tend to bond people together in a sitcom-ensemble kind of way. Friendships are developed and cemented with astonishing speed over inside jokes and shared experience. You find yourself spending every waking moment with a group of people that just happened to be in your dorm room or having something strongly resembling a therapy session with the hostel owner. There’s the guy you met the day before who convinces all 25 people staying there to get in cabs and go out together to a fancy bar to celebrate your birthday or the dorm mate who gives you half of their pasta because they know you’ve been too hungover to eat all day. There’s the moment when you play your favorite song and people from five different countries all sing along with you.
In that sense, the best reason to stay in a hostel is also one of the most important reasons to travel: to realize how surprisingly similar we all are.