For some travelers, or soon-to-be travelers, the word ‘hostel’ makes them cringe. They either associate it with the horror movies or have had a bad experience in their past. Others, may think that hostels are only for the young, party-their-arses off, never go to bed type. I’m here to put your minds at ease let you know that hostels are a great place to stay, save money, meet people, and have your own personal travel assistants!
1. HOSTELWORLD - My absolute favorite resource for booking my accommodations while traveling is HostelWorld. This website makes it so easy to book, see what the hostels have to offer, and has reviews and ratings by fellow travelers! I used this site to book 90% of my stays while on a 3 month tour of Europe. I had some criteria that needed to be met in order for me to stay at a particular hostel. I had to have WiFi so that I could work from my room. I needed a private, double, en suite room. I was traveling with my girlfriend and we wanted our own space and toilet. The search functionality is great! And the description of each place helps you figure out why you would want to stay there. The other major factor for me was that other travelers rate their stay. You can easily read through what other people thought and even pick up some tips for the place or surrounding areas. Which means you will easily be able to determine if it’s a ‘party hostel’ or a quaint place with some charm.
2. Reception - The people I have met at reception are some of the most important people you will meet along your travels. They know a lot of things about the city you’re visiting. They can setup tours, get you bus or tram tickets, tell you where the post is, give their opinion on the best place to eat, or tell you when the local market is open. They also give you the coolest maps, usually made by other travelers, that have ‘secret’ things to do and see on them. On these maps they usually have some local words and phrases to help you out. So, treat your reception very well and they will return the favor.
3. Breakfast - Most hostels these days offer a breakfast, for a small fee, so that you don’t have to wake up early after a good nights rest, or not so good rest, and make yourself something to eat. Most of the time you will get a fairly nice spread that includes; coffee, tea, juices, breads, deli meats, muesli, fruits, and sometimes eggs and other things. It may not be your thing every morning, but it’s there to help make your day of sightseeing get of to the proper start.
4. Kitchen - The kitchen is one of my favorite things about hostels. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat at the local restaurants but I love cooking as well. This gives me a chance to feel like I’m not constantly on the road and save a little money. It also gives me the chance to slow down, enjoy where I am, and strike up conversation with other travelers. I’ve actually made some life long friends in hostels. It allows me to visit and have a place to stay with them!
5. Feel Like A Local - At some hostels, when you opt for a private en suite, you will have a room in a different location. They will give you multiple keys and usually one of the keys is to an entrance off a main street. For me, I felt like I lived there during my stay. You also had a physical address to give somebody if you wanted them to swing by and visit before heading out. While visiting Budapest for 9 days, my private en suite was what they considered an apartment on the top floor of a building right across from St. Stephen’s! Actual residents also lived in this building and one of them had an art opening in the stairwell and their apartment the whole time we were there! Part of the common entrance area was shared by a wine bar right next door. The locals would come out the side door and take their breaks. I met some really great people in that building. Not all places are going to be like that, but if you read over the reviews on some of the hostels, you may get an idea for what your experience will be like!
6. Location - Major hotels aren’t always allowed closer to where the sites are because they are newer buildings. Hostels can be inside any old building which makes their location more ideal. A little bit of research goes a long way. Determine what some of the sites and places you want to hit during your visit and pick a hostel that is close to them. Walking a city, town, or village is much more enjoyable than being under ground on the metro!
7. Save Money - Lodging can be the most expensive part of traveling. Hostels make it affordable for any type of traveler. Whether you plan on paying for a bunk in a dorm or spending a little extra for your own private room, the prices are drastically less than most hotels. This isn’t always the case, though. Again, read the reviews to help you decide what will be better for you. Hostels also have coupons for local places. They have agreements with local restaurants, bars, and cafes that gives you, the traveler, a better price on things. By saving all this money, you can spend less time worrying about finances and more time on what souvenirs you want to buy!
8. Social Events - Most hostels have special events. Some have them every night of the week, others have them every few days. While staying in Praha, they had a singer/songwriter from South Africa one night, movie night with a projector by the bar, discounted drinks (happy hour) to get travelers talking, mingling, and planning an evening or a day trip. Some, for a small fee, do local beer tastings and tell you the history of where they are brewed. During these events you will meet people from all walks of life, nationalities, and ages. Take advantage of them…they are worth it!
9. Free Tours - Almost every hostel I’ve been to has had a walking tour. They do it in different languages at different times. Most have them every day. They are free. However, the guide does except tips! They usually last 1 – 3 hours. This is a great way to see the city and get some history right off the bat before you start trekking around. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re up for it you get another added bonus, meeting other travelers! Which brings us to the next item…
10. Make New Friends - Yes, part of traveling is definitely meeting new people and making friendships. Some, of which, will last the rest of your life. People, in general, are social creatures. And with this social characteristic, it is only natural to want to share your travel experiences with others! Hostels create an atmosphere and environment indicative of doing just this! So, don’t be afraid to look at hostels the next time you travel. You will be pleasantly surprised!
As you can see, hostels are not so bad after all. They offer so much more than just a place to rest your tired feet. Get out, explore, and see what hostels can do for you!