Wonder why anyone would be mad enough to choose to sleep in a room full of strangers? Well, here are my reasons…

They are cheap

If you need a low cost place to stay for the night, then hostels are a great idea. You can save so much money staying in a hostel dorm compared with staying in a hotel or other types of accommodation, especially if you’re travelling alone and/or long term. It’s the sharing rooms with people (usually strangers) that will make the price cheaper, but if you don’t mind that, then it’s a great money-saving option. That’s why they’re particularly popular with young backpackers – how else do you think they could afford to travel several months on end without being Bill Gates’ kid?

Also, many hostels have kitchens that guests can use, which you wouldn’t normally get in a hotel, so being able to cook your own meals makes it another cost-effective way of travelling. Also, the fact that some people stay in hostels long term means that there are often laundry facilities on site to keep your clothes clean if you need them.

They are sociable

If you’re travelling alone and would quite like to meet some people to hang out with, whether it’s to go sightseeing, hiking, drinking or partying with, hostels can be a great place to do this. You’ll likely always say hello to people you meet in your dorm and other parts of the hostel (there are usually lots of common rooms), and it’s often easy to strike up a conversation with them. People often stay in hostels for the social aspects, so it’s pretty easy to quickly make friends and good connections with them. Yes, you can obviously join hobby clubs and talk to strangers in bars, but people in those situations are usually not after new friends, so it can be much harder. As someone who is an introvert, staying in hostels really helped to bring me out of my shell.

They can help you expand your network

On top of the socialising, it’s also a generally good way to network and learn about other people, the world and other opportunities. Hostels attract people from all over the world, so you can learn about other cultures in a more personal way compared to just reading books. Plus, it can also be a good way to learn about opportunities for jobs and other experiences that could enhance your life.

That time I went on a city tour of Accra, Ghana, arranged by my hostel, with a hostel mate

Some of them run events

In addition to the naturally sociable atmosphere, lots of hostels run their own events, from pub crawls and city walking tours, to barbeques and movie nights. Another great way to meet other people as well as enhance for trip. Plus, I even met my husband at one – The Nunnery, a wonderful hostel in Melbourne, Australia, on their pub crawl! This was back in 2013 before dating apps were as big a thing as they are now, so it would have been hard to find someone so organically another way.

The staff are usually great

I generally find hostel staff to be friendlier and more down-to-earth. They usually have good local knowledge and can readily make plenty of great recommendations for where to eat, drink and go in the area. Even small things, like one time when my husband and I stayed in a hostel in Athens and we got the receptionist to order a takeaway meal for us, since we couldn’t understand Greek. Some hostel staff often get involved in the events and mingle well with the guests. The personal touch of their service can really enhance the experience of the trip.

They are safe

Don’t believe the hype of horror films and rumours from people who haven’t even stepped foot in any hostel. Hostels aren’t any more unsafe than any other type of accommodation. If anything, they are arguably safer – having more people around sort of helps protects you from anything bad happening. Remember, you’re basically all in the same situation, so there’s this sort of unspoken code of trust and respect amongst hostel dormmates. I’ve probably heard of more criminal incidents happening to people staying in hotels (and I like hotels too, so that wouldn’t stop me staying in them!). And compared with Airbnbs, you know there is likely to be staff and CCTV around in the common areas. The biggest thing to be aware of I’d say is perhaps the security of your belongings, but most hostels have lockers so you can put anything particularly valuable into them. And it’s unlikely anyone will want to steal your suitcase or clothes, so don’t worry if you can’t fit them in your locker!

They can be quirky

Some hostels are run in unique buildings. I’ve stayed in a hostel made of shipping containers, a hostel that used to be a convent, a hostel in a converted church, pod hostels, and plenty of hostels covered in funky murals, artwork and decor. It can make for a more interesting and fun stay!

Of course, there are some downsides too…

  • Lack of privacy: There are always people there when you sleep, when you wake up, when you go to the bathroom, when you eat, etc. Albeit, some hostels do have privacy curtains on each bed, so you can hide yourself from view when you’re in bed. Being honest though, hostels can get tiring after a while, especially if you’re introverted and need some time to reenergise away from people. This is a reason why nowadays, I prefer to do hostel dorms in short bursts (up to a couple of weeks at a time), and then I’m either back to my usual home base or renting a private room. I don’t know if I could constantly stay in dorms for months on end like I did when I was 21!
  • Might not be ideal if you’re a digital nomad: Now I’m at this stage of my life where I’m fully into my career and working on my own remote business, I’ve noticed that hostels are not always the ideal place to meet my working needs. The Wi-Fi in hostels should be decent in this modern age, but it’s not always a given. Not just that, but it might be tricky to find a suitable desk and chair to work at that’s also near plug sockets to charge your laptop – super important! It might also be hard to even find a quiet spot to work in, if there’s music playing and other guests about chattering. Plus, if you’re surrounded by people who are just there solely to holiday and party, that might not be the most motivating atmosphere to do your work in. So these days, I’d likely just restrict staying in hostels to very short trips and totally leisurely holidays. However, there is an up-and-coming hostel alternative that I love that are specially made for digital nomads – coliving spaces!
  • They are generally no frills: Depending on your purposes of travel, it might not bother you if there’s no room service or you have to share living space with other people. You can of course find some more luxe and fancier hostels to stay in these days. However, if you really want to treat yourself, especially if it’s a special occasion like a honeymoon, a nice hotel or B&B might be the way to go.

To sum up…

Hostels are great. I don’t think I would have been able to travel as much as I have if it weren’t for staying in hostels. They are literally cheap and cheerful, and have enriched my life in so many ways.

My go-to for finding great hostels around the world to stay in is the website Hostelworld. Simply type in the location you’re headed, what dates, and then it’ll come up with a list of options. I go for higher rated hostels for more chance of a great experience, and I thoroughly check the description, reviews and photos to get a good idea of what it would be like before I book.

What’s your opinion of hostels? Do you do them frequently, occasionally or not at all?

Search for a hostel right here!

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