Guides and Tips | Travels

A Beginner's Guide to Hostels

August 27, 2015

We’ve all heard about hostels and how cheap they are. You’ve probably seen the movie Hostel and avoid it like a plague. You probably have friends that stayed in a hostel for a few nights.

Regardless, hostels provides travelers an affordable accommodation for one night or for their entire duration of the vacation.

For many, hostels is not a first choice of accommodation for many people, mainly because they’re not familiar with hostels or hold untrue beliefs about hostels. When I first considered staying at a hostel, I was a little be apprehensive about sharing rooms with a bunch of strangers, especially washrooms as well. I grew up staying in nice hotels whenever I went on vacations, so “downgrading” to hostels was extremely different. But, the price difference was substantial so I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a hostel and let me just say, I probably won’t be booking any nice hotels for ordinary vacations (honeymoons and all inclusive vacations are a different story!).

Today, I’m sharing you a guide into stepping into the world of hostels and how beneficial they are to traveling!

Prior to staying at hostels, I worked at hostels as well and know the “back end” of these places.

To begin,

Clear your mind of any assumptions you have of hostels. Just because they’re cheap, doesn’t mean they’re bad! Many people choose hostels because they’re affordable and safe. Many travelers from the age of 20 to even 50 stay in hostels! Get rid of any negativity stigma you have with hostels because they’re most likely false*.

*Everything differs from hostel to hostel, but like any good traveler, check the reviews!

They’re not filled with druggies, drunks, party animals and thieves. In fact, people staying in the hostels are probably some of the most culturalized individuals you’ll meet. Many travelers have backpacked throughout countries, and some are highly independent individuals. Talking to these travelers will most likely inspire you. Hostel guests are educated, well mannered and fun individuals! They’re open minded and extremely friendly.

It’s safe and clean. And not at all weird sleeping with other people. Hostels operate like any other hotel. They employ housekeepers as well and clean out the facilities. However, because you’re sharing washrooms (sometimes) with others, it’s most likely the fella down the hall that made a mess. The hostel staff tries to keep it as clean as possible, but for the price you’re paying, they’re not the typical around the clock housekeeping staff. Most locations of the hostel are situated in downtown areas, and nearly all hostels are equipped with storage lockers for valuables. However, I’ve left my phone and electronics in plain view and none of my roommates stole it. And no, contrary to the popular belief, it’s not uncomfortable sleeping with other people in the room. It’s like having a sleepover with some friends!

They’re cheap, so don’t expect much. You’re not paying $500/night so don’t expect everything to be a 5-start hotel. Some places will have you make your own bed (eg. put on the bedding yourself), and some are already made. Some hostels will charge you for towels and some will rent them for free. Some hostels provide guides and city maps, some don’t. Each hostel differs but in most cases, hostels are NOT hotels. They won’t cater to you like a princess. The staff will be there to check you in and out and answer any questions or concerns, but don’t expect them to carry your luggage to your room or hand you a toothbrush at 1am in the morning.

Keep an open and adventurous mind. Unlike hotels, guests at hostels are welcoming and fun! These people are the type of people you can grab a beer with at the local pub down the street. These are the guys that you will add on your Facebook account and the next time you travel to London, they’ll hook you up. Hostels are a fun place to meet new people and create friendships. Keep an open mind and don’t brush anyone that greets you! I’m not saying you have to be an extremely outgoing person to stay a hostel, but don’t be alarm when a group asks you to join them in their night out.

Hostels are fun! Unlike hotels where they have such a formal lobby, hostels are homes to some of the coolest common areas ever! It’s the place where guests come downstairs to relax and have fun and meet other guests. Most common areas are sort of like a living room or university student lounges – TVs, board games, couches, books, etc. At one hostel I stayed at, they even have a “theater” with movies playing until 10PM.

Hostels are family-friendly. Believe it or not, hostels are not just reserved for the young 20-something years old for a weekend getaway. Hostels can accommodate to families as well!

Tips and Tricks:

+ Bring flip flops (and maybe a bikini). Flip flops to keep your feet clean throughout the hostel and bikinis if your hostel doesn’t offer private showers (aka community showers).

+ Book and read reviews with HostelWorld, the biggest hostel booking website.

+ Remember, choose a location with good location, cleanliness and security rating.

+ Many hostels offer free breakfast. Take that advantage to save some money!

+ Also, many offer discounted tourists stuff. Ask the staff if they have any coupons.

+ Some hostels will charge for necessities such as towels, toothbrush, etc. Pack your own if you want to save a few dollars. Alternatively, some hostels require you to pay a deposit for their towel and then refund the deposit upon check out – ask if they do that.

+ Hostels are not meant for their guests to stay in their rooms for the night. Don’t forget to immerse yourself into the “hostel culture”!

+ Hostels offer private rooms with en suites, usually for a few dollars more. If you really need it, opt for a private room instead of sharing.

+ Hostels have great kitchens. Feel free to buddy up with someone to cook a meal and save some money.

+ Hostels are a great place to solo travelers. You can meet so many people traveling alone that wouldn’t mind buddying up for adventures! One of my friends, Jenny, traveled to Hawaii alone and 1.5 weeks later, she found herself with a lasting travel buddy. The two of them ended up doing everything together and built a great friendship, all thanks to the hostel they were staying at!

Hostels have an iffy stigma to them, but I honestly recommend everyone to try it at least once in their life. Step out of your comfort zone and throw yourself into the hostel culture! I think you might actually enjoy it!

Sure, hostels are not meant for honeymoons or such, but if you’re having a weekend getaway or a short vacation, opt for a hostel. Especially if you’re traveling alone! If you think about it – if you’re spending most of your vacations exploring the city, and returning to your bed at the evening for a 8 hours of sleep, why pay $500/night? You’re already asleep, it’s not like you can fully indulge in your hotel room. For me, it makes more sense to pay $30/night for a bed, a fun culture and spend my money elsewhere.


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  1. Yeah, I think hostels are more of an European thing. There's not many in Vancouver as well. In Alaska, the "hostel" I stayed at turned out to be the hostel owner's own home and it was situated in a neighbourhood as well. Definitely a bit odd on that one but it was the highest rating hostel in Anchorage so I went for it 😛

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