Staying in a Hostel: Navigating the Pros and Cons

Wondering if staying in a hostel is right for you? Whether you’re budgeting your journey or seeking new friendships, hostels offer more than just a bed. This guide takes you through the essentials of security, amenities, and the social dynamism of hostel living. Bypass the fluff – find out what truly awaits in the dorms and private rooms of the global hostel scene.

By the way, I’m Pete, and I’m the resident hostel expert here at All World Travel.  At the end of this article I’ll link you to some of my favorite destinations as well as popular hostels you can find in those venues.

Before you read this, if you aren’t familiar with the term, read “what is a hostel” and you’ll quickly familiarize yourself with these accommodations.

Staying in a Hostel for the First Time?

  • Hostels offer various accommodations catering to different needs, including budget-friendliness, shared experiences, private rooms, and family-friendly spaces with amenities to enhance the stay.
  • Hostel life is rich with social opportunities, featuring common areas, organized activities, and services like tours and assistance that encourage guest interaction and cultural exchange.
  • Safety, security, and etiquette are pivotal in hostels, with measures like personal lockers and rules for quiet hours; it’s important for travelers to be mindful of personal responsibility while engaging in the social scene.

Understanding Hostel Accommodations

A diverse group of travelers socializing in a hostel common room

Travel accommodations have an unsung hero – hostels. They offer budget-friendly options that cater to a diverse range of adventurers. Unlike a typical hotel, hostels provide:

  • Shared room options, such as dormitories, private rooms, and even family rooms with limited private space
  • Amenities like bars, workspaces, spas, and unique communal areas – all designed to enhance your stay
  • Universally high-speed wifi, a godsend for digital nomads and Netflix bingers alike

While provisions for items like towels may vary, the budget-friendly pricing and services of hostels make them a popular choice for budget travelers, from young backpackers to business people and families.

The Shared Room Experience

One of the most quintessential features of hostel life is the shared room experience, often referred to as a hostel dorm. Dorm rooms in hostels typically accommodate four to twelve people on average, with beds arranged as bunk beds. But don’t fret about privacy, as many hostel bunk bed options come equipped with curtains or covers. Additionally, dorm rooms generally provide individual lockers for securing belongings. You’ll also find amenities like en-suite bathrooms, charging stations, and a personal light for each bed.

The best part? Dorm rooms in hostels promote new friendships and rich cultural exchanges by providing a shared space where travelers can meet like-minded individuals.

Opting for Privacy: Securing Your Own Room

For those who value their solitude, hostels offer a range of private room options. You’ll find:

  • Twin rooms with two single beds
  • Double rooms
  • Private cabins
  • Bungalows
  • Themed rooms

These private rooms offer travelers the dynamic hostel experience with the added perks of personal space and privacy.

Those who need restful sleep or simply value their seclusion will find these private rooms particularly beneficial. While private rooms can come with en-suite bathrooms and amenities like TVs and balconies, some hostels might still provide shared bathroom facilities for private room occupants.

Family-Friendly Stays

Hostels aren’t just for solo travelers or groups of friends. Many hostels provide accommodations for all types of travelers, even families. Private rooms or family rooms are offered to suit their needs. You can find larger rooms or dorms that can be booked exclusively for families or rooms with several beds, often including family rooms with private bathrooms for additional comfort.

When choosing accommodations, families traveling with children should look for family-friendly hostels that offer quiet environments and the right room configurations. For those on extended trips, gap years, or embracing full-time travel, the flexibility and amenities of hostels offer practical and budget-friendly options.

The Social Scene of Hostel Life

A group of travelers enjoying a hostel game night

If you’re a social butterfly or looking to break out of your shell, hostels are a hotbed of social opportunities. In addition to common areas, pool tables, and bars, hostels create social opportunities by organizing free walking tours and pub crawls for guests to mingle. These various social activities not only provide entertainment but also serve as a platform for guests to socialize and meet new people.

Remember, the hostel common room serves as a social hub where travelers can meet, exchange stories, and make new friends. Regardless if you’re an extrovert or an introvert looking to venture out, hostel life’s social scene caters to everyone.  I tend to be a “life of the party” type of guy, and don’t hesitate to pull out some of these travel pranks from time to time!

From Pool Tables to Pub Crawls

Hostel game nights are a staple of the hostel social scene. These happenings often feature a wide array of board games, card games, and interactive group activities. Many hostels also have game rooms equipped specifically for entertainment. You can expect to see pool tournaments and other competitive games happening in the common areas.

The presence of a hostel bar signifies the hostel’s commitment to fostering a lively social environment. So whether you’re a card shark, a pool enthusiast, or a barfly, there’s always something going on where you can socialize and have fun.

Organized Outings: Free Walking Tours and Day Trips

Many hostels take the social scene outside their walls by organizing outings such as free walking tours and day trips. Partnering with local guides, they offer guests a glimpse into the city’s cultural and historical sights. But these outings are not just sightseeing excursions. They also serve as a platform for guests to socialize and meet new people.

Hostel-provided day trips enable guests to explore attractions, nature spots, or other cities beyond the city limits. Participating in these organized outings not only enriches your travel experience but also helps in saving money on entertainment.

Quiet Hours and Common Rooms

A cozy hostel common room during quiet hours

While hostels are known for their social atmosphere, they also understand the importance of rest. They typically implement quiet hours late at night to ensure guests can rest without being disturbed by social activities for a few hours. Guests are expected to maintain quietness during these hours, inclusive of afternoon rest times. So, while you’re making the most of the social scene, remember to respect the quiet hours and the peace of your fellow guests.

The common room in a hostel serves as a perfect place for activities like making phone calls or staying up late without disturbing those in the dorm rooms, ensuring a peaceful dorm room experience for everyone.

Making the Most of Hostel Services

Hostels offer a range of services designed to make your stay as comfortable and convenient as possible. Some of these services include:

  • Booking tours
  • Providing information about local events
  • Renting towels and toiletries
  • Laundry services
  • Assisting with airport transfers

The front desk staff is usually available to help with any of these services, making your stay more enjoyable and hassle-free.

The front desk is always ready to assist, so don’t hesitate to approach them with any need.

Laundry Day: Navigating Washing Clothes on the Go

Washing clothes on the go can be a challenge when traveling, but hostels often provide a solution with laundry services. They usually have a laundry room or service, allowing guests to wash clothes for a small fee. The front desk can provide information about these services, including whether they have a laundry room or if guests need to seek a local laundrette.

With the laundry facilities at hostels, there’s no need to worry about packing enough clothes for your trip – you can keep your clothes clean and fresh throughout your journey.

Assistance at Your Fingertips: Front Desk Help

The front desk is the heart of a hostel’s services, offering a range of assistance to ensure a smooth and enjoyable stay. The staff there are critical in providing guests with vital services, including:

  • Providing safety information
  • Explaining hostel rules
  • Alerting guests to any security risks in the area
  • Addressing unique concerns
  • Providing information about hostel amenities

They’re constantly refining their customer service, using guest feedback to close service gaps and implement solutions.

Whether you require assistance in organizing a tour or simply need some advice, you can always count on the front desk.

Safety and Security in Hostels

Hostel locker with a padlock for securing valuables

While hostels are fun and social, they also prioritize safety and security. From providing lockers for your belongings to offering female-only dorms, hostels have measures in place to ensure guests feel secure. Most hostels enhance guest security by utilizing:

  • Locking front doors
  • Key card systems
  • Security cameras
  • Individual room locks
  • Offering lockers large enough for suitcases

In addition to these security measures, guests are encouraged to take personal responsibility for their belongings and familiarize themselves with the hostel’s safety policies.

Keeping Valuables Secure: Lockers and Padlocks

One of the key aspects of hostel security is the provision of lockers. These should be standard and free of charge, especially for travelers carrying electronics. Some hostels even offer the option to charge devices inside lockers, adding an extra level of convenience and security. If you forget to bring a lock, some hostels provide locks for a deposit.

As a general rule, it’s crucial to respect other people’s belongings and to lock up personal items when not in the room. It’s advisable to pack a padlock or two as they are essential for securing your belongings in hostels.

Staying Safe as a Solo Traveler

The topic of safety is particularly relevant for solo travelers. If you’re traveling alone, especially as a solo female traveler, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Trust your intuition when choosing hostels and prioritize those with positive safety reviews.
  • Should you ever feel unsafe, immediately report your concerns to the hostel staff.
  • Remember, the onus is on you to secure your belongings and inform your plans to either staff or friends.

Staying safe in hostels is a balance between taking advantage of the social opportunities and being aware of your surroundings.

Packing Essentials for Hostel Stays

Essential items for hostel stay including toiletries, towels, and padlock

Packing for a hostel stay can be a bit different from packing for a hotel stay. Here are some essentials to bring:

  • Personal toiletries like soap, shampoo, and deodorant
  • An eco-friendly, quick-dry towel for drying off after showers
  • Flip-flops for shared showers
  • A padlock for securing your belongings
  • A travel adapter for charging your electronics

Packing smartly ensures you have everything you need for a comfortable hostel stay.

Budgeting Your Stay: Saving Money with Smart Choices

Staying in a hostel isn’t just about the experience; it’s also about making smart choices that can help you save money. Here are some tips to save money while staying in a hostel:

  • Cook in the hostel kitchen to cut down on food expenses
  • Use the hostel’s bike rental services or opt for public transportation to decrease transportation expenses
  • Book in advance, stay longer, or visit off-peak to get discounts at hostels

Be it food, transportation, or accommodation, your smart choices can lead to significant savings during your hostel stay.

Choosing the Right Hostel for You

Choosing the right hostel is crucial to ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay. It involves considering factors like the atmosphere, location, and amenities of the hostel. Are you looking for a lively atmosphere with plenty of social opportunities? Or are you seeking a more relaxed environment for rest and introspection? Does the hostel offer the amenities you need, like laundry services or a communal kitchen? And is it conveniently located near the city center or major attractions? All these aspects are important to consider in choosing a hostel that suits you best.

Party Hostel or Quiet Retreat?

When it comes to the atmosphere of a hostel, there are generally two types: party hostels and quiet retreats. Party hostels often feature a bar and arrange a variety of social activities, creating a vibrant, lively atmosphere.

On the other hand, quiet retreats offer a more relaxed environment, ideal for those seeking some peace and tranquility. By considering the type of atmosphere you prefer, you can choose a hostel that suits your travel style and preferences.

Location Matters: Proximity to City Centre and Attractions

Another crucial factor to consider when choosing a hostel is its location. A hostel located in the heart of the city center can provide convenient access to main attractions and activities, reducing the need for extensive commuting. Furthermore, selecting a hostel close to major bus stops or metro stations allows for easier exploration of the city.

Remember, considering the location of the hostel can make a significant difference to your travel experience, so keep in mind these hostel tips.

Navigating Hostel Etiquette

Staying in a hostel isn’t just about having fun and making new friends; it’s also about respecting others and following certain etiquette. This includes being discreet while changing clothes, keeping belongings within your assigned space, and observing quiet hours.

It is important to clean up immediately after using shared facilities such as showers and kitchens. And if you’re planning to leave early or return late, communicate your plans with your roommates. Adhering to these simple etiquette rules contributes to a pleasant and respectful hostel atmosphere.

First-Time Hostel Experiences

If it’s your first time staying in a hostel, you’re in for a unique adventure. From personal growth to meeting new friends, hostel stays offer enriching experiences that you won’t find in other forms of accommodation. You’ll also learn valuable lessons in resourcefulness, cultural relations, and flexibility. And don’t forget the treasure trove of insights you’ll gain from fellow hostel guests, offering recommendations and cautionary tips that could come in handy.

As a first-time hostel goer, prepare yourself for a journey replete with unique experiences and life lessons.

As promised, here’s some information on my past experiences:

Summary

In conclusion, hostels offer a unique and enriching experience that goes beyond mere accommodation. They provide a vibrant social scene, diverse accommodations, and a range of services that cater to different types of travelers. Whether you’re a solo traveler, a group of friends, or a family, there’s a hostel out there that’s perfect for you. So, pack your bags, respect the etiquette, and dive headfirst into the dynamic world of hostel life. Your adventure awaits!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 27 too old for hostels?

No, 27 is not too old for hostels, as many hostels are comfortable hosting travelers in their 30s and above. Some hostels may have age restrictions, so it’s important to do your research before booking.

Is it good to stay in hostel?

Staying in a hostel can be a great way to meet new people, share travel experiences, and have a more social experience compared to a hotel or B&B. It can lead to new friendships and memorable connections.

What should I pack for a hostel stay?

Pack essentials like personal toiletries, a quick-dry towel, flip-flops, and a padlock, and consider adding a travel adapter, earplugs, and an eye mask for added comfort during your hostel stay. Safe travels!

How can I save money during my hostel stay?

To save money during your hostel stay, consider cooking in the hostel kitchen, using public transportation, and taking advantage of discounts for advance bookings or longer stays. Happy travels!

Is it safe to stay in a hostel?

Yes, it is safe to stay in a hostel. Hostels prioritize safety and security by providing lockers, female-only dorms, and security systems like key card access and security cameras.

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About 

Peter is a digital nomad who largely writes from Asia, Europe, and South America. Always following the "vibe," he sets up shop in hostels and AirBNB's and continues to entertain us with wild stories from life abroad.

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