Don't be hostile about hostels

Don't be hostile about hostels

by Steph Edington
Stripes Europe

hos•tel | ΄ h ä s t l | A hostel is a budget-oriented, shared-room (“dormitory”) accommodation that accepts individual travelers (typically backpackers) or groups for short-term stays, and that provides common areas and communal facilities. To be considered a hostel, the property must provide short-term, shared (dormitory-style) accommodation for individual travelers, though many hostels also provide private rooms. The word “dormitory” refers to a room where travelers independently book individual beds in a shared room as opposed to booking entire rooms like in a hotel or guesthouse.

Travel is a top priority for those who receive orders or tours to Europe. With dozens of countries, cultures and historic sites a stone’s throw away, the opportunities are virtually endless. If you’re planning to do some traveling and are looking for a great way to stretch your travel budget and meet new people, consider staying in a more social environment such as a hostel. By design, a hostel provides short-term, shared (dormitory-style) accommodation for individual travelers, though many hostels also provide private rooms.

If you have never stayed in a hostel (or haven’t in recent years), you may have a misconception about their accommodations. For many years, American pop culture helped give hostels an unfortunate bad rap. Today, with increased competition for affordable accommodations and the growth of online hotel/hostel review websites, the hostel and budget accommodation industries have begun to shed their outdated image. Additionally, hostels are not just for “youth” anymore. While the first permanent youth hostel, or Jugendherberge, was created by Richard Schirrmann in 1912 for German teen inhabitants to build character and be physically active outdoors, today’s independent hostels cater to all ages and types of travelers.

For budget-savvy and social travelers

Many travelers seek a accommodations because they are more concerned with the adventure they’ll find outside of the hotel than with luxury accommodations. Therefore, modern hostels are budget-oriented but offer basic amenities, such as a bed and shower, one requires when traveling.

Hostels are also perfect for social travelers or those traveling alone who enjoy making new friends while abroad. Their dorm-style, communal settings mean that lone travelers or those in small groups could share a room with one or more strangers, or “potential new friends.”

For couples

Not all hostel rooms are designed dorm-style with several sets of bunk beds along the walls. Many offer twin or two-person private rooms that may even be a traditional hotel room. The rate is a little more expensive for a more private room, but usually still far cheaper than a traditional hotel. Also, you may still have to share a shower, but many hostels have both options available, and it is reflected in the price. This is a great way to meet other couples to share in tourist experiences or meet for drinks and dinner afterward.

Families with children

Hostels can be good for families with older children or teens. Here’s a tip: if you book all the beds in one large dorm, then you and your family will have the room to yourself, with separate beds, at a much cheaper price than by booking separate hotel rooms. However, a hostel’s design may not be right for infants or young children. Use your best judgment and be considerate to other travelers.



Additional amenities and concerns

Kitchens - Many hostels provide a community kitchen where you can prepare your own meals (another money saver!), and a social area with books, possibly a television and laptops to borrow and Wi-Fi. These common areas are all conducive to meeting people from all cultures, places and walks of life. Because community kitchens are shared, travelers need to remember to clean up after themselves. Some hostels also offer the option of half board (simple meals of breakfast and dinner) or full board (three simple meals), so you won’t have to buy and prepare your own food.

Security lockers - All hostels should offer private, secure lockers for belongings. Don’t stay at one if they do not. It is generally listed as a selling point on the property’s description. The hostel may not, however, offer padlocks for loan, so bring your own. Tip: a combination lock is a better choice than a padlock with a key. If you lose your key, you will have problems retrieving belongings.

Co-ed vs. same-sex rooms - Many hostels offer both same-sex and co-ed dorms/rooms. Make sure it is guaranteed that you will get your choice if you are not flexible.

Before you book any accommodation, research your choices, read reviews and all fine print. Also pay close attention to reviews with both positive and negative comments but have an overall good score. Everyone has different expectations and a specific place, though not a good fit for them, could be for you. A red flag would be any hostel or hotel with only rave reviews – those could be friends of the owner or even fake.

Just remember to keep an open mind, have realistic expectations, and see this as an adventure. Everyone who stays at a hostel is hoping to meet new and interesting people while saving money while doing so.

Hostel Essentials:

  • Shower shoes
  • Travel towel
  • Padlock
  • Sleep mask
  • Ear plugs
  • Small flashlight

Websites to discover and book hostels:

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