Hostels – The Good and the Bad

Hostels – The Good and the Bad

When I go away, nine times out of ten I stay in a Hostel. Now, I’d be lying if I said that my reasons weren’t primarily financial ones. I’m a budget traveller: with a decent but far from extravagant income, and the sights I see/activities I get involved in of more importance to me than the place I sleep, Hostels enable me to travel a lot more than I would if I stayed in Hotels everywhere.

There are plenty of blog posts out there – many of them good ones – on why you should stay in Hostels for reasons other than them being cheaper. This one will sort of go down that route, but it will also explore a few reasons why you might NOT want to stay in a Hostel (and no, they’re nothing to do with the Hostel movies, which try to convince you they’re death traps). So, gentle reader, read on and decide – are Hostels the accommodation for you?

 

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The Good

  • Staff offer a more naturally friendly service. In my experience, Hostels have a far more chilled out and far less ‘corporate’ environment than hotels. Yes, you’ll get good customer service in hotels (unless the hotel is lousy, of course), but it can often be overly clipped and professional. Hostel staff are more informal, and you feel like you’re talking to a genuinely friendly person rather than someone who has been through a structured training program.
  • Very often, staff in Hostels are also travellers, just like you! So the person at the Hostel reception in Edinburgh could actually be Australian, say, or the lady at the Zambian place you’re staying who helps you book your excursion is Canadian. They can empathise with your visitor lens in a way a born and bred local couldn’t, and give you a different sort of insight in to the place you’re staying.
  • It’s very easy to meet fellow travellers, which is always a welcome thing if you’re on your own. As well as swapping stories/advice etc, you might end up finding that you both want to go to the same places and do the same things that day and, voila, you have a new friend…without the daily hassle of mutual compromise that invariably comes up when you’re travelling long term with someone else.
  • The self-catering option. Last I looked you can’t really cook your own dinner in a Hotel; both a money-saver and a potentially healthier/more convenient alternative to the extravagance and sometimes-nuisance of eating out.
  • Quirks and idiosyncrasies. To me, hostels tend to have more flourishes and touches that give them a unique vibe and character. For instance, there’s a Hostel in Ljubljana in Slovenia that has been converted from an old prison! And things like noticeboards full of local information are more pleasingly ramshackle and distinctive than the identikit, bland offerings Hotels usually serve up.
  • Quite often, and for some reason some people seem to forget this, there are private rooms in Hostels! Yes, they’ll be more expensive of course, but are still often cheaper than a Hotel, and you get all the benefits listed above plus the added bonus of privacy and your own space, which could well be important to you.

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The Bad

  • Sometimes, hostels are full of backpackers who spend all their time with fellow backpackers in backpacker hangouts, who then think they’ve authentically experienced the local culture. Er, no you haven’t…
  • Whilst there are many long-term, full-time travellers who are a pleasure to listen to and engage with, sometimes in hostels you’ll get people sat around a table talking at each other about that awesome experience they had in Thailand, only for someone to counter that with how Bolivia changed their life, and the original person will see their Bolivia and raise it with that unforgettable moment in Rwanda…you get where I’m coming from.
  • Why do some backpackers think that it’s their duty to get s**t-faced drunk every night? I like drinking booze and having a good time too (honest!), but just because you’re travelling the world it doesn’t mean you have to contrive an overly hedonistic lifestyle. If you genuinely, absolutely adore getting drunk every night then (a) you might have a problem and (b) perhaps this travelling thing isn’t actually what you really want to do…?
  • Security is probably much better in hostels than it was 10 or so years ago, with lockers for personal belongings etc coming as standard. But ultimately, they’ll never be quite as secure as hotels for the simple reason that other people in your room increase the likelihood for theft. That probably increases further still in the kitchen.
  • Certain creature comforts we take for granted are definitely something you’ll need to compromise on in hostels. There are never, and I mean never, enough power sockets to go round in our age of everybody having at least two digital devices with them. Bathroom quality and quantity can be variable. Bunk beds tend to be standard, which can be uncomfortable whether you’re on the bottom or (especially) on the top. And yeah, one or more of your fellow roommates might snore, so if you are a light sleeper…
  • The worst inconvenience of all in a dorm, though, is probably the mess that other people make. Seriously, some people have a rather infuriating talent for scattering their stuff in large piles that take up half the dorm room. Most people don’t, in all fairness, but it only takes one, doesn’t it?

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In the final analysis, I will still continue to stay in Hostels for the most part, interspersed with the occasional Hotel. Because for me, the pros do ultimately outweigh the cons. But that’s just for me. Hostels and Hotels shouldn’t be seen in black and white, and so ultimately, the choice of which you opt for should be yours.

Which pros/cons of Hostels have I not mentioned here? Do you prefer Hostels or Hotels? Let me know in the comments below.

14 Comments

  • Helen Namauu

    March 11, 2016 at 6:21 am Reply

    Very informative! Thank you for sharing.

    • Joe

      March 11, 2016 at 6:37 am Reply

      You’re welcome! Glad you found it useful and interesting 🙂

  • Amandas_Wanderlust

    March 12, 2016 at 11:05 am Reply

    Lol, I haven’t stayed in a hostel for years but this brought back some funny memories. 🙂

    • Joe

      March 12, 2016 at 2:12 pm Reply

      Haha, yeah some of my funniest memories are in Hostels too. They’re that sort of place! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • cristina

    March 12, 2016 at 9:47 pm Reply

    Great post, interesting and to the point. I’ve stayed in a hostel for the first time 3 months ago (I’m on a 6 months South American tour) and although it wasn’t my dream place, I could appreciate the good sides.

    Thanks for posting 😊.

    Cristina

    • Joe

      March 12, 2016 at 11:04 pm Reply

      Thanks Cristina. Yeah, I don’t think anyone would say that your typical Hostel is really their dream accommodation and honestly believe themselves, but the better are ones are excellent and for me, their appeal is undeniable 🙂

  • Mike

    March 13, 2016 at 12:50 am Reply

    Totally agree, the pros far outweight the cons on hostel life. My wife and I are in our mid-thirties, and honestly we love the hostel culture. It’s real, it’s raw, and it’s there when you want to engage with it, and when you don’t, you just throw in your ear plugs (private room or not 🙂

    Great share Joe, and great to connect with you,
    Mike

    • Joe

      March 13, 2016 at 8:04 am Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Mike, and for confirming to all folk who are reading this that those of us who are in our 30s (I’m 32) and beyond can enjoy hostel life too – I’ve met people in their 60s who are very much in to hostels as well. Good point about the ear plugs too! 🙂

  • RoarLoud

    March 14, 2016 at 6:49 pm Reply

    I haven’t stayed at many hostels, generally I’m at hotels now. For backpacking trips I’m often in a tent. I do like my own space but I’d like to check out more hostels for the experience:)

    • Joe

      March 14, 2016 at 7:01 pm Reply

      Well, hopefully the fact that more and more hostels are offering private rooms will encourage you to give them a go 🙂 Nothing like staying in a tent for those trips mostly spent on the great outdoors. Thanks for stopping by Cathy!

  • shayan Naveed

    August 24, 2016 at 4:05 am Reply

    If I was single, I’d definitely stay at hostels but being married and my wife needing her privacy, especially bathrooms, we tend not to stay at hostels much. Also many times it turns out to be MORE expensive. We prefer renting out apartments, which was cheaper in some cases.

    You’re right hotels are too corporate but there are things in the middle. If more hostels were clean and had private rooms, I think my wife would stay there and we have in the past.

    I know what you said about backpacker sticking with their own kind. In Cambodia, we stayed at mad monkey hostel and no one talked to us. It made us angry because wasn’t traveling about meeting people? they just stuck with each other, drank with each other.

    • Joe

      August 24, 2016 at 7:11 am Reply

      Yep, it all depends on your needs and circumstances, and for some people privacy and their own personal space is very important. And hostels aren’t always cheaper either, that’s true – a common assumption that some people mistakenly make.

      Hostels do have private rooms sometimes, you just need to find the right ones 🙂 I would also say that hostels are often clean too, in their defence, sometimes even cleaner than hotels…

      Cliques forming in hostels seems to be an increasingly worrying trend. When I was in a hostel in Nairobi last month (with a group from my school), one of the other adults in the group and I observed how there were five or six separate individuals in the common area, all on their phones and ignoring one another. Some people do still interact with each other, and this happened at that same hostel later on, but it’s sad how fewer people seem to be doing it.

  • Sara Broers

    October 3, 2016 at 11:54 pm Reply

    Great information.. not sure if it would be for me, as I am more of a keep to myself kind of person.
    Sara Broers recently posted…Dufur, Oregon: Home To The Charming Historic Balch HotelMy Profile

    • Joe

      October 4, 2016 at 4:55 am Reply

      Thanks, and yes, they’re definitely not for everyone. All down to your own personal preferences 🙂

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