How to Look Past Hostels Bad Rap!

How to Look Past Hostels Bad Rap!

A big hesitation that people have when desiring to travel abroad is staying in hostels.  I can completely understand where the worry comes from if you haven’t stayed in one before.  Horror movies like “Hostel” and “Hostel II” don’t paint a desiring picture of hostel life what-so-ever. I didn’t know what to expect when I was heading to my first hostel in Brussels, Belgium. 

Belgium wasn’t the first country that I had traveled to but it was the first one where I stayed at a hostel and not with a family.  I wasn’t nervous at all.  I’m not sure why.  But, I knew that my mom was extremely worried about me backpacking for the first time, traveling by myself, and staying in hostels. 

Hollywood and Lifetime movies got to her and she would conjure ideas of everything that could possibly go wrong.  Her ideas couldn’t be furthest from the truth.

I absolutely love staying in hostels, for many reasons.  Granted, it definitely depends on where you stay because every hostel experience is very different.  Hostels are an amazing way to travel on a budget.  Hostels in Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand tend to cost more because of popularity. 

You can expect to pay around $12-$20 for a shared dorm room in these areas.  In Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean region such as Macedonia, Bosnia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and Slovenia, which I visited in the off-season (February and March timeframe), it can be must cheaper to find a place to stay.  

I stayed in “hostels” which were private rooms with my own bathroom, shower, hot water, big bed (or sometimes two beds), some have little kitchen areas, furniture, and cable t.v.  The reason that I say “hostels” is because although I found these places on the same websites that I find all of my other hostel accommodations, they are more like little studio apartments or private rooms in apartment complexes which are own by a family.  

They are fantastic.  Since it was off season, not only were the rooms even cheaper, there were no one else really staying in the building except for the family downstairs and I, making it quite and peaceful.  I have stayed in a handful of places like this in countries like Nicaragua ($8 a night), Bosnia ($12 a night), Macedonia ($15 a night) and India ($20 a night).  

The families are always very hospitable and welcoming.  They often invite you to come have breakfast for free, coffee, tea, to chat, and to spend time with them.  The family in Macedonia were one of my most memorable.  

They always wanted me to sit and talk with them, they always offered me food, they let me use their computer and printer for free, they told me the history of their town, they borrowed me their map to use, they picked me up from the where I was dropped off at in town to make sure I made it to the apartment safely and they paid the taxi for me because I didn’t have local currency yet, they waited with me for the bus the day 

I was leaving to make sure I got on the right one, and much more.  They even offered me to go out dancing with them and a group of visitors from Albania.  The woman even walked me around town on the first day to show me where the supermarket, bank, stores, lake, restaurants, and outdoor market were.  The day before I left, I hand drew portraits of their two young sons for them to keep as a thank you gesture. 

In Central America and Southeast Asia I mainly stayed in private rooms, some with my own t.v, all with my own bathroom, for super cheap.  They can range from $6 a night to $12 a night, depending on where you are.  You can often negotiate a rate too.  You can choose from all types of rooms at many places.  

Each establishment is different although they may be on the same accommodation booking site.  Some room options are: 4-bed female or male, 6-bed female or male, 8-bed female, male, or mixed, 10 or 12-bed female, male, or mixed, private one bed, or private two beds.  

Some things to keep in mind are: the higher the bed count, the cheaper the price is and just because there are so many beds in one room, it doesn’t mean that the room will be full (I have stayed in rooms with a lot of beds and been one of the only people staying in them).  

You have choices to support your comfort level.  I change it up often.  Sometimes I stay in dorm rooms because it’s cheaper and I want to be social and sometimes I stay in private rooms because I want to have time to myself and because they are cheap enough in some areas.  It also depends on how long I am staying in the city for. 

Each establishment offers different stuff too.  It also depends on what region you are in.  Some places offer: lockers and locks (I bring my own pad lock just in case), storage rooms for free (to keep you belongings if you have to time to spare before checking in or if you have to check out earlier than your departure time), free WiFi, computers to use (sometimes for free, sometimes for a small fee or they give you a free 20 minutes or something), 

bedding (every place that I have stayed at have provided bedding for free, and yes, it is clean!), toilet paper (this is very crucial in many regions such as Southeast Asia and India because paper products are scare there), free breakfast or breakfast for a small fee, a kitchen to use for free to cook your own food (a great way to save money on food), free coffee and tea, hot water (very important because it’s hard to come by in some countries), 

free games, movies to watch, communal area to be social with others, a book exchange area or a free library shelf, free maps of the city, tours and transportation information and bookings, activities such as Pub Crawls for a fee,  free walking tours, discounts are local restaurants or shops, free towels to use, free little shampoos and soaps to have, 

free shuttles to and from the airport or for fee, and much more.  Every place offers different amenities which are listed on the booking websites.  These are all some things that I have received at places that I have stayed at. 

The types of “hostels” that you will find on these recommended booking websites are: actual hostels with both private and multi-bed dorm rooms, budget hotels which are all private rooms, individual bungalows, beach-side places, apartment-like places that are family owned, and more.  

You can look at the photos of the place and read the reviews on these websites too.  I like staying at all types of places because you never know what you’ll experience, who you’ll meet, and it’s nice to change it up.

One of my most favorite things about staying at hostels is the amount of friends that I meet.  I have met people all over the world from all over the world.  I have kept in contact with so many of them via email or Facebook.  I have also stayed at many of their homes or with a friend of theirs when I visited their country.  

Some examples are: my friend that I met in Chang Mai, Thailand and stayed with in Vancouver, Canada and my friends that I met in Phuket, Thailand that I stayed with in Bangalore, India.  Even if you don’t stay with the friend in their country, they can provide information, recommendations, and advice about anything in their country or region.  

Although I like to stay in many private rooms, I still meet a lot of people and sit and chat with them in the common areas, lobby, computer area, or go on tours with them.   Staying with friends is a great way to save money when traveling too.

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