“Ew! Like the movie?!”
“Oh my gosh! Really? I don’t know about that…”
These are all various responses I’ve actually received in the past when I’ve divulged that I stayed in hostels during my travels, and this was my face after each one… -_-
I can understand, to an extent, that those who do not know what it is like to stay in a hostel can someone to feel a tad trepidatious, but I’m a firm believer in not judging something too harshly untill you’ve tried it – especially in all matters culinary, but that’s beside the point.
I’ve only stayed in 8 hostels in 8 different countries (seven in Europe), but I can honestly say I didn’t hate any of them. Of course, there are some I enjoyed more than others, but all in all, each was pleasantly unique and accommodating and saved me hella cash – my most expensive hostel was in Paris for 25 euros a night! These days we have multiple options when it comes to a place to sleep instead of resting your head on an overpriced hotel room pillow. If you end up choosing the path of the hostel, I have a few pointers when it comes to this way of life.
First off, know that there are many sites from which you can choose to look up potential hostels such as booking.com and hostelbookers.com, but my personal favorite that I used to book all of my stays is HostelWorld which, also, has its own app for your phone.
*If you happen to be traveling with a bunch of your loved ones, I recommend HomeAway. It can be inexpensive, depending, and can get you an entire private home or apartment for the duration of your stay. My family and I have used this multiple times whether we’re traveling to another country or just another city within our home state, Texas.*
When looking for which to choose, I wouldn’t just look at which was the cheapest and has the best reviews, but where it’s located. If it’s not near some major attractions, make sure it’s in a relatively safe area, and that there is a metro stop nearby – Europe is incredibly well set up when it comes to transportation. In regards to amenities, I would only make sure there were four included aspects:
- Free wi-fi
- Free breakfast
- Included towels
- Included linen (usually not hard to find)
Reasons why… I didn’t pay for an international cell phone plan, so I needed the wi-fi to plan my day and check in with loved ones via my Viber app which enabled me to make voice and face time calls, send pictures and text messages for free over the wi-fi network. Before leaving the wi-fi zone, it is super helpful to, one, make note of the name and address of the hostel in case you have to end of taking a taxi and, two, take a couple of screenshots of a map of the city to help you get around without having a massive paper map in front of your face yelling “I’m a tourist!”
*Side note, it is ill-advised to open a map whilst walking about in the street, especially when by yourself; go into a restaurant or cafe or just sit on a bench somewhere to figure out where you are and where you’re going.*
The free breakfast was a way to save more money as I would eat my fill and try to ninja something out with me to snack on during the day. Even though most free breakfast consists of cereal and toast, some actually have pastries, fruit and cheese depending on where you are (A.K.A Score!). Towels and bed linen are luxuries we forget we’re used to until we don’t have them! In regards to towels, hostels either have them, don’t provide them, pass them out for a small fee (like one euro) or charge you too much to buy one – why would I want to carry around a towel on my travels when I have to make room for souvenirs?! I refused to pay 4 euro to buy a towel at my hostel in Amsterdam, so I used my Pashmina scarf as a substitute. #Resourceful.
*Another plus to seek are security lockers for if you happen to have something expensive that you don’t want to carry around with you or hold while you sleep.*
Depending on your age, there is one other thing you need to review before booking a hostel: the age limit. Every so often, I’d come across a hostel that did not allow anyone over the age of 35, but no worries, you’ll find plenty that aren’t like this, as well 🙂
Once you’ve decided on a hostel, next is choosing whether or not you’d like a private or shared room. There are shared rooms out there that can have 20 or so people staying in bunk beds in one room; based on your personality, this can be an awesome or terrible decision. If you’re super worried about your personal items and need your space, you can get a private room for one or multiple people for an increased price. If you’re traveling solo and want to save money and make friends, choose the bunk room! When staying at a hostel in Marrakech by myself for 4 days, I met a new friend or group of friends each day, so I didn’t even have to do anything by my lonesome! You could possibly make a lifelong buddy or just have a friend for the day.
*Tip for keeping belongings safe while out for the day: keep your suitcase locked. There are even locks out there that help you lock your luggage (even canvas backpacks like mine) to the bed you’re staying in like this one. I, myself, never had anything stolen besides a pair of cheap lace up boots which I got back.*
When it comes to deciding on your plans for the day, use the hostels resources! Many hostels have city maps, group outings and day trips set up to take you places and even dinners at the hostel so everyone can get to know each other. The trips and dinners cost money of course, but if it’s something you really want to do, then do it! Because otherwise… when are you going to be back? Enjoy your time to the fullest!
After running around all day and all night, it’s finally time for some well-deserved shut-eye. Before you even leave the hostel for the day, after you get to your bed, there are a couple of things to check. Make sure there’s a blanket. Sometimes, you have to rent it – or just sleep with a jacket over you like I’ve done. #FrugalAF
The second thing to really not forget to do it check for bed bugs. “Gross!” I know. I myself have never come across them (knock on wood), but I know they’re out there, and they do not discriminate; bed bugs go wherever they are taken – hotels, apartments, houses. A hostel may not even have them until a traveler brings them from somewhere else, and if you get them, they are a huge pain in the ass to get rid of! In case you don’t know what they look like, here is an up close image along with details on how to treat bites and exterminate the vile creatures (I myself have never had to do it, so I’m not sure how reliable this is). Here is what you would actually look for on the bed since they are very small insects, and here are what their bites look like in case you feel suspicious. If you see any of these, gather your items and GTFO! Again, I’ve never had them, but I know stories of those who have, so just be cautious before going to bed or even putting your stuff on the bed.
All in all, hostels are a great option to stay in – especially for solo travelers! Below are a few of the hostels I stayed in – unfortunately, I can’t find my hostels from London, Paris and Portugal, and it seems as if my favorite hostel, which was in Marrakech, went out of business.
Barcelona: Equity Point Gothic > I enjoyed this one, except I didn’t realize that the beds were separated… they are like individual little rooms that you crawl up into. It is actually pretty cool, but since I was there alone, I wanted a bunk room to meet people with whom I could hang out. Their breakfast included fruit, so that’s a plus! This is the one where I refused to rent a blanket; I can’t remember how much they wanted to charge for it, but it was obviously too much for me at the time.
Rome: Freedom Traveller > It’s nice. It’s clean, and it has a decent location. Solid hostel at which to stay.
Brussels: Hello Hostel > This one I enjoyed. Clean, good breakfast, a kitchen so you can cook your own meals, and they even had a band play on weekends! It’s a fun hostel and is pretty close to a metro stop that you can take straight to the main plaza in downtown.
Amsterdam: StayOkay > Great location near the city center and a beautiful park! Very clean, but no included towels. Still a very good hostel.
Hostelling is a great way to find a cheap place to lay one’s head a night. After all, that’s why we need it, because during the day and maybe even into the night, you’ll be out exploring the city and creating memories, so don’t spend too much money on overnight accommodations!
Where are you going to visit next? See what hostels are in the area! I hope this was helpful, my friends 🙂 Safe travels!