If you’re young and have ever looked into traveling abroad then you’ve probably heard of hostels. They make traveling cheap, and they’re a go-to place to stay for many young travelers. But you’ve probably also wondered what it’s really like staying in one of these places. You’ve probably heard the horror stories – dirty living conditions, theft, harassment, etc. While certainly some of these things could happen, there are many hostels where you wouldn’t have to worry, and where, in the end, you’d get so much more out of your travel experience than you would by staying in a hotel. If you’re wondering why on earth anyone would ever want to stay in a hostel other than for it’s cheap factor, then read on because staying in a hostel is better than a hotel for many reasons.
1. You meet interesting people.
You’ll always find the most eclectic mix of people in a hostel. Americans studying abroad and traveling, Europeans on a weekend trip, Australians taking a gap year, American expats working at the hostel, you name it. I’ve very much enjoyed staying in hostels and making friends with all sorts of interesting people. I once checked into a hostel in Northern Spain, for example, and the woman who checked me in had not only been a UNC student like me, but had also done my same exact study abroad program and is now living and teaching English in Spain. You never realize how small the world really is until you meet someone in a strange circumstance like that. Additionally, in hostels I’ve made friends with a group of Dutch boys visiting for the weekend, who then grilled me on American politics. I also met an Australian couple traveling the world for a gap year. Once, I even met a man from Argentina who was partaking in the Camino de Santiago. It’s always fun and interesting to meet so many different people, especially if you’re traveling solo and want to make friends.
2. There are more opportunities for cultural exchange.
As noted above, you’ll meet many different and interesting people in hostels. Because of the many people that stay in hostels, you’ll likely be able to get an even more enriching cultural exchange than you would have otherwise. You’ll likely meet some people from that particular country, but you’ll also most certainly meet people from all over the world as well. I know I certainly enjoyed discussing Australian slang with the couple I met. It’s also interesting to meet people from all over and get their perspectives on the place that you’re visiting. For example, I took a weekend trip to Barcelona, where I ended up meeting a nice young Russian girl, who told me all about how it had been her dream to go to Barcelona for years, and she had finally made it. Honestly, the interactions you can have in hostels just aren’t quite comparable to anything else in the world. Staying in hostels, you can literally meet people from all across the globe.
3. Sometimes there are enriching activities.
Some hostels make the experience even better by having activities that guests can partake in, sometimes free or not free. Many hostels provided bar crawls, for example. But even better, some hostels had even more for their guests. While in Dublin, I actually made friends with some people staying in another hostel that had a free Irish whiskey tasting. That was probably one of the coolest hostel experiences I’ve had, but experiences like that aren’t necessarily uncommon. When I went to Salzburg, Austria, where The Sound of Music took place and was filmed, my hostel even showed the movie every night at 8 p.m. My hostel in Madrid hosted Spanish language and cultural learning sessions. Sometimes hostels might even have cooking classes for their local cuisine.
So while you might hear some horror stories about hostels, don’t worry. If you pick the right hostel for you, then you’ll get so much more out of it than you would by staying in a hotel for the reasons I listed above. For tips on picking a hostel, keep an eye out for my next post.
Why do you like staying in hostels? Please share in your comments below!