What You May Not Know About Staying in a Hostel

Let’s face it, when someone who has never stayed in a hostel before hears the term “hostel” the first thing they picture is an open room with 15+ bunk beds lined together and creepy strangers admiring each other sleep. While this may be the case in a select few countries, the majority of hostels are actually quite the opposite.

If you are a traveler looking to spend the least amount of money possible on a room to sleep in, and you don’t mind the idea of sleeping in a room full of other travelers, the above option is often available for the cheapest price possible. However, many hostels also have rooms with 6 beds, 4 beds, 2 beds, and even private rooms, although the price rises as the number of beds falls.

In my experience, hostels are a great affordable choice for a traveler on a budget. I stayed in a hostel in Bariloche Argentina, a city in Patagonia that offered almost all of the same amenities as a 3 to 4 star hotel. This included 24 hour front desk service, a locker with a lock for personal gear, desktop computers with free internet service, free full breakfast (eggs, pancakes, cereal, fruit, drinks) between 7 – 8 am, tour booking assistance, cable TV, and even a balcony offering views of the ocean. Sure, the room I stayed in had 4 beds available for any traveler to book, but let’s face it, anyone looking to stay in a hostel is not looking to spend any part of their day living there. Instead, they are probable only looking for a place to get a few hours rest between their busy schedules. How much did a place like this cost per night you ask? Try $26.00/person/night.

Another common misconception about hostels is that the person working behind the front desk is a local that couldn’t care any less about you or your safety. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In my experience the front desk workers are actually world travelers just like yourself who have found a love for the country or city of which you are looking to stay, and decided to work there for a period of time in order to do some more traveling in the area themselves. Many times these people are college students looking to work abroad for their summer break. No matter who they are, they always hold a vast knowledge of the local area and are always willing to suggest travel ideas to a fellow world traveler.

The choice to stay in a hostel or a hotel is one that must be made (or at least should be) before you arrive in the country or city you are visiting. In order to help you decide further I’ve broken down a list of which amenities each usually includes.

Included Amenities Hostel Hotel
A Place to Sleep X X
24 HR Reception X X
Tour Booking Assistance X X
Cable TV X X
Internet Access (sometimes WIFI) X X
Common Room X X
Bathroom/Showers X (But Dorm Room Style) X (Private)
Personal Lockers X X
Included Breakfast X
Kitchen Facilities X
Mini Bar X
Swimming Area X
Bar/Cafe X
Recreation Center X
PRICE RANGE $7 – $140 /night $65 – $200+ /night

**Based on personal experience in hostels and 4-star hotels. Minimum price based on full inclusion of above amenities, maximum price may (and probably does) include more (private rooms, spa access, etc).

Overall, the decision to stay in a hostel or a hotel depends on what you’re looking to get out of your trip. Are you looking to stay out all day and into the night in order to truly experience the city you are visiting the way the locals experience it? If so, a hostel would be a great affordable choice for you. Or are you looking for the all-inclusive resort where you can lounge by the pool while sipping margaritas in the sun all day long? If so, the hotel is certainly the better choice for you, but at least now you have some basic knowledge to get you started on making your decision.

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18 thoughts on “What You May Not Know About Staying in a Hostel”

  1. Great post! I was nervous the first time I stayed in a hostel, but it turned out to be the wisest $4 (yes, $4!!) I ever spent. I met some fantastic people and learned things only the locals would know. It was much better than a “canned” hotel stay, and with some experience, you’ll learn that it’s really easy to sneak in and use a hotel pool when you feel like you need a swim. 😉

  2. Hey Katie,
    So many people don’t understand what a hostel actually is and how it can offer you some of the best cultural experiences. This is sad really and I hope that the small amount of information I have offered will help others like ourselves discover these possibilities.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. actually if you are travelling in a group of 3-4, it might actually be cheaper to stay in a hotel sometimes! but i agree with you that i’ve met pretty cool people in hostels that i otherwsie wouldn’t have met at a hotel.. still.. i dun like the slight feeling of insecurity about leaving my stuff out in the open @ a hostel.. guess.. there’s pros and cons

    1. That’s a good point if the hotel is offering prices based on double occupancy but it definitely depends on location. Just like Katie said above, she spent $4 (which is incredible) and in this case there is no way a hotel could get cheaper. In my experience, the hostels I’ve stayed at had cubbies with locks on them for you to put your bag and other personal belongings if you wished, but I can see where your feelings of insecurities could come from.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  4. I had the best adventure of my life thanks to staying in a hostel on NZ’s Coromandel Coast…I met four young students (then half my age) who adopted me, drove me to their weekend home then took me home to their parents’ lovely house outside Auckland. They even all came to the airport to say goodbye when I left.

    1. Wow, that sounds like a great experience. That’s one of the best parts about staying in hostels: meeting all the people from all over the world. I haven’t been to NZ yet, but would very much like to in the near future. Thanks for sharing your experience!
      Nate

    1. Hi Frances. Hmmm this is a great question. I’ve never seen rules against it, but at the same time I don’t think I would recommned it because I have also not seen one equiped with changing stations, and hostels tend to be semi noisey so the child probably wil not get a lot of rest. Thanks for your question!

  5. Hi i tripped up on your blog and am glad to have found it. I myself love traveling but the expense has stopped me from traveling as much as I would love to. Thank you for your wonderful tips. I will most def be putting these to use. Quick question though, how do you go about finding these hostels? What are your typical guidelines that you go by when choosing one? Thanks beforehand!!!! =)

    1. Hi Debbie,
      Great questions. Once you choose where you will be going, you can then simply search the internet for “Hostels in New York City” or wherever you are going. Many hostels still have websites just like hotels where they will list what the provide for you and offer photographs of the rooms so that you can see in advance what they look like. The next step is location. You want a hostel in a good location, not only for safety sake, but so you won’t have to spend money on transportation every day just to get into town. In many places, hostels are all located down one main hostel/hotel street so that usually isn’t a problem. Hopefully this answeres your question!
      Nate

  6. Agreed; my first couple of hostel experiences were totally positive. Everyone cringes when they think of hostels, and while it wasn’t the softest mattresses I’d ever slept on, it was great hanging out with everyone for breakfast, and meeting new people to hang out with for the day! All in all, I’m totally down with hostels. It’s just a bed. I just want to close my eyes there, so it doesn’t matter what it looks like to me!

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Absolutely! I’ve never understood why anyone would use a hotel for more than a place to sleep. Why on earth would anyone want to spend any amount of time in their hotel?

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment,
      Nate

    1. Your welcome! Hostels are great. I´m in Cusco, Peru right now, but when I get back to Lima I´ll be staying at a hostel. I´m planning on taking pictures to show everyone here what a hostel really is like. Feel free to kep your eyes open for that once I return from Peru!

  7. Great post! Sometimes, too, you can get upgraded during low season. A friend and I booked a 4-bed room in Belgrade, and the hostel owners ended up letting us use that as a private room for the same cost. It was great. And I’ve met friends in hostels whom I’ve ended up staying with on later travels. The social environment of a hostel beats a hotel for me every time!

    1. Hostels really are a great way to meet people. I was in Italy during the last U.S. Presidential campaign and in a hostel there I met a bunch of people from Belgium. As soon as they found out I was American, all they wanted to do was talk politics, but it was still nice to talk with these people for a while. Most people seem to stick to themselves in hotels, unless maybe at the hotel bar at night. I’m not too sure why that is.

      I have to update this post a little after staying in a magnificent hostel in Lima, Peru. Thanks for reading and commenting though!
      Nate

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