What Are Hostels Like?
Before I went traveling I had never stayed in a hostel. I had the idea that a hostel was a seedy place to stay and the only time you’d choose one was when you couldn’t afford anything else. I imagined uncomfortable beds and dingy bathrooms. The idea of staying in a hostel was really unappealing, until I actually did and really enjoyed it. Now I recommend hostels to anyone who is planning travel. In some parts of the world they are not so practical, for example in smaller cities in Asia, such as Ubud, you’ll be much more likely to find guesthouses than hostels. So sometimes it is not possible to stay in a hostel, but when it is it can be a really great experience.
Hostels, like the tourism industry, are evolving. Particularly in modernized cities, you will be likely to find trendy and cool hostels. I’ve noticed that the difference between a high-end private room in a hostel and a low-cost room in a hotel is usually just the price tag. During my time in Lisbon I stayed at a really great hostel called Downtown Design Hostel and wanted to use it is an example to show you what hostels are really like.
Because hostels are almost always smaller than hotels, it’s much easier to put them in central locations. The Downtown Design Hostel is in the perfect location; most of the central tourist attractions were within walking distance, which in turn saves you money on the metro. But above and beyond that, there was an amazing view of Praça de D. Pedro IV one of Lisbon‘s most important squares. Not a bad view to enjoy while you’re sipping on your morning coffee.
When staying in a hostel it’s often possible to choose between a private room or a dormitory. When I was traveling in a group of four, sometimes we would book out a dormitory and it would be like our own private room. If you’re traveling in a couple, private rooms tend to be great value as for a few more euros/dollars per person, you can enjoy the comfort of your own room. If you feel like splashing out a little more, often you can find yourself with a private bathroom, too. If you’re traveling solo, sharing in a dormitory might be the best option for you, both in terms of cost, but also to meet new people. When I first started traveling I used to pick the largest dormitories available, not just because they’re usually the cheapest, but also because it meant I would be likely to meet the most people.
Almost every hostel I’ve stayed in has had a kitchen. There have been a few exceptions, but I’d say around 90% of all the hostels well equipped with decent kitchens. They are usually stocked with at least the basic cookware and utensils. Often there is fridge and sometimes there are spices, oils and condiments; it varies widely between hostels. Having a kitchen means that you’re able to prepare easy, healthy and cheap meals while on the road.
This is probably my favourite thing about hostels, is the fact that they encourage you to be social and to make friends. In order to achieve this, there’s usually an abundance of comfortable common areas to hang out in. Downtown Design Hostel in Lisbon had the most comfortable couch I’ve ever sat on, coupled with a giant tv (handy for watching the olympics) and a computer with internet for the guests to use. There were tables and chairs scattered around, too. When you’re traveling alone, these common areas can be seen as places of opportunity – you can meet new friends to travel with, or talk to different people about the places you’re going to get suggestions of what to do. This is probably one of the main reasons that I prefer a hostel over a hotel, because it is so much easier to meet new people.
Because hostels are generally smaller businesses, it is not uncommon to have the owners actually working in the hostel. This leads to a really personal experience, because they go the extra mile to ensure you really enjoy your stay. Hostel staff generally tend to be younger people and sometimes fellow tourists are employed during the busier months to help out. This is really great because they are happy to give you their opinion on the best thing to do and the best places to eat. It’s much more personable than the service you get in an average hotel.
Who Stays In Hostels?
Really, it varies so much depending on the city or the particular hostel. But in the hostels I’ve stayed I’ve seen entire families with young children, old people, business people, couples, pregnant ladies, interns, and fellow backpackers. Families and business men tend to have their own rooms, but everyone else I’ve seen in dorms. Now that the standards of hostels are rising, I think there will be an increase in families who are taking advantage of their incredible value. The majority of people staying in hostels are still young backpackers, which is great if you’re looking to meet other backpackers.
Hostels are great value for money, so long as you make an effort to pick the right one for your needs. I always check out the reviews on the booking sites, just to read what other travelers are saying about it. When I was picking a hostel for Lisbon, I spent a bit of time reading the reviews and looking at the photos to ensure that I was picking the best hostel in Lisbon – and I ended up having a great stay. If you’re in Lisbon anytime soon, be sure to check it out.
Have you ever stayed in a hostel? If so, where has your favourite hostel been?