Hostels; what are they, and how are they different to hotels?
In my latest article, I wrote about finances while on the road and also how to find the best accommodation, and I realised that I hype on about hostel life quite a lot, and some of my readers have never even stayed in one! So this article is all about hostels, and what to expect in them; the good, the bad, and the drunk.
What is a hostel? This is a question that surprisingly comes up quite a lot in conversation with people. Well, in short, it is cheaper accommodation than hotels, you don’t have your own private room, but in fact you share the room with other people and in most of them shared toilet facilities too. Usually hostels have bunk beds rather than single or twin beds and on average, it’s around 10-12 people in the cheaper dorms, and logically the fewer beds/people in a room, the more expensive it gets. Unlike a hotel, people don’t tend to spend all their time in the bedroom, but usually hang out in the common room, any decent hostel will have a good common area, chill-out room or even games room; somewhere that all the guests can hang out with each other and chat, maybe share a drink or two and share their experiences of the road. Some of the better hostels I’ve stayed at even offered guided tours or bar crawls. These are great to socialise with others and mingle with people you may not have done so otherwise. The best hostels even offer a free or “discounted” dinner so you can eat your evening meal with others. As I explained in the money saving article, some hostels offer a free breakfast to start your day. This may just be basic cereals, or bread and jam, but don’t turn it down, it’s ultimately free food that can sustain you for most of the day and keep your costs low.
Now I’ve spoken about what a hostel is, and how some of the better ones entice you, let me tell you some of the downsides to hostel life, there’s not as many as you’d expect. Most of these, if not all of them, are predominately around the sleeping arrangements. As you’re sleeping in a room with multiple people, most likely all strangers, there can be some disruptions to your sleep. Snoring is one of the biggest complaints I’ve had and a bad snorer can wake a whole dorm, like when I was in a hostel in Finland, one guy was so loud that multiple people woke up and even chatted with each other about how loud he was! So, if you’re a light sleeper, it’s best to pack a pair of ear plugs. Ear plugs are probably the most fundamental accessory I’d recommend to take with you, they can at least block out some of the noise in the room; to couple that, if you want the best night, getting an eye mask can also block out sunlight, or if someone turns the light on. If you’re lucky enough to get a good night’s sleep with all the other commotion around you, you’ll most likely be woken up by someone else’s alarm, or if not, when they start packing their bag early in the morning to check out.
One point I haven’t experienced myself, and I hope I never will, is theft. As the room is shared with other people, some unscrupulous people will use a hostel solely to steal from others. That’s why, when I’m looking for a hostel, I always prefer the ones with lockers, or under the bed secure storage, this can prevent people trying to steal anything of value. I’d definitely recommend picking up a padlock, maybe even a couple of padlocks of different sizes. The combination ones are best in my experience because you only have to remember a code and are at no risk of losing a key, but the key ones are usually more hardened and not so easy to break. While I’m on the subject of things to pack, for life in a hostel, I’d suggest buying a microfiber towel, they are small, compact and can dry quicker than usual for packing purposes.
As I have stayed in over 60 different hostels, and even worked in few, there’s probably some more information that I forgot to mention in this, If I do remember any, I will be sure to cover it in another article/video. Or if you have any questions, if you’d like any more advice/ recommendations on hostels, or even if you just want to chat, please don’t hesitate, all my contact details can be found here