Hostels are more than just a cheap place to stay in a new city. You can meet new people, save some dough, expand your network, and lessen your impact on the planet.
One of the first things that I’m asked when friends are traveling a to a new country, are where they should stay. Having a place to sleep at night is pretty important especially when you are in a foreign country. So far, my journey as a traveler has taken me across 25 countries, 4 continents, and have logged over 300,000 flight miles. All these countries have vastly differences in people, culture, and food.
However, all of my trips have shared one thing in common: I’ve stayed in hostels every time!
Hosteling enriches your travel experience in ways most travelers overlook. I certainly have the means to stay in nice accommodations (I stayed in the Ritz Carlton in Macau) and traveled in luxury (I flew first class on Cathay Pacific across the Pacific), but I choose to stay in hostels whenever I can. I encourage all travelers to look into staying in hostels whenever they travel. Here are a few reasons why:
Let’s face it, traveling is expensive. Flights, food, activities, and accommodation all add up. Usually, hostels offer much cheaper accommodation at a fraction of the cost of hotels. By sharing the same bathroom, kitchen, and bedrooms, you can drastically cut down on your housing expenses.
And you don’t necessarily have to share a room either. Many hostels offer private rooms and bathrooms for a slightly higher cost. When you’re traveling, you’re not going to be spending much time in your bed anyways, so why should the majority of your budget go towards accommodations. You might as well save a little money on accommodation and splurge on outings or souvenirs!
One concern all of my friends have brought up is security in hostels. This is obviously a priority that everyone should be aware of when their traveling, but I’ve never felt unsafe in any of the hostels I’ve stayed in anywhere in the world.
Many hostels have a gate or a code for residents to use after dark and also have people at the desk round the clock. You’ll also have access to your own lockers so that even if you’re sharing a room with people you don’t know, you can always secure your stuff.
In general, I’ve found that many of the people I’ve stayed with have the same concerns, and the security and safety is built on mutual respect for one another. While security should be top of your mind when picking hostels, stay assured that most hostels make this a priority.
3. Meet World Travelers
Sharing sleeping quarters & amenities builds a great communal spirit and is part of the traveler’s adventure. Many hostels offer group activities like group outings, pub trivia, movie nights, community tours, or pool parties to encourage guests to mingle and connect with one another. Stay at a hostel anywhere in the world, and on top of exploring a new city, you will have the chance to meet people from every corner of the earth.
Practice your French with recent graduate students from Paris, exchange travel stories with the backpacker from Australia, or go explore the neighborhood with the seasonal volunteer from Brazil. These are all people you may have missed if you had chosen to stay in a hotel or an airbnb. This would be my number one reason for picking a hostel over a hotel or airbnb.
Everyone in the photo above I met within 24 hours of landing in Bangkok and checking into my hostel. Hostels simply make meeting new people easier and less stressful!
4. Meet Locals
Staying in a hostel doesn’t mean you’re not going to meet locals either. Many hostels have free tours every day, led by young locals who know the area well and can recommend the best bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and sights to see. All of the staff I’ve met at the hostels have been awesome. Many hostel employees are travelers themselves, so they want you to have an enjoyable experience! They can give you recommendations for what to do, where to eat, and the local favorites that you don’t get from the tour books.
At my stay in a Hostel in Hanoi, Vietnam, there was an agent who helped planned adventurous excursions for travelers, which included transportation to and from Halong Bay, one of the many World Heritage sites. With a little bit of encouragement, I signed up for the 3 day, 2 night stay in Halong Bay, still one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
Sometimes the best memories are made in the places that would never appear on your official guidebook.
5. Try New Things
Staying in hostels also allows you to try new things. Many hostels have community kitchens where you can cook your own food or take part in communal meals prepared by hostel staff, local chefs, or other travelers. One hostel I stayed in Spain was owned by a local couple. They cooked homemade Paella for us every night. People could practice their Spanish during a sobremesa (long lunch) and take homemade Spanish recipes back home!
All complimentary of course!
6. Perfect for Solo Travelers
Hostels are perfect for solo travelers. Many of my recent trips over the past few years have been solo trips, and I choose to stay in hostels all the time. Solo travelers flock to hostels because they know it’s the best way to meet other people traveling alone or in small groups. If you’re unsure of whether your next destination is Madrid, Bangkok, Hong Kong, or Medellin, get recommendations from other travelers who have already crossed those places off their lists, or even make a plan to head to the next destination together.
During my few month trip to Southeast Asia, I met two guys from the Netherlands and the UK who were going along the same route I was planning on journeying. We ended up traveling together for 4 weeks, including heading up to the mountain village of Pai.
Whenever friends ask me where to stay in a new site, I always recommend staying in hostels. I’ve never had a bad experience at a hostel, and I’ve never regretted staying in hostels. They’ve been the difference between lonely nights, and a night of a lifetime!