Hostel Life

“You sleep in a room with strangers?! That’s creepy.”

“You rent a bed instead of a room!? That’s weird.”

“You have to sleep in a BUNK BED!? That’s nuts.”

In all fairness, the first time I stayed at a hostel… I was nervous. It was in Amsterdam- which is a pretty cool place if y’all ever get a chance to visit (mmm pancakes and french fries!). Although I was in an eight person room with seven people I knew, I was still nervous someone was going to bust through the door in the middle of the night, skin me alive, and then murder me. Self-awareness, or paranoia?

Serene nook in our Portugal hostel- no murders here!
Serene nook in our Portugal hostel- no murders here!

I survived that first hostel, and every one I’ve stayed in since (if you can’t tell). I’ve stayed in some terrible hostels, some ancient hostels, some serene hostels, and some party hostels. And then, when I moved to Europe at the beginning of this year, I even began working at one. What’s weird to me is how many people back home in the States aren’t familiar with them. Which I get, considering independent travel isn’t really a thing in America. When was the last time your BFF Jill told you she was flying for a solo trip to Chicago? It just doesn’t happen in most social scenes in the States.

Okay, I hear your stupid tangent, Monique. When are you going to tell me what a hostel is, and how to find one when I’m 5,000 miles away from Europe… how do I know I’m finding a good one?

So, a hostel is a budget-oriented, shared-accommodation usually for backpackers, and usually for young people. I say usually to both because A) these are often small rooms without the typical dresser and closet amenities found in hotel rooms, and B) I’ve seen some weird. as. heck old people in my hostel rooms before. As you can see from the below picture, yes, you sleep in a bunk bed… it’s really not as bad as it sounds, promise! There’s something a little childish about sleeping in bunk beds as an adult- you can only act so mature climbing up a ladder to your slumber. Right now in my hostel in London, my all-girls room has 12 people, but it feels smaller because everyone has a silent agreement that lights go off at midnight, which is great!

Current hostel. I'm the middle top bunk!
Current hostel. I’m the middle top bunk!

You can book a hotel by going to a variety of websites. My favorite is Hostelworld, hands down. There, you can search by city, town, price, rating, etc. You can sometimes find that the rate listed on the hostel’s direct website is a little less than what’s listed on the third-party sites like Hostelworld. Hostelworld is still good for comparing and narrowing down your options though, at which point you can go to the site directly to see if it’s even cheaper to book on the direct site. I’m sure Hostelworld is going to love me soliciting this advice…

I’m all for hostels. In places like Thailand, it’s possible to find great guesthouses for just a couple dollars more than hostels. In that case, I’d definitely go for the #TreatYoSelf guesthouse. However, in places like London, where simple and plain single rooms (that’s one queen bed in a room) can go for $150, it definitely makes more sense to book a $25 / per night hostel.

Still weeping at how beautiful our Thailand guesthouse was.
Still weeping at how beautiful our Thailand guesthouse was.

Things to ask when booking a hostel…

  • Area: What part of town is it in? I once booked a great hostel in Warsaw, but it was kind of in the ghetto… which we didn’t realize until we showed up (I’m still not perfect! Just experienced). Sometimes it’s better to pay a little more to be in the city-center!
  • Room-Type: Is it an all-female room? Mixed? Six person? 40 person? 40 person… yeah, you heard me. It exists in Dublin. It’s intended for people who are long-termers… that’s slang for people who live in hostels. Weird, I know. No privacy, ever!? I did it the first week I moved to Dublin and I already know I would’ve lost my mind if I had to do it for any longer.
  • Safety: Is there 24 hour reception in case something goes wrong? Is there a doorman? Lockers in the rooms? I love lockers in the rooms. It gives you a good feeling to know that your passport is happily locked away for the day when you’re out and about!
  • Price: Some hostels are priced high for no reason! And hostels in Paris (where a decent room can cost you $25 a night) are naturally more than in Krakow (where a nice room costs just $8 a night). But by sorting on sites like Hostelworld, you can easily find one that’s a happy mix of cost-efficiency and comfort.
  • Amenities: Some hostels give free towels, and others give free breakfast. Some have free dinners, and others have free walking tours. Sometimes there’s en-suite showers, other times there are community showers down the hall. It’s always good to see what’s included. Bare minimum, you’re promised a free bed, linens, a pillow, and a duvet. Sometimes, that’s all you’re given!
Our Madrid Hostel had a precious courtyard!
Our Madrid Hostel had a precious courtyard!

Bottom line, always read reviews. Always! They’ll be your best friend. And that’s your quick guide to hostels! That’s how we keep our expenses down with room and board whist traveling, and you can do it too. They’re not scary, and if you’ve picked a decent one, it’ll be warm, safe, and cozy. Lastly, I’ve learned it’s always worth it to pay a little more and get a nicer accommodation! That’s my final tip for y’all. Happy travels!




3 thoughts on “Hostel Life

  1. Thanks for the education Monique. I knew a lady who used to travel to England once a year to visit her grandmother. She mentioned a hostel one day and I had never heard of such a thing. I thought it was kind of ghetto-like and possibly dirty, but now I know that is not true.

  2. I’m a huge advocate for staying in hostels, but I can agree that it can be intimidating at first. Thanks for sharing your advice and best of luck to everyone reading this and looking for good hostels!

  3. When I did the Way of St. James my plan was to spent every night in a hostal BUT I was traveling with my dad, he barely survived the first night. I figured that my dad and I could afford privacy, and I could save him a lot of mortification if spent little more euros. And surprise! The hotel wasn’t that expensive.

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