Hostel Takeover: 5 Reasons to Give Hostels a Chance
Hostels. You hear the name, and you might first think of the movie: "Hostel." For me, I envisioned myself sleeping over my luggage, on a cot and at the risk of being taken advantage of. So for years, my travel budget had to increase as I opted to only stay in airbnbs and hotels. That was until I started working at my current job. With around 4.5 months of vacation, I wanted to travel more, but also hit my savings goal. So my coworkers- mainly from Europe and Southeast Asia, encouraged me to stay in a hostel. Now at first, I was highly against it. And I somehow thought a hostel meant I would be surrounded by young, right out of high school and college, adults.
Now as a traveler in my 30’s with a job, I needed humility. I had to get over the idea that I was cheap or had not “arrived.”
All of this ran through my head: facing the judgment of others and more importantly my judgment of myself.
The best thing about hostels is that they are in the center of the action. So where you would typically pay hundreds for a room in downtown London, a hostel allows you to book for a fraction of the cost.
During one of my trips to Guatemala, the owner of Maya Papaya, mentioned that about seven years ago, hostels took a turn for the better, increasing in quality and traveler experience. These are known as the Boutique Hostels, an upscaled version of the $5 beds. These will run you a little more but far less than a hotel or airbnb. Best of all, hostels are run by wanderlusts and I’m here for them all.
So since the branding is new, let me share more about my experiences because less than a year after the convo with my coworkers, I’ve stayed at hostels in more than a dozen countries and I’ll never look back.
1. To find a good hostel, go to hostelworld.com. You can use the app or the website, and it gives you all that you need to know including ratings from past guests. It provides the location of guests and how international it is, age ranges and other tips about the hostel.
2. Decide if you want a private room or a dorm. I have done them both. Private rooms come with a bathroom and are similar to a hotel room. Think about picking the single option in a dorm.
You have the benefits of socialization in the hostel, but you have your place to crash when you want alone time.
Dorms come in all shapes and sizes. Usually, from 4-12 beds, bunk style, filled with lockers and usually a bathroom to share. This is good if you want roomies and the cost can range from $7-$20 per bed, per night. I’ve instantly met friends, who usually are traveling solo or in pairs and we have gone sightseeing, had dinner and held good bedside chats. Ive seen couples stay in private rooms, families stay in hostel suites, and groups of friends and solo travelers bunk in the dorms. I've seen kids all the way up to retirees living their best life! And don't worry, there is still a housekeeper who cleans daily and rules that help keep the hostel respectable.
3. Hostels are a one-stop shop. Because of the volume, many have excursions you can book from the front desk, shuttles to the airport, meals throughout the day (sometimes it is a collective group dinner where everyone cooks), DJ’s, group runs, co-working spaces, cinemas, local cooking classes, free wifi, community service events and areas to hang out. I have taken part in their free walking tours of the city, pub crawls, happy hour specials at their bar, and yoga classes.
4. Be prepared to meet a range of people. I’ve met some amazing people from flight attendants, pilots, nurses, engineers, lawyers, teachers, digital nomads, language school participants, folks who quit their job and are on an adventure and the regular vacationer. Also, it's so cool to meet people, who you live with, who are from all over the world. The types of conversations I’ve had were very enlightening and humorous. Of course, people all over the world ask me about Trump, being Black in America and my super awesome job. For me, I’ve met amazing people who taught me the actual narrative of their country, especially when my view was skewed because of US media. Some conversations that come to mind are with my new friends from Cuba, Palestine, and Iraq.
5. Lastly, some other things I figured out are: Bring a towel and washcloth, toiletry bag, shower shoes, and a lock. Lastly, bring cash for tips. You will find, the amazing wanderlusts who work in the hostels are volunteers. They usually get free housing but they live off of tips. When you meet someone, smile and just say, “Hey, Where are you traveling from?” And you are good to go!
To end, one misconception I did have is still true. I thought I would be one of the only Blacks in the hostel. Now, having stayed at hostels in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Central America, I can count on both hands the number of people I have seen who I was able to give ‘the nod.’ This is one of the closest ways we will have contact with others while traveling to learn and grow from each other. So hopefully this article, gets in the right hands, with the right readers, who can increase our representation.
In addition, shout out to Selinas Hostel Company. They are sustainable, use local vendors, have community service opportunities while you travel and are opening a ton of hostels around the world. If you are looking for a job, click here. And thanks to Maya Papaya and Wombats who are featured here whether in experience, photo, video.
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