Do me a favor. Take everything you’ve thought or heard about hostels and leave it right here. Now, how about I tell you there’s a way to travel the world on a budget and meet awesome people along the way. That sounds great right? Ok that’s what hostel stay is like.
The Truth About Staying in a Hostel
The truth is, drum roll please……. it’s great! Let me guess you’ve heard or read unfortunate stories and are nervous about sharing space with strangers. That’s how I felt before my first hostel stay. I’ve traveled before but only staying in hotels, and while planning a recent trip to Spain (more on planning and packing for Europe soon) my travel co-pilot and I decided to try them out.
A friend recommended we use Hostel World to research, read reviews and book our stays. The site was super helpful with tons of reviews, pictures and key facts travelers need to know (directions from transportation hubs, amenities included, etc.). We ended up booking 4 hostels across Spain that included a variety of rooms (4 female dorm rooms and private rooms depending on availability). Here are the hostels we stayed at and I would highly recommend every one!
The Good, the Bad and the Not so Ugly Truth
- Meeting great people from all over the world. Definitely one of the best things about staying in hostels is the people you meet from all different walks of life who are looking to explore and have a great time just like you. Talking with other travelers and hearing their stories of where they had been or were heading and getting their feedback was awesome. Everyone is around the same age (twenties – thirties) so it’s easy to make friends. If you’re traveling alone it’s also great because most people are there to see or do similar things so you can find others to join you on your adventure and hopefully walk away with new friends all over the world.
- Activities. Several of our hostels in Madrid, Seville and Cordoba had nightly group activities so there was always something fun to do with your fellow hostel stayers. Activities consisted of things like local’s favorite bars or tapas crawls, flamenco shows, picnics in the park or hitting up various jazz or dance clubs. This was great for people traveling alone or in pairs as they got to explore the city while having fun with other people.
- Budget Friendly. Compared to staying in hotels, staying at a hostel is much cheaper and what allows many people to have longer trips and visit more places. All the hostels we stayed in offered complimentary coffee, tea, and full access to kitchen amenities and roof top terraces with amazing views. Several of the hostels even offered free dinners and encouraged anyone with culinary experience to join them in the kitchen. We participated in these family style dinners in Seville where we had awesome paella and got to chat with other hostel visitors before we all went out together for the evening.
- Taking the stress out of planning. My friend and I actually joked about how we felt the hostels were spoiling us. Upon arriving at every hostel we were greeted by a friendly hostel worker who checked us in, gave us a map and spent time walking us through the city. They provided recommendations for everything from where to eat, places to see, how to get around and what tourist things were must sees or must skips. Everyone who worked at the hostels either was a local and loved introducing tourists to their town or fellow travelers working at the hostel to extend their travels. Each hostel had a unique energy but overall everyone was extremely welcoming and excited to share the city with us.
- Noisy neighbors. Every hostel is different and every experience is different. Madrid is known for being a party city with an active night life where most nights out end around 5 am the next morning. If you’re in a city with a lively night life and don’t plan on participating, I suggest either getting a private room or investing in ear plugs. When staying in a multi person room most people try to be respectful of everyone, but unless you sleep like a rock you will probably get woken up once or twice from people coming in late or leaving early. The good thing is most people come and go pretty frequently from hostels so you may have to only endure a noisy neighbor one night and then they or you leave.
- Shared space. Honestly this one wasn’t a big con going into the hostel stay for me (I’ve lived in dorms and shared spaces with roommates before) but I know it’s a deal breaker for some people. Every hostel we stayed in was spotless and kept in pristine condition from the kitchens, to the bathrooms, hallways etc. There is something to be said about shared responsibility, no one wants to stay in a messy place so everyone in the hostels cleans up after themselves (there are always outliers of this of course).
- Safety. I’ll be the first to say I was nervous about having my things in a shared room with other people. We brought locks to put on lockers the hostels provided, and most of the hostels also supplied locks. Once again I think it comes back to a shared responsibility and Golden Rule mentality. We became friends with the girls we shared rooms with, everyone just wants to have a good time and explore the city they are in. The minute we arrived in our first hostel I didn’t worry the rest of the trip about my belongings being safe because the staff and atmosphere at each hostel put me at ease.
The Ups Outweigh The Downs
Whether traveling solo or with other people, hostels provide a safe, fun community for travelers from all walks of life looking to experience new adventures. Hostels live off reviews, so they want to create a great experience for travelers so they will share their good times with others. My first time staying in hostels completely changed my opinion and I encourage you to definitely give them a try on your next trip!
Have you ever stayed at a hostel? What was your experience? Let me know in the comments below!