I was always so afraid to stay in hostels because, growing up, I was told by people and movies and television shows that hostels are dangerous places where you go to get murdered.
We ended up staying in a hostel rather than a hotel in London because it was so much cheaper and really worth the price. The cleanliness was almost 5 stars and the location was amazing/safe.
I would absolutely recommend a hostel to people traveling alone, especially those in their late teens or twenties, but they’re definitely not for everyone.
This may go without saying, but hostels generally tend to be cheaper than hotels. When we were searching for hotels in London, they were so expensive because London is a big tourist destination. The rooms cost hundreds of dollars per night, and we couldn’t afford it. The hostels, on the other hand, went anywhere from $15-$35. Those on the lower end were obviously more of just a place to sleep. We chose one that was $50 per night to sleep in dorms with 10-15 other people because of the location and cleanliness.
Con: You get what you pay for.
Many hostels have private rooms, but they are over $100 and may still not have a private bathroom. Most of the lowest prices are for one bed in a dorm room of multiple people. It’s amazing if your intention is just to have a place to sleep and maybe eat breakfast. We paid $50 a night to stay in an all-girls dorm with at least 10 other girls. We slept on bunk beds with trunks underneath to lock our stuff in, and after eating in the morning, we’d go out (at around 8 am) and come back late in the night (once 2-3 am, usually around 10 pm). Our bed was just a bed, which was all we needed.
Pro: Public areas + breakfast!
Many hostels have common areas, which allow for a lot of interaction between the guests. At the Palmers Lodge – Swiss Cottage, they had a large room with internet-enabled computers, coffee, and couches. Since we didn’t have access to data, we had to use the computers to look up directions to certain places, so we spent some time in this room. It was wonderful to see people talking to one another, even strangers.
Our hostel also had a basement level (which is the level on which our room was) with a bar that functioned as an actual bar late at night and as a small breakfast buffet in the morning. Even better, the breakfast was free! Jen and I woke up early and ate the breakfast there every morning (It had the best apple juice I’ve ever had!). It was so convenient not to have to pay for breakfast each morning. It saved us a lot of money. The bar area was also really cute and had a wonderful outdoor area.
Con (or a Pro?): Coed Dorms/Bathrooms
Many hostels offer coed dorms. If staying in a room with the other sex is not a problem for you, then it’s a great option with lower pricing than same-sex rooms. Generally, bathrooms are unisex in the US, but they’re usually for a single person; in Europe, many places offer coed bathrooms with multiple stalls, which is not a big deal. Subsequently, many hostels have coed bathrooms. At our hostel, we wanted to sleep in a girls-only dorm, but two nights we spent with a girls-only private bathroom (just for our dorm) and two nights we spent with a public coed bathroom.
It wasn’t an issue to me because the stalls were like their own rooms, with floor-to-ceiling doors that locked and completely separated me from others in the bathroom. The only time I even really noticed that there were men in the bathroom was when I was brushing my teeth before bed and a guy was washing his hands next to me. We made weird eye contact in the mirror, but that was the end of it. And since we were on the floor of the bar, everyone that was at the bar used our bathroom, but it still wasn’t a bad experience.
Overall, I think hostels are a great option if you’re just looking for a place to sleep and have some breakfast. If you’re traveling somewhere in order to relax, sleep in, and enjoy your privacy, a hotel or B&B would be a better option, but if you just need a place to rest your head, a hostel is perfect.
They’re inexpensive, offer opportunities for meeting other travelers, and often have free breakfast; on the other hand, they may have less than you’re used to and you have to sacrifice a certain amount of privacy. I personally think the positives outweigh the negatives, but everyone is different.
If you’re interested in finding a hostel, Hostelworld is an amazing place to check.
So which do you prefer – a hotel, a bed and breakfast, or a hostel?