Wait a minute… Hostels are for kids in their early twenties trying to save money so they can stay out all night, right?
Not at all. Well, not totally. Yes, some hostels can be full of partiers (*cough* Edinburgh) and I am usually far from being the youngest person present. But did you know that there are no age restrictions on hostels?
So why hostel?
- Ignite that travel bug: People staying in hostels are typically traveling long-term and may just be a bit lonely. Being friendly can open them up to share fantastic stories and really stoke that wanderlust.
- Insight into your current location: Wandering and exploring a new place is great, if you’ve got the time. Why not get firsthand details on what to see and do?
- Ideas for your next destination: Tobias, a fellow guest, and I sat in a hostel in Morocco, looking over a map of Istanbul where he had just spent six months. He marked the areas to avoid and great things to see; two weeks later, I was in Istanbul having tea in carpet shops and eating doner kebabs on Taksim Square.
- Price: Stretch that week-long exodus into two by staying in lower cost lodgings.
How to choose a hostel and a room
The easiest way to find a hostel is to Google your destination city plus the word "hostel." Before staying anywhere, I also do an internet search for the name of the hostel plus the word "review." Otherwise, Hosteling International (HI) is the authority on hostels around the globe; they offer certification for their participating hostels to ensure quality accommodations. Some HI hostels require memberships, which varies from country to country, so check with Hosteling International to see if you’ll need to purchase a membership. You can buy a membership on-line or in-person upon arriving at your hostel. If the hostel you’re interested is not a member of HI, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a great one; it just means that they may not adhere to HI standards. I’ve stayed in plenty of quality hostels that had no affiliation to HI.
Weird rules you might not remember
Double-check the cleaning hours while booking a hostel. Odd hours for cleaning means you will not have access to your room or even the facility during the day. I remember going to a movie in La Rochelle, France just to get out of the cold because it was winter and the hostel was closed during the day.
Bring your own sleepsheet. Some hostels will forgo laundry and sheets to bring down costs. Verify ahead of time if you’ll need one.
Essential hosteling gear
- Earplugs: If you have roommates, there’s always one who snores.
- Locks: Bring at least one lock. Hostels should provide a locker for your gear - if they don’t, I would consider going elsewhere. I also bring a second lock for my bag as well. If you forget a lock the front desk will usually sell you one.
- Flashlight / headlamp: Not everyone is on the same schedule; you will inevitably need some light to get into your locker while someone else is sleeping. Having a flashlight means that you won’t have to turn on the room lights. Bonus points for having a headlamp or a flashlight with a red lens; red light is less disruptive than the standard white.
If you’re up for a little adventure, want to meet some well-traveled folks or are just looking for ideas of where to go next, try staying at a hostel. Yes, you may be older than your roomies, but an open mind and friendly smile is a guaranteed passport to a conversation… plus, travel is all about getting outside your comfort zone!
When was the last time you stayed in a hostel?
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