What are the pros and cons of hostels?
Hostels are becoming more and more popular. Traditional hotels have always been the go-to accommodation for most travelers, but many travelers are now deciding to stay in a hostel over a hotel.
In fact, if you are a backpacker or a long-term traveler, hostels are a quintessential part of traveling.
But why should or shouldn’t you stay in a hostel?
In this blog post, you will find 18 pros and cons of staying in a hostel and see if a hostel is the perfect accommodation for your next trip.
Pros of Staying in a Hostel
1. Hostels Are More Affordable
One of the biggest benefits of staying in a hostel is the price.
We all know that staying in a hostel is just a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel. The price difference can be staggering at times.
When we visited Peru, we stayed in a hostel in Ica for 3.50 USD a night! Ok, it was a 24-bed dormitory room (although there were only a total of three people there), but it was much cheaper than the typical hotels there, which cost anywhere from 15 USD to 100 USD.
And, with the money we saved we treated ourselves to some delicious Peruvian cuisine! Worth it? 100 percent!
And although hostels aren’t always that cheap, they can definitely save you some money, especially if you are doing long-term traveling.
2. Meet Other Like-Minded Travelers And Make New Friends
As a solo backpacker, one of my favorite reasons for staying in a hostel is to meet like-minded travelers. Every traveler is an unopened book, and each is filled with their stories and cultures.
It is great when you travel to Prague and learn about the Charles Bridge, but do you know what is better? Visiting the Charles Bridge in Prague and then learning about the culture of Japan from a Japanese traveler in your hostel.
And who knows, you might start sightseeing with this new traveler you just met, become best friends with him or her, or even lovers!
Everyone that you meet is here for the hostel experience – to be sociable, meet new friends, and hopefully learn more about other cultures in an affordable way.
Also Read: How to Meet People When Traveling
3. Most Hostels Come Equipped With a Kitchen
Most hotels don’t have a kitchen you can use, and that is because they either want you to spend more money in their on-site restaurant or save some space. In contrast, most hostels come equipped with a full kitchen, allowing travelers to cook their own meals.
There are many advantages to having a kitchen in a hostel. If you are traveling to a place where the food is not to your liking, guess what? You can make your own food in the hostel.
Do you want to save money and not eat out all the time? The kitchen is perfect for that.
And if you are lucky, you might even meet other travelers that are willing to share a local meal they made. Or, as happened to us in a hostel recently, you might encounter a friendly Italian traveler who will share some delicious home-made pasta with you!
4. You Can Go on Organized Hostel Activities
One of the advantages of staying in a hostel is all the organized hostel activities.
Oftentimes, hostels will host group activities such as free dinner, free walking tour, or a pub crawl where travelers can meet other travelers and/or learn more about the city.
If you are anything like us you probably don’t have time or don’t feel the need to plan every attraction on your itinerary before you arrive. Then these organized hostel activities are a great way to get more comfortable in a new environment and meet a few people!
And a nice bonus: most of these activities are free!
5. Knowledgable & Friendly Staff That Is Willing to Assist
Traveling to a new country can be intimidating, especially if you are in a foreign place where you don’t speak the language.
When this happens, your hostel reception and staff become your best friends. They are your source of information – where to eat, what to do, and so on.
Hostel staff is usually more laid-back than hotel staff and they tend to be avid travelers themselves. Because of this, they are more likely to give you local tips and information, allowing you to explore more off-the-beaten-track places.
With their expertise and your eagerness for exploration, you will see and do so much more!
6. Perfect For Solo Travelers
If you are a solo traveler, hostel life is perfect for you.
Traveling alone can get lonely sometimes, and it is often difficult to get any meaningful human interaction in a hotel.
By staying in a hostel, not only will you satisfy your desire to socialize, but you’ll also very easily meet a buddy to join you on your trip. And that can be anything from finding someone to share a meal with or someone who you’ll end up traveling with for days or weeks.
I think all of us who have stayed in a hostel while traveling alone have great stories about how we met someone in a hostel and ended up going on incredible trips together, sharing memorable experiences, and often making friends we are still in touch with years later.
But, if you prefer doing the sightseeing alone, it is still good to have someone that is accountable for you for safety reasons. If something does happen to you when you are traveling, your dormitory mates will immediately know that you haven’t come back at night. If you are in a hotel, the staff won’t know until you have to check out!
7. Hostels Are Located in the Best Areas of Town
Though this isn’t always the case, we find that hostels are usually located in the prime areas for sightseeing and socializing, such as the historic center, the main beach, etc.
The superb location of most hostels allows visitors to easily access some of the best attractions in a city, saving them money and time.
And of course, you can also find hotels in these prime areas, but those hotels tend to be even more expensive than the average hotel.
Staying in a prime location is especially important if you are on a short trip, as you want to maximize your time and use it as efficiently as possible.
8. Hostels Often Have Unique Designs
One of the biggest differences between a hotel and a hostel is the design.
While most hotels focus on standardized comfort and some luxury, hostels aim for character and uniqueness.
How many times have you walked into a hotel and said, “Wow, this hotel has a really different design than all the other hotels I have been in”? Probably not too often. Sure, there are really cool exceptions, such as these cool hotels in Amsterdam, but most hotels, especially the more affordable ones, aren’t that special.
Hostels are almost never identical to each other. When I was doing a road trip in Romania, I stayed in a clown hostel in Brasov (by mistake). Though it was a terrifying experience, especially when a clown doll fell on me as I was sitting alone in the common area in the basement, it shows how creative hostels can be.
9. FREE Breakfast is Usually Provided
Though usually not extravagant, most hostels do provide free breakfast.
Oftentimes it is something simple such as toast with jam and butter and coffee. But this is perfect for anyone who is happy with a simple breakfast or just wants something quick to eat before going out.
If it is free, you can’t really complain!
Cons of Staying in a Hostel
I hope I’ve been able to show you there are many pros to staying in a hostel. But, I want to be honest and also share the disadvantages of staying in hostels and reasons you might decide not to.
1. Inconsiderate Roommates Can Ruin Your Stay
One of the biggest disadvantages of staying in a hostel is the possibility of having inconsiderate roommates.
If you have stayed in a hostel before, you probably know what I am talking about.
That one person that turns on the light at 3 AM after a night out. Or the person who starts packing their bags at 6 AM and makes a ton of noise, or the one that keeps snoozing their alarm.
If you have terrible roommates, there is really not much you can do. If you are a light sleeper or easily irritated by things like this, I’d recommend bringing earplugs and a light blocking sleep mask to try to drown out the havoc your roommates might be causing!
Tip: if you like the hostel experience but don’t want to share a room, many hostels do also offer private rooms. It’s a bit more expensive of course and you lose out on the chance of meeting people in your dorm room, but you might get a better night’s sleep in return.
2. Unhygienic Room
If you are unlucky, you might stay in rooms in hostels that are unhygienic due to other guests.
Not everyone you’ll meet has a high level of hygiene and tidiness. It is not uncommon for some travelers to have dirty and smelly laundry lying around the room, causing the entire room to have a bad odor.
Since you are sharing a room with people from different backgrounds, you might have guests that have a different hygiene practice than you do.
Note: even if you would choose to stay in a private room in a hostel, you often still share a bathroom, and the kitchen is always communal so you might still run into hygiene issues.
3. Lack of Privacy
The biggest con of staying in a hostel is the lack of privacy.
When you are sharing a room with several other people, it is hard to have your own personal space and different people have different boundaries.
While there are types of hostels (such as the capsule hostels) that offer you a lot more privacy, many times beds won’t even have a curtain.
Note: as a female traveler you can choose to stay in a mixed dorm room or a female-only dorm room. Although people are generally very respectful in dorm rooms, some women will prefer a female-only dorm room.
4. Your Experience Depends a Lot on Other Travelers
If you have stayed in the same hostel on two different occasions, you will know that the experience is never the same.
Because you are interacting with so many people, everyone in the hostel makes up your experience.
If you’ve booked a hostel that has great reviews because of the social aspect but it’s empty when you arrive, you might not have a good time. If you happen to end up with inconsiderate people in your room, your stay might be ruined.
Staying in a hostel is similar to gambling. You don’t know what you get until you roll the dice and experience it yourself!
If you are adventurous, you might find hostels more suitable for you.
Tip: don’t book a hostel for more than a couple of nights. That way, if the hostel turns out to be disappointing you can leave without losing (much) money and if it’s great you can almost always book extra nights when you are already there. Do check if it’s a particularly busy time though since during local events or holidays you might not be able to book extra nights last minute.
5. Shared Bathrooms and Showers
Because of the number of guests a hostel can accommodate, the layout of the hostel is usually different from that of a hotel.
Instead of having a bathroom with a shower and a toilet in every room, most hostels will have communal bathrooms.
While communal bathrooms are great, most hostels have not designed them for peak hours, a.k.a morning shower time.
When the hostel is fully booked, you might find yourself waiting for 15 to 20-minutes just to get in the shower.
And if you have a tour booked or are trying to catch a flight, this can be very annoying!
6. You Need to Provide Your Own Toiletries
If you plan on staying in a hostel on your trip, you must pack your own toiletries.
While some high-end hostels (such as the ones in Japan) do have toiletries, the majority don’t.
And, apart from bringing your own shampoo, toothbrush, and toothpaste, this also very often has to include a towel. Yes, many hostels don’t provide towels so don’t forget to bring one!
If you are traveling with carry-on only, many toiletry items will not pass through security. If you are staying in a country for more than a few days, I recommend purchasing your toiletries once you have landed at your destination.
7. Security Can Be an Issue
Though we personally have not (knock on wood) had any issues with security when staying in hostels, we have heard stories from people that did.
When you check into a hostel, the reception will usually provide you with your own personal locker.
If you do what you are supposed to, which is storing all your valuable belongings in the locker, you won’t have a problem with security. However, some people can be careless or lazy. We have seen iPads, phones, laptops, and wallets all lying on the bed unattended.
While we don’t believe travelers come from across the world just to steal from other travelers, it does happen. We have met a girl who lost over 1000 USD because she left her wallet on her bed while she went to the bathroom!
Don’t be careless!
That being said, even though you share a room with strangers and that might feel weird at first, hostels are generally very safe.
Tip: if you plan to stay in hostels, bring a padlock. Hostels often have lockers but they hardly ever provide padlocks for free. So bring your own to avoid having to pay the hostel’s elevated price to buy one from them.
8. Bunk Beds Are a Nightmare
Bunk beds are the most common type of beds in hostel dormitories.
Unsurprisingly, they suck most of the time, especially if you are in the top bunk. Climbing those steps to get to the top bunk is one of the things I dislike most about staying in a hostel, especially at night, when you don’t want to wake anyone up.
But, after backpacking for two years, we have grown accustomed to climbing bunk beds. And although I pray I’ll get the bottom bunk every time I am staying in a hostel, being on the second bunk isn’t too bad, especially if you have experienced bunk beds with 3 layers… (Thank you Guatemala!)
9. Some Hostels Have an Age Limit
Having an age limit is becoming more and more popular for hostels.
And although I can see how this might be useful for a hostel to attract a like-minded audience, it also decreases diversity, which is one of the best aspects of a hostel.
For example, some social/party hostels won’t allow anyone over the age of 35 to stay at their hostel. So even if you are young at heart and love to socialize and party, you are not welcome.
The same goes for hostels that won’t allow anyone underage. Hostels are perceived as not fitting for children, but the truth is, the hostel environment is completely curated by the guests, and there are certain hostels that are great for children as well.
So, as you can see, staying in a hostel has its pros and cons. We hope our guide has helped you decide if a hostel is right for you!
Where to Book Your Stay in a Hostel?
One of the biggest online booking platforms for hostels is Hostelworld.com.
But, these days Booking.com also has a good selection of hostel beds.
And no matter which platform you use, I’d recommend reading the reviews before you book!
I mainly check the reviews to find out if the hostel is clean, if it sounds like it has a nice vibe and if the hostel is in a good and safe part of town.
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