When I decided to travel the world, I had never stayed in a hostel. I had always thought that it would be uncomfortable and I was not interested in sharing a room or facilities with people I didn’t know. In addition, I really didn’t think that staying in a hostel was an option for an older than average traveller and I was 38 years old at the time. However, when I started my RTW trip, I had a limited budget which meant I could no longer rule out the option of staying in hostels or I would have to cut my trip short. Staying in hostels completely changed the view I had of them. Because of that, I thought it was time to dispel some of the myths surrounding hostels because I believe they can be an option for anyone, whatever your age or circumstance.
Hostels are for the young
That is so untrue. Yes, the majority of people are under the age of 30 but I have met lots of people my age and older who regularly stay in hostels. Keith Wright is a great example of this because at the age of 95 (yes, that’s correct, he is 95 years old), is the oldest backpacker in the world. He stays in hostels when he travels so if he doesn’t feel too old then neither should you.
Hostels are for people who want to party
Yes, some of them are but not all. You can tell a lot from reading about the hostel on the website and the reviews. You will either have a direct reference to it or you will get a sense that it might be party hostel. Then it’s up to you whether you stay or not. If I’m not sure about a hostel, I generally book in for one night and see what I think. Doing this gives you a ‘get out clause’ so if it’s not the right place you have the opportunity of finding something else.
There’s nothing to do
Hostels tend to be very social, much more than other types of accommodation. People tend to interact more and the hostels often organise social events. For example, I stayed at a great hostel in Porto called the Gallery Hostel. It’s in the arty area of Porto. When I arrived, it was too early to go to my room but one of the staff members was about to begin a walking tour so I went along. It was free and lasted an hour and a half. Many hostels do this, although some may charge. It’s a great way to see and learn about a new place. Hostels also organise a variety of activities and events, either themselves or for third parties. I have joined in various activities such as port wine tasting and BBQs.
You only have shared facilities
Before I had ever stayed or even thought about staying in a hostel, I had this idea that hostels only had dormitories and you had to share a bathroom with goodness knows how many people. That isn’t true. Dormitories are an option (single-sex or mixed), it is possible to book a single, twin or double room. It is obviously more expensive than staying in a dorm but it means you have your own space. I recently stayed in a twin room in a hostel for the first time with someone I had met at a conference. It was a fantastic room and very comfortable. The great thing is, we had all the benefits of the hostel facilities and only shared with one other person.
The standard of accommodation is poor
The standard of accommodation and facilities vary from hostel to hostel but many of them are very modern and well-equipped. Some of the hostels are quite amazing and can be very interesting. For example, I stayed for one night in an old railway carriage in Sydney and in an old prison cell in a former Courthouse in London but you can stay in a Jumbo Jet in Stockholm or a castle in Scotland. It’s your choice. You can find out about the availability and what each hostel has to offer from websites such as Hostelbookers and Hostelworld. In addition to these, word of mouth is always useful when searching for a good hostel, the YHA, the Lonely Planet, and websites for the respective countries.
Hostels aren’t safe
Hostels often provide lockers and they have keys or key cards to the rooms. There is always a chance that something could go missing. But that is a risk wherever you are. It is up to you to do whatever you can to make sure that your belongings are safe. I always carry a padlock with me so I can lock away any valuables in the lockers that hostels provide, if I don’t want to carry them with me.
Have your say
Unless the hostels specifically state an age limit, which some do, they are for people of any age. So, what do you think of hostels now? Have I got you thinking of hostels as an option? I really hope so. Perhaps, you could take a look at some websites to see what’s available in your desired destination. If you do decide to give it a go, remember to look at the reviews to help you make your decision and talk to other travellers.