I stay in all sorts of accommodation when I travel, although, more often than not, it’s hostels. On my current trip around the West Highlands and islands of Scotland, I’ve only stayed in hostels. During this trip, I’ve met a few people along the way who are trying them out for the first time. Interestingly, one couple were in their 70s and I met two first-time solo women travellers, one was in her 60s and the other had just turned 50. So, why would you stay in one as opposed to any other type of accommodation available out there? Here are some of the benefits I have particularly noticed on this trip:
1. Social Environment
Because hostels are about sharing facilities, which includes living and sleeping accommodation, they are generally sociable places where you get chatting to people. Hostels are the perfect place for exchanging information, advice, and ideas on where you’re going or where you’ve been. Depending on the hostel, you may have a mix of people staying: solo travellers; couples; friends travelling together; as well as families. If you’re going the same way or have similar interests, you might end up travelling with them for the day or even a few weeks.
2. Kitchen Facilities
You can cook. OK, so this won’t excite some of you. The thought of cooking while you’re on holiday might not be very appealing but, believe me, the novelty of eating out soon wears off. You’ll get sick of traipsing around, looking for somewhere, or get fed up of going to the same place night after night. If you have special dietary requirements, you can cook what you want rather than worry about what might be in the soup, for example. If you’re travelling for a while, you’ll save a lot of money. Even if you don’t want to cook, you can make a cup of tea or coffee when you want. Doing that and buying your favourite tipple at the local supermarket will be much cheaper than if you bought it at a bar or restaurant.
3. Laundry Facilities
And, who said travelling wasn’t glamorous? If you are travelling light and for longer than a week then you will need to do some washing at some point. That is unless you really don’t want anyone to come near you. For minimal cost, most hostels have a washing machine you can use. Some will even include washing powder in the price. There will also be a means of drying your clothes with either an electric drier that you will pay extra to use, a drying room, or somewhere to hang your clothes so they dry.
4. Drying Room
On the subject of drying, if, like me, you end up hiking or wandering around boggy areas or you’re in a rainy climate, you will need to dry your clothes and shoes. Drying rooms are great because it means you don’t have damp clothes or shoes stinking out the room you and others are sleeping in. It’s important to note that not all hostels have them.
5. Good Value for Money
If it’s just you, paying for a bed in a shared room is obviously going to be cheaper than a private room. If there are two of you, paying for two beds in a dorm won’t necessarily be cheaper than a private room in a guesthouse, for example. It’s all the other things that will make your stay good value for money, such as the ability to cook for yourself, being able to do your laundry, and the people you meet.
6. Communal Areas
Often, hostels have communal areas for guests to relax and/or socialise. Sometimes, it will just be the kitchen, although there might be an extra room or two such as a lounge, dining room, reading room, or outside space.
7. Well-travelled Staff
This isn’t always the case, but often the staff are travellers or have travelled quite extensively. That means they have most likely been there, seen it, done it, and will understand. They are often a mine of great information.
This is great. Rather than basing yourself in one place for the whole time, you can move from one place to the next and stay in different hostels along the way. I’m not saying you have to move hostel every night, but you can spend a few days in one and then move on to the next. Hostels are used to people booking at the last minute or just turning up. Because it’s per bed rather than per room, you might even be more likely to find a vacancy in a hostel for that reason. However, this is my own assumption and not based on any kind of empirical data. I’ve come across hostels that have loyalty schemes. If you become a member of organisations like the YHA or SYHA, for example, you get a discounted price for staying in these hostels. I’ve come across another scheme where independent hostels work together. You get a card which is stamped every time you stay at one and you get a free night’s stay once you have filled in the card.
9. The Variety of Hostels
There are so many different types of hostels, with a range of facilities, comfort, and style. The photos at the top of this post are of some of the hostels I’ve stayed at, mainly in Scotland, and the bedroom was actually a dorm and not a private room. So, to give you an idea, some of the hostels I’ve stayed in recently have included a former 19th century church, a house where Bonnie Prince Charlie was supposed to have hid before he escaped to Skye, an old Stationmaster’s House on Loch Carron, and a hostel in a holiday park.
There are hostels that don’t have WiFi, charge an extra fee to use it, or have poor reception. However, on the whole, hostels generally have free access to WiFi, which is often pretty good. If you don’t have your own computer, many have a computer for general use, but you may have to pay extra for that.
It’s important to remember that there are great hostels and some pretty grim ones, but most are somewhere in between. Don’t write them off because of one bad experience you or someone else has had in the past and don’t discount them because you have an idea of what they will be like or because you think you’re too old. You’re not and you might be pleasantly surprised!
Have your say
What’s your experience like of hostel life? Can you think of any other benefits of staying in hostels?