Hostels are the backpacker’s best friend — but they just aren’t for hippies anymore. Hostels nowadays welcome anyone from a single traveller with a rolling suitcase to an elderly couple motorcycling across the country, from a group of backpackers hitchhiking from town to town to a family visiting Disneyland. Inexpensive, convenient and abundant are just a few of the things that make hostels so ideal for those travelling on a budget. They foster a community atmosphere with common living, kitchen and (more often than not) sleeping spaces. Although not all hostels are the same, you can usually expect a welcoming, comfortable space from both the travellers and the locals.
For the most part, I completely love hostels. You can find great people to go sight-seeing with (especially if you are traveling alone), and you can even connect with the people who work there. Sometimes, hostels can be the closest thing to a family you may have when living the life of a nomad. I once stayed at a place where the owner’s mom was affectionately known as “momma,” and she made us a free breakfast nearly every morning.
Not to mention, hostels are usually much more affordable than a standard hotel room!
There are a lot of things to think of other than price, but unfortunately there are a lot of myths and outdated information out there about hostels. Some is good, some is bad and some is partially true, but here are a few examples of myths surrounding the beloved hostel:
Myth: Hostels are dirty.
Reality: When you are sharing facilities and areas (bathrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, etc.), things will never be as spic-and-span as a hotel. However, most hostels have a fairly strict cleaning regimen (not to mention, most hostellers try to be as respectful of others as possible) that will eradicate things like three-day-build-up of hair in the shower drain and two weeks’ worth of mud tracked through the dorm room.
Myth: Hostels are only for youth or backpackers (or youthful backpackers!).
Reality: True, some hostels do have age restrictions (both upper and lower), but there are many hostels to choose from. There are family-friendly places (that may or may not allow quite young children) and elder-friendly places (typically, though, if they are choosing to stay in a hostel, they are quite young-at-heart). Oh, and most hostellers don’t care about what kind of luggage you have (backpacks are not required). Like I said, hostels just aren’t for the young hippies anymore!
Myth: Hostels are loud and party-central.
Reality: Most hostels are, in fact, quite tame. Even if they do have their own bar attached or weekly (even nightly) parties, those will typically not spill into the sleeping area. Hostellers, for the most part, tend to be respectful of their fellow travellers and will be as quiet as possible if others are sleeping. That being said, if you are a really light sleeper, it might be ideal to invest in a good pair of earplugs. A common sleeping area will never be 100% quiet (don’t forget about snorers and sleep-talkers).
Myth: All hostels have curfews.
Reality: Most hostels have done away with this old-fashioned way of running things. Quite a few of them don’t care when you crawl into bed, but many will have front desk hours restricting the hours that you can check in as a way of keeping quiet hours for sleep.
Myth: All my belongings will be stolen if I stay in a hostel.
Reality: Theft is actually incredibly rare in hostels. Many people leave their luggage in the hostel during the day without fear. Keep your absolute valuables (passport, credit card, camera, etc.) out of sight, on your person or locked up. What about everything else, though? Your clothes (probably unwashed), towel (again, probably unwashed), toiletries (running a little low), and those kinds of things should be just fine. That being said, if you leave your shampoo in the shower, you shouldn’t really expect to see it again.
Myth: There’s no concierge, so I’m completely on my own to figure things out.
Reality: Definitely not! The front desk employees are usually more than happy to help you out (just try not to bother them when they have a line-up of check-ins). As a bonus, they’re usually locals, so they’ll probably know things that the guidebooks couldn’t even think of. The guy at the front desk at my hostel in Greece told us about the best place in the area for authentic food, and it was so good we ended up eating there every night (for four nights)!
Myth: People get murdered in hostels.
Reality: Nope. That was a fictional film. There are no reliable sources that suggest it has ever happened in real life.