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When it comes to choosing accommodation during a gap year or long trip, hostels are one of the most common choices. But why exactly are they so popular amongst the backpacking community?
That’s what I want to share with you today. The benefits and advantages of staying in a hostel so you can decide for yourself if they’re worth staying in. Typically people who take part in urban or city backpacking choose to stay in hostels, but this is not the only backpacking type.
If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before you might have some misconceptions about what they are really like. That’s especially true for those who have seen the “Hostel” horror movie trilogy (if you know, you know) where hostels happen to be places where EVERYTHING goes wrong and seems dangerous.
But hostels are safe, and there are plenty of reasons why you should consider them throughout your trip. Take a look below.
Check out: Hostels vs hotels: Which is right for you?
Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.
When you need to transfer money or check exchange rates during your overseas trip, consider using Wise. They have competitive rates and make exchanging foreign funds easy.
How to book a hostel
Before diving into the advantages of a hostel, I’ll show you how to find them. There are a few different ways to book a hostel stay for your upcoming trip. They are as follows:
- Book in person if you are local to the property
- Book directly online if you know their website
- Through a hostel-specific booking platform online
- Through alternative accommodation booking platforms
The first two require you to already have a place in mind so we can skip those for now.
If you want to compare various hostel properties online you can use a platform like HostelWorld for example. This platform showcases the largest collection of hostels worldwide and they have a great filter system to narrow down properties by specific features and amenities.
You can find a hostel using the HostelWorld widget below:
If you need another avenue to book a hostel for whatever reason, some platforms like Booking and Agoda also list hostels – although they primarily focus on hotels and guesthouses. Just make sure you narrow down the property types using the filters on the left of each site to find hostels.
When you compare the cost of a hostel for a week versus the cost of a hotel, generally speaking, a hostel will be cheaper. Now calculate the costs for a month or more. It adds up right? For those travelling for a long time or on a tight travel budget, this is certainly one of the biggest benefits of staying in a hostel.
When people are on a gap year and on the road for an extended time while living off of their savings, they’re likely to try and stretch their money as far as they can. So, unless they’re insanely rich and able to stay in swanky accommodation every night of their trip, they often stick to hostels due to the low cost, which allows them to spend more money on the other aspects of their trip.
Different room types
Common misconceptions about hostels are that they only have shared dorm rooms available. But that is certainly not the case. One of the advantages of a hostel is that they have different room types for guests to choose from.
Most hostel accommodations have dorm rooms as their cheapest room type, but they often have private rooms too. When it comes to booking your stay at a hostel, most platforms allow you to choose what type of room you would like to stay in before confirming your stay.
This allows guests to choose the sleeping arrangement that is most suited to their budget and privacy preferences.
Hostels are sociable. There is no doubt about that. I would probably say it’s one of the biggest benefits of staying in a hostel and why many solo travellers choose them over other accommodation types. If you choose to stay in a dorm room, you will easily be able to meet and get to know the guests you’re sharing a room with.
On the other hand, if you are staying in a private room, you’ll have the common areas which are created with socialising in mind for all guests to interact with each other. Since hostels have a well-documented reputation for being the most sociable accommodation type, they’re often the go-to place for those who wish to make friends and potentially meet other backpackers to travel with.
Kitchen & Dining Areas
Similar to the social aspect, the community kitchen and dining areas available are also some of the top benefits of staying in a hostel. They often include a self-catering style kitchen and dining area which allows guests the opportunity to prepare their meals.
This allows people to have more control over the ingredients they consume (extra helpful for those with allergies or intolerances) but can also be significantly cheaper than eating out at restaurants every day.
Some regions, such as Southeast Asia, will have hostels that don’t have kitchens because it is so cheap to eat local food, whereas hostels in New Zealand or Australia, almost always have a kitchen as restaurants are much more pricey.
Connecting to the social aspect and self-catering facilities, hostels quite often have other community facilities for guests to use. These include bars (or at least the ability to purchase food or drinks from the reception staff), roof or garden terraces, games rooms, TV and movie rooms and more.
I’ve stayed in hostels with libraries, swimming pools, onsite restaurants and even one that had a sauna!
These are all facilities that can be used by all guests and allow you to spend time with other travellers if you wish, or simply enjoy the amenities on your own. It’s great to have the option! This is a completely different atmosphere to a hotel where every room is private and where people don’t interact outside of their travel group.
Activities & events
Most accommodations around the world can provide information on local attractions to assist their guests during their stay. Hostels are no different. Since hostels are a common accommodation choice for backpackers, gap year travellers, and those looking for a low-cost and sociable experience, they normally have recommendations for their guests.
Speaking from experience, some of my greatest travel experiences were based on recommendations from hostel staff in destinations. You might find a notice board with posters, events and attraction tickets, or you may find the contact information for reputable tour companies and guides. Plus, I have never stayed at a hostel that didn’t have local maps available for guest use.
If you’ve ever needed to change your plans or tried to travel spontaneously, you’ll know how frustrating it can be when you can’t cancel for free or book something last minute. Another one of the top advantages of a hostel is that they often have more flexibility in their reservations than that of other accommodation types.
It’s very easy to book a room at the last minute for a hostel which makes it easier to adapt changing plans as you go along. This is useful for those travellers who are winging their trip without a set itinerary (which is surprisingly common in the backpacking community).
Most hostels are located in popular tourist areas which makes them very a convenient accommodation choice. It’s one of the main advantages of a hostel, as it is easier for travellers to visit local attractions with ease.
Unlike hotels, hostels are only really found in places along common backpacking routes, close by to world-famous attractions, public transportation and nearby bars and restaurants. Other forms of accommodation can be found in more remote locations but may not be close to many tourist features.
The convenience of location is another one of the top benefits of staying in a hostel as you won’t need to worry about being hours away from the main tourist attractions you’re likely wanting to visit.
Final thoughts on the advantages of staying in a hostel
As you can see there are plenty of reasons why hostels should be considered throughout your trip. They may not have as much comfort as a hotel or guesthouse, (more on their disadvantages here) but they are certainly more convenient in a few other ways.
One of my favourite things about them is that you can have the sociable aspect while still focusing on privacy by staying in a private room – it’s the best of both worlds and is one of the top benefits of staying in a hostel – having the options you don’t have in a hotel.
Are you ready to book your trip?