Downsides & disadvantages of Staying in a hostel

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Hostels are known in the backpacking community as a convenient and low-cost accommodation type. They’re great for meeting other travellers and saving money throughout a trip. Typically hostels are utilised by urban and international backpackers, just two of a full range of backpacking types.

They’re used by backpackers, gap year travellers and those taking extended holidays. And for good reason!

However, you might want to be aware of some disadvantages that come with staying in a hostel. Especially if you’ve never done so before. If you’re new to the hostel lifestyle, it’s worthwhile knowing what you’re getting yourself into and what you can expect.

I love hostels purely for the sociable aspect. I travel the world as a solo traveller and love to meet people. But I’m certainly not ignorant of the downsides that come with staying in them compared to hotels or guesthouses.

Let’s dive in.

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How to book a hostel

If you need to book a hostel, the best way to do so is through Hostelworld. This site has the largest collection of hostels worldwide and an easy-to-use system that allows you to filter each property based on the amenities they offer.


a black and white image of a girl holding her index finger up to ther lips to show being quiet
Photo by Kristina Flour

Noise levels

When you’re sharing a dorm room or communal areas with other people, you can’t guarantee silence 247. Considering a hostel is primarily a place to sleep, this cannot be missed from our list of disadvantages of staying in one.

You run the risk of having roommates come back to the room late at night and unzipping their bags, typing on laptops, playing videos on their phones or simply just being loud. This can be extremely frustrating if you are trying to sleep or have an early start to continue your travels.

If you’re a heavy sleeper you’re one of the lucky ones who may be able to sleep through it. But those of us who are light sleepers have the nightly struggle of dealing with loud people. We’re likely getting minimal sleep throughout the trip which can lead to burnout quicker. And don’t even get me started on snorers.


Lack of privacy

This is mainly an issue if you are in a dormitory-style room, but one of the biggest disadvantages of staying in a hostel is being in the same bedroom as other guests. This means you always stand the chance of having someone else in the room at the same time as you.

If you need to change your clothes, you won’t have as much privacy as you might like. and you could have people walking past your bed at any time of night. The only time you could have privacy is if you choose to stay in a private room, otherwise, you may find yourself around people ALL THE TIME.

If you want to take a phone call, you’re likely to be surrounded by other guests no matter where you are, including the common areas.


Sharing facilities

When you stay in a hostel you will be sharing facilities with other guests. Of course, if you’re staying in a dorm room you’ll be sharing bedroom facilities, but even those in a private room will need to be ok with sharing.

Most of the bathrooms are communal which means you are highly unlikely to have an en-suite or one to yourself. If you prefer to have your own space, this would surely be one of the biggest disadvantages to staying in a hostel. Plus, unless you travel with your own cutlery and cooking equipment, you’ll be required to use the community items found in the hostel kitchen.

Providing they have been cleaned correctly between each user this shouldn’t be a problem. However, some people have an issue with using utensils that have been used by strangers.


a line of coloured lockers similar to those used in a hostel - disadvantages of staying in a hostel is you need to lock your belongings away
Photo by moren hsu

Security concerns

Some people assume that hostels are unsafe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I blame the “Hostel” movies. On the one hand, some of the main disadvantages of staying in a hostel include sharing a room with other people and worrying about keeping your belongings safe.

When you’re sharing a room with others you run the risk of people touching or moving your luggage which is concerning. It means you have to be more aware of locking your items in a locker and not just leaving valuables on your bed when you step out of the room.

Not to mention, any food you have in the communal refrigerators runs the risk of being used by someone else – even if you put your name on it!


Different lifestyles

Seeing as hostels focus much of their make-up on being social accommodations for travellers, it’s expected that you will meet people from all walks of life. This could be a positive feature if you’re looking to make international friends, but it’s one of the common disadvantages of staying in a hostel if you are grouped with people from very different lifestyles.

You could be paired with people in a dorm room who have drastically different cleanliness levels or could be in the common room with someone wearing clothes that could be deemed inappropriate in your home country.

This can be off-putting or make people uncomfortable if they’re not familiar with being around those from different backgrounds.


Missing amenities

Since hostels are typically known as low-cost accommodations, there are some amenities you’re unlikely to find in them. When compared to hotels, you’ll notice they are lacking in some ways.

For example, you won’t find any hostels that offer room service, and the majority of hostels don’t have a laundry service either (although they often have washing facilities to use yourself). They often don’t have bell boys or those to carry your luggage for you so you’ll need to do so yourself. If you’re used to staying in hotels, then staying in a hostel could seem to have more disadvantages which may put you off.


a black brick wall with a red warning sign and "age restrictions" written in white graphic - disadvantages of staying in a hostel

Age restrictions

If you are a typical backpacker then age restrictions might not bother you, but for those travellers trying to stay in a hostel as a family, it’s usually not possible. That’s because most hostels have an age restriction and don’t allow any guests under 18 years of age – even with parental supervision.

I have even come across a few hostels that have upper-age restrictions and won’t allow guests over 40 to stay, although that’s much less common. This is usually in party hostels or those that have a more lively atmosphere. Always make sure you are within the age brackets to be able to stay.


Noise curfews

If you like to wind down at the end of a long travel day watching TV or listening to music, you might be unhappy to know about hostel noise curfews. If you’re staying in a shared dorm you won’t be able to listen to anything without headphones or make much noise after 9 or 10 PM.

This is due to the rules that try to keep things fair for all guests. Each guest that books to stay there is entitled to a good night’s sleep. That’s not to say you can’t do those things in the common areas, but you won’t get to be as comfortable as you would be in bed. It may seem frustrating to not have the freedom to do what you like, but think about it from both sides, you likely don’t want people being noisy when you’re trying to get some beauty sleep either.


Summary: disadvantages of staying in a hostel

This list was in no way trying to put anyone off from staying in a hostel. I only wanted to make you aware of some of the frustrations you might come across when staying in one.

As with anything, there are some positives to choosing this accommodation type just as much as there are some problems. If you have patience and are aware of the disadvantages then you’re less likely to be surprised by your stay.

If you want some more backpacking tips check out: Most Useful Apps For Backpackers. The best way to stay connected to use these apps is by getting an eSIM that can be downloaded straight to your phone.

Have you decided where you’re staying yet?

Need help planning your trip?

Check out how to plan a trip abroad & see my travel resources for more.

WayAway – Great for booking flights. They even have a cashback feature for those who fly frequently.
Skyscanner – A comprehensive comparison website showing where to purchase flights.
HostelWorld – The biggest selection of hostels & sociable accommodations.
Booking.com – The largest collection of accommodations worldwide.

Safety Wing – A travel insurance brand for long-term travellers and nomads.

Airalo – An eSIM card company that lets you stay connected during your trip.
Wise – Perfect for transferring foreign currencies.
iVisa – For applying for tourist and visitor visas.

Viator – Great for finding tours and activities worldwide.
Get Your Guide – Another company for finding activities.
Klook – Have some of the best activity deals in Asia.

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