I have stayed in hostels throughout Europe and have created countless extraordinary memories within my dorm walls, and yet, even uttering the word ‘hostel’ seems to send a wave of disgust across people’s faces.
Often, the first questions I’m asked are about the safety and cleanliness of hostel travel. Maybe it’s those Taken movies (which I still have not seen, and are not on my watchlist), or the constant barrage of 5-star resorts on Instagram that make people believe that hostels are for squares.
But I’m here to tell you that hostels are my favorite home base to have while traveling, and are actually a lifesaver for solo travelers.
So lets clear the air, starting with unraveling the biggest myths.
Myth #1: Hostels are scary
My first experiences with hostels were on my solo Europe trip when I was 18. I stayed in female dorms and made amazing friends, and never once questioned my safety.
Of course, it’s always good to be alert and aware of your surroundings, but as long as you’re not booking a busted hostel in the sketchiest part of town, you should have no problem finding a safe place to rest your head.
Myth #2: Hostels are gross
There are cheap hostels, and there are places that are actually bordering on luxury (much like hotels or airbnb’s).
Reading reviews will help to get a feel for the place, and knowing what you are looking for will prevent you from feeling icky.
Do you prefer an ensuite bathroom in your dorm that you’ll just share with your dormmates, or are you okay showering in a locker room-like scenario? What’s the maximum number of people you’re comfortable sharing a room with?
Asking yourself those kinds of questions will help in your search to find the perfect hostel for you.
Myth #3: You’ll get all of your stuff stolen
Nearly every hostel I’ve stayed in has had large, lockable trunks in the dorm rooms, or at the very least, smaller lockers for valuables. The thing to remember is that the people who are staying in hostels typically aren’t out to jack your belongings. People who utilize this method of travel are usually travelers on a budget who just want to see the world.
Keep your real valuables (passport, money, train tickets, etc) on your person when you’re not in the hostel, and lock them away when you’re hanging out at home base, and you should be just dandy!
I’ve stayed in over 10 different hostels and have never had anything stolen from me, and while it’s not impossible, I don’t believe it’s a fear that should prevent you from staying in one.
Finding a Hostel
While these things are all myths, all hostels are not created equal. One way I like to search for a good hostel is by doing some research using a site like hostelbookers.
This site gives you the ability to search hostels in the city you’re going to be staying in, view reviews, see photos, and see how people rate things like the hostel’s cleanliness, safety, location, etc. One of the things I love about this site is that upon booking your reservation, you only have to pay a deposit on your stay up front, and you get to pay the rest upon check-in.
P.S. If you’re new to the Hostel travel life, Generator has beautifully decorated hostels in tons of major cities and it’s hard to go wrong with staying at one of them!
On a final note…
If you’re hoping to see the world on a budget and meet awesome people along the way, I highly suggest giving hostels a whirl. Perks like on-site bars, organized pub crawls and walking tours, community hangout rooms, and free breakfast are hard to pass up.
The bonds that can be formed by staying in a social environment with like-minded people searching for adventure are limitless. Maybe you’ll find a friend to go on a hunt for the best macaron with you, or maybe you’ll find a new long-distance bff. Maybe your dormmate from Japan asks to borrow a bobby pin and you realize we’re all the same.
Hostels may be a step – or even a leap outside of the comfort zone for some, but isn’t that what traveling is all about to begin with?