If you’ve travelled recently, I bet you got an Airbnb or hotel, right? And I’m sure it was great. But I have a confession to make… I love hostels.
And yes, I can afford a really nice hotel. But actually, I think hostels are one of the best ways to travel and they are definitely NOT just for budget travellers.
In fact, I think that whatever your travel style and your travel budget, if you’re on a long(ish) trip, you need to embrace a hostel for at least a few nights. And, after that, I bet you’d be back for a few extra nights too. There are many benefits of hostels that goes beyond simply saving some money.
OK, why do I think that hostels are so good and not just for budget travellers? Hold on, I’mma hit ya with the facts.
1. Hostels are like social clubs for travellers
If you arrive somewhere you’ve never been, chances are you’ll want to do some social. And that’s one of the first reasons why hostels are great. You get to meet all sorts of people from all walks of life, most of whom have chosen a hostel not just because it’s cheap but because they want to be sociable.
I travelled to Bordeaux a year or two back, which was mostly a research trip for work. But rather than shell out on an apartment or hotel room, I chose a hostel not far from the centre of town.
This turned out to be a great choice as I made several friends (one of whom is still a friend to this day) and had a couple of great nights out.
2. Not all hostels are ‘cheap’
So I put cheap in quote marks there as I’m not necessarily talking about the cost. While hostels are usually the cheaper option for an overnight stay, many are actually in really nice locations with some great amenities. I stayed in an excellent hostel in Singapore with a roof garden, buffet breakfast and a really friendly co-owner/receptionist who took people on tours of the city pretty much for free.
While travelling in South Africa, I found most cities had some excellent hostels with BBQ areas, rec-rooms and social areas which included pools, hammocks and all manner of fun social areas. And despite the fact that they were the cheaper option, you would often find that the hostels themselves were of similar quality to some of the lodges and hotels we later stayed in.
I also stayed in a great hostel in Bruges, Belgium, which was about as perfectly located as it was possible to be for nightlife. They offered free hire bikes, another decent breakfast included and I had a great night out with a mixed international crowd of travellers.
3. Some hostels have great private rooms
While hostels are great for meeting other travellers, you don’t necessarily have to sleep in the same room as them. In fact, some hostels have private rooms on a par with decent boutique hotels. OK, I’ll be honest, you’re unlikely to get 5 star luxury in a private hostel room. But you do get to avoid other people’s snoring – which is nice.
Having said that, some of the best things about hostels is the shared communal living area. It’s all good fun! Honest.
4. Self catering (usually)
Due to their budget nature, one of the benefits of staying in a hostel is usually that they feature a kitchen area. This is perfect for people to prepare their meals and keep their travel costs low. While this might not be the main reason you choose a hostel, it can be a nice touch if you don’t want to go out and eat one evening.
Many hostels also give you access to a shared fridge or food cupboard, with many of the basics (or not so basics) already available. So if you want to create a rice or pasta dish, make a cup of tea or coffee, or simply find something to spread on your morning toast, there is usually something in the shared food area.
5. Many hostels have social events
I’ve been to hostels where they’ve laid on BBQs, club nights, pool parties and morning yoga classes! And others where they often organise tours and local experiences for either free or cheap. If you want to experience some real travel then hostels are a great place to connect with a mixture of travellers and locals.
6. Hostels are great for single travellers
One of the main benefits of staying in a hostel, is the social, as we mentioned above. And when travelling alone, one of the main worries for many is that they might feel isolated or lonely. But this is why hostels are perfect for anyone travelling solo, or even single travellers looking to mingle.
You’ll often find people willing to make travel buddies, hang out and play Jenga, or maybe even more. Yes, that more does mean potential romantic encounters. Don’t be a sex pest though, OK.
7. There are hostels in some great locations
Being well located when travelling is often one of the main reasons people choose hotels. But often a major benefits of staying in a hostel is that it is well located, often close to public transport or city central areas.
You’ll even find hostels close to popular beaches, nightclubs and business areas.
8. Digital nomad hostels
Increasingly, hostels are looking to attract the digital nomad crowd, and make it easier than ever for people to get their work done. In fact, you’ll often spot the Macbook crowd sitting around drinking coffee and having meetings in most hostels you ever visit.
There are even specific hostels catering to digital nomads and long stay travellers. We visited one ski hostel in Liddes, Switzerland, which offers affordable skiing and an area for professionals to do their work. They even run an annual digital nomad retreat in the hostel – which is a sign of the growth in popularity of hostels for solopreneurs and business owners.
How to find the best hostels?
The best site for hostel hunters is, without a doubt, HostelWorld. This has been the go to hostel booking site for travellers since ages ago…
The good thing about Hostelworld is that it doesn’t just show you the dorm room options, but also allows you to find the exact type of hostel you’re looking for.
Want a party hostel with a common room? Want one with a pool or fitness area? Or maybe you want breakfast included? Hit the filters and take a look and you’ll probably find an option that suits your travel style.
You can also search apartments and private rooms – and there is also a section where you can find travel buddies under ‘Roamies’ (get it – like roomies).