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A Comfort Seeker’s Guide to Staying in a Hostel

Don't let the stereotypes ruin your perception of these cheap accommodation options.

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There’s no shame in trying to stick to a budget. None at all. So naturally, if you’re trying to save money while traveling, one of the best ways to do so is by staying in a hostel.

But wait, aren’t all hostels gross bunk houses where that one horror movie took place?!

Absolutely not! Hostels come in all different kinds, from 2-bed to 24-bed dorms that range from very basic to incredibly beautiful. Some of the hostels I’ve stayed in have been nicer than many hotels! If you’re hoping to maximize your travel by sticking to a strict budget, staying in a hostel can help.

When I was in Copenhagen, I initially looked into hotels there and found that they were $300+ per night – yikes! Staying in a hotel for one night would have almost exceeded the price of the flight from Washington to Copenhagen. For me, it wasn’t worth it. Instead, I looked into some hostel options and ended up staying in the Urban House in Vesterbro. At $60 a night (which is still crazy expensive for a hostel!), it was the most cost-effective option for a weekend in Copenhagen. Although I often have the available budget to stay at a hotel (thanks to my full-time job), I still frequent hostels to save money and meet other travelers.

Peruse the Reviews

JUMBO HOSTEL
Photo Credit: Lutz Blohm (Flickr)

Arguably the most important step for finding a good hostel is reading reviews. However, when reading reviews, don’t limit yourself to just one source. These testimonials can be skewed in a lot of cases, so it’s important to check a couple of different websites to get an accurate depiction of a place. TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Hostelworld, and Google can be fantastic sources of information submitted by people who have stayed there before.

Reviews can also inform you of what to expect at the hostel. Some hostels have individual bed compartments with their own walls and curtains, much like a Japanese-style capsule hotel. Others have swimming pools, hot tubs, and incredible breakfast buffets. A few are even built in very interesting structures, like castles or even airplanes! You can find some interesting high-end hostel experiences if you do your research well.

Choose Single-Sex Dorms

This one is especially relevant for females, as many hostels have a selection of co-ed dorms and female-only dorms. If you’re uncomfortable being in a room with men (as I often am as a solo female traveler), this is an option to consider. For me, I am more comfortable in an all-female dorm because it minimizes the scent of body odor/sweat/cologne and I only have to share a bathroom with other women.

Evaluate the Bed Situation

Capsule Hotel
Photo Credit: Dan (Flickr)

Once you’ve chosen a hostel to stay in, you should choose a room. For the most comfortable experience, choose a room with a low number of beds. If you have the budget, you can even splurge for a private room. Hostel rooms feel much less cramped and invasive if there are fewer people in them, so choosing a room wisely can make your experience much more comfortable.

When you make a booking at any given hostel, you can often write in specific requests. If staying in a bunk bed concerns you, request a bottom bunk. It’s never a guarantee, but it’s worth a try for that added bit of comfort.

Ensuite or Bust

One thing that can make (or break) the hostel experience is the availability of a clean bathroom. If you’re sharing a hall bathroom with 10 other rooms, the chances that it will be clean at any given time are lower. You can increase your chances of clean facilities by looking for a room with an ensuite bathroom. Of course, you’ll (hopefully) have chosen a hostel that has reviews of being clean, but this is just an added amenity that can make your stay more enjoyable.

Avoid Party Hostels

The YHA Hostel in Village of Hartington in Derbyshire
Photo Credit: JR P (Flickr)

There’s really nothing worse than staying in a hostel where the music is bumping the entire night, and your roommates come in drunk and loud and reeking of cigarettes at 4 AM. Though you can’t always avoid these situations, you can choose a hostel that’s a little bit more low-key and quiet, as opposed to a party hostel. These quieter hostels typically do not have attached bars and cater to a much more laid-back demographic. If you’re looking for a top-notch experience, be sure to stay away from hostels that are known for partiers.

Weigh Your Options

I’ll be honest – there are times when staying in a hostel might not be worth it. For example, if an Airbnb costs $10 more per night for a private room, it’s probably worth the extra splurge. I totally get that. If you’re traveling alone, however, hostels can be a great way to meet other travelers and find people to explore with.

Only you can decide whether or not staying in a hostel is for you, based on your personal preferences. If you’re considering staying in hostel for the first time, it’s definitely worth a try!

Additional Resources

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Would you stay in a hostel to save some money? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Featured image credit: Oriol Salvador (Flickr)

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Kay is a full-time working professional located in Washington DC who takes every spare vacation day to get outside and explore the world. When she travels, she loves visiting the most iconic and naturally beautiful destinations in the USA and abroad. You can typically find her wandering the streets of a city, running through a park, taking ridiculous self portraits, or hiking a mountain somewhere. Connect with Kay: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

3 Comments

    • Yeah, it can get a little bit annoying when out of hand. That’s why I always opt for non-party hostels, so I can minimize the risk!

  1. I’ve come to love “boutique” and “luxury” hostels! I stayed at a nice one in Barcelona called “Yeah hostel” where I met a lot of like-minded people who I walked around the city with.

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