Maybe you’ve stayed in a hostel in the past. Lots of us did when we were younger, especially those “free spirits” who wanted to see the world and didn’t hesitate to grab a backpack and go. If you immersed yourself in the hostel trend when traveling, you may have enjoyed the experience… or perhaps not.
But, whatever your experience with…or vision of… hostels in the past, you may be surprised to find out that hostels have changed a lot over the years. Although affordability still remains a primary attraction, many hostels today have a far less rustic, shabby feel about them. Many have risen to a level that gives hotels some real competition.
Hostels have opened up to a wider range of people, too. They no longer focus primarily on younger clientele. In fact, a growing number of hostels now specifically target baby boomers and seniors. You might be surprised by how many retirees choose to stay in hostels when they travel instead of paying the higher costs that can accrue using hotels and resorts.
Today, plenty of hostels offer sleeping choices beyond the dormitory-style accommodations and communal bathroom experience they were known for in the past. Today’s hostel guests often have the option of staying in a single or double room. And many hostels offer private or semi-private bathrooms. These days, most hostels are appealing, clean, secure and located in desirable travel areas. Some even have amenities like pools, saunas, hot tubs, travel libraries/desks, and gyms. Wifi is usually available at no or low cost.
Most hostels have common areas everyone can use, including spaces for relaxing and socializing as well as fully equipped kitchens. Kitchens are open to all guests and stocked with common cooking utensils. Refrigerators are communal so food must be well marked to specify ownership. Some hostels have laundry facilities as well, which may be free or available at a low cost. Because everyone has access to kitchens and laundry facilities, guests must take turns preparing meals and laundering clothing.
When it comes to linens and toiletries, availability varies among hostels. Some provide linens and towels, but some do not so guests must bring their own. Pillows may or may not be provided, although some guests prefer to bring their own anyway. While hotels and resorts tend to supply soaps along with sample sized shampoos and other toiletry items, many hostels do not. It is best to contact a hostel before a stay to find out what you should bring along with you.
The question of security is at the forefront of many people’s minds when they think about staying in a hostel. In most cases, hostels have personal lockers where guests can secure their valuable possessions. Guests are often required to bring their own locks. When staying in a dormitory-style room, there is always the chance that an item could be misplaced or taken by another guest by mistake or intentionally. Guests should keep an eye on important items. Some hostels close during the day and have a curfew at night, and many only offer check in for new guests at a specific time each day.
The noise factor can become an issue for some hostel guests. Although many hostels ask guests to abide by certain rules regarding noise and respect for other guests, the common areas can get a bit loud at times if lots of folks are talking and enjoying each other’s company. In the dormitory rooms, some conversations may easily extend into the late night hours. In the majority of cases, folks will quiet right down if asked.
If you decide a hostel might be a good choice for your next trip, it is important to do some research up front to check into the background of the hostel and its location. It is a good idea to read plenty of online reviews by actual guests. Pay special attention to comments about cleanliness, security, staff, location, and clientele. Hostels with the best reviews tend to fill up quickly so make your reservations early. Many hostels keep room available for unexpected arrivals, but the accommodations may not or may not be what you are interested in for your hostel experience.