Many Hostels Today Are More Like Budget Hotels
The word “hostel” used to be synonymous with bed bugs, hard beds and musty rooms. They were the cheapest form of accommodations that were housed in cold, dark and lifeless spaces. Many hostels were in reform schools or old office buildings that should have been condemned. They were for the true backpacker that was thumbing their way around the world and needed somewhere to rest their head. The average guest was someone who had not bathed in weeks and was enduring whatever nature was throwing at them. There were age restrictions for who could stay and usually a curfew that you had to be in by.
To describe a typical hostel today is more difficult. They vary so greatly in amenities, comfort and size that there is no standard hostel accommodation. Many of them are more like budget hotels. In addition to beds in shared dorm rooms, it is common that they offer private double rooms with their own ensuite. The dorm style rooms tend to be smaller than they used to, perhaps only sleeping 4 to 8 people at most.
We traveled to hostels that had more amenities than some hotels offered. The days of just offering a bed to sleep in are long gone. The places we stayed at were more like backpacking resorts, some of them on beautiful pieces of property. We stayed at places with bars, full serve restaurants and cafes, self catering kitchens, internet cafes, movie rooms and even swimming pools!
Don’t expect all hostels to be ultra luxurious though, sometimes you still come across one that is a dirty, unkept excuse to make money. The good thing is that like hotels most places have their own website with photo galleries and descriptions. There are many hostel review sites where you can see what other travelers have said about them.
What Are The Advantages Of Staying In A Hostel
Staying in hostels will allow you to experience a perspective of your destination that the typical tourist will not get. You have more opportunity to learn customs, eat local food and meet worldly, spirited travelers that love to share their adventurous stories. Hostels tend to have a more communal nature than hotels. There is usually a main area for people to gather around, perhaps around a bar counter, a television or cozy fireplace. People feel more comfortable to open up and talk to fellow travelers in a hostel atmosphere.
We were surprised to see the range of people using hostels as we traveled the world. There were people from all ages and walks of life. It is not an exclusive club for the youth anymore. Some are still choosing hostels for financial reasons, but many others stay in them because they find they get a better sense of the destination they are staying in, and often the people in the hostels have the best advice to give about the area.
We encountered travelers in the hostels that were in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. They could afford to stay in much higher priced hotels, but said they loved the astmosphere of the hostels. They found they could not make a connection with people while staying in other types of accommodation. Even some newlyweds are choosing to travel on their honeymoon through hosteling.
We have stayed in hostels in many parts of the world. We were particularly impressed with the ones in South Africa. They refer to them as backpackers and most of them provide everything you could possibly need during your stay. We traveled from hostel to hostel with the car we had rented for two months. Some of these places were like full fledge resorts.
Hostels can be a break from the boring and boxy hotel. The buildings can be in an array of styles, from little huts to grand historical houses or in a castle or tree top in the jungle. They are only limited by the imagination of what someone can make into a functioning place to sleep. The locations were just as varied. We slept in ones that were on bustling streets in the middle of a big city, in the woods, on farms and in wildlife reserves.
Many hostels try to fully accommodate today’s backpacker. Free wireless internet seems to be a standard offering. Most hostels have lockers to put valuables in, sometimes they are large enough to accomodate your entire backpack. Laundry services area available as well as self catering kitchens. Some even have a small grocery store. Tours of local attractions are available at many places. It is a win-win situation. The traveler has everything they need at the hostel and the hostel makes money by selling more than just a bed.
Traveling as a couple we were able to find a private double room in almost every hostel. Often the price for a private room was not much more than the cost of two dorm beds. Yes we had some less than perfect places, but the majority of hostels are clean, well kept places.
You May Still Want To Use A Sleep Sheet
What is a sleep sheet? You can buy specific sleep sacks to use while traveling. Some are made of silk material and others are a finely woven cotton. They are a sack that you get into within the linens of the bed you are sleeping in. It is so you do not have to come in contact with the bedding and the possibility of bedbugs. We made our own sleep sheets, but rarely felt the need to use them when we were staying in private hostel rooms. We found most rooms to be no different in bed and linen quality than what you would find in a hotel room. However, they might still be necessary while sleeping in some place, especially dorm style rooms.
We wanted our sleep sacks to be nice and roomy so we bought a queen size flat sheet for each of us. You need the sheet to be a very high thread count. This is important, the tighter the weave of the sheet the better it will help to protect you from bedbugs.
First wash the sheets in hot water and put them in the dryer so there is no further shrinking. Simply fold the sheet in half lengthwise and sew along the bottom and the open side. Now you have a sack that you can crawl into. Don’t forget to wash it frequently while traveling. Use hot water and then place in the hot dryer. Some hostels have a policy that a sleep sack must be used, they will rent them to you. This is so they know the bed will be kept clean and lower the risk of bed bugs. Check ahead with the hostel you are going to stay at. Sleeping bags are generally not allowed, due to sanitary reasons.
An organization exists called Hosteling International that you can become a member of. A membership is not mandatory at all HI Hostels, but in many countries it is. At some locations the membership gives you a discounted rate on accommodation and on trips and activities. Staying at an HI hostel is supposed to ensure you will be getting good quality budget accommodation. You can book HI Hostels all around the world from their website. There are a few different types of memberships available, but they are all generally valid for a one year period.
Hostels Changed, So Has The Cost To Stay In One
With all the changes, increased comfort and extra amenities, the cost of staying in a hostel has increased. The days of a backpacker being able to get a cheap bed for a few dollars have nearly vanished. In some parts of the world it is still possible to find a bed for a few dollars. If you do find a place that is super cheap then it tends to be a dirty and unkept, reminiscent of the hostels of the past.
The average dorm bed in a hostel ranges anywhere from about $8 to $35. We have come across prices as high as $90 for a private double room in a hostel, but have paid as little as $25
Consider A Hostel Next Time You Travel
So next time you are traveling give a thought to staying in a hostel. Some of our most memorable travel experiences have been during evenings spent in hostels chatting with other travelers. We have met some fascinating people, you just never know who the person is that is sitting next to you or what they do. The experience, social atmosphere and appreciation for the place you are staying are not the same as what you will find in a regular hotel.
http://www.hostelz.com/ World Database of over 39,000 hostels
http://www.bug.co.uk/ Backpackers Ultimate Guide
http://www.review-hostel.com/ Hostels Reviews
http://www.hostelbloggers.com/ The Insiders Guide To Budget Travel