To hostel or not to hostel?

It’s never actually been a question for me.  Hosteling is without a doubt one of the cheapest accommodation options when travelling and when you’re young, the most fun/sociable too!

As a seasoned traveller and now in my mid-thirties people are surprised when I tell them I still stay in hostels (like there should be an age limit?)  The response from others my own age goes something like ‘Oh, I’m far too old for slumming it like that these days; I like my creature comforts too much.’  Erm, don’t we all?  Of course the older we get, the more likely we are to earn more to be able to afford swanky hotels – and don’t get me wrong – I LOVE me a swanky hotel!  I spent many a year travelling for business enjoying opulent hotel suites – thank you very much previous companies I worked for!  But on my personal travels I prefer to spend my limited cash on experiences and food in the country I’m in. After all, I only require a bed and somewhere to keep my things – I don’t travel to discover hotels, else I’d be a chamber maid.

But hostels today don’t mean a shed down the back of an alley, noisy shared dorms filled with rickety old bunk beds and no security, quite the contrary my friends…

The majority offer private rooms with a basic en-suite and those with shared facilities are in my experience spacious, clean and perfectly decent.  In addition the industry caught on very quickly that even those on a tight budget appreciate a funky space to hang out, regular amenities such as WiFi, breakfast and security for their belongings.  These are all things that are pretty standard in every hostel I’ve stayed in.

Sanya Backpackers ~ Hainan ~ China

If of course you are looking for the authentic hostel or back to basics experience these do still exist by way of beach huts, yurts, home-stays and estancias – all equally awesome if you ask me!

Hostels have always had a reputation for only catering to young party-goers (teens-twenties) – which is of course who they were originally intended and why they began so basic.  It’s the demographic that has the least cash but crave the most mayhem – not that I believe for a second that a person stops looking for fun outside of this age bracket – how preposterous! (Rolls eyes)  But I’ve found in recent years a far broader range of people choose to stay at hostels around the world including families, couples, middle-aged solo travellers and that they are surprisingly more civilized than you’d expect, all the while maintaining the original chilled hostel vibe.  Leave all pretense – and your flip-flops – at the door.

Sanya Backpackers ~ Hainan ~ China

From India, to Brasil, Venezuela to Belgium I’ve stayed in a lot of great hostels around the world and my most recent experiences across Thailand and China have solidified the fact that I still prefer a hostel over a traditional B&B or hotel.  It isn’t just about how cheap and convenient they are but more how awesome they are; they’re super stylish, they’re chilled out and they’re filled with like-minded sociable laid back human beings.

And if you’re not a sociable human or simply looking for a time-out, some ‘me time’ that’s o.k; you don’t have to frequent the public bar area and you don’t have to stay in a dorm with up to 12 strangers!  There are quiet zones, private rooms, roof tops with hammocks.  Rowdy youngsters tend to find their parties else where as most hostels have strict ‘no loud noise’ and ‘be respectful of others after midnight’ policies.  You really make of it what you want – the beauty is how very easy it all is – you get everything you need minus the expense and chocolate on your pillow (and they’re so tiny what’s the point anyway, right?)

I have always gotten more than I’ve bargained for in the way of new friendships, bonds formed with the families who run the businesses, random conversations, late night invitations, impromptu experiences and general heart-warming and enlightening moments.  Hostels offer affordable home-like intimacy, tons of personality and as much fun or tranquility as you desire.

What’s not to love?



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