So You’re Staying in a Hostel…
All I can say is good luck.
Okay, okay, that was definitely a bit of an exaggeration. In fact, I would definitely recommend staying in a hostel for any students traveling. The only reason I say good luck is because when you stay in a hostel, you have to be prepared to expect absolutely ANYTHING. This makes sense given that you are living in very close quarters with complete strangers who come from all different backgrounds. However, as long as you go into your hostel experience with an open mind and know how to do it right, it can be a really fun experience.
First, let me give you the run down on hostels. For those who have never stayed at one, a hostel is basically your freshman year dorm situation, but times ten. A hostel is basically a shared living space for travelers. When you book a spot in a hostel you are assigned one twin size bed (usually a bunk bed), your own locker to keep your stuff in and access to shared bathrooms. A lot of hostels also have kitchens that are free to use, and you can keep your own food stored in the fridge. This is a big bonus for people looking to save some more money because you can avoid having to eat out for every meal. Another perk is that a lot of hostels have rooms that are girls only, so if you are a girl traveling alone or with other friends and would feel more comfortable being in a room with only other girls, that is an option! Be sure to bring your own lock and towel, but if you forget, you can rent them from reception.
I think the main thing to keep in mind when booking hostels is to do your research beforehand. So far, I have stayed at two hostels that could not have been more different from each other. Which is why if you do your research you can ensure to find a place to stay that fits what you are looking for. There are “social hostels” which are basically just hostels for people looking to make friends and probably party as well. These hostels tend to attract lots of young travelers. This past weekend I stayed at a social hostel in Budapest and it is definitely a very unique experience. This hostel offered free family dinners where everyone sits at two long tables and hangs out while eating the meal for the night. They also offered free events every day that everyone staying at the hostel could go to together, like walking tours or going to a bar together. I personally think a social hostel is a great choice because you are given the option to partake in all these activities, but if you want to do your own thing for one day you still can. However, if you stay in a social hostel be prepared for very loud evenings and very interesting experiences. Since partying is pretty common in social hostels, there are people drinking and partying in the common spaces, coming home at all hours of the night and making lots of noise while others sleep. This can be a pro if you plan on staying out late because you don’t have to worry about quiet hours or curfews but can be a big con if you are a light sleeper. To give you a gist of what I experienced this past weekend, let me paint you a picture. On my first night there I was laying in bed after a long day of traveling and sight-seeing when I began to hear the sound of water pouring on the floor, or so I thought. After realizing what was happening, my friends and I all look to the corner of the room to see a man peeing on the floor of our shared hostel room. Yep, he was peeing on our floor without a care in the world. While all of this is going on, there is a girl snoring incredibly loud beneath me and other roommates were still coming home from a night out and making lots of noise. Above all, it was mostly comical more so than anything else. The floor of our room was cleaned by one of the staff members and then we all went to sleep. Given all of this, I would still recommend that hostel to anyone traveling to Budapest because it was a very safe and fun experience. It’s also just a more flexible environment because there is no pressure to get home by a certain time so that you do not disturb your roommates. Truly, the chaos is just part of the fun. On the other hand, you can stay at a more relaxed and quieter hostel. When I stayed at a hostel in northern Spain, my hostel was not in the heart of the city so the people staying there were mostly families or older people, with a few young travelers as well. This was great because it was not as packed and also ensured that I wouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night to a lot of noise. Both experiences are super different, but worth trying.
It is especially good to know that you can find a hostel that fits your traveling needs, as long as you do the research beforehand. One of the main things that I search for when trying to find a hostel is free meals! Free meals are such a great way to save money when traveling. It is pretty common to find hostels that offer free breakfast, but every once in a while, there are some that offer free dinners and those will really save you some money. I also make sure to read the reviews. I check to see how accessible the hostel is to other parts of the city, if the bathrooms are clean, if the staff is friendly, if the hostel is safe. I think one of the other most important things to look for in a hostel is the location. Staying in a hostel that is in a very central location saves you money because you won’t have to use public transportation as much, but also just gives you a great environment to be staying in. For the most part, I would recommend just finding a hostel that suits what you are looking for in a travel experience. Read the reviews, ask friends who have studied abroad for recommendations, and look around until you find one that you think will give you the best experience. Above all, just be open to the new experiences and new people.