Mini guide to youth hostels
Staying in a hostel is one of the best ways to travel the world on a budget. Hostels allow you to do the two most important things a traveller wants to do:
- Save a lot of money
- Meet other great, like-minded travelers
So why a youth hostel?
Firstly, the hostels are cheap. Even in expensive countries like those in Western Europe, the United States, and Australia, simply paying for a bed instead of a hotel room will help you save a lot of money. This means you can keep more of your hard-earned dollars for exciting activities, such as sightseeing tours, a hot air balloon ride, or get you a meal at a good restaurant!
Meet other travelers
Secondly, it’s a great way to make friends. Even if you are travelling as a couple or with friends – take our word for it – you will sometimes need to be around other people.
For solo travellers, hostels are invaluable. Although walking alone is freeing, we can’t deny that eventually, we’ll be in need of a good chat, or simply have someone to share in the wonders we discover!
The Hostel Myth
Finally, youth hostels are not at all what they used to be. For years, they had a somewhat negative or questionable reputation, but the majority of establishments have greatly improved. Some hostels are incredibly well equipped (think of the Selina which we mentioned in another article). Sure, there will still be a few bad apples, but hostels are no longer a place to avoid when considering options for your stay.
How to choose your hostel
There are different types of hostels and almost all of them meet the needs of travellers. However, some will more actively describe themselves as “backpacker hostels“, which indicates that the place will be full of other travellers and will offer the types of services that will interest this type of tourist.
Other hostels also welcome people planning to stay for weeks or even months and may have less of a “backpacker” atmosphere, but there is no reason why you can’t stay there (again, recall the Selina as an example).
A room with many bunk beds that anyone can book. Some dorms are mixed and others are reserved for men or women. Dorms typically contain 4-20 beds or more, and you will evidently be sharing the space with travellers you don’t know, unless you are the only person or group who reserved the room. The main advantage is that dorms are much less expensive than private rooms, and the more beds there, the cheaper the stay.
A private room obviously means that you will have your own room. Most hostels offer both dormitories and private rooms that are more like what you would expect to find in a hotel, with single and double bed options. Groups can book a larger room, or have a full dormitory in some hostels.
If you are in a dorm, you will clearly share a bathroom with other travellers. Private rooms may also be labelled “private bathroom”, meaning that a bathroom is attached to your room, or “shared bathroom”, in which case there will be a toilet and shower in the hallway that will be shared with other travellers.
A hostel with a shared kitchen is a great asset for anyone travelling on a budget, as it allows you to cook your own food. Take the opportunity to shop at a local grocery store, and pay with a credit card with no conversion fee (the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® or the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card are two examples). The kitchen can also be used to store alcohol and is often the social hub of the hostel if there is no bar or common area.
This is a room or section of the hostel that anyone can use. It is a good place to spend time and meet other travellers. Some hostels organize parties for their guests. You can watch TV or Netflix, read books, play cards, or just relax.
It is important to check out what the hostel you are interested in offers, to make sure your expectations are met!
Most hostels have Wi-Fi that you can use (ask for the password upon arrival). Some may also have a computer available to clients. However, internet quality at hostels varies so be sure to read the hostel’s reviews if you plan to use the internet often to make video calls or work during your stay.
How to book a hostel?
These usually offer a wider range of options and are useful as they include the best rates for hotels and other types of accommodation as well as hostels. It is therefore a good comparison tool.
In rare cases, you can find a room in a budget hotel for less than the cost of a bed in a hostel. Plus, if you’re on a long trip, it’s sometimes nice to take a break for a few days from the more bustling hostel scene.
However, overall, you will usually get a similar range of options in the search results for both sites, which are also very similar in price.
Especially since you can use your travel points when you make reservations on these sites!
Tips and tricks for hostel stays
In conclusion, here are some tips to avoid unpleasant surprises in hostels.
- Bring your beach sandals(flip-flops). The showers in the hostels are not particularly clean, and neither are the floors in the dormitories.
- Bring a small lock to store your belongings in the dorm locker. It’s great to trust people, but there are limits.
- Bring caps and a mask. You’ll thank us later 😉
Frequently asked questions about youth hostels
Do I have to book in advance to stay in a hostel?
It’s rarely mandatory to book in advance, but it gives you one less thing to think about when you arrive. If you are travelling in high season and the hostels seem to be near capacity, you might want to consider this option.
Many seasoned travellers don’t book hostels in advance and prefer to have the flexibility to change their plans, but it’s a good idea to think of some alternatives before you arrive. It’s recommended to book in advance during peak periods, such as festivals or summer vacations.
Is it necessary to bring a sleeping bag to a youth hostel?
Do you have to bring your own towel to a youth hostel?
Are youth hostels only for young people?
No, that’s the simple answer to that question. The idea that hostels are full of gap year students is a myth. Of all the people you meet in youth hostels, probably less than 10% are under the age of 20 – although this varies from place to place and hostels in larger cities tend to attract a younger crowd.
In most cases, travellers are likely to be in their 20s and 30s, but fewer and fewer establishments impose an age limit, and many much older travellers choose to stay there as well.
We hope this guide will convince you to give youth hostels a try, no matter your age! The atmosphere and the possibilities they offer are seriously worth it.
Here are several credit card options to help you save on hostel and hotel reservations: