Alright, so let’s address this topic once and for all: Hostels are not sketchy. No, they are not like the movie Hostel. No, they do not all have bed bugs. No, they’re not all sex, drugs, rock and roll. Yes, there are plenty of safe hostels. Yes, hostels are a great way to meet new people. Yes, they are very cheap and you should take advantage of them!
- Hostels can be very cheap! Ranging from $12 to $40 a night, hostels are a great way to travel if you are trying to save money. Sure, you won’t be living in the lap of luxury but you probably won’t be spending much time at the actual hostel anyway.
- Hostels are an awesome way to meet people! Generally, the average hostel goer is 18-26 years old. So, if you fall in that category as well, you will most likely be meeting many people your own age, from all over the world! Some hostels are considered “youth hostels”—these generally have lower rates and age restrictions (another safety bonus, if that is what you’re worried about). Often times, hostels will have a “community room”—a space with all the plugs to charge your phone and other electronics. This makes it even easier to meet people and maybe even make some plans! Of course, use your own judgment and common sense when interacting with strangers.
- Breakfast, shower, lockers, oh my! Some hostels include breakfast for free or a just a small charge—yum! Although you won’t be basking in the glory of a 5 star hotel, you will have a shower. I hope you are okay with sharing (not at the same time, of course) and possibly lukewarm water—life goes on! Many hostels also have some sort of locker service. This is where they might get you with some extra charges, but normally it is a simple deposit that you get back when you check out. Sometimes these “lockers” are actual lockers, other times they are massive metal cans with chain and lock—either way, your stuff will be okay. You’re probably only here for the weekend, anyway, and don’t have that much stuff!
- Don’t judge a book by its cover… many hostels may seem a little off-putting or run down on the outside ( on the other hand, some of them are BEAUTIFUL! )…but please just give them a chance! Of course, do your own research and ask around, too.
Check in times. Sometimes it can be a bit of a hassle to deal with check in / out times. For example, my bus to Amsterdam arrived at 4 something AM and I couldn’t check in to my hostel until 10AM. However, they were very gracious and let me sit in the lobby ( and use their WiFi! ) until I could access my room. Really, it’s all about how you plan your own travel and transportation. Keep an eye on arrival/departure times in regards to check-in/check-out times!
- Bring luggage locks! Sometimes you won’t be able to fit everything in your locker and I may be easier to lock up your suitcase and slide it under your bunk bed! Be sure to keep your valuables in your locker or on your person, though!
- Do your own research! There are plenty of hostel reviews out there for you to get your hands on. Dig deep if you are really worried about sketchy hostels. Double and triple check, though—not all ratings are authentic. Be sure to look for some details instead of just going by the star rating method. Also, if you liked / disliked a hostel experience, be sure to make it known! That will help out more people when looking for hostels.
- Don’t spend all your time at your hostel. I feel like this should be a given. Even if it’s raining—go find a café to sit at! There’s bound to be a free walking tour ( there’s probably information / maps at your hostel’s front desk! ) or some sort of event going on. Wander, get lost, meet someone, eat the local food, go to the historical district, catch a show, sit by the water, rent a bike, buy a souvenir, people watch—the possibilities are endless and all more exciting than sitting in your hostel using the WiFi, I promise.
- Talk to people! You will probably be sharing a room with a handful of people. Yes, there may be some language barriers but at least be friendly and respectful—it will make things more comfortable on both ends.
Hostels That I Know and Love: here are a handful of hostels that I have had great experiences at!
Westerplatte 12/7, 31-029 Kraków, Poland
- Clean, cheap, awesome location ( right near the city center but not directly ), free breakfast, WiFi, lockers, I was in a room with 4 other people. Two thumbs up!
De Wallen, Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Located right in the city center—so close to the train station!, the cheapest hostel I have ever stayed at ($12/per night!), lockers, WiFi, cheap breakfast, dorm style rooms (18 or so bunk beds in a long room). Again, two thumbs up!
23 rue Damier, 1000 Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
- This is one of the pricier hostels I stayed at (~30 euro, which at the time was about $50), very clean!, I stayed in a private room with my cousins (3 beds and a bathroom)—so no need for lockers, within walking distance of city center, subway and mall; free breakfast and map! Three thumbs up!