What It’s Like To Stay in a Hostel
I began my backpacking trip by staying at places through Airbnb, but it quickly became evident to me that that is not a cheap way to travel. So when I got to Europe, I decided to stay in hostels, not knowing what to expect. I was afraid of the places being sleazy and dirty, but also looking forward to meeting interesting people and hoping to maybe encounter some new friends.
The one thing that hostels have on top of hotels or even Airbnb is that all the people that you meet are people who are familiar with travel. You get less of the awe and you feel less ostracized by society; you are finally around people who GET IT. This means that you feel more validated in your life choices to be homeless and jobless and inclined to wander. In a hostel, these are all okay things to be.
However, there are good hostels and not so great hostels, so it is important to read the reviews. The first place I chose had great wifi, but it also had several creepy dudes, dirty bathrooms, and stuffy bedrooms. The second place I stayed at was full of light and was much cleaner.
Generally, check in is in the afternoon, with the option to store your luggage while you wait for check-in. I have found staff to be helpful and gregarious in most locations, and they typically can point you out a good place to eat. I suggest you choose a hostel with a grocery store or two nearby, as eating out all the time will eat your wallet.
When you check in, you pay up front for the total number of days you are staying. It is not always possible to spend the whole of your trip in one hostel due to availability, but a bigger city should have more than enough options for stay. You pay extra money for your key, that you get back when you return the key at check out. Then you go to your room and choose your bunk!
I like the bottom bunk because I wake up early and I hate to shake the whole bed trying to come down in the morning, thus disturbing my hostel-mate.
There are clean sheets for your use, but I personally like to bring my sleeping bag when I travel. It smells like home, it’s comfortable, and I just sleep better knowing that I’m the only person to have slept in my bag. Basically it’s my security blanket, but that’s a separate article.
Some hostels have laundry facilities and full kitchens and others do not. I personally recommend places with laundry options, as I know from personal experience that running out of underwear isn’t fun.
Otherwise, all hostels have areas to hang out, and this may be your best time to meet new and interesting people! Always the first question is, “where are you from?”