To Hotel Or To Hostel?

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Are you the type who have an idea in your mind of what a hostel is like, and would never dream of staying in one?

I’m here today to try convince you that hostels are NOT the grungy, unsafe picture you currently have in your mind.

I’m even glad you’re currently against them; you’ve given me a challenge!

Ill give you an example to start off with.

While on exchange in Europe a friend and I were planning our Christmas break vacationing. We had a couple cities we wanted to hit, so we picked dates, and each took a city to plan for. She took Amsterdam, I took London.

My friend had never stayed in a hostel before, and was not the type to attempt one anytime soon. I would describe her as the well-educated, fashionable, classy type.

However, it was towards the end of our exchange, we were of course students, and we wanted to do our Christmas break travel affordably.

I took a look at www.hostelbookers.com, and www.hostelworld.com.

I sorted the hostels in London by rating and searched through reviews for the hostels on the first page or two (10-20 hostels). Anything past the second page sorted by rating I disregarded, (because yes, I’m sure there are some hostels out there that fit the negative stereotype. Thankfully with my method of sorting the page by rating and picking from the top hostels in any city, I’ve never run into that problem).

Our trip to Amsterdam was a little dampened by the shady hotel we stayed in.

It was run down, had a tiny room with wobbly metal frame beds, a shoebox of a bathroom, and we had to drag our luggage up a few flights of stairs to get to the room. It was also a bit of a hike from the city center.

On Christmas eve we went on a Light Festival boat tour, then walked back to the hotel and watched some TV, because we didn’t know anyone else or a place to go!

A hostel with a common room would have come in handy that night (more on hostel common rooms to come).

The hostel we stayed in in London was newly renovated, they boast that the Queen has visited (there’s a photo of her at the hostel in the lobby), the beds were solid wood with curtains enclosing the bed, we had an elevator to get to our floor, and it was in a great location. They also had a really good looking receptionist (just a fun fact), and a tasty breakfast.

(We stayed in the London Meininger by the way, I highly recommend it!) 

I should mention, while our hostel in London was MUCH nicer than the hotel in Amsterdam, it was also quite a bit cheaper!

Here’s another few things you might not know about hostels:

If you’re REALLY not feeling the dorm room thing, you can book a private room in many hostels (1 bed or 2). These are a little more hard to come by than spaces in dorm style rooms however. They generally will still run you less than booking a room with the same number of beds at a hotel.

Scared of staying in a dorm with a creepy old man? Many hostels have age limits on guests (eg. Must be between 18-35), and its quite common to have dorm rooms which are designated as female only if that’s your preference.

Here’s the benefits of a hostel that you often wont find at a hotel:

- When you check in the receptionist will often tell you about hostel activities happening during your stay (hostel pub crawls, BBQ on the hostel patio, etc), and they tend to be VERY excited to get you to come join the fun.

- Hostels are full of FUN people. Im talking interesting, exciting individuals who have travel stories to tell, tips to give, and who might be interested to go check out the evening city ghost tour with you… I don’t think that retired couple in the hotel room beside you would be much into striking up a convo and heading out into the city with you, do you?

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- Hostels are set up to be social. Common rooms with couches, pool tables, fire places, giant chess boards, computers, a bar, etc will all aid you in meeting others.

- Your average 5 star hostel is still cheaper than a 2 or 3 star hotel. Cheaper accommodation = more money to travel longer, or if you’re my friend who I went travelling over Christmas with, more money to clean out Primark and Topshop.

Lastly, and most importantly, you get inspired by others and wont ever forget the new friends you made, even if you only meet them once.

I still remember while at a hostel in Edinburgh (Caledonian Backpackers) I met the most interesting two Australian girls. 

They were staying in the beds across the room from mine organizing their bags when we started talking. We picked up a conversation in no time, they told me all about how they had been travelling all summer and just got jobs in Edinburgh.

I asked, out of all the cities they had visited, why they picked to stay in Edinburgh, they said “We ended up here, and why not Edinburgh?”

What they said stayed with me, and I hope to go on some wild adventure one day and decide to stay somewhere, because, well why not Edinburgh, or Bangkok or Sydney?

I’ve met many people in my life just once, but very few have left an impression on me as those girls did.

Couldn’t tell you their names anymore, or where they are now, but I wish them well, and hope they had a blast working in Edinburgh. 

I’m sure they did, they seem like the type to make any adventure an unforgettable experience.

What I’m saying is, I convinced my one friend over that Christmas trip to give hostels a chance, and I hope you will too. 

(She couldn’t help but admit our hostel in London was far nicer of accommodation than our hotel in Amsterdam). 

Just sort that hostel site page by rating, pick from the higher rated hostels, and you’ll have a blast at a great price.