GUEST BLOG: A Beginner’s Guide to Hostels

A Beginner’s Guide to Hostels

Marc Bernard

Leave any phobias you might have picked up from horror movies at the door. It’s fun to stay in hostels abroad.

It’s fun sharing a room with 3, 6, and maybe up to 33 strangers. Better if you have a private room. But Hollywood perceptions ruin good things (like what Sideways did to merlot.)

If you just want a cheap sleep away from home, find a hostel that enforces quiet times and alcohol policy. But if you’re planning on using that bed exclusively for recreational purposes, don’t complain if the other guests in your dorm are doing the same thing.

Those two categories aren’t mutually exclusive, and there are many hostels that will be a balance of both.

Hostel International is a brand of hostels found the world over. The name is pretty straightforward, there will likely be more than one branch in the same city. You might say it’s the Starbucks of inexpensive travel lodging. The Hostel International experience is definitely a safer choice. In the U.S., you’re not likely to find one with a bar. Some have family setups.

St. Christopher’s is another brand well-known to frequent travelers. These rooms are usually cleaned by hospitality professionals, as opposed to hostel staffers working for more travel. These are regularly attached to a chain of pubs called Belushi’s. Hostel residents can typically get food and drinks at a discount.

The atmosphere in London’s locations are going to be different than the feel in Paris (which are both very different than Amsterdam), but they’ll all have Belushi’s. In Amsterdam, it’s all about The Bulldog or The Flying Pig. The Bulldog has been around for more than 40 years. In addition to being a hostel, it’s also a chain of cannabis coffeeshops. And you won’t be far from the Red Light District.

The Perks of Hostels

So why would you consider hosteling versus staying at a tradition hotel? Well, the obvious would be price. It’s hard to find a decent hotel for less than $70 a night. Hostels can range from $7-$35 per night.

There’s also community. Staying in a dorm room forces you to interact with the other people around you. Connections are made, relationships are formed. You’re looking to see the sights in a new city? So is everyone else. Try staying in a hostel during a major holiday for that extra communal feeling. Either way, expect to add many new Facebook friends.

Hostelers are often frequent travelers. If you’re traveling around a specific region, you’ll often encounter people who are coming from where you’re going next. You may be coming from where they’re headed. Use that to your advantage.

Regardless of whether you’re traveling solo or with a group, hostels will sometimes organize tours, day trips, and bike rentals. You won’t be left to your devices for travel activities. Some hostels feature their own in-house bar for drinks with temporary strangers, and it’s common practice to feature a bar crawl one or more nights each week. Alcohol is social lubricant – expect to end the night laughing your way back to the hostel with your new, foreign friends.

Hosteling is a rewarding experience if you’re someone who can get off of their high horse and mingle with other exhausted travelers. By the time you get home, you’ll have taken in culture and saved money.

May your travels bring you serenity.

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