The first time I stayed in a hostel was in Rome. My twin sister and I were on our first trip outside of Florence and we were terrified. So terrified, in fact, that we booked a two person private room even though it cost (a lot) more money. Since that first trip to Rome, I’ve stayed in tons of hostels. Not only in Europe but in the US as well. It’s actually my preferred place to stay. Not only is it cheaper than staying in a hotel, but I almost always make new friends from around the world. Most of my friends haven’t been to Europe though so one of the questions I get the most is, “What’s a hostel”?
What’s a Hostel?
Hostels are basically shared accommodations in which a traveler will rent out a bed, typically in rooms filled with other travelers. You pay by the bed, so it’s typically much cheaper than staying in a hotel. The majority of the rooms will have multiple sets of bunk beds, as little as two beds and as many as 30! Sometimes there are bathroom in the rooms and sometimes they are shared in the hallways (pack shower shoes). Many hostels have shared kitchens where you can store and cook meals, common rooms to socialize and sometimes bars or rooftop patios. If you’re a female, a lot of times you have the option of a co-ed or a female only dorm. I’ve stayed in both types and haven’t had any issues between the two.
Keep in mind that hostels are a budget accommodation. Sometimes the bed is made up when you arrive and sometimes the front desk hands you sheets and a pillow case and you have to make it before you can sleep. Most of the time, if you didn’t bring your own towel, you’ll have to rent one (normally for a buck or less). You are sharing a room (with strangers) so bring a lock as most of the rooms will have lockers for your valuables. Some of you might be thinking that sharing a room or a bathroom is a deal breaker. But you can often stay in a hostel for a week for what it would cost you to stay in a nice hotel for 1-2 nights. What hostels lack in upscale amenities, they make up for in experiences and savings.
Stay Open Minded
One of the best things you can do when staying at a hostel is keeping an open mind. In my first shared dorm, there was a girl who suffered what I presume were night terrors. She woke everyone up one night screaming. The same girl also left her alarm ringing for ten minutes one morning. At another hostel in Amsterdam, the guy in the bed above me ended up drunk and playing Justin Timberlake on his phone around 3am. Hostels aren’t perfect, but they’re an experience I feel is worth it.
Chances are, you’ll meet people from all over the world. I’ve stayed in rooms with people from China, Australia, Sweden, the list goes on! I’ve made friends with people from even more places by just striking up a conversation in the common rooms. One of my favorite memories? Running into one of our hostel roommates at a park in Amsterdam, having a picnic and drinking champagne in the park in front of the Van Gogh museum. When my sister and I were studying abroad, we met a ton of wonderful people at a hostel in Switzerland. We were able to meet up with 5 or 6 of them through the rest of the semester either in Florence or other cities in Europe. We just wouldn’t have had the same experience if we were staying in hotels or private rooms.
My favorite place to look for hostels is on Hostelworld. I typically try not to pick hostels that have less than an 80% rating. Second, I always use security and location as my top indicators.
Tip: Make sure to pack a towel if you don’t feel comfortable renting one, cheap plastic flip flops for shower shoes and earplugs if you have trouble sleeping through noise. Always bring a lock for your valuables (though some hostels rent those as well), hand sanitizer and a good attitude.
A Few of the Hostels I’ve stayed in
- Mosaic Hostel Rome, Italy
- Hostel Biber Zurich, Switzerland
- Palmers Lodge and Astor Queensway London, England
- Generator Hostel Dublin, Ireland
- The Flying Pig Downtown Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Hello Hostel Brussels, Belgium
- Green Tortoise San Francisco, California
- The Beach Waikiki Boutique Hostel Waikiki Beach, Hawaii