I like to think of myself as an experienced traveller.
I enjoy exploring the world on my own, but I sometimes take a break with friends too. Over the course of time, I have been going on more and more trips, including two long term ones that have significantly changed my views on the kind of accommodation I seek, perhaps in the opposite direction to that of most travelers.
In other words, most seem to look for more comfort as time goes by, but I am all for the atmosphere.
Sure, I appreciate a private room if my significant other is joining me on my adventures. But believe it or not, the more I travel, the more I think that hostels are much better than hotels, to the point that even if I can actually afford a private hotel room, I opt for a dorm bed, even better if in a mixed dorm.
So, here are my nine reasons why I will aways pick hostels over hotels:
1. The People.
I have met some of my best friends at hostels, which generally gather a high percentage of like-minded individuals who are up to share their traveling and life experiences and always have a story to tell. They may not even be people in my age group, but they are still interesting to meet!
2. The Traveling Style.
Whether I like it or not, I am growing older and carrying too much weight is becoming increasingly difficult. Hostels have taught me to pack lighter, because I don’t have a whole room to myself to spread my belongings around.
3. The Cozy, Friendly Atmosphere.
Hostel personnel seem to have a talent for learning the names of their guests, no matter how many there are. They call me by name, and each time I walk in, I feel like I am arriving home. Same with the other guests: there is always someone to talk to, someone to go out with. Nobody will bother me if I want to be left alone and read my book, everybody will welcome me if I want to join for a beer or a walk.
4. The No-Frills.
If I want comfort, I may as well stay at my comfortable home. I don’t need to watch tv in any random country I visit, I don’t need to have a fridge in my room, I don’t need a pool when I can swim in the ocean and I will be out most of the day, and I don’t need a bar when I can get a drink right next door (and in any case, most hostels do have a bar!).
5. The Books.
Lots of hostels nowadays have book exchanges—something that can’t be found at hotels. Actually, some hostels I have visited even have a proper library, with couches, desks, lamps and all. For an old fashioned reader like I am who refuses to replace her paperbacks with a kindle, this is very useful. If I finish my book, I just drop it on the bookshelf and pick another. I have found some very interesting reads over the years.
6. The Design.
They may be no frills, but some hostels are truly gorgeous! I have been to some that have beautifully decorated rooms and common areas that look like they have been assembled by interior designers. Some are random, in a cool way: there is a hostel on an old boat in Amsterdam; one inside a plane in Costa Rica; on tubes in Tulum and in former prisons in Stockholm.
7. The Location.
From the view over the volcanoes on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala to the incredible view overlooking Cusco in Peru; from the hostel right on the beach in Tulum, Mexico, to the one in the perfect centre of town in Istanbul. Hostel location is usually a combination of a safe, convenient and fully served area complete with great views. What more could I want?
8. The Meals.
Good hostels have a fully equipped kitchen. This means 3 things: I can cook myself a meal with ingredients that I have been missing while travelling and that I won’t find at a local restaurant; I can avoid eating some of the horrific local food; and I can sit at the table with other guests and chat the night away. Top bonus? Some hostels even organise family style meals or barbecue nights: excellent food for very cheap price!
9. The Project.
Some hostels have all of the above characteristics, but they also are part of a bigger project. I have been to some great ones that rent dorm beds at very convenient prices to raise funds for environmental education projects or even refugee protection and human rights. I have a soft spot for a good cause.
Sure, I have been to some horrible hostels too—ones that had not seen a good scrub in ages, whose staff were rude, where the main feature were the incessant loud music and the guests seemed alcoholics. But the overall ratio so far has been all in favour of them, so I’ll continue to seek out the quirks of the hostel in lieu of the traditional hotel room.
Author: Claudia Tavani
Editor: Alli Sarazen
Photo: Courtesy of Author