First off, let me just say that I am not a young person. Not to say I would be considered old by most, but certainly not in my twenties or even thirties. I also didn’t do a lot of international travel until later in life. So, I never had the experience of staying in the large sleeping halls associated with most hostels. You know what I’m talking about. The room with 6 to 8 (or more) bunk beds and no real place to secure your belongings from the unknown roommates you’ve been situated with.
Because of this, I was a bit hesitant to even consider staying at one of these places, that is until I started looking at hotels in Prague on my first trip there. Anyone who has traveled to one of these major destinations knows that the hotels near the action are usually quite pricey. The usual way to save money is to find one outside the city center and use the transit system to get to the fun stuff. Not that this is a bad plan, but for me it wasn’t my preferred option.
What You Do (and Don’t) Get at a Hostel
So I started looking at hostels and discovered that several offer single or double rooms for just a little more than what you would pay for the dorm room and with the ability to lock you gear up while you are out. Others even have installed lockable storage spaces adjacent to or near to the bunk beds, usually with your own lock. You still don’t have your own bathroom, in most places, but that doesn’t bother me. I did find one in Vienna that did have a private shower and water closet(Alibi Hostel, Vienna). And when you think about it, many older hotels in Europe don’t offer private bathrooms either and you still pay a premium for the location. Some also offer a place at the front desk to secure your primary luggage while you are out and about exploring, but not all so ask before you make your decision.
Don’t expect expect free or any WiFi in your room, or even a TV. You might find a TV in the commons room and usually a computer to get on the web. Some even have kitchens with cooking utensils for the true budget traveler (just make sure you clean up after use).
One of the best things about a hostel is the other travelers you get to meet. Usually there is a variety of nations represented and a lot of different types of people. Not only is it great to learn about these people’s different countries and cultures, but also to hear there ideas of things to do in the city and beyond. Some of the best suggestions I’ve received on the road were from the other people at the hostel.
The best part was that I was located very close to, if not in the middle of, the places I wanted to see. At the most I was a short walk from the places that you want to visit while in the city and usually near some good and affordable eating and drinking establishments.
In conclusion, if you find yourself in a bind to find an affordable place to stay on your next journey, don’t look past the hostels. They’re not for everyone, but you never know until you give it a try.