I’m a snob and i’m totally not ashamed to admit it. Sharing a room with complete strangers; sharing a toilet down the corridor and sleeping on a lumpy bunkbed.. hell right? Well despite being a snob, I am also on a pretty low budget whilst i’m finishing my degree so to be able to travel, a girl needs to lower her expectations regarding sleeping arrangements! Emily, my resident travel partner and all round bestie, convinced me to give it a good shot and I thought i’d tell you all about my experiences as, if I can hack it, you most definitely can!
I’ve stayed in a hostel twice before my US/Canadian road trip, however both times I stayed in rooms filled entirely with people I knew so it was slightly different. My first ever experience was in Barcelona (cue Ed Sheeran) where I only stayed for one night as a place to crash before heading off to Benicassim festival! As this was back in the summer of 2013 I had to do some investigating regarding where we stayed, but I’m pretty sure it was in the Barcelona BCN Go! Hostel and we had a four bed room with ensuite.
This was a pretty tame introduction to hosteling as it was so modern and I had bathroom facilities in the room, like a hotel, and my room was filled with my friends. Easy. If you are unsure then this is definitely the way to start as you are with people you know and have an ensuite so no bathroom sharing is required!
The second experience was back in 2014 in Stockholm where I stayed with two of my besties in a three bed dorm. This was a bit more of a jump into the hostel world as a) we had to share a bathroom down the corridor, b) the room was microscopic and c) THERE WERE NO BLOODY WINDOWS! Having said that, it was miles cheaper than any hotel options we could find and the whole bathroom sharing was actually okay! It was kind of like a swimming pool changing rooms with toilets and showers. All totally fine! When I went to try and find this hostel I drew a complete blank – Sorry!
So now, a few toe dips into the hosteling thing, I embarked on the proper hostelling! Now you have choices when booking your room, mixed or single sex dorms; the size of your dorms and whether you want an ensuite or not. All of these vary in price of course but I would say that the price difference between a mixed and a single sex dorm is usually only a couple of pounds so definitely go with what would make you more comfortable. We went for female only dorms and i’m glad we did! We also went for four person dorms which are slightly more than say 6, 8 or even 24 (I know ridiculous right) bed dorms but I felt a lot safer leaving my belongings in the room. We didn’t have an ensuite as the price difference was quite significant, but it was honestly no trouble at all in any of the hostels we stayed in. They seem to ply you with toilets and showers (all in single rooms with lockable doors!!) so I don’t think I ever had to wait!
The first hostel we stayed in was in San Francisco and was the HI (Hosteling International) Hostel Downtown and was great! We stayed for five nights and found the location to be perfect, the beds were comfy and they even provided a free breakfast! Admittedly it was a rather sparse array of food – bagels or bagels anyone? Saying that it was nice to have the option and did help to line your stomachs for a day out sightseeing! Each dorm was equip with a sink and lockers for you to store your valuables but you do need your own lock, something I had completely overlooked! You did get towels and free wifi though so you can’t really complain for £30 a night!
One thing I would say is that your roommates really are luck of the draw. You could have completely rowdy people or lovely sociable solo travellers. It’s hard to predict but I would say look at how the hostel describes itself and that usually a good idea of the kind of people you may be put with. ‘Lively’ is usually a sign for lots of partygoers so if that’s not your thing, look for a more ‘friendly’ or ‘sociable’ option! We were very lucky in all our hostels and never had any issues with any of our roommates and actually had a good chat with a few of them! In San Francisco we had a lovely solo traveller from Melbourne and a quite quite Chinese girl who kept herself to herself.
Next stop on our hosteling adventure was Seattle and again another good hostel! It was the City Hostel Seattle and was definitely more ‘indie’ than San Francisco and seemed to have a lot of quirky characters in it. Each of the rooms has artwork on the walls, painted by local artists. Emily had previously stayed here and said that her room was incredibly creepy last time but we were very lucky this time with stained glass windows painted on to the walls
We had a variety of people staying with us, including two au pairs, a 60 year old woman and an asian girl who came in at 3am and slept in her full going out outfit. It was a real mixed bag but all of them were lovely! Again ‘breakfast’ was provided but we did get the choice of pineapple and bran flakes this time! This hostel had the most amazing bathrooms but the showers were ridiculously powerful, seriously if you’d turned around, you’d have probably lost at least one of your nipples.
The final hostel was by far the most unique one of the bunch and I LOVED it! This one was in Whistler and was called Whistler Lodge. It was all wooden, surrounded by trees and snow and even had a hot tub and sauna! Again for £30 a night you could not really ask for more! The hostel is very quiet at night which I liked and each ‘bed’ was a pod with a mattress, curtain and light – incredibly cosy and I slept so so well! It also had a cute ‘no shoes inside’ policy so everyone was padding around in socks which made it feel very homely!
So what would I recommend for you to do if you’re planning on staying in a hostel?
- Do your research – Think location, atmosphere, dorm size, gender and price
- Take a lock and a towel – unless you don’t mind renting them both for a small fee
- Go in with an open mind – hostels are improving so much and many are just hotels with less stars as they have less facilities.
Finally, what are the pro’s and cons?
- Incredibly cheap
- You can meet new people from all over the world
- They often have events you can get involved in
- You don’t know who you’re going to be sharing a room with (some people do not share the same hygiene standards as you – don’t you brush your hair over the sink?!)
- They’re quite basic
- You have to act like a child and sleep in a bunk bed!
Overall I would say I had a fantastic time staying in hostels, something which I NEVER thought I would say! I got to see some fantastic cities for a lot cheaper and I genuinely slept well and would stay in them again in a heartbeat. I felt safe, welcome and comfortable and enjoyed the whole experience! If you’re on the fence about it like I was then definitely give it a go! Have you stayed in hostels before?
P.s all photography in this post is not my own (found through Google) as I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures when I was sharing with people I didn’t know.