The Pros and Cons of Staying at a Youth Hostel, and How to Have a Great Time No Matter What

Youth hostels are a fantastic way to travel on the cheap and to make new friends fast. Even in the age of technology, it’s nearly impossible not to make lasting friendships in this environment where no one knows each other and everyone is new to the city. But not all hostels are created equal! We made a list of pros and cons about staying in a hostel, and this is what we came up with.

Pros

  • Cost-effective

Hostels, except for couch surfing, is generally the cheapest way to stay somewhere. It’s a great option when you’re traveling to more expensive cities such as New York or Amsterdam. Even in these cities, an average hostel bed will run you about $70 a night, but that’s still much better than $200 hotel rooms with a horseshoe bed. Besides, you won’t be sleeping much in these cities, and if you need to, then you should at least be staying in a private room.

  • Communal kitchens 

Yes, staying in hostels will require you to share your sleeping and hygiene arrangements. But one great thing about hostels is that you will likely be allowed the use of a communal kitchen. This is great if, like us, you love to cook and want to grocery shop and use local products. It’s also a great way to save money on restaurants if you’re on a shoestring budget. Cooking at the hostel is also a great way to make new friends: starting an impromptu dinner party is always a good ice breaker! Some hostels offer free breakfast, and nearly all provide coffee and tea facilities.

Cons

  • Noise

If you prefer a calm environment in your accommodations, hostels aren’t for you. The reality is that most of the time, they are occupied by loud 20 somethings who have been backpacking for months and haven’t washed for just as long. Good luck falling asleep to the sounds of someone’s dubious guitar skills and people coming back from dancing at 4 AM. Also, hostel buildings are often fairly old, so unless your temporary home is in a quiet neighborhood on a side street, expect a fair amount of outside noise. 

  • Hygiene

To be fair, most hostels are at least passably clean. But every once in a while you’ll come across one that really shouldn’t have passed any health inspection. For instance, you might be sharing your bed with a rodent or a crawling bug or two. The best way to tell how clean a hostel is is by having a look in the bathrooms before you check in. Yes, everyone will be wearing flip flops being as showers are nearly always communal, but have a look at the drains to see how often they’ve been cleaned. Chances are you’ll be fine, but if you see a week’s worth of hair in there, run to the nearest hotel and don’t look back. 

Our tips to maximize your time at the hostel:

Bring flip flops and wear them everywhere!

Invest in a decent quality combination lock, most hostel rooms have lockers that you should use to store valuables

Be prepared to improvise, be it through the way that you store your belongings away from prying hands or how you cook your meals in the aforementioned communal kitchen.

No matter how you view hostels, you really should give them a chance. You’ll likely have a great experience in them, and even if you don’t, you’ll have a heck of a story to tell when you head home.