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Opinions/Experiences Hosteling?

Have you ever vacationed in one?

Likes?

Dislikes?

Would you feel safe there as a solo traveler?

Did you feel safe leaving your luggage there provided you had either a private room or locker?

Would your decision to hostel or not hostel depend on the country?

Do you really save over a standard hotel after having to buy/rent sheets and towels?

Or did the inconvenience of having to pack your own bed/bath linens outweigh the savings of using a hostel? I know some provide bed/bath linens. And some insist you use theirs to prevent the spread of bedbugs.

Opinions/Insights/Tips?

Posted by
1364 posts

In the last 10 years I have only stayed in 2 hostels, both in Norway, both because nothing else was available for my dates. I felt perfectly comfortable each time. I had a private room which locked. I was with my husband and daughter. Especially in Norway the price savings was huge, even after "renting" linens and towels. Both were immaculately clean. I really enjoyed meeting the other people at the hostels. It was fun to cook with them and hear their travel stories.

My daughter has stayed in hostels as a solo traveler twice in the last 5 years. Once in Portugal and once in Spain. Both times she felt safe. She met other guests with whom she felt comfortable and with whom she would share a meal.

Like so many things you would need to research the individual hostel where you might stay. But I wouldn't rule out an accommodation simply because it was a hostel.

Posted by
68 posts

I’ve stayed at hostels in Europe (and other countries too). On a trip to the Nordic countries earlier this year I stayed at hostels. I’ve never had any issues when staying in hostels and I felt safe as a solo traveller.

I would recommend staying in hostels run by Hostelling International and its affiliates rather than independent hostels since the quality tends to be better and they are less likely to be party places. That said, do check reviews online.

One piece of advice regarding safety/security: If there’s a locker, make sure to lock up your valuables. You should bring a padlock with you because some places require you to bring your own lock. If there’s no locker, keep your valuables hidden away out of sight in your luggage. One hostel I stayed at in Derry, Ireland some people in the dorm room had stuff stolen during the night but they had left it lying around out in plain sight. I wouldn’t worry about stuff like clothing, toiletries, books, etc. that aren’t valuable.

I like staying in hostels because it’s a chance to meet people from all over the world and I’ve met some really interesting people. Also, you can get advice on what to see and do based. It’s a lot cheaper to stay in hostels, especially since they often have kitchens where you can prepare your own meals which is a lot less expensive than eating out. Also, some of the hostels I’ve stayed at have been in really interesting old buildings or locations like the hostel in Ottawa, Canada that’s in old jail or the hostel in Turku, Finland that’s in an old ship.

As for what I don’t like, sometimes staying in dorm rooms it can be difficult to get a good sleep. Also, shared bathrooms are occasionally not very clean.

Posted by
156 posts

My husband and I have stayed at several hostels in Switzerland. We have reserved a private room in advance. None have had a bathroom. Some have had a sink. All communal bathrooms were clean and we have never experienced a long wait time. We have always stayed in October. Many times schools groups were also staying there. We have had a good experience staying in Swiss hostels. Linens have always been provided, except once we need to rent towels (which were small).

Happy Travels!

Traveler Girl

Posted by
140 posts

I've stayed in hostels in Europe around 93 nights (quick math in my head) and in the U.S. in New York, New Orleans, Chicago and Denver around 15 nights total. I'm 76 and have been solo on all these trips, which have ranged over the last 7 years.

Did I feel safe as a solo traveler? Yes, quite possibly safer than I would have felt in a hotel, as there is more of a community feeling.

Did luggage feel safe? Yes. I carry all of my true valuables (money, cash, passport, driver's license) on my person in a money belt at all times. There is always somewhere in the room to lock up things, so often I lock up my tablet that I bring along. The rest of the items feel safe--no one wants your dirty clothes. Now if you are a fashionista and have very expensive clothes or shoes that you intend to leave in the room, or a very expensive camera, that might be different.

Would decision depend on the country? No.

Does it save over a "standard hotel"? Yes, in 100% of the cases where I have stayed thus far. I had to forego the Greece portion of my trip in early April this year; that was the only planned stay where a hotel might have been almost as little as a hostel. Consider that often you are paying 20% or 25% of what you would pay for a hotel. In over 100 nights, there has never been an instance when I had to pay for sheets, although I believe it is still possible. Any fees like this would be disclosed in advance of booking. You do not have to pay to rent towels either, if you invest around $10 in a "camping towel." The one I took this year dried in literally about 20 minutes after showering, so I did not rent any towels. However, if you can't stand that, it is nearly universal to have to pay a small towel rental fee. There are no guarantees about bedbugs, even in a hotel, but if you read the reviews carefully, you would most likely find out about those infestations. If a hostel doesn't have recent reviews, I don't book it.

Click on my name to read my reviews of two long trips, where I describe the different hostels I used. I have not found Hostelling International's hostels to be any better than the unaffiliated ones. I strongly suggest using the hostelworld.com reviews. If you are middle-aged, senior, or a quiet young person, these generally will tell you if the hostel is "party" or "social," and you may want to avoid those. One big advantage is the ability to interact with people from all over the world. Some hostels plan interesting excursions that can save you from having to pay for a private tour too, they tend to be located very near train and/or transit stations as well as lower-cost places to eat, and some offer breakfast and/or dinner at lower than market rate costs.

Can they be noisy? Yes. The same as a fancy hotel can be noisy. Can the bathrooms be a little dirty? Yes, although they are disorderly much more often than dirty as such--in fact I do not remember one that was dirty but if a little water on the floor and some people not hanging up the bath mat just the way you like are going to ruin your trip, you may not be hostel material. Read reviews, take the complaining ones with a grain of salt just as you would negative hotel reviews, and you should be fine.

Posted by
501 posts

It's been decades since I hosteled, but I did a lot of it as part of three overseas trips in the 90s and 00s.

Likes: I enjoyed meeting people from other countries and other Americans. The prices in hostels can't be beat. In 1996, I spent less than $1,000 -- hosteling, airplane tickets, food and other expenses -- for 2 weeks in Germany and Austria in part because I hosteled. The typical cost for a budget to midrange trip then would have been around $2,000 to $3,000. I saved a ton of money and had a blast.

Dislikes: the smell was terrible, but that was probably an issue on the men's dorms. Some people can be rude and noisy, but not in every place.

I felt completely safe as a solo traveler.

Yes, I felt safe stowing my things in lockers.

I didn't avoid hostels in certain countries. However, I shied away from hostels in some major cities and urban areas. A hostel I saw in one of my favorite cities in the globe looked almost like a slum.

Yes, a sheet and towel didn't cost much. Most hostels charged $25 - $40 in the 90s and 00s -- that was a quarter the cost of a budget hotel room. I can't imagine the differential has changed much.

I didn't feel packing and carrying a bed sheet was much if a hassle.

Hosteling struck me as a fun part of traveling. I'm glad I tried it. Now I'm in my 50s and travel with my fiancee so don't hostel anymore. But I'm glad I did it in my 20s and 30s. It's worth a try. If you don't like it, switch to B&Bs.

One of my favorite memories was staying in the youth hostel of Bacharach, Germany. It was housed in an authentic medieval castle retrofitted to house a hostel. What fun it was to wake up in a 600-year-old castle! Stockholm had a hostel in a ship in the harbor. Scotland had a hostel housed in a cave.

Posted by
237 posts

Thanks everyone.

I was looking at Danhostels in Denmark. Many of them look like summer camp for grown-ups. They have private rooms with private baths available, laundry facilities as well as kitchen. They offer bikes for the guests. Some have swimming pools and other recreational stuff.

There is also Danland, holiday apartments. They are all located along the coasts.

For the smaller towns/villages, a nearby hostel may be the way to go.

Is the bed pillow normally included? Or do you rent that too?

Posted by
2399 posts

I hosteled 50 years ago. It was o.k., but not great. Mainly a cheap way to go. Now hostels have been upgraded and in Germany at least, the cost for 2 is at or above what I pay at a b&b or vacation rental.

Posted by
374 posts

Nancycantravel did a good job describing hostels. Most supply sheets and warm covers at no cost. There is a small charge for towels most places. We bring the compact fast drying towel. They don’t want you to bring sheets or sleeping bags because of bed bugs. Had bed bug problems 2 time in 25 years of staying in hostels. Just let the front desk know and they replace the mattress/sheets. We have always had pillows, some great and some terrible…just like hotels etc. We stay in private rooms these d days, but opted for 4 bed dorms earlier. A en-suite bathroom is preferred but can use common bathrooms easily. Started staying in hostels at age 50. Only walked away from one hostel reservation-crowded and dirty with a large bunk room of 15-20 bunks. Yuk! Many hostels today are quite modernized. Definitely read Hostelworld reviews that describe the good and bad and ugly. Reservations are a needed in popular areas. They have gotten more pricey in places like Paris, London and NYC.

Posted by
158 posts

Have you ever vacationed in one?.
Yes, I often stay in one in Seattle, when I travel to see relatives. Last year I went to Europe for one month and stayed in hostels.

Likes?
You can't beat the price. And it is an experience. The social aspect is nice but not a big deal for me.

Dislikes?
When I traveled for a month, it got tiring to be repacking and reorganizing every day. It is a must to be organized. The bathrooms are in separate rooms, so it is a major inconvenience to forget things and go back and forth. And I didn't want to wake up other people in the dorm. I woke up early and had everything I needed to get dressed, ready in a bag.

Would you feel safe there as a solo traveler?
I did feel safe. For background, I am a 59-year-old woman who traveled solo. I am 5'2" and look like a living kewpie doll, no one is intimidated by me!

Did you feel safe leaving your luggage there provided you had either a private room or locker?
All of the hostels but one had large cage-like drawers that slid under the bunks. These were locked with a padlock (bring your own padlock). These seemed very safe. In Paris someone left their phone on their bed and it was stolen, but as far as I know, things that were locked up were safe. One hostel had small lockers. I locked up my tablet but my clothes stayed in my backpack on my bed. I didn't hear of any thefts.

Would your decision to hostel or not hostel depend on the country?
No, but I did decide to stay in a chain hostel, St Christopher's. I have heard that the tiny mom-and-pop hostels are prone to cutting corners. I would definitely read reviews in HostelWorld. I only stayed in London and Paris. On other trips, I have stayed in a hostel in Vancouver, Canada.

Do you really save over a standard hotel after having to buy/rent sheets and towels?
Yes, hostels are far far cheaper. I did rent towels, but the sheets were included. On the next trip, I will bring my own towel. They use so much bleach and harsh detergent that it is kind of rough on the skin.

Or did the inconvenience of having to pack your own bed/bath linens outweigh the savings of using a hostel? I know some provide bed/bath linens. And some insist you use theirs to prevent the spread of bedbugs.
It wasn't an inconvenience at all.

Opinions/Insights/Tips?
I was really scared before I went on my trip, so I planned it out to a ridiculous degree. I would highly recommend some careful planning. If you are curious about my costs, I also planed those out. I came in under budget, by the way!

London spreadsheet
Paris spreadsheet

Posted by
198 posts

I use hostels for around 50% of my nights while traveling. I did three weeks in Germany, Netherlands and Belgium in the spring and three weeks in Austria, Czech Republic, and Germany in the autumn.

Likes? I enjoy the social aspect of hostels. Hotel bars and lobbies have become rather sterile and uninviting to me. Hostel common areas are full of people and energy.

Dislikes? Only dislike is when I get a top bunk.

Would you feel safe there as a solo traveler? Yes. To be clear, I am a 65 year-old male.

Did you feel safe leaving your luggage there provided you had either a private room or locker? Yes. I do put my TSA lock on my bag if it doesn't fit in the locker. Never had a problem leaving clothes in my bag.

Would your decision to hostel or not hostel depend on the country? Maybe. No concerns in any of the places I have visited. I guess if I felt a hostel wasn't safe, I'd wonder why I think the country itself is safe.

Do you really save over a standard hotel after having to buy/rent sheets and towels? Yes. I have found hotstels are about 1/3 the price of a the hotel chains I trust (ibis/Mercure, Marriott Moxy). I have found that hostels can be nice and inexpensive versus cheap hotels that are just cheap. Good hostels provide sheets and many provide towels. The most I have paid for a towel is $3.

Or did the inconvenience of having to pack your own bed/bath linens outweigh the savings of using a hostel? I know some provide bed/bath linens. And some insist you use theirs to prevent the spread of bedbugs. Never had to pack linens.

Opinions/Insights/Tips?

I book the 4-bed mixed dorm. Much of the time it's 3 or 4 men, but sometimes there will be a female/female or female/male couple in the room as well.
If the website has pictures & details, pick a hostel that has the insuite water closet and shower in two sperate rooms. Makes life easier. I also make sure I know where a public WC is located in the lobby (this is probalbly more of a 65-yo guy thing).
Some hostels have clothes washing facilities. Big plus for long trips.
Carry a small flashlight and take it with you in the evening. You won't need to turn on the room light if you come in late or get up at night.
I have been vary satisfied with Wombat hostels in Budapest, Munich and Vienna and with Stayok in Amsterdam. Somewhat satisfied with MeetMe23 in Prague, great room, but common areas were lacking.
Finally, I have never used a hostel if a large party is going on. For example, I will stay in a hotel if attending Oktoberfest or during Karnival in Koln. I don't want to take a chance of having three drunken roommates.

JKH

Posted by
2399 posts

I take exception that hostels are far cheaper. Far cheaper than some hotel rooms, but not cheaper than other inexpensive accommodations. For example, I my wife and I stay in Bacharach for 58 Euro, which is less than staying in the hostel in town. For a solo traveller, the hostel is cheaper by about 12 Euro.