Youth hostels for us non youths

Happy holidays fellow travelers. As is the case for a lot of us these days (or so it seems), the economy unfortunately is playing a role in where, when, and how long I will vacation in Europe next summer or fall. I haven't quite decided where I'd like to visit yet (it is still early) but I have decided that I'd perhaps like to take a different approach and spend the majority of nights in B&B's or youth hostels as opposed to hotels. My primary reason is of course cost savings but I also think it will be a way to meet more people than I would at a hotel and be an interesting experience. My question is in regard to youth hostels specifically. I know that technically youth hostels are open to people of any age (or so I've read) but I'm wondering how comfortable I'd really feel at a youth hostel considering I know longer qualify as a "youth" (I am on the "wrong" side of 40 now...sigh). Has anyone my age spent time in youth hostels and what has your experience been? Did you feel out of place or comfortable? Were you the only one in your age bracket with everyone else under 25? Any tips or insight wold be appreciated.

Posted by Pat
Wodonga, Australia
440 posts

Steve,HI have fabulous hostels, catering for all ages. I have met people twice you age, and what a great outlook on life they have. I have used YI hostels in England, New Zealand and Australia but not on the continent. There are generally double/single room available if you don't want to share. www.hihostels.com is their website. Good luck

Posted by Russ
Paradise
1759 posts

I've done post-40 hosteling. Usually I've felt quite at home because despite their name, youth hostels often host visitors older than me. In Germany, where there are something like 600 HI-affiliated hostels and where I've done most of my hosteling, there have been often a handful of individuals - often bicycle enthusiasts - and couples in this age group. There are usually some families, as hostels market heavily to them nowadays, and you'll also find traveling European sport clubs which bring in a few adult supervisors. So you very likely won't be the only one in your age bracket, and you'll be welcome.

The real problem for you at hostels will be that you have to put up with the rowdy young'ns. If you hostel during late July or August, you'll be fine because school is generally out for the summer. But during the school year there are week-long class outings which constitute much of the income for hostels but which are more like week-long noise-fests for pre-teens at the hostels. They tend to take over at all hours of the day and night despite the presence of supervising teachers, who are either overwhelmed or incompetent at controlling them. It's a serious problem; you can book a private room at many hostels, but the mayhem may still make sleep difficult and your stay miserable.

See this thread:

www.ricksteves.com/graffiti/helpline/index.cfm/rurl/topic/24711/school-holidays-in-germany-and-austria.html

I booked private B&B's last June and found many delightful private B&B's around 20 Euros per night, which is less than you'll pay for private rooms in hostels, and sometimes less than you'll pay for a bunk in a multi-bed hostel room. So generally, I'd say that hostels are not always the best bargain option, but they are still a viable option in some places; many are in castles and other unique buildings and in larger cities are the only budget option.

Posted by Stella
Portales, NM, USA
69 posts

My 43 year old brother and 65 year old mother stayed at hostels in Scotland this past September. They had a grand time. My mom said she met alot of people and enjoyed talking to them. She took some knitting that she did in the common room and that's always a conversation starter. I bet you will enjoy it!

Posted by Ted
Sydney
149 posts

The HI Youth Hostels are often family oriented. I have found this to be especially the case in Germany. I am in my 40s and have stayed at HI hostels all over the world, and I have often found that I am nowhere near the oldest person there. The non HI hostels have less rules and regulations and some can be quite rowdy. I stayed at non-HI hostel at Salzburg just this year and they served alcohol at the bar in there. My experiences of hostels of both types has mostly been very good. Occasionally there has been the problem room mate. This has not been fun, but I have found that this has only been a temporary problem.

Posted by Bonne
Columbus, OH, USA
208 posts

I'm nearing 40 (I can't believe it! - I certainly don't feel like it) and stayed in a HI Hostel in Amsterdam this spring. I met two people from NZ while at a pancake restaurant in AMS who were old enough to be my parents and then I saw them in the hostel later as well. I don't feel out of place at all. In AMS, I was there for the museums and sight-seeing rather than the night life. Most of my roomies were there for the night life - so I was going to bed as they were going out. When I was going out, they were coming in or had just gotten in ;) It works out well - so long as I'm not too noisy and they aren't too noisy...

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7209 posts

I never stayed in a hostel until I was in my thirties. As the baby-boom ages, most hostels allow any age because too many of us are only youthful in spirit.

Posted by carl
dallas, tx, usa
1358 posts

My wife and I, both over 80, have never had a problem sleeping in a hostel. We have always found a private room with bath.

Only in Bavaria, where they don't accept travelers over 25, we had to drive across the dividing line to find a room.

So for we have stayed in hostels in over 20 countries. And we will continue to.

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
981 posts

Like hotels, hostels vary quite a lot in both quality of accommodation and atmosphere. Some are wild, some are mild. Try checking www.hostelz.com for reviews to get a better sense of what a particular hostel is like.

I tend to use B and B's over hostels, but I'm currently in the process of booking accommodations for this summer's trip to Europe for my husband and me (and we're both AARP members, so that'll tell you a bit about age). Given how expensive everything has gotten and how our retirement account has shrunk, we are looking seriously at hostels this time around.

Posted by Sylvia
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
331 posts

We had a great time staying in hostels in Holland this past summer. I am 46, my husband 60, our daughters are 12+14 and my dad is 74. The noise was a factor at one of the hostels, but my dad just wandered into the hall and asked the noise makers to please keep it down. They apologised and that was it. Hostels are a Great way to meet people, and can be economical.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

I'm 55+ and have been using a combination of budget Hotels (usually those listed in Rick's books) and Hostels during my travels (often but not exclusively HI properties). So far this method has worked well for me. However as someone else mentioned, Hostels in Bavaria can be a problem as they have an age limit.

As I travel "solo" these days, I normally stay in Dorm rooms in Hostels (4-8 beds). In some locations these have been co-ed Dorms, which is certainly interesting! In those circumstances, one has to be flexible and of course pack a good set of Ear plugs! Many Hostels these days provide an ensuite in each Dorm room, which is nice, although a few still have "shared facilities" down the hall.

As Hostels usually attract a "younger crowd", it's necessary at times to be tolerant of the party noise in the evenings (this isn't the case at all properties though). One Hostel that I used in Rome had a Bar on the premises (which was a few floors below my room) and the music was often loud at night but that sort of "came with the package" so I ignored it.

In some cases, the cost of private rooms in Hostels can be close to that of budget Hotels, so it pays to do some research.

Happy travels!

Posted by Steve
Morristown, NJ, USA
83 posts

Thank you all for the helpfl tips and suggestions.

Posted by Doug
Portlandia
3290 posts

I do second the comment above that sharing a hostel with school groups can be as big, if not bigger problem, than rowdy college students. I had a miserable night in the HI in Carcassonne when the teachers gathered in the bar with their crates of beer while their charges rampaged among the rooms late into the nights. So, I'd be a little cautious during the school year. Maybe e-mails to your prospective hostels could help.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

To add to my previous post, I've also had the experience of sharing a Hostel with school groups. This seems to occur more at "chain" Hostels such as HI but can occur anywhere. This was especially the case at one Hostel in England I stayed at a few years ago, as there were several groups of students from both the U.K. and Germany there at the time.

I tend to treat this as part of the "Hostel experience" (similar to having someone in the room snoring like a gorilla), and that's why good Ear Plugs or Noise Cancelling Headphones for the I-Pod are a necessity!

In your circumstances, I'd check Guidebooks for listings of budget Hotels, B&B's or Hostels in whichever cities you decide to visit. Consider the location as some are located at a distance from the main centres. I usuallly mix accommodations during trips. The Hostels are great for low prices and for meeting people, but I also like a few nights of privacy as well.

Cheers!

Posted by Maggie
Lynden, WA, USA
57 posts

Steve,

During my two-month Summer/Fall European visit, I stayed mostly in hostels in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Italy, and found them to be an amazing experience.

I'm 47 and I encountered teenagers, people my age, 60+ year olds and families. The different age groups all seemed to get along just fine. During the whole time, I had only one annoying roommate, just part of the experience though, and it gave me a great story to tell.

I stayed at hihostels and found them to be clean and well run, especially the ones in Germany. I stayed at the one in Baden Baden with a school group and it was fine.

You might also be pleasantly surprised at how younger ones approach you. Several engaged me for information or guidance/mentoring. Some invited me to go out with or hang out with them. It was an interesting experience for me and it may have been for them as well.

Cheers,
Maggie