Beginner's Guide to Hostels

Like all things, when traveling out to hostels, every beginner must remember to plan ahead and know what to expect to make the most of their traveling experience.

Beginner's Guide to Hostels

Hostels are an intimidating concept to most beginner backpacks with only a guide book and dreams to keep them on the right path. It doesn't help when stereotypes about the place keep popping up. Some say homeless people linger under the beds. Others say that they are havens for alcoholics. And others, thanks to Eli Roth's infamous film Hostel, believe them to be murder havens where rich elites come to murder innocent teens.

But the truth is far more mundane. Like all things, when traveling out to hostels, every beginner must remember to plan ahead and know what to expect to make the most of their traveling experience.

What is a Hostel?

A hostel is, in essence, a smaller living area where travelers and passers through can stay for the night. Typically speaking, they are small and communal, but well-maintained and clean.

They are sanctuaries for the backpacker hoping to save money. Unlike hotels, which can be very expensive, hostels are rather cheap. And, unlike hotels, which put you in a confining solo chamber for the whole trip, hostels tend to open you up to new people, as you will be stuck sleeping in a bed next to them.

Hostel Cards

Before setting off on your hostel adventure, it is strongly recommended that you purchase a hostel discount accommodation card. They are available for backpackers passing through, hoping to save a little money on their adventure.

Most hostel chains have their own specific kinds of cards. They also usually offer discounts at affiliated stores and restaurants that can be very beneficial to any traveler hoping to stretch out their money for as far as possible.

Because each chain offers something different, it is advised to plan out your trip so you can hit the same chains, and, thus, use your card as much as possible.

Book Ahead

The appeal for backpackers is that sense of mystery, stepping off into a bus in an unknown land with no one place to go. Still, that excitement can go away fast if you have to spend the night in a box with a newspaper for a blanket when you learn you have no place to go.

To avoid this fate, as well as numerous other similar fates, book your stay ahead of time. Plan your route ahead. Most hostels accept online registrations, and those that don't will book rooms over the phone.

What to Expect There

Many hostels come with communal activities. Some have bowling alleys. Most have communal bathrooms, washing rooms, etc. Dorms can come either single-sex or mixed-sex, in case you feel uncomfortable sleeping with members of the opposite sex.

Many hostels feature out-dated style choices, as many were built either back in the 70s or are altered old mansions open for business.

However, drinking is a very likely occurrence. Expect either loads of alcohol for sale, a built-in bar, or connections to local pubs.

Security Measures

No, don't expect that your hostel trip will lead you to a situation out of Eli Roth's now-classic (and admirably stupid) horror film Hostel. But you can't expect to be completely safe when surrounded by strangers in a foreign land.

You will need to do your homework. Research the areas you are traveling in to determine how safe they are. Also, you will need to check to see if your hostel has safe places to store your luggage. How safe are they? Are there locks? Keys? Combinations?

These are important measures to take, or else you may end up stranded in another country with not even your identification to distinguish you from anyone else.

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Larry Romulus
Larry Romulus
Read next: Camping > Hotels
Larry Romulus

I suffer from lycanthropy--a form of schizophrenia that leads me to believe I transform into a wolf under the light of the full moon. This has no impact on my writing; I just think it’s really cool, even though I take medicine for it. Though this medicine doesn’t stop me from turning into a man-sized wolf every full moon. Great for Halloween costumes.

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